Hey! Has anyone here heard of very respectable and excellent web publication The Atlantic Wire? I sure as heck have! For example, today, I hear that they are publishing that one Sady Doyle lady, and her thoughts on the Patti Smith memoir and so on and so forth!
Singer-songwriter Patti Smith’s memoir Just Kids is, among other things, one of the more sustained apologias for Robert Mapplethorpe you will ever read. Smith spends many pages defending Mapplethorpe—her one-time lover and long-time friend, who also happened to shoot some of the more shockingly and controversially erotic photographs of the 20th century—against the personal and artistic charges that have been leveled against him. She describes, admiringly, pieces that portray bloody testicles, mutilated penises, Mapplethorpe’s own crotch. Then, abruptly, she records one of the greater ironies in art history: “Robert was so concerned about the content of my work. He was worried I wouldn’t be successful if my work was was too provocative.” According to Mapplethorpe, Smith was “always too crude.”
Ha ha, YEAH. And then, later, he put a bullwhip up his own personal nether regions, and shot a photo of it, and people lost their minds! But there is more. For example, have you ever wondered what Julie Klausner, Julie Powell, and Patti Smith have in common? It turns out to be a few things! Was Mapplethorpe’s advice that far off-target? Maybe not! (Was there room in the piece to address the troubling racial content in Mapplethorpe’s and Smith’s work? No!) And did Patti listen to Mapplethorpe, about the “provocative” issue?
You tell me. Because, once you are done reading the piece (you guys: READ THE PIECE) you need to come back here and listen to my favorite Patti Smith song. It is the closest anyone has ever come to recording the noise someone’s heart makes as it literally breaks open and falls apart right in front of you. It has the word “pissing” in the title. Also, she refers to “excreting” someone’s “soul,” at a certain point. And you know what? It invests the various bodily processes with heretofore-unknown grandeur and importance. Which is why we should all be glad that Patti “Piss Factory” Smith is, it would seem, a selective listener.