They said that this comment from Lana Del Rey was “very xenogothic” — which is not a charge I ever thought I’d hear but, tbh, I’ll take it:
GRIMES: I was reading yesterday about outrage culture, and for just about every emotionally loaded word that’s in a tweet, the tweet gets 15 percent more interaction. We live in this weird time where we didn’t evolve to engage with this many people, and we didn’t evolve to be observed as much as we’re being observed, or to observe other people as much as we’re observing them. No one is considering the psychological impact of all this crazy technology. Especially since Trump was elected, this is the first time that the general public is fully on the internet. Grandma is on the internet.
DEL REY: I think about that all the time. It’s important to say it out loud. It’s a little bit like the Wild West again in the way that we are learning how to deal with each other on a mass level and an instant, interconnected level. I’ve been trying to create my own blueprint. It’s like, how do you fit into the culture and still live your own life the way you authentically would?
I’ve got a whole chapter in Egress about Deleuze and the radicality of the Wild West — an old blog series obsessively polished into something I’m really proud of. (It’s my favourite chapter, I think.)
The Wild West is obviously often invoked as a period of anarchic chaos — and I think that’s what Del Rey is referring to here — but it does also sound like she’s saying the Wild West itself was an moment when the denizens of a not-yet-United States had to learn how to deal with and communicate with each other on a new mass level.
Deleuze’s argument was that this frontier process, which was never meant to be closed, was forced into a recoding of European bourgeois attitudes. It’s radical potentials were snuffed out by the iron fist of a European capitalist subjectivity and, over the centuries since, the US has defined itself by its addition to its hallucinations of the worst of us.
The Wild West of the web is interesting, in comparison, because it has undergone a similar process. Just before the internet is recoded into an platform-based image that mirrors the geographic constitution of the United States, with quasi-feudal rent controls defining how we now access its information, people are fighting to break it apart again. Like the US, it has been subjected to a kind of capitalist osteotomy, with nation-states fighting to try and curtail the sprawling nature of the internet’s arachnid namesake.
The instantiation of something like Facebook seemed to show that this recoding of communicative capitalism would win again with ease but, as time goes on, it seems like resistance to this is building once again.
The political right continues to lead this recoding. Like the oil barons of old, they champion the freedom of
the emerging market the developing web and how it allows them to do and say what they want, whilst implementing the structures to keep it working in their favour. (It’s the same ingrown logic of championing the freedom of the American Dream — America as a land of opportunity — whilst building border walls.) The political left calls the right out for this, speaking to freedoms for all, all the while recoding the landscape according to a bourgeois propriety and moralism.
Fittingly, considering Lana Del Rey’s current album cycle, we might say that this is something that Norman Rockwell arguably dramatised most memorably in his Four Freedoms paintings.
But Rockwell was also regionalist and that often maligned art movement, at its best, is the death rattle of the Wild West’s patchwork sense of itself. It is with him the dream died. Lana Del Rey seems to be tapping into something on her latest album that understands that implicitly…
I might return to this topic soon, once I get the book draft I’m currently working on out of my system.
There is a post on regionalism that has been languishing in my drafts for months now and Lana Del Rey’s latest feels particularly appropriate to this. As is the political line over here in the UK, there are pockets of past potentials reemerging in the US as well, albeit to a far lesser extent.
Del Rey’s half-baked nostalgia seemed to want to tap into something like this when she emerged on the music blogs of the 2000s with “Video Games” being an anachronistic anthem for the Americana hipster, but her album Norman Fucking Rockwell seems to have finally managed to escape this…
I hope it has anyway… I’m yet to give it much of my attention… But I’ve been intrigued by what I’ve heard…
I’ve still kept it at a distance though. I can’t express how much I hated her debut.