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PRINT September 2022

DU MUSST DEIN LEBEN ÄNDERN (DUSTAN DEVIATION)

Guillaume Dustan,  Squat, 2002, video, color, sound, 62 minutes 46 seconds. © G.D. and its estate.

DEAR BRUCE—

Almost frightened to begin the meal, the last supper, our conversational nibbling on the “funeral meats” of the late, great Guillaume Dustan’s film work, which is really video work (medium specificity mattered to this auteur, for whom every plunge and stroke and tonguing had legible grain).

I guess we should explain to readers that you and I have watched all the extant Dustan video pieces we could get our transcontinental hands on; that these videos are not in circulation; that we are watching them with permission but on the sly; that they have been—with three recent notable exceptions in Europe*—buried alive for essentially two decades; that they are unutterably pornographic and also uneventful; that they represent for Dustan (and for anyone viewing them) the end of writing and also its afterlife, its spunky recommencement; that they pose the question of why write? by “throwing” the question into another arena and asking instead why film? Jonas Mekas described himself as not a filmmaker but a filmer: someone who films. We could spend five thousand words discussing the seam between to film and to write. Or we could spend our “word count” talking about the alternation, in Dustan’s videos, between scenes of the utmost uneventfulness (pure blur) and sudden up-close cock shots (his own cock, mostly) or dilated ass (also often his own), my favorite of which is the long scene in Squat, 2002, when Dustan instructs a reluctant partner in the art of fisting. Never on page or screen has Dustan seemed more emotional than in this scene, when, plaintively or sheepishly, he asks, “Do you like doing it a little?” The fister says no, he doesn’t like fisting Guillaume. “It’s a crazy thing to do,” Dustan admits. He says they don’t need a sign on the door (they’re in a public squat in London) to announce that sex is transpiring in the room: “We don’t need a sign. We are the sign.” Can we hypothesize that writing is the vending machine of signs but that Dustan also needed cinema/video for its more Christologically (!) embodied relation to the sign-as-sacrifice? The swallowed word? That’s too literal. He calls himself a “sub-Warhol,” but he is continuing the Warholian project of querying (diffusing, doubling, concretizing, embalming) embodiment by filming it.

xoxo

Guillaume Dustan,  Squat, 2002, video, color, sound, 62 minutes 46 seconds. © G.D. and its estate.

W.,

“That bitch, Warhol!” (Cette salope, Warhol!), Dustan hisses dramatically in montre † lèvres, 2004. “It’s Warhol who’s going to win.” The video starts with Dustan filming only people’s feet. Given the economics never far from Dustan’s mind—the squat of Squat, where “the toilet can be bucket-flushed”; the meager (financial) recompense any writer who goes hard into the voids, the core/corps of écriture, receives (Dustan, in Poubelle [Trash Can, 2002], suggests there should be a pension for such writers, who so quickly burn out); his point-blank choice of video, to sign off from writing—perhaps that winning statement is barebacked by It’s Warhol who’s going to earn. For all his Drella admiration, does he faux-spit it out—“That bitch, Warhol!”—with some bittersweetness? An eye roll familiar to most writers who maneuver art’s frequently fancy-pants arrondissements. “Sub-Warhol”: Dustan subs, submissive to Andy’s pussy-heaven cock, substitute teacher in Andy’s absence, tutoring his fister in how to hold his hand, position his fingers, what to do once he’s inside (“relax” is one of the options). “This is new porn at its best,” says Dustan, a bottom who tops (a top who bottoms), appraising his trainee’s efforts. It’s not clear if the obliging, hirsute, beautifully gowned and opera-gloved pickup, as you point out, agrees.

