Cutting up the Image of the Father/ Reconstructing the Third

Essay from a talk given by Vanessa Sinclair at NGBK Berlin as part of the exhibition “Father Figures are Hard to Find”, Spring 2016. Link here.

The role of the father is controversial and especially problematic in the era of patriarchy and capitalism. To explore this journey from a psychoanalytic perspective, I take us back to the early theories of Freud and through a gross history of the development of the theories having to do with the father, whom I prefer to call the Third, as I feel this is a more accurate description of this position, especially today. Also bear in mind that when I refer to the m/Other, I am referring to the mother as well as the big Other to which we all relate constantly. Along those lines an/other refers to the other with a small o. For those of you familiar with Lacanian theory this other refers to the others that we identify with or put in the place of the object, usually of our desire.

But first let’s begin with the development of the subject, the individual. The identity/ ego is an illusion. The self is experienced as fragmented and a sense of cohesive identity is formed through fantasy. Some schools of psychoanalysis posit that we gain our sense of identity through the introjection of an identification with the m/Other that we then continue to modify via a series of identifications with other figures with which we come into contact throughout our lives. In this way, we may be seen as constantly adding to and reworking our identity/ego throughout our lifespan. Jacques Lacan, explores the formation of identity via his theory of the mirror stage. During this time, ages 6-18 months, the child experiences he/r self and body as fragmented, but when s/he sees he/r self in the mirror, the mirror image appears to be w/hole. As the child’s experience of he/r own body/ self is fragmented, there seems to be a disconnect between he/r experience of he/r self and the image in the mirror. This experience of disconnection continues throughout life. Through a similar process of identification, this time identification with he/r own mirror image, the child is able to internalize the cohesive sense of self that s/he imagines the mirror self/ image to have. This thusly forms the ego/ identity. We identify with what we imagine ourselves to perceive. The ego/ identity is therefore an identification with a fantasy. At the moment the child recognizes he/r self in the mirror image, s/he turns to the m/other sitting beside he/r to search for a signal that he/r perception is accurate – that indeed this w/hole person s/he sees in the mirror is in fact a reflection of he/r self. Once the m/other provides affirmation of this, the child turns he/r attention back to the mirror image, confirming that this perception is indeed he/r self, reifying he/r own identity.

The position of what would more accurately be considered to be the true self, what Lacan calls the subject, is not equivalent to the ego/ identity but rather is situated in the gap that exists between the self and the mirror image, consciousness and matter, the ego and the real of the body, perception and the unconscious, sexuality and death. Sigmund Freud states, the ego is first and foremost a body ego. It is the product of our fantasy as we attempt to produce an experience of a cohesive body/ self identification. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920), Freud likens the ego to a crust. One may think of it as a callous that is built up through repetition of experience. Or a scab that forms when the skin is cut. The ego is our symptom. It is the scaffolding. But we as subjects are not equivalent to this structure. We are situated in the gap, in the space between. And our identity is malleable. If identity can be understood as identification with a fantasy of what we imagine ourselves and/ or our m/Others to perceive us to be, which is then solidified by the repetition of similar experiences that validate this fantasy, then why couldn’t we choose to adjust that our experiences and those characteristics and mold our identity in a different way? In a way we choose rather than being products of the system into which we are born.

We can see the fantasy of cohesion break down in psychosis, for example, where the person is plagued by the experience of the fragmented body/ self and unable to pull he/r consciousness out of the real of the body and into the realm of the imaginary, which makes the experience of living more tolerable via fantasy. We also gain a glimpse of our real fragmented state in our dream lives where we often experience a state of anxiety accompanied by pieces of a puzzle, which we later string together upon retelling in an attempt to form a cohesive narrative. We actually perform a similar action in our waking lives as well, which is also a series of fragmented events that we string together with fantasy to create an experience of a cohesive narrative that we can then relate to ourselves and others. But as is well know in psychoanalysis, we can go back and change our perception and understanding of events in our lives to recreate our personal narrative.

It is also useful to view waking and dream states not as a binary of awake-asleep but rather a continuum of wakefulness-sleep/conscious-unconscious. In this way, we recognize that when we are asleep we oftentimes have “one eye open” and are able to perceive that which is happening in our environment. Often our dreams are a way to encourage ourselves to remain asleep. What we call our censor decides not only what will be allowed from the unconscious into the conscious mind – however altered it is in representation to veil its true meaning – but also masks stimuli from the environment, frequently incorporating it into the dream work (i.e. when an alarm clock becomes a fire alarm in our dream and we suddenly need to evacuate the building). Similarly, when we are “wide awake” our unconscious mind is still active and is more or less present in daydreams, fantasies, imagination, etc. This concept of the ratio or continuum in a state of flux can be applied not only to dream-wake states and conscious-unconscious but also to aspects of identity such as gender and sexuality.

We are born into a story, an already existing narrative. Even before we are born, our parents, family and society have ideas of who we will be, what we will do, how we will succeed, and what trials we may face, all before we have even left our m/Others’ body. We are subjugated in utero. Our identity is prescribed, and not with us in mind. It is mapped out for us, structured, put into play, and is largely based on gender. The first question asked of us, “Is it a boy or a girl?” leaves no room for ambiguity – boys have penises, girls do not. We are all well aware of the atrocities that have taken place in the early assignment of gender to children born intersex and what catastrophic repercussions this often has. Yet rather than exalt the androgyne, as has been done in times past, we continue to force people into categories we’ve deemed socially acceptable. The system is built on dichotomy: male/female, active/passive, 1/0, master/slave. But what happens when we begin to break down this system, push boundaries, surpass borderlines and transgress limits?

As we know, gender and sexuality are not determined by biology. Judith Butler revolutionized the academic discourse surrounding gender and gender identity in 1990 with her book Gender Troublein which she introduces the idea of gender as performative. Taking this a step further, not only could gender be considered a performance but our entire identity could be seen in this way. So if gender and overall identity is a performance, or at least has a heavy performative aspect, it should be essentially malleable, not only varying from person to person but evolving over an individual’s life span, from situation to situation or even from day to day if one so desires.

