another word on Black Swan

by Feng

Seems that I enjoy everything that Johannes Goransson writes. His latest post on Black Swan made me think about “being an artist”. Here is my personal reading of the film as an allegory for Art… Johannes writes, (and this is nice because I also felt that the film wasn’t trying to convey the boring you-have-to-be-hetero/sexual-to-have-real-artistic-passion):

“The way to this success is not by sex, but through a couple of other means: Fantasizing about *homosexual sex* (with Lily) and, much more importantly, fantasizing about killing Lily (Art is Crime, as Joyelle likes to say). Art is fantasizing. She doesn’t actually have sex, but she imagines (homosexual) sex. She performs, but she performs so well she herself can’t tell the real from the fantasy. Art is quite convincing!”

Indeed it is the fantasy, the empathy, the allowing of herself to become other and the war between worlds/personas that break her out of her frigid skin. She succeeds in her performance because she succeeds in collapsing membranes between the mundane real and the fantastic… but it is the violence and the wounds and the morbidity of these fantasies that speak to what Art is. It is a hunger that is so great that it implodes the body. What Nina possessed in her transformation into the Artist is her hunger, her huge hunger (which makes her anorexia/bulimia interesting) for the release/climax that cannot come. The fact that it is realized in fantasy only fuels the hunger, and its gravity grows so great that the real and the unreal become undifferentiated. The references to Hunger Artist are key, as Art is denial of the real. The Artist must lust for something unattainable, must continually hunger.

In a previous post, where I offer a very plain vanilla reading of the film’s moral, I said that selfishness was what allowed Nina to become an Artist. But the film is not simple. The bleeding between frames, as J pointed out, does not allow for linear, easy readings to sit by themselves. I would like to complicate this Selfishness by opening the word to its consequences/connotations including violent introversion. The spectrum of Nina’s hunger/desire increases exponentially when sex (Thomas) and rebellion (Lily) enter as magnetic forces. Her pink childhood life at home serves as the opposition and forces Nina, who must please everyone, to implode her desire, since, paradoxically, she is allowed no outlet, no privacy to relieve herself. Things begin to burst bloody at the seams (I do like the interpretation of the ending as menarche). It does not matter if Lily is real or not. If Lily is an imagined projection, then Nina succeeds at Art by entering the fantasy and becoming the Black Swan. She cannot become Lily… Lily is the unattainable that she must hunger for, and who ultimately threatens her because of the ambiguous nature of what exactly she is… that Nina might disappear into her hunger and digest herself… her identity is put at risk. Art happens when she “lets go” and allows herself to bleed into otherness, to allow herself to be murderous, evil, jealous, lustful. She is Lily, The Black Swan, Nina, and Beth all at once. Self becomes multiple. Mirrors are shattered and mirrors penetrate. The artist does not need heterosexual experiences or even real experiences at all to enter Art. She needs to let go of wholeness and embrace the Black “hole-ness” of hunger.

Speaking of holes, the image of the feathers trying to burst of her skin in the mirror reminded me of a passage from “A Thousand Plateaus” about the hysterics of psychosis according to Freud:

“Yet it would never occur to a neurotic to grasp the skin erotically as a multiplicity of pores, little spots, little scars of black holes, or to grasp the sock erotically as a multiplicity of stitches. The psychotic can… “

Nina’s psychosis is erotic and obliterating.

I related to Nina a lot. So much, in fact, that I purposely distanced myself from the movie while I was watching it. It would have been too much otherwise.