“Dustan argued that an inner revolution must precede an outer revolution.”
—Bruce Hainley

Pure blur and cock shots: Sometimes Dustan slaps such categorical differences on the wrist. Not in any way to sublimate the fisting lesson; more to track the beauty of its impromptu squatter mise-en-scène: Dustan’s on his back, holding his DV camera while filming the guy learning to fist him, the filmer taking advantage of a large mirror in the room so that part of what’s seen is doubled, discombobulating, to become a documentation of new conceptualizations of the body and its possibilities coming into being. Dustan argued that an inner revolution must precede an outer revolution. Early in Squat, before the fisting finale, he fixes his camera on a sign, one of many flyers and zines, printed matter littering the sex-party goings-on, marking it all a form of Ronellian littérature: “Has the wild human spirit been tamed? / Is an oppositional culture still possible? / Can we launch another revolution?” The questions gird the loins of his corpus.

Post–Hervé Guibert, especially in the sunset of Guibert’s tender, unflinching autodocumentary dirge La pudeur ou l’impudeur (Modesty, or Immodesty, 1991), Dustan delivers even more Nietzschean instruction issuing vital force. I flash on that strange, dashed-off drawing in one of the time capsules in Warhol’s hand: “Living Signs.” We are the sign. Living itself signs, semiotics materialized in semen, sweat, and Crisco, body vending body. Je est un autre, “open like a big cunt,” Dustan proclaims: I is in the other, the other deep inside I.

xo

Guillaume Dustan, montre † lèvres, 2004, video, color, sound, 21 minutes. © G.D. and its estate.

BRUCE,

Right now, all I can think of is the close-up of Dustan’s neck in Nietzsche, 2002, his most Straub-Huillet-esque video in its concern for conversation viewed from the most askew angle possible: Dustan is talking with an unnamed intellectual/journalist about Nietzsche, but Dustan, as usual, is mumbling. What’s with his enunciation? Is it just my mediocre grasp of French that causes a lint tray’s worth of obscuring fuzz to descend over the soundtrack whenever Dustan opens his mouth or, more to the point, doesn’t open it? Dustan’s voice is either all grain or all lube, Crisco, ooze, an irony-dispensing spray jetted over every word he utters. I’m not exaggerating. The films are entirely word conscious (Dustan loves to stint the visual), and his way of loving the French language is to cud it, gum it. Back to Nietzsche, and Dustan’s neck and bearded chin (the rule behind Nietzsche seems to be don’t show the speaking mouth, don’t show the signifying eyes; just focus on the follicles): We see that he’s let his beard grow out (in his video works, he always has ample stubble—is there a way to speak intelligently about Dustan’s filmed corpus without discussing body hair?), and this relaxation of the shaving code seems to imply a loosening of cinematic or Conceptual-art ambition and a movement back into literature, if Nietzsche represents literature, or seriousness, or verbally oriented endeavor. In another video, Dustan nominates himself the new Nietzsche, which is either grandiose (Paglia-like in its performative vanity) or part and parcel of an aesthetics of fib (allied to the sonics of the gummed and the mumbled). Meek summation: (1) Dustan moves into video-making to fist the visual yet forbid it any purchase on his soul (the films are radically—sensitively—bereft of anything approaching an aesthetic flourish); (2) Dustan privileges the spoken word only to macerate it with a sugar syrup so viscous his words escape differentiation and become a slippery surface (he crowns language the king of the video realm only to smear language so thoroughly that the words vanish in a whispered antiestablishment nimbus, as if he were a kidnapper speaking with a nylon stocking over his face).

Soon, I want to say something global about Dustan’s penchant for filming everything upside down or sideways.

Inaudibly,

Wayne

SISTER,

Hard to talk with a mouth full of cock. Or ass. Stray hair on the tongue. Hard to articulate on certain drugs, wasted (cf. the fourteen continuous “blank” pages of Dustan’s I’m Going Out Tonight [1997]). The sonics of lint-tray fuzz meet cotton mouth as the gummed and mumbled rendezvous with murmur. Soon, we are in a Blanchotian corner of a nightclub waiting for our man—dealer or trick—from whom the least phoneme, aspiration, or glance arouses response. Avital Ronell traces such subvocal tracks Bressoning Dennis Cooper’s writing, a corpus crucial to Dustan’s sexcapades. Which is to say, I see the radical bereftness and smear, but what isn’t an aesthetic flourish? Dustan saw contemporary existence as castrated and carceral, wanted to liberate it by bottoming out (by which he did not mean “only” bottoming)—incorporating, anal-yzing, culture’s most “dejected” and “shameful” actions, desires, wares and making them fundamental (fundament just another term for “ass” or “bottom”). Not to keep harping on that bitch Warhol, but Taylor Mead’s Ass, 1964, would provide some kind of gloss, except any comic potential isn’t so-called camp but deadpan.

