Wow, and I mean wow there are some interesting sexual niches out there. Although that's the aspect which stands out most in my mind, Claycomb brought up many other valid points. "Everything we experiance is a language construction", he said. He challenged this statement by pointing out that the experience of pain challenges language theories.
It is safe to say that when we experience pain, it is anything but a language construction. Arthur Frank would say that experiencing pain is being trapped in a chaos narrative. Likewise, Scarry brings up the valid argument that physical pain resists language. She goes one step further to say that pain actively destroys language. While in the state of pain, we experiance revision to a state anterior to language.
Claycomb's points about the subjectivity of language were not unheard. It his relation to pain that brought something new into the mix. We could never denotatively define our pain since every word used to describe our pain has a different conotation to different audiences.
I enjoyed his words about identity as a construct. I would like to think that DesCarte's words, I think therefore I am, are true. Everything beyond nature is obtained through language. In this sense our identity is constructable, it is what we say it is - we just have to believe.
Perhaps Claycomb was right when he said that there is no authentic self. We are all different people in different situations and contexts. We are made up of many identities - as people say there is a time and place for everything. This could simply mean that we have an identity for each different situation. It is true that the person I am in class is not the person I am at dinner with my friends or at home with my family.
Claycomb moved onto identity as a sexual portayl and construct. Indeed, we act as women or men because we follow the behavior of the women and men which have set the standards throughout history. What does it mean to be woman or man? Who decides on these subconcious codes?
It is clear that language and the body are connected for the purpose of constructing our identity or identities. It is not true however that we experiance everything through language. There are just some things we need to find out by doing. For example you tell a child not to touch the stove burners because they are hot. The child may not give up, however, until he or she has found out first hand. Once the child feels the pain of that the burner has caused, they fully understand that the burner is hot. The pain that a hot surface can cause cannot be clearly communicated through language, it simply has to be experianced. In this sense, there are just certain areas where words are not enough.
Everything is taken to an extreme when we look at Bob Flanagan's work. His S&M performances are said to have isolated and controlled the pain he felt from his battle with cystic fibrosis. Indeed, he survived into his fourties, an age many patients with that condition never live to see. I feel that he survived for that long because he believed.
When it comes to the works of Athey, a similar artist in a sense, I feel a different connection between his performances and his past. As Claycomb pointed out, emotionally damaged people feel the need to tear their bodies inside out. His performances release his inner pain. In that way he makes that pain real and he communicates it to the world. As Athey put it, his body is a "fleshy prison which houses the pain". He refers to a razor as a trusty friend. More importantly, he states that the razor is a release to a pressure valve. There is something more at play here. When it is your own hand that administers relief by means of releasing the body's blood there is something evil and grueling inside which scrapes at the insides screaming for air. It seems as though the cost of releasing this thing and letting it rise to the surface would cost life itself. This means permanently living with a pain which causes self mutilation over and over, but never extinguishes the pain itself. A cut simply gives the pain an impermanent voice. It is this kind of pain that cannot be written or performed. It is a never ending experiance for those who feel it and must bear its pangs.