Freud (1923) stated our ego is first and foremost a body-ego. We learn about ourselves and the world via our bodies, especially through our orifices as these are the spaces where we exchange inside and out, ingest and discharge, are penetrated and expel. These sites are holes, openings, gaps, but also limits, boundaries and surfaces; the rim of the mouth, anus, urethra, vagina, nostrils, eyes and ears. What is the difference between those that seal versus those that remain open or rather, unable to close? Even consider the pores of the skin are countless numbers of orifices, tiny mouths opening and closing more quickly or slowly depending on our state, mood, level of stimulation or relaxation.

Around the turn of the twentieth century, Freud released his seminal work, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905), in which he introduced his theory of childhood sexuality outlining the oral, anal and genital stages for the first time, claiming we are all born bisexual and intrinsically polymorphously perverse. The expert on sexuality and perversions at the time was Richard von Kraft-Ebbing, who believed – as did society at large – that sex is solely for procreation and any sexual act falling outside of the reproductive intention was considered to be perverse. Freud actually agreed with this definition of perversion but stated that perversion is our natural inclination and is the norm, even precedes the norm. Humans are sexual beings. Children are sexual beings. We are all perverse, and the entire body is sexual, not just the genitals and erogenous zones. Any part of the body can become eroticized, as can the gaze, smell or voice.

The drive as Freud posits it lies somewhere between the body and the mind, on the boarder. Drives are always partial and there is a difference between sexual object and sexual aim. The drive never works on the whole body or whole subject and therefore is always focused on fragments or individual activities together with a quality of being active or passive. In assuming one position, one may slide metonymically into the position of the other, and again into the position of the third, thereby assuming each and all positions. A catalog of drives is impossible because everyone develops their own variations. In Freud’s time, he posited that the ultimate goal was genital primacy but this has since been found to be a ridiculous notion as each and every path that a drive takes is equally valid as any other.

Ultimately every human being could be described as perverse. Perverse in Freud’s original psychoanalytic definition is sexual activity without the aim of reproduction. We all have varying combinations of partial drives. Why don’t we remain “perverse”? Because we all go through some sort of process of normalization via socialization in childhood. This normalization process is the so called Oedipus complex. The Oedipal complex is the process through which everyone goes in order to move from two to three elements, that is, to break away from a mirror relationship with another person who is the same and take the steps towards a third person, another other.

A characteristic of human desire is that it can never be wholly fulfilled and therefore leads to constant momentum or movement. Our desire always goes through that of an/other starting with that of our parents and finishing with that of the latest object of our love. To follow one’s own desire is an impossible task. Every desire relates to someone else. It is only when you don’t care that you don’t desire. My desire always goes through the desire of another person, therefore the field of desire becomes the ultimate field of identification. I identify with the desire I perceive in the other person in order to be desired by he/r. Desire works both ways and can therefore result in identification both ways. I identify with he/r desire and therefore abandon a previous desire that is a prior identification and then s/he identifies with my desire and so on and so forth. The structure of our psyche is such that my desire will always be indebted to that of an/other. The goal of desire is to go on desiring.

In the sexual relation, no matter if it is overtly sadomasochistic or not, there is always an inevitable element of dominance and submission. Even in the sexual relation with oneself, in masturbation, we are the one doing the beating as well as the one being beaten. We are performing the act on ourselves and therefore occupy both positions – dominant and submissive. We gain pleasure engaging in this activity, which is nonetheless an aggressive action. Furthermore, we may take the position of observer as well, witnessing the act being done by ourselves to ourselves, thereby entering a third position also, the witness. So, no matter if an action is auto-erotic, homosexual, heterosexual, trans, queer, top/bottom, S/M, Dominant/ submissive, poly, oral, anal, vaginal, and/or anything in between – no matter in which position we might be, we may concurrently slide into the stance of the other(s) as well, and therefore occupy both (and all) positions at once. We are voyeur and exhibitionist. We are being seen while concurrently enacting and observing the scene, exposing ourselves as we bear witness to the exposure.The position of the Third allows for this metonymy. Otherwise the pair may be trapped in a mirror relation.

As, we explore the evolution of the role of the Third in Freud’s theory from his case of Little Hans (Analysis of a Phobia in a 5 year old Boy) through Totem and Taboo to Moses and Monotheism, we see the shifts in Freud’s position on the subject. In the first, Freud’s theory theory describes the child’s fear of castration stemming from a relation with a powerful domineering and avenging father, while in the case study, the m/Other is clearly the one threatening castration, quite overtly, while the father is dominated by her. In Freud’s Totem and Taboo, the hoard of sons tire of the father’s reign and band together to overthrow and kill him, securing the women for themselves. According to the myth, the murder is followed by an acute sense of guilt that forms the foundation both for the prohibition of killing and for the prohibition of incest. Later, in Moses and Monotheism,the relationship between patriarchy and matriarchy is more clearly delineated. In this case, the murder of the primal father leads to a matriarchal structure taking hold wherein we see polytheism and mother goddesses flourishing until they is subsumed and overtaken by another patriarchal structure, this time in the form of monotheism.

With the establishment of the patriarchy comes the delineation of gender. What makes a man? And what makes a woman? The patriarchy establishes an entire system of culture created to perpetuate itself. It continually enforces and reinforces it’s own system, which it created. Patriarchy defines masculine characteristics in positive terms while the feminine is negative. Patriarchy also establishes and enforces the binary, with everything also defined in pairs of opposites – men are strong, women are weak, men are active, women are passive and so on and so forth. The resulting effect is male superiority and female inferiority, which was established in the original argument and is continually operated and reinforced by the system it created. The question now is what happens when such a patriarchal system begins to be put into question. When its structure of gender and prescribed role patterns begin to crumble. Historically, during times of instability when the patriarchal structure was put into question there was merely an exchange of one primal father for another. Take down a king and replace him with another king. The system that takes down the previous system ends up being structurally the same underneath. One revolution replaces another and then becomes the ruler.