Songs in the key of moi clarifies: The video from 2000 voyages around Dustan’s room, starting with a flipped-over Batman action figure and pictures of various hunks on the wall, most of them hung and, as you point out, hanging upside down. Call it his sixty-nining POV, men presenting, greeting, their hot ass or big hard dick at your lips—on parole. Array of Falcon Studios playing cards. Drawings of guys sucking cock done in deep verismo (Dustan’s camera movement mimicking the in and out of the sucking). Blissed-out dudes with come all over their faces. Pierre et Gilles babes. Hirsute Arab daddies. Milk crate of epic dildos. Fleshlight on the nightstand or in action, a toy patented barely two years before the video was shot. A shrine to men as musclebound porno fuck machines, fantasies, with Dead or Alive on the turntable—“I’m in too deep there’s no getting out of it,” Pete Burns sings. How deep is that? How shallow? Punishingly. Dustan valorized the gay “ghetto,” doing drugs, nightclubbing, fucking, shrugging off any need of names or personal blah-blah. This was the stuff he barebacked into writing, into vision, and it is part of a super-refined aesthetic program. The midpoint of the video is a tour of his desk: manuscripts, computer, cigarettes, lighter, coffee cup. With its titular nod to Stevie Wonder, Songs in the key of moi stages a life of writing and sex, sex as writing but very much sex as sex, too, the camera capturing the haecceity (hey-sissy) of this specific guy, this specific bed, this Nestlé dark-chocolate bar, this foot in me, no other. (Comme ça? Ou comme ça?, he demonstrates in another video.) While we see close-ups of Dustan and a partner going at it (parts of them), what astonishes is his slow homage to his bed: its blue sheets and greige pillowcases becoming a Turin shroud of every possible assembly and secretion bodies can produce and anoint themselves with to reach climax after climax. Dustan zooms in to trace the stains, optical licking of the residue, representation of the meltdown that sex can be.

“The carnivalesque gave us upside down a long time ago. Today, we want to ride aside a side.”
—Wayne Koestenbaum

Oh, no—I haven’t mentioned dancing! The last ten minutes of Songs in the key of moi juxtapose blur (a morning view out of his apartment window, abstracted) and Dustan dancing, both to “Madam Butterfly (Un Bel di Vedremo),” from Malcolm McLaren’s Fans (1984). GD dances in a few of his videos, sometimes even nude, but here, in an early apotheosis of his choreography, he wears jeans, a snug, maroon US ARMY T-shirt; when he kicks his leg up, you see butch boots. Syncopating brut hand and finger signing, he performs a slow aikido of solitude. His works acknowledge depression, the grind of living (many of the videos clock containers of antiretrovirals), but GD only wants to score, to materialize—to bodify—life. Sometimes it’s come or edging to come, sometimes full-on Whitmanian Ease of Ass. We don’t need Nietzsche to recall who dances or how dancing provides capacitation to move beyond what oppresses, socially, medically, psychically. Among the notes in Dustan’s archives: “The dance = years of work to get to this point—my brain’s dancing, never been so free.”

Xoxo,

Sissy Goforth

LIZ,

Correct, your reframing of “aesthetic flourish” to include all that indeed flourishes visually in Dustan’s video corpus, the fundamental haecceity of each stain on the Turin shroud. What Dustan gives us, visually, when he avoids ordinary flourishes is a lavish serving of an optical realm we could call the side dish, a new way of being sidereal. Warhol filmed Taylor Mead’s ass without the face as a way of presenting ass as the new face, today’s face; give us the side dish (ass) as the main course and we will begin to understand geography differently; we will begin to understand dramaturgy differently and day and night differently. Dustan moves past Warhol to Marguerite Duras’s cinema style, which is the most sideways cinema I know. Is it in Baxter, Vera Baxter (1977) that we see from the weirdest and least dramatic angle Delphine Seyrig and Claudine Gabay talking on one or two couches, and in which the whole point of the film seems to be the music we hear played outside on the beach? Let’s think of Duras’s tilted, beside-the-point mode of filmmaking (beside the point of drama, beside the point of customary visual “appeal,” beside the point of pointedness) as godmother to Dustan’s erotic cinema, which aims to educate. The first pupil it wants to “raise by hand” is Dustan himself, who notices, by filming his underarm in Nous (love no end), 2000, that one armpit has a skin tag he wants to remove: He says (I paraphrase), I’ve learned something by filming my armpit, I’ve learned that I have an unlovely growth I need to excise, and so thank you to filmmaking for pushing me toward action. Another action that this same film catalyzes: Dustan tells his boyfriend that Yann Andréa, Duras’s erstwhile companion, is writing a book with a character based on Dustan but that Andréa (“That bastard,” Guillaume calls him) isn’t acknowledging in the book that Dustan is the character’s source. But now that I’m including this information in my film, says Dustan, this fact will be out in the world. I’m touched by the pragmatic, results-oriented ethos of Dustan’s cinema: I film to lay down new laws. In Ratés, 2003, part of his cycle of films paying homage to his lover Tristan Cerf, Dustan says something about “le camion” (the lorry), and of course I flash on Duras’s film Le camion (1977). The point isn’t to lasso Dustan to Duras but to think about how Duras’s side-dish aesthetic leads directly to Dustan’s and, also, to understand that Duras and Dustan are writing on film by shooting every scene with an obdurate obliquity. (Time to revisit Kathryn Bond Stockton’s The Queer Child, or Growing Sideways in the Twentieth Century [2009]. Recently I’ve been reawakened to the salience of sideways matters by Christian Lewis’s brilliant dissertation, Narrative Sidestepping: Disability Beyond the Narratology of Normality [CUNY Graduate Center, 2022]).

I’m mesmerized by one shot near the end of Dustan’s Nous 2, 2002, of two odd, thick-stemmed wineglasses on their sides. Seen laterally, the wineglasses look like a strange new cock-ball formation: two phalluses, one pair of testicles. In a flash, we’re beholding a new desire formation, an emblem of the corporeal possibilities that blossom when Dustan turns aside. Dustan on film (and I presume in life) is top and bottom, vers to the max, and I’m gratified to note that his camera’s eye represents neither a top aesthetic nor a bottom aesthetic (as if those could be differentiated, or pictured!) but a side aesthetic. (Grindr has added “side” to its list of positions.) Sideways thinking, sideways listening, sideways seeing—a quasi-paradise initiated by Baxter, Vera Baxter—culminate in this bizarre twin-chalice shot in Nous 2.

Dustan wanted to mess with the hierarchies: of face and ass, of ‘abstraction’ and ‘representation,’ of speech and sight, of ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ of main course and side.”
—Bruce Hainley

Recall the sideways shot (from Songs in the key of moi, at 2:32) of a hunk pinup hung on Dustan’s wall. Admittedly, there are just as many shots of the hunks upside down, so I could just as easily be arguing for an upside-down aesthetic. But the carnivalesque gave us upside down a long time ago. Today, we want to ride aside a side.