In the current situation, hopefully, the system is being deconstructed and there is a real fight against maintaining the status quo.

 

Lessons In Time Travel: Conjuring Al Capone Part 1

BY KATELAN FOISY

It’s summer in Coney Island. The boardwalk is bustling, blinking lights are ablaze as night seeps in, the fireworks on the beach begin. These are the moments you can see the outline of the park’s ghosts through the dusk light. Coney Island has a long and somewhat sordid history, but it’s the few years leading up to Prohibition that make this location pivotal to the land work I’ve been doing. The Prohibition era has always been a point of interest in popular culture. Moving pictures took interest in the antihero, the gangster as a Robin Hood in the late Twenties into Thirties.  This intrigue carried on over the years in various literature, film, and TV depictions including HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and AMC’s The Making of the Mob, which starts again July 11. While Hollywood often glamourizes the era and strays from history, the land memory tells a different story. It’s within these pieces of time that we make the cut or an intersection allowing us to see glimpses of both past and future within fragmentations, these intersections providing a map to both physical workings, art, writing, and what is yet to come historically. This past year I took the opportunity to explore Al Capone’s old haunts, many of them unknowingly my own, to try to further understand the duality that continues to surround his legacy and the land memory left behind.

38 Garfield Place, Al in front of a Pool Hall, 20 Garfield Place before they tore it down

38 Garfield Place, Al in front of a Pool Hall, 20 Garfield Place before they tore it down

New York leading up to Prohibition was dirty, overcrowded, and wrought with racism and violence. If there’s one thing we have learned from history is that it repeats itself. Immigrants made little money doing odd jobs and faced daily discrimination. Often children of immigrants would join kid gangs as a form of protection and to perform common labor to help their families. Al Capone grew up on these streets – first at 95 Navy Street, then moving to 21, 38, and 46 Garfield Place as his father’s barbershop prospered. His father Gabriele played pool at 20 Garfield Place and taught his son the game. From a young age Al fit the “Robin Hood” archetype. He found out a widow’s washboard was stolen, formed a kid gang, beat up the kids that had stolen it and returned it back to the widow. He then proceeded to have a parade for himself in the streets. He helped his family financially by working as a candy store clerk at 305 5th Avenue, a pin setter at a bowling alley and at an munitions factory before meeting Johnny Torrio who ran the James Street gang and then co-lead the Five Points Gang. Johnny had an office on 671 Union St on the second floor and recruited young Al to work at Frankie Yale’s Harvard Inn. The Harvard Inn was located on Seaside Walk (Now Surf Ave) between Bowery and the beach. It was here that Capone received his infamous scars after hitting on fellow gangster Frank Galluccio’s sister Lena. Galluccio had a sit down with the bosses of New York’s underworld after the incident where Capone apologized and was ordered not to retaliate. Capone would eventually hire Galluccio as his New York bodyguard on his trips to the city.

Vanessa Sinclair and Katelan Foisy on the boardwalk in Coney Island. Photo by Carl Abrahamsson

Vanessa Sinclair and Katelan Foisy on the boardwalk in Coney Island. Photo by Carl Abrahamsson

Young Al Capone at Coney Island and Coney Island today. Photo of Al via the My Al Capone Museum

Young Al Capone at Coney Island and Coney Island today. Photo of Al via the My Al Capone Museum

Capone moved to Chicago in 1920 after a short stay in Baltimore. Johnny Torrio had just become the crime boss of the Chicago outfit after “Big Jim” Colosimo was murdered. Torrio offered Al and his brother positions managing two brothels. Al had gotten into some trouble in New York and needed to lay low for a while. Al moved his brother Ralph there first and then his wife, mother, son and other family members after the death of his father. He took trips back to NY to conduct business and take his son to the doctor to cure his chronic ear infections.

Inside DeRobertis before it closed.

Inside DeRobertis before it closed.

On his trips to NY he visited Lucky Luciano at his office located in the back of DeRobertis 176 First Avenue (sadly DeRobertis closed in 2014). He dined at his favorite New York restaurant Lanza’s 168 First Avenue located in a tenement building and opened in 1904 by Sicilian-Italian immigrant Michael Lanza. It has been rumored that he was the chef to King Victor Emmanuel III and this inspired the interior of the restaurant. With it’s tin ceilings, wall murals and stained glass, walking into Lanza’s gives the feeling of walking into another time. Edy the owner will make you feel like famiglia and you can ask him for Al’s table. Just a few short blocks away The William Barnacle Tavern opens it’s doors. Originally a speakeasy it preserved the original half bar. If you take the tour right up the stairs next door you can get the full history of the tavern and why one of the walls is hollow as well as the museum and theater. The owner Lorcan Otway has his own history with the bar and the previous owners. To get the full experience take the tour and don’t forget to duck your head as you head into the basement. Lorcan lives on site and is more than happy to share stories of both the theater and the mob that ran the streets. Lorcan also informed me that Veniero’s 342 E. 11th St. was another haunt of Capone’s. Established in 1894 it’s known for it’s incredible Italian pastries and coffee. Decorated with imported Neapolitan glass that adorns the ceiling, Veniero’s remains a staple in NYC history.

Interior of Lanzas

Interior of Lanzas

Interior of the William Barnacle Tavern

Interior of the William Barnacle Tavern

Veniero's

Veniero’s

The concept of Time Travel is to encounter places and land with the embedded history experiencing multiple time frames. The experience in itself is time travel. Walking along the boardwalk you are there at one point in time, what you photograph intersects with what you are thinking at that moment, all while understanding the history and events that have taken place there. These exercises ingrain the history into your being further expanding the understanding of time, space, and people, connecting the dates and times to what you are experiencing at that moment. For instance, the candy store Capone worked at is now a laundromat. In my early twenties I took odd jobs, modeling for artists, posting fliers, getting emails for events and parties etc. The flier job lead me to this laundromat. At the time I didn’t know it had any association with Al, but I would pop in and rest my legs while chomping on candy. Somehow within my own sphere I was tapping into a certain land memory that had remained. The same for the other places above. I found myself living in Park Slope near Al’s childhood home after I went through a tough period right out of college. Friends took me in, and I’d wander those same streets. My comfort spots in the city were the same as his. While I didn’t have a physical connection to these places, something about the land and it’s history drew me in. My work began to change and rather than process it inwardly, I began to express it outwardly through image and writing. This led me down a long road where eventually I furthered my travels heading to Chicago.

Burnham Hotel

Burnham Hotel

Italian marble lined the walls and ceilings of the elevator lobby in the Burnham Hotel. Ornamental black metal grilles on the elevators and stairs mimic the original design of the building’s interiors, contrasting with the white of the marble while the floor mosaics honor the original artistry of the building. During the 20th century, this hotel housed various merchants and professionals, including Dr. Frank Brady. Dr. Brady kept a legitimate dental office at the hotel that just happened to also be a cover for dealings with safe blowers, drug dealers, and gangsters. Here at the hotel he would treat his patients, including the notorious gangster Al Capone, and supposedly amalgamated an acid that erased characters on stolen bonds. Dr. Brady met his untimely end in room 809 of the Burnham Hotel 1 W Washington St. This is the room I’ve requested for the next several days.

Film stills from the Burnham. Thanks to Madeline Carol Matz for assisting in filming.

Film stills from the Burnham. Thanks to Madeline Carol Matz for assisting in filming.

As Al rose to power in Chicago, the Robin Hood archetype followed him. He used his earnings to aid the poor as his meager beginnings had stayed with him. He bought a house at 7244 South Prairie Avenue where he and his family lived. He also had a second party home at 1600 S. Austin. It’s easy to understand why certain places were enticing to Capone. They emit elegance and class, while playing into the underground mystique. He was a man of distinguished taste in dress, location, and music, which earned him the nickname “Snorky” (meaning a sharp dresser or elegant). He may have grown up in poverty, but he never wished to be seen as uneducated or a brute. He fancied himself a champion of the people and a serviceman. He and Torrio even crafted a peace treaty between rival gangsters to reduce the violence by brokering amnesty between them. It only lasted two months, but even after the treaty’s dissolution, the Robin Hood archetype persisted. Capone established the first soup kitchens during the Great Depression when the government could not provide for the people, and set up programs for children to receive milk in schools free of charge. He is also responsible for expiration dates on milk. Some believed these actions were not pure altruism but a calculated power play. There’s a possibility of both, but in Capone’s own words, “Public service is my motto.”

Gioco backroom and film still. Thanks to Vanessa Sinclair for assisting in filming.

Gioco backroom and film still. Thanks to Vanessa Sinclair for assisting in filming.

2222 S. Wabash Ave in the South Loop is the former location for The Four Deuces, the crude-looking brothel where Capone got his start and began to rise to power. It is now a vacant lot. Better preserved, up the street is Gioco Italian restaurant. Located at 1312 S Wabash in an historic building from 1890, it is one of the last buildings of that era to remain. Gioco prides itself on preserving the cultural importance of the space, while incorporating this into a modern environment. During Prohibition, the back room was originally used as one of the gambling and/or brothel houses, while the building itself was a cold storage facility. The vaulted doors kept the place protected and soundproof so authorities wouldn’t be tipped off. There is a safe built into the original brick and plaster walls, and as you walk to the back of the restaurant the door opens into a secret speakeasy covered by a bookcase. The curtained off archway leads into another room with red walls covered with portraits of bygone entertainers.

Lexington Hotel

Lexington Hotel

Although the Lexington Hotel 2135 S. Michigan Avenue served as Capone’s headquarters and was given landmark status in 1985 it was demolished in in 1995 after repeated failed renovation attempts. The Congress Hotel 520 S Michigan Ave overlooks Grant Park and is a short walk to Lake Michigan. Rumor has it Capone played cards in the Congress Hotel near the Florentine room and enjoyed the luxury of the Gold Room. Stepping into it, you can see why. The Italian Renaissance-style room is drenched in gold leaf and sculpture with 50-foot arched ceilings and extraordinary ceiling murals. It is elegant and well-preserved. It isn’t had to imagine what kind of galas had been held there. There are other rumors of Jake Guzik calling from the Congress to Al’s home in Miami a few days before the St. Valentine’s Day massacre and just 30 minutes after the arrests had occurred on February 18th, though there is still no evidence that he was the mastermind of the massacre.

Congress Hotel Gold Room

Congress Hotel Gold Room

Capone was also a lover of music. He would often listen to opera—his favorite being Aida by Verdi—and could be seen attending performances, fraternizing with press, and crying during “Sonny Boy” at a showing of The Singing Fool. He enjoyed cabaret and jazz and became the man to go to if you were a jazz performer and needed a venue. He cared about the black musicians who performed in his clubs and often provided them protection in a time where racism was unchecked. Because of  his childhood, he related to what they were going through. Musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, and Cab Calloway often played his clubs. He attended the performances at his associates’ clubs as well. Jack “Machine Gun” McGurn owned part of The Green Mill 4802 N Broadway St where a table was reserved for his boss, located on the north wall of the bar with a view of both entrances.

Photos by Eleanor Saitta

Photos by Eleanor Saitta

Upon my first visit to The Green Mill during a packed performance my friends and I wondered if we’d be able to find a seat. I told them, “Within 15 minutes a table will clear for us.” The day before we had visited Al’s grave in Mt Carmel Cemetery and it felt like magic was about to happen. However, as we waited across from the bar, there appeared to be no hope. Then suddenly, a table cleared and the bouncer walked over to me, “You look like you’re looking for a place to sit.” With that I was ushered through the crowd and given the table directly next to Capone’s (within 15 minutes).