Stuffed animals. I dote on all the space that Dustan gives, in his videos, to his stuffed animals. He has no use for Deleuze. Deleuze is the “dog of philosophy.” Dustan doesn’t need becoming-animal. He wants becoming-stuffed-animal. He packed a stuffed animal for his trip to Ibiza (in Enjoy [back to Ibiza], 2001), along with a copy of My Dog Tulip (1956). Note in the screenshot that J. R. Ackerley’s ode to doggy sex is sideways on the bed, as if (glancingly!) to suggest that dogginess is a sideways practice. Madonna’s face on a CD cover, in the next shot, is upright, not sideways. And then we see the stuffed animal, naturally on its side. An erect cock isn’t sticking straight up but is (usually) at something like a 45-degree angle, and can, if put to use, function happily at a 90-degree angle.

Is sideways in French de côté? Dustan in Nietzsche makes clear that Proust is not the news that he wishes to sing, but somewhere alongside the Dustan film corpus is the question of which road to take on our trip backward.

Love from Ibiza,

Sacha Vierny and Edith Head

Guillaume Dustan, Nous 2, 2002, video, color, sound, 63 minutes. © G.D. and its estate.

WAYNE KOESTENBAUM: Filth allowed.

BRUCE HAINLEY: Required.

WK: Filth required.

BH: We haven’t discussed the feet.

WK: At least not directly.

BH: We haven’t broached Toits moi crevé [2002].

WK: We’ve been tiptoeing around it.

BH: Foot-fisting seems to be the generic term, but I’ve had a hard time finding spicier slang. . . .

WK: Is there a word for two feet at once? Both feet in one anus?

BH: I wish it were “French Cannon.” We should ask John Waters.

WK: We’ve been told that Toits moi crevé can’t be shown publicly.

BH: Let’s rectify that.

WK: Because Dustan didn’t get the fistee to sign a model release?

BH: Rectum → rectify.

WK: Rectitude. He’s very conscious, in Toits moi crevé, of “model release” issues—that’s why he films only their feet, not their faces.

BH: Getting wrecked.

WK: The fisting scene is one of those Salò-esque thresholds. Every body of serious work should have such a threshold. A limit-case depiction.

BH: Salò-esque but no chocolate pudding. No verisimilitude. Actual acts of pleasure.

WK: And in some delicious sense the whole body of work then spins around that (unseen, unwatchable) scene. Hence our avoidance of talking about it until now.

BH: Putting the “ped” back in pedagogy—and in pédé.

WK: Digression: I’ve been reading Also a Poet: Frank O’Hara, My Father, and Me [2022] by Ada Calhoun and musing on the “also” as a category of next-to-ness. O’Hara’s New York Times obituary said he was “also a poet.” Dustan’s also a filmmaker. Or he’s also a judge. Or he’s also a writer.

We’re also critics.

BH: What is the basic importance of having foot-fisting not be a metaphorical scene of writing (although it can become that) but an exchange actually embodied by the writer? Not that Dustan was the first to be foot-fisted, but that he was the first judge (also filmer, also writer, also fistee/er, also editor) to film himself in the act.

WK: Stroking his cock. Putting his cock in a vacuum pump. Thereby reconstruing audience—is he “aware” of “audience”? The whole spectral realm called “awareness of audience”—around which the magic of theater circulates—is brought to a transcendent boil in Dustan.

BH: Do you think this, proleptically, opens new capacities to autofiction (a tired term, at this point) that haven’t been, with Dustan as Pied Piper, followed—taken up or in? I guess what I mean is: I somehow don’t think of the confessional in any of Dustan’s documentations.

WK: I love that he talks about autofiction so directly in (I think) Enjoy (back to Ibiza). He credits Bret Easton Ellis with the breakthrough into this new realm.

BH: Not a peep about BEE in the endless autofictioning now or about American Psycho [1991] as a “significant” New York City novel. Did Dustan publish the French translation of American Psycho? If not, I bet he wanted to.

WK: A maybe irrelevant point: Dustan has a really trim body. His dance moves are impeccable.

BH: Pina Bausch should have cast him in a role.

WK: And he enjoys his dancerly chops.

BH: And his own hairiness! I love that we see him trimmed but not shaved in Songs in the key of moi and then really heavily pelted elsewhere.