Inside the Green Mill by Eleanor Saitta

Inside the Green Mill by Eleanor Saitta

The Green Mill has changed over the years. It used to have a ballroom on the second floor and a back garden. You can see the ballroom’s domed ceiling from the roof. Behind the bar is a trapdoor leading to where the entertainers’ dressing rooms used to be. You can still see the outlines of where the toilets and sinks were placed. A locked door leads to the tunnels that contained party rooms for gambling, girls, and drinking. If there was a raid they had men to signal a warning, and there were ways of getting to the street without being noticed. But much in the Green Mill has also remained the same. The wooden-carved frames and paintings on the walls are the original works of art—as is the statue of Ceres, the Greek Goddess of Harvest. Some believe it to be from the World’s Fair. Walking into the Green Mill, you step into another time, straight into the 1920s and 30s. It is one of Chicago’s treasures and an integral piece of its history.

The lock to the tunnels underneath the Green Mill. Dave shows us letters he found in the basement. Photos by Eleanor Saitta

The lock to the tunnels underneath the Green Mill. Dave shows us letters he found in the basement. Photos by Eleanor Saitta

Billie Holiday graced the stage, and Al Jolson, and also one of Al Capone’s favorite cabaret singers, Joe E. Lewis. Lewis sang there for $650 a week until he received a better offer—$1000 a week at the Rendezvous café—and put in his resignation. According to Dave Jemilo, the current owner of the Green Mill, McGurn threatened the singer, saying Lewis “had a lifetime contract” and he’d “take him for a ride.” Joe Lewis was a tough guy himself and ignored the threats. McGurn and his boys found Lewis at his new location and followed him to his hotel room where they cut off part of his tongue and slashed his vocal chords leaving him to die. Capone found out and visited Lewis, giving him $10,000 to aid his recovery. Because of Capone’s generosity, Lewis was able to make enough of a recovery to start a new career as a comedian in Vegas.

Green Mill by Eleanor Saitta

Green Mill by Eleanor Saitta

Dave Jemilo’s interest in the Green Mill came from family history. His father told him stories of his youth in the 1930s, picking up women at age 18 at the Aragon Ballroom and having a night cap at the Green Mill afterward. Jemilo bought the place from Steve Brend, a WWII vet who had worked there since 1938 and bought it in 1960. Brend was a busboy when he first met “Machine Gun” McGurn, and it was Brend who originally told Jemilo the story of the Lewis affair and Capone’s involvement, which was later confirmed by a historian.

Margie's Candies. Try their famous Turtle Sundae.

Margie’s Candies. Try their famous Turtle Sundae.

The next stop on this trip was to aid a sweet tooth. Capone was known to frequent Margie’s Candies, located at 1960 N Western . Margie’s was established in 1921 as Security Candies. The same furnishings it opened with are the ones you will see today—the golden upholstered booths and original cases filled with heart shaped boxes of Margie’s famous original recipe chocolates. Capone’s booth was the second from the entrance facing the door. Boxes of candy line the windows and counters, meticulously papered gold containers strewn among lace-rimmed velvet hearts. At each booth, there is a tiny jukebox. Margie’s still uses the original equipment—all pots and stirrers have been kept in perfect condition. Margie’s grandson, Peter, runs the shop now and has been teaching his grandson the fine art of candy making through his Grandmother’s recipes.

One of Al's soup kitchens he set up in Chicago. Via history.com

One of Al’s soup kitchens he set up in Chicago. Via history.com

To visit each and every haunt would take months, so I limited myself to places that still exist – glimpses of past through a present day veil. Back in room 809 at the Burnham Hotel, I collected my thoughts on who Capone was as a person. While I visited many places on this journey, the ones I’ve mentioned stood out as providing pieces of his character. So what can we learn about a person by studying the places they frequented? Capone was a man who was keenly aware of his surroundings as well as his upbringing. He was uncomfortable being labeled a brute and consistently supported the arts and literature. He was an excellent businessman and entrepreneur. He thought of himself as a man of service to the public. He was a family man, who gave business to family-run restaurants. Capone was loyal to those who were loyal to him, patronizing their bars and establishments, frequenting shows of the musicians he loved, and protecting those in need. He had no tolerance for those who were disloyal. It seems his genuine wish to help the people was at war with his own ego. While I’m not here to sugarcoat the brutality of the mob within it’s own structure, I am attempting to understand a person more fully. To take a look at another side of someone who was labeled a criminal and villain. People are multi-dimensional, dynamic, and multi-faceted. The complexity of man is a shaky subject, especially in figures such as Al Capone, whose duality is so polarized. I wonder how this could be incorporated into my own art and seek techniques to help others in their own development. How understanding legends in history, even and perhaps especially controversial ones, is an integral part of the process. To look at what is hidden behind the veil and not the veil itself. Art in all forms becomes the historical link between past, present, and future, giving a broader image of what we have endured and what we will become. It is both legend and the mystique behind it. How we shape ourselves as human beings, as well as the world around us.

For more information:

 Al Capone’s great grandniece Deirdre Marie Capone’s site:  www.unclealcapone.com/

My Al Capone Museum run by Mario Gomes: http://www.myalcaponemuseum.com

Lessons in Time Travel: Intersections with the Starman

Photo by Troy Chambers

Photo by Troy Chambers

 

I remember her handwriting, blue pen turned to black marker as she scrawled the following sentence on sheets of lavender paper…

“The black candle is secretly providing the white candle with wax and wick.     Eternally I may sleep. I don’t want to Kate.”

That was the last thing my cousin Holly wrote to me before she died, a poetic offering of what was to come. It crossed my mind as I first listened to the lyrics of Bowie’s Blackstar:

    In the villa of Ormen, in the villa of Ormen    Stands a solitary candle, ah-ah, ah-ah    In the centre of it all, in the centre of it all    Your eyes

This is what William S. Burroughs describes as an intersection: a piece of writing, art, sound, or music that reminds you of something you or some one else has created and amplifies it. The example Burroughs uses to illustrate this phenomenon is the moment a piece of his writing from 1957 intersects with a newspaper article in 1964:

  “An old junky selling Christmas seals on North Clark Street. … The ‘Priest’ they called him. … And just here is a picture from Newsweek, May 15, 1964 … plane wreck. … The ‘Priest’ there hand lifted last rites for 44 airliner dead including Captain Clark (left). Left on North Clark Street.”

The news article he is currently reading parallels something he has previously written, causing an intersection. The position of the priest in the two pieces, on the same street, their movements mirroring one another.

Holly’s last words had intersected with Bowie’s last album. While they related at the time, I didn’t know it would be his last album. As a young girl, I practiced intersection by taking walks, photographing and recording what I saw around me. Later, I reflected on what I was thinking at the time I commemorated the moment. This practice continues to be a part of my daily life. Bowie’s Blackstar acts as a link to what’s known as a Black dwarf star (what happens when a White dwarf star has cooled and lost both it’s heat and light) once it was revealed that the album was Bowie’s parting gift to his fans and a reference to theoretical cosmology from the Starman himself. It is also reference to Elvis’s little-known song Black Star which was released in the 1960s.

    Every man has a black star    A black star over his shoulder    And when a man sees his black star    He knows his time, his time has come

Black star don’t shine on me, black star    Black star keep behind me, black star    There’s a lot of livin’ I gotta do    Give me time to make a few dreams come true, black star

Bowie shared a birthday with The King and was fascinated by Elvis’ song. There are hints and references to it in his video for Lazarus, which was released on the day of St. Lazarus of Bethany. In the video, Bowie sits at a desk frantically writing while a figure representing Death creeps up on him. This was a lesson in time travel—in which quotes from the present reflect or intersect with writing and art that had been created earlier, bridging memory and the present in real-time. I think of Holly’s last letter once again, subconsciously she knew death was approaching as she wrote out her own future.

I’m thinking of Bowie, Burroughs, and Elvis as I wait at the intersection between Prince and Green for Troy Chambers, an artist and occultist, to meet me. We are visiting Bowie’s memorial to not only to pay our respects, but also to carry on with our habitual examination of cut-ups—a practice Bowie employed—and time travel. In time travel, we see an ascension from physical to dream state. The Blackstar video places us into the thought process of the dream state as well, what happens when the body drifts off into nothingness and allows the unconscious to take form. How can we intentionally project ourselves into that state? By recreating ourselves and our characters and continuing to inspire and be inspired. We can take on identities, embrace and embody each of these characters at various moments as each provides a perspective and one develops out of another. We discuss this as we head to Olive’s to pick up Bowie’s favorite sandwich—chicken, watercress, and tomato with chipotle mayo- and then make our way to La Colombo for a double macchiato, Bowie’s favorite coffee. By visiting the places he frequented, and leaving gifts, the interconnection between the present and the past creates a “cut” in time.

By Katelan Foisy

By Katelan Foisy

 

Burroughs and Bowie intersected as well. The Wild Boys description was part of the inspiration for Ziggy Stardust, and after reading Nova Express, Bowie began was inspired to use cut-ups to create a new dynamic in the performance. He spoke about this in an interview with Burroughs in 1974 for Rolling Stone.

Bowie: Nova Express really reminded me of Ziggy Stardust, which I am going to be putting into a theatrical performance. Forty scenes are in it and it would be nice if the characters and actors learned the scenes and we all shuffled them around in a hat the afternoon of the performance and just performed it as the scenes come out. I got this all from you, Bill… so it would change every night.

Burroughs: That’s a very good idea, visual cut-up in a different sequence.

Bowie ever the shapeshifter in character and in art, incorporated cut-ups into his work. He even created a program to help him with the process: “It’s a program that I’ve developed with a friend of mine from San Francisco, and it’s called the Verbasizer.” He incorporated time-travel techniques into his practice as well. As he went through the lyrics generated, he focused on locating intersections, creating the bridge into the next visual or lyric. Bowie reinvented himself throughout his career, shifting personalities through the characters in his albums, creating a lifelong piece of performance art. Troy and I speak about this over lunch.

 

According to Troy, “The performance – or perhaps more accurately, the embracing and embodying of these characters – is a constant switch in time that’s consistently referencing itself at multiple timelines. He gave us characters from the future, sung about in past and present perspective, that developed out of each other—Ziggy the Starman Messiah as the world falls down in five years blends to Aladdin Sane (described as Ziggy in America), where we’re seeing a different type of future (or present?) that lives within, during and behind the Ziggy era. We are presented with songs such as Drive-In Saturday, where a young couple attempts to relive aesthetics and scenarios from an idealized 1950s within a futuristic setting—leading to the deranged and frankly terrifying post apocalypse of Diamond Dogs, and its red mutant eyes and giant fleas playing alongside references to Orwell’s 1984, setting up the shell-shocked optimism and attempt at refinding some form of sanity within ‘plastic soul’ on the Young Americans album and its eventual crash landing into the soulless man who fell to earth to become the Thin White Duke – the last of the great Bowie characters, and perhaps the least human, no matter whether Ziggy was from Mars or not (one does wonder if Bowie felt he answered his own question on the possibility of life on Mars with the arrival the Starman).

After the Duke—a ‘nasty character’—we don’t really have a character that is as full and firm as we’ve seen from Bowie before this, with the dubious exception of Nathan Adler on the Outside album (one of the most explicitly obvious examples of Bowie utilizing the cut-up technique along with other randomized inspiration—as well as further time-jumping and shifting on an album recorded in 1995, set in 1999 yet playing off of the hard-boiled crime pulp of the early 20th century, taking place in a chimeric city that can’t decide if it’s in England or America or both at the same time), though Adler lived more within the album than within Bowie—Bowie did not walk as Adler, like he walked as Ziggy and the Duke.