WK: His gaze at the camera: a screen test, passed, but also a “juridical” scene. Eyewitness. Judge and witness, in one body. His confidence (and his interest in stuffed animals) seems entwined with his hairiness.

BH: I want to not take our juridical eyes off the bipedal scene too quickly.

WK: He seems to understand (I glean this from his autofiction) that the hairiness is a disqualification that becomes a higher asset.

BH: The stuff of stuffed animals. The stuffing, forcemeat, of the act. At one point, a vivid-red, bulbous, dildo-adjacent device comes out of the anus and is compared to a stuffed-toy Rudolph’s nose.

WK: Mike Kelley seems near.

BH: More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid . . . Dustan doesn’t forget to film the bulb, resting on his bathroom sink, in its about-to-be-washed, daintiest-specks-of-fecal-matter state.

WK: You mentioned the Turin shroud. The bedsheets, outfilthing Wilde. But the apartments in the Tristan cycle of films are superclean and upscale.

BH: That bedroom! Those linens! His panning across his soiled bed is one of the most powerful scenes in any of the videos for me. It takes my breath away. It’s obscene and beautiful. I think of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s devotion to Gary Fisher. I want Fisher’s essay on GD, GD’s on Fisher. Pace Sedgwick: Do you think “shame” (obviously anti-shame) was something Dustan fisted, i.e., considered?

WK: One of the odd inner dramas that occupies a viewer while watching the Vera Baxter–esque “real time” films is that of turning one’s body into a Richter scale for measuring clean or filthy, shaved or unshaved, appetizing or unappetizing. A shot of all-too-runny scrambled eggs and greasy bacon. Mini-croissants (formerly frozen?) that look like buns for Vienna sausages from a jar. Gary Fisher and Dustan are connected—and Samuel R. Delany—

BH: —Times Square Red, Times Square Blue (1999)! The stuffed animals: Guibert’s there, too, doucement. Lambikins.

WK: Dustan calls Tristan “little bear” (petit ours?).

BH: Oh my, what a tonal shift that is from some of the novels, that scene, its almost–puppy (or would that be cub?) love shimmering in how Dustan films Tristan in every available bit of light before things switch to night-vision green, keeping their banter going. Not that the novels don’t have scenes of tenderness and protection.

Guillaume Dustan, Songs in the key of moi, 2000, video, color, sound, 33 minutes.

WK: He’s “outing” his sentimentality, beautifully so. In Squat, Dustan says, “This is serious. I’m gonna stop filming and concentrate on my dick and come because this is too intense.” A fascinating threshold moment. Reminding us that when he is filming, he is “not paying serious attention to his cock.” Despite what a gullible viewer might assume.

BH: He says “This is getting serious now” in English. There’s a moment when Judge Dustan questions the prohibition against unsafe sex in Squat.

WK: Connected figures: Fassbinder, Ulrike Ottinger, Jarman, Waters. Queer filmmakers who “made it big.” George Kuchar, Marlon Riggs. Doris Wishman?

BH: Chantal Akerman: Je tu il elle [I You He She, 1974] and Saute ma ville [Blow Up My Town, 1968]! Blow up this town.

WK: Does he say, “I’m being all preppy and consensual”?

BH: “I’m tired of being all preppy and consensual.”

WK: What’s odd, too, is how HIV as medical matter is present in the films but also not quite.

BH: “Also not quite.” This is what the visual can do with ease: What is in the scene “speaks” without being spoken.

WK: Judge Dustan. Like the stuffed animals, the pills are appurtenances to pack. Along with My Dog Tulip and Dustan’s novel Nicolas Pages [2001]. “Also not quite present,” says the student during roll call.

BH: OMG. My Dog Tulip! Shout-out to James McCourt, who wrote, among so many other goddamned masterpieces (the only word that works), one of the most amazing essays on J. R. Ackerley. Of course, Dustan would love that particular Ackerley book. Queenie.

WK: So what’s your interpretation of Dustan’s romance with blur, walls, windows: the optical realm of the side dish?