But the Duke wasn’t gone for good—we see references to and hints of him (that have been pointed out repeatedly in the past several weeks) in the final costume we ever see him in, in the music video for Lazarus, his final recorded look out at the world before he walks backwards into Narnia. The same outfit was worn by the Duke for the Station to Station album, where he is seen drawing out the Kabbalistic Tree of Life while wearing it, on an album where he gives the line ‘one magical moment from Kether to Malkuth’ from a character that was alive for one the blackest parts of Bowie’s career, life, and health (the man was living on a diet of cocaine, milk, and red peppers). We see this descent as a consistent theme – the arrival of these Starmen from somewhere Above and Outside, the Man Who Fell to Earth, from Kether to Malkuth (the top to the bottom of the tree) – and it isn’t until Blackstar that we see an Ascent. The Blackstar video puts us back in space – Major Tom is dead and has been for a long time, and though his body drifts off into nothing, the jeweled memory that is his skull remains behind and continues to inspire.

‘Something happened on the day he died / Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside’(Blackstar) doesn’t give us a new character, but it does present us with a humanity in Bowie as he traces back the footsteps of those crash-landed personas – this time, one magical moment from Malkuth to Kether, leaving an open embrace for whatever comes next. It won’t be a new Bowie—but it definitely seems to be a unified Bowie, as his death brings a spotlight down on him with refreshed vigor.”

The original memorial by Vanessa Sinclair

The original memorial by Vanessa Sinclair

 

We finish our coffee and set down the offerings at the memorial. New York is at a crossroads, both mourning the death and celebrating his life. The memorial has been moved a few feet away from the apartment entrance. It’s smaller than the first day, but across the gate reads, “Let’s Dance.” The spray paint on the wall instantly transports us to the NYC of the 80’s. The lightning bolt through the heart of “I love NY” paying homage to Aladdin Sane. The 70’s have seeped through the neon heart. We are standing in three different times as more slip through. Troy and I take photos, not to say “We are here,” but more to map this moment in time. Part of working in time travel is to not only pay homage to the places and people themselves but to document them for future generations. This way, those who wish to carry on the same experimentations can do so with a starting or middle point. Sometimes, the pictures are edited to conjure different time frames, adding layers and flaws to them to give the illusion of wear. Other times, they are smooth and ageless, perfect in the moment they are taken. The performance part of time travel is a continual switch in chronology that is consistently shifting – photographing and recording characters from the future, written, sung about, painted, and documented in the past and present.

By Katelan Foisy

By Katelan Foisy

 

At one point, we notice a woman with headphones standing across from the memorial crying. She is a moment I will project to years from now. The lyrics of Blackstar fade in and out, “Something happened on the day he died, spirit rose…” It gives us a new character but it does not present us with a persona, this is formless – this time he reminds us to embrace whatever comes next. At that moment, a fragment of an interview with Burroughs creates a cut-up in my thought:

    “I do a lot of exercises in what I call time travel, in taking coordinates, such as what I photographed on the train, what I was thinking about at the time, what I was reading, and what I wrote; all of this to see how completely I  can project myself back to that one point in time.” 

Bowie’s studio is across the street in a small alley. I remember thinking when I visited this place years ago, that it was one of the only places that still felt like Old New York, a portal through time. Troy and I document it, and in that instant, I am in two places at once: 1997 and 2016. Upon returning home, I learn that the day has been deemed “Bowie Day” in NYC. It also marks the first day the planets have aligned since 2004.

By Troy Chambers with edits by Troy and Katelan Foisy

By Troy Chambers with edits by Troy and Katelan Foisy

By Katelan Foisy

By Katelan Foisy

 

Time travel is an examination of detail, perception, and emotion. It is a study in history and memory through both characterization and formlessness. By documenting, you begin to understand where the cut is made, synchronicity steps in, and the building of new ideas takes place. It creates the connection to chronos and the examination of disposition and development through shape shifting and interacting with the dream state. It is a structured method of chaos in a cut. You create your own piece of performance art. Welcome to lessons in Time Travel, an ongoing experiment.

BENEATH THE MERCURY TREE : A Myth of Time, Memory, & Ancestry

girlsnew

“Where do you go Mary? In the dead of night?”

-My Enemy’s Tears

The air felt thick with rain again, the second of the series of storms. I stood on the shore of Hallet’s Cove watching wilted flowers as they rolled back and forth with the waves. By the roots of the tree were two devil pods. Two bat nuts to bring home. They aren’t found by these waters. The man at the crossroads had left them for me. I was born a storm child, lover of poisonous things, belladonna, primrose, foxglove, and climbing nightshade.  I would taste the berries and petals, dance in fairy rings, and conjure rain and thunder. At age six I became sickly, scarlet fever, fifth disease, and chicken pox three times in a matter of three years. And then of course the seizures came. With those brought visions of the spirit world. Science could explain why I had them but it couldn’t explain the accuracy of them or why the fever dreams opened the door to something else. I wanted to know the frequency of being haunted, not by spirits but of things, places, and memories. Would the object’s frequency be so low that it generated infrasonic memory vibrations or was it my own body creating it within. Perhaps subconsciously I wanted to be haunted.

I became a child of the crossroads, a daughter to both Eleggua and Fortuna. I read palms, threw dice, and traced facial features with my eyes connecting personalities from freckles, traits, and shapes. The mole above my lip assured I would always be taken care of. The one under my eyebrow signified power and success. The x on both my marriage lines spoke of finding the same love in each lifetime I lived. My hands were the hands of my ancestors, the way I held a cup could be seen in each sepia toned image. Their paths became mine, their wounds were my wounds. We played out scenes repeated like broken records and collected the reflections of those who came before us. Mary Bliss Parsons shared the same facial features as I did. I could see my grandmother in her and I could see me in my grandmother. Mary Bliss Parsons was tried twice during the witch trials. I carried a piece of her with me, from my haunts as teenager in Northampton to the seizures we shared.

“I know she’s of the devil for I can not keep my mind from her” – The
Silencing of Women

Under the willow tree I spoke softly and watched clouds darken from white to grey. The willow was once my Mercury, it could be trickster or messenger depending on the morning or evening attended. Over time it’s branches swept across my face cleansing sorrows until light drifted over and all I could smell was where river met sea. It is not a mournful place but one of joy. I lay my head on the ground absorbing the pulse from beneath layers of soil and history. The Lighthouse to my right and the panopticon to my left. While Mary never came to New York, I thought of Mary like me.

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The sky opened but didn’t crack. It was the rain before the storm. It was the one to let me know it was coming. It was slight and delicate, enough to know it was a series. I lit the candles in the garden. The old Saint statue was crumbled from weather and greens. From light, darkness grew and in it a tiny spark grew once again. The candles flared and flickered. The black candle danced and spit. There is a beauty in breaking things. The storms break ruts. Wax absorbs and releases. Flame dances can be read and deciphered. Two sets of ancestors battling to come through, one in other languages and one of puritan form, the merging of two sides for one justification.

“Say it with me, Amriya (Armaya)-curse.  Say it softly as it slides off the tongue and into the ground.  We won’t walk that path as pretty as the language sounds.  We will not walk that path.  Baxt hai sastimos tiri patragi. But we did walk a long road over years, scattered with dust and the remains of something very broken.  Your ghosts and my ghost they spoke in whispers.  “I am not the curse.”  Everyone pointed fingers and yet we have all said “A tear in the eye is the wound of the heart.” and so we walk on bruised, bandaged and bleeding.  We walk on like soldiers in the night.”

Outside the wind howled. Inside I propped the new cane against the wall. Restlessness shook my body. It’s a bad thing to feel the dampness in your bones. I wanted to travel now. I wanted to be on dirt roads. I called The Good Sister Enable.

“You’ve got to take that prayer cloth and hold it, let your tears fall and you say those prayers over it and into it. You say them until that cloth gets so hot it falls out your hands that it’s burning with those
desires.”

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The black candle had burned out and the crossroads eagerly excepted it’s remains. The good Sister was reading bible verses again, Ezekiel 38:22 and sent the message. In ten minutes time another storm, in another city far far away blew in. It was coming, not the end of days, but someone’s days. I collected the water and washed a poppet I had made. Somewhere someone was pretending everything was okay. The candles flared and flickered. The black candle danced and spit. If they were trying to resist it wasn’t working and soon the sky would open flooding the land and streaking the sky with light while both heaven and hell pounded their drums and chests. Down the road, laying face to sky I found my father standing over me. Daughter of both Fortune and Fate, “I can work both sides.” I said raising my hand to the sun. And there it was in the open, no good, no evil, neutrality at it’s best.

“There is no contract. By working the good book you work both for and against me. You work both for and against him. But nothing is against us. It’s 50/50 on these roads. Both up there and down here it’s an equal divide. All of it’s justified.” He shook my hand and I saluted the sky. The leaves turned belly out. The storms would be here soon. The sky would break and he would say “It is broken like me.” and I would collect the thunder water breaking him again because I could and it was needed. When Sister opened the good book she read the passage from Ezekiel 13:8 and it was understood that all would be shattered.

The wind was angry now. She howled outside pushing the plants and snapping branches from small trees. I tended to candles. The black candle flame remained small until the small poppet was encased and then it grew full fulfilling it’s duty. Small signs told me so, broken string, a dropped tool, a chain, crab shells, and two dead fish. All of these small and symbolic, meaning nothing to anyone but me. I lit the white candles and they melted quickly leaving puddles of wax tears behind them. Soon the skies would open. Soon my job would be done.

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I whispered sweetly into the white wax candles, “I’m leaving a trail of sweet grass for anyone who wants to find me. I’ll tie it to fences as I travel with ribbons and one gold coin and then you too can travel this road.  But I must warn you that this path is not an easy one to walk. There will be bumps, ditches. People will call you names and close their doors to you. But if you listen close enough and the wind calls your name then you too can travel with me and I can tell you that there is a sweetness in that alone. And then, then those doors will open.”

I opened the good book and placed my finger down. The twigs of the cedar tree would be brought to the marketplace and left in bundles. The seed of the land planted like willow by abundant water would spread creating roots. This is what the good book told me and so I collected the branches and bundled them with twine. While cedar protected against lightning the willow was sympathetic to the plea.The poppet on a separate journey would be placed in the river. A man would see the interaction and a sign would be given that all was well. I walked old streets with new markets. I remembered the days of
flickering streetlights and broken glass. The remnants of my friend’s former home became cinder blocks being pushed through the windows of my former home. I didn’t know what to think of this, ghetto turned prime location.  The Inferno isn’t filled with fire. It’s filled with memories and dilapidated buildings. It was built on pavement leveling layers of history and patching the cracks with cement, therein concealing it’s former existence. The inferno buries its history with skyscrapers and low income housing few can afford. The inferno doesn’t want you to sense the layers. It only wants you to feel the void. This is the curse of the land.

I walked into the old temple. I roamed the halls touching old stone and tracing my fingers along glass. It was the stained glass in the chapels that spoke, the carvings, the tapestries with years of history, blood, and toil weaved into them that expressed their language wholly. In the halls echos of voices. It reminded me of the small town in Canada haunted by radio airwaves. In the garden I touched poison. By the deadly nightshade were the bittersweet berries known as woody nightshade. I remembered their taste. The wind had become calm and gentle, the way she gets right before change occurs. I lit the white candles on jars of honey, so many hopes and wishes crammed into sweetness with locks of hair and photographs. I said a prayer for each of them blowing three times before lighting the match. Seven in all. Two, zero, one, four. That year was a seven year.

The dominant frequency of thunder is 100 Hz with a rumble of infrasonic in between, something inaudible to humans but resonating like the low growl of a tiger, before it attacks its paralyzed prey.I wonder sometimes what the frequency of my body was, if it’s my body that haunts me or outside sources. What is the frequency of all that haunts you? What is the frequency of an ancestor’s rage?

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“She’s made friends with the Devil. They say she is a witch.”

-My Enemy’s Tears

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