BH: We must admit that there is nothing naïf about Dustan. He tosses off philosophical asides as if he’s a fairy godmother waving her wand. He wanted to mess with the hierarchies: of face and ass, of “abstraction” and “representation,” of speech and sight, of “good” and “bad,” of main course and side.

WK: Yes. Thinking of the out-of-focus reel in Warhol’s Poor Little Rich Girl [1965], or Paul Swan’s empty chair onstage in Warhol’s Paul Swan [1965]. Dramatic feats of filming absence.

BH: Would you agree that there’s a lightness to the visuals, but when he’s speaking, say, in Nietzsche, it’s really serious business?

WK: Agreed. The judge voice, the serious French writer.

Guillaume Dustan, Squat, 2002, video, color, sound, 62 minutes 46 seconds.

BH: Yet also not caring. Letting go of the categories. I don’t know if I can think of another “serious” artist who cared less about the proper and yet was so serious in his pursuits, who more wanted to undo gay and other so-called norms.

WK: I assume that what the films “express” is just how tired he was of being a judge. Not that I know anything about his judicial career. But of course he was tired of it. Wouldn’t you be tired?

BH: Burnt out.

WK: Fagged out. Time for bingeing. The scenes in Dustan’s films that qualify as “dramatic feats of filming absence” are declarations of this principled fatigue.

BH: There is a pride of place for thresholds and his moving beyond them. Gently. Until the fist is safely in—and then moving deeper.

WK: Are they using Crisco? Or was Crisco passé by then?

BH: There is (are?) shot(s) of a can of Crisco. Fatigue, thresholds, actual and theoretical Crisco.

WK: So all that white stuff is indeed Crisco. There must have been a sale on Crisco in Paris. Half price. Liquidation sale . . .

BH: . . . at Monoprix! I am curious about what Genet meant to Dustan. You sized up Dustan’s fatigue with the côté de Proust, but what of JG? And since we are both devoted fans, what if anything does that supreme writer-filmer Alain Guiraudie inherit from GD?

WK: Dustan must have imbibed Genet’s Funeral Rites [1948]. But maybe the Sartrean Saint-Genet aura pissed him off. And Guiraudie inherited Dustan’s understanding that sexual explicitness about every variety of tricking, however antisocial and never-to-be-sanctioned, is an ethical imperative.

BH: Could the traced cock that ends Genet’s Our Lady of the Flowers [1943] possibly have pissed him off? Perhaps betrayal pissed him off. Betrayal isn’t the Dustan ethos; instead, it’s beholdenness. In Guiraudie’s works, flush with Occitan dissidence, there are encounters with a type of holy fool, patron saint of desire’s waywardness. The stained-glass window of any life could depict its sexual pilgrim-age along a Camino de Santiago of the bodies it’s been with.

WK: I think Dustan was very anti-Pléiades, which is a big deal if you’re a French writer: to desire (concretely, not merely metaphorically) to saute ma ville. The importance of the foot-fisting is to show how not merely theoretical his anti-Pléiades stance is.

BH: No, he liked the literal, the document. Atget of the Ass.

WK: Because the ass, his ass, the partner’s ass, like Eugène Atget’s Paris, isn’t going to be around much longer. So film it. Film it right now. Stintless documentation.

BH: Tout de suite! 

Bruce Hainley is a contributing editor of Artforum. Wayne Koestenbaum’s latest book is Ultramarine (Nightboat Books, 2022), the third volume of his trance poem trilogy.

*Olga Rozenblum, Pascaline Morincôme, and Julien Laugier were responsible for unearthing, restoring, and exhibiting the videos, first at Treize, Paris, in 2019, with concurrent screenings at the Centre Pompidou and the Cinéma Luminor, both in the same city. Grateful acknowledgment, too, for the sustained and sustaining work of Hedi El Kholti, who has, among so many other contributions, literary and otherwise, shepherded Dustan’s trilogy (as well as Alain Guiraudie’s first novel) into publication in English, and generously provided the authors access and introduction to Dustan’s elusive videos.