The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

September 19, 2006

Some notes on sexuality in performance, video, etc. (This is in part a
follow-up to a recent discussion elsewhere, and is hopelessly naive, 'off 
the cuff,' but perhaps of interest anyway.)

First, it seems that sexual representation is overdetermined; the result
is it tends to dominate everything else. If I have a sexual work in among
a number of non-sexual ones, it's the sexual work that's remembered and
that actually forms the tenor of subsequent discussion. Our culture is too
confused and contradictory in relation to sexuality - it never resolves -
and sexual work can open a can of worms.

Second, there's a huge responsibility involved, ethically and psychologi-
ically, in terms of sexual or even nude representation; if I'm using my
own body, I can take that, but if I work with someone else, he or she
might not realize the implications. So one has to be careful.

Third, using one's own body creates an intense and unresolved disturbance
for an audience, when confronted, not only with nudity, but possibly with
the nudity of someone present (dressed) in the room - I'm talking about
video and reality co-mingling. And this may be difficult to take. All of
these situations result in an unresolvable problematic, usually produc-
tive of intense and on occasion negative emotions. After all, it's the
audience member's own body, own responses (sexual and psychological) that
is at stake.

Fourth, most members of an audience will resist arousal - and while one
can generate any kind of powerful emotions in an audience (and that's
generally a good thing), arousal is taboo. Anger can be one result - just
like anger against gays often has to do with one's own impulses in that

Fifth, we're living in a culture which hinges and intensifies explicit
sexual presentation and censoring; nudity is never complete, is always
dirty, and always desirable as a result. Television is full of this -
which then has to be situated elsewhere and elsewise in a performance.
I tend to favor pornography over eroticism (although I don't own any
pornography and/or practice it) on the basis of honesty; one is confronted
with a kind of truth that eroticism hides. And I think that eroticism
spills out into and around capital - it's the 'way' the culture works,
even though pornography probably generates more money. To some extent
pornography is pornography because it is taboo - a kind of circular
reasoning - after all what's being presented is usually fucking of one
sort or another, an everyday act.

Sixth, pornography is mixed with violence in an equation that I associate
with Iraq mixed with Al Qaeda; there's no necessary relation. Television
is far more disturbing in terms of the latter than the former, and while
some pornography has very uncomfortable power relations embedded in it
(for example the 'money shot' of coming on the face of someone, usually a
woman), this isn't necessary to it. What does seem necessary is a sense of
danger (there's also physiological and psychological evidence for this) or
transgression - in this sense, in spite of its codifications, pornography
is somewhat revolutionary. (Of course this is also taking the position
that pornography may be ultimately liberating, which may well be both
naive and retrograde.)

Seventh, pornography and eroticism both touch on prostitution, etc.; the
very illegality of these forms tends towards a kind of (what is perceived
as) low-key criminality. And along with this, pornography now - at this
point in time - tends to slide into child pornography - into child abuse -
into a general category of 'pervert' - into the idea of sexual danger
lurking everywhere for everyone - into increased repression - including
things like Megan's law (which seems, to me, fundamentally wrong, a
continuous life-long punishment after someone has served time) - I could
go on and on about this, but in any case, this discourse of children tends
to frame or contaminate or penetrate the discourse of pornography, and
sexuality itself. One has to be more careful than ever - that what is
adult stays adult for example (however 'adult' or 'mature' for that matter
maybe defined).

And eighth and final, even now there still seems to be a kind of libera-
tion in arousal, sexual display, etc. Dance comes more out of the
Dionysian than the Apollonian; it's connected with courtship, with inter-
course, mating rituals, Bacchanalias, etc. And yet dance is now largely
repressed - it's formalized (the cultivation of protocols, barriers,
institutions, companies, etc.) and even though, for example ballet, has
heavy sexual elements (supporting someone by the crotch etc.), these are
pretty much ignored or bypassed (all the more reason because they domin-
ate, are present) in discussion. It's this lack of discussion, lack of
sexual discoruse vis-a-vis dance, that, in fact, propels dance, in
particular ballet and so-called modern dance. Dancers themselves may be
poorly prepared for thinking through these things. (I'm not saying that
dancers should dance sexually here - only that this is an option which is
generally taboo.) (Of course there are exceptions to everything.)

This is somewhat off the top of my head, but it's an area I've had to
consider far more than I've wanted to, given the nature of some of my
work. From my own viewpoint, my pieces cover a wide field of content and
interests, but sexual overdermination creates what might be thought of as
a black hole of discourse, everything far too often falling into that
particular direction.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 19 Sep 2006 14:49:03 -0700
From: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory <>
To: "" <>
Subject: Ground-Piercing Radar on NASA Mars Orbiter Ready for Work

PASADENA, CALIF. 91109 TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011

Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Dwayne Brown/Erica Hupp 202-358-1726/1237
NASA Headquarters, Washington

News Release: 2006-109 					September 19, 2006

Ground-Piercing Radar on NASA Mars Orbiter Ready for Work

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has extended the long-armed antenna of its radar,
preparing the instrument to begin probing for underground layers of Mars.

The orbiter's Shallow Subsurface Radar, provided by the Italian Space Agency, will search to
depths of about one kilometer (six-tenths of a mile) to find and map layers of ice, rock and, if
present, liquid water.

The radar's antenna had remained safely folded and tucked away throughout the flight to Mars
from Aug. 12, 2005, to March 10, 2006, and while the orbiter used the friction of dipping into
the top of Mars' atmosphere 426 times in the past six months to shrink the size of its orbit.
Latches on the restraints were popped open on Sept. 16, and the spring-loaded twin arms of the
antenna unfolded themselves. Subsequent information from the spacecraft indicates that each
arm properly extended to its 5 meter (16.4 feet) length.

"The deployment of the antenna has succeeded. It went exactly as planned," said Dr. Enrico
Flamini, the Italian Space Agency's program manager for the Shallow Subsurface Radar. "Now
the excitement builds about what the radar will find hiding beneath the surface of Mars."

A radar-team engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., Ali Safaeinili,
said, "Motion sensors on Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter gave us good evidence that the antenna
had deployed successfully.  The amount of antenna vibrations as the arms unfolded was within
the range anticipated."

The radar received its first radio echo from the Martian surface during a test on Sept.18,
providing a preliminary indication that the entire instrument is working properly. Researchers
will use the instrument for more test observations at the end of this month. Communication with
all spacecraft at Mars will be intermittent during most of October while that planet is behind the
sun from Earth's perspective. The two-year-long main science phase of the Mars Reconnaissance
Orbiter mission will begin in November.

"We will use the Shallow Radar to map buried channels, to study the internal structure of ice
caps and to see boundaries between layers of different materials," said Dr. Roberto Seu of the
University of Rome La Sapienza, leader of the instrument's science team. "The data will provide
our first detailed look just under the Martian surface, where ices might reside that would be
accessible for future explorers."

The radar instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will complement a similar instrument
that went into use last year on the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter, the Mars
Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding. The two instruments use different
radar frequencies.  The one on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter can discriminate between thinner
layers, but cannot penetrate as deep underground, compared with the one on Mars Express. Both
result from Italian and American partnership in using radar for planetary probes.

Alcatel Alenia Spazio-Italia, in Rome, is the Italian Space Agency's prime contractor for the
instrument. Astro Aerospace, of Carpineria, Calif., a business unit of Los Angeles-based
Northrop Grumman Corp., developed the antenna as a subcontractor to Alcatel Alenia.

Further information about the Shallow Subsurface Radar is online at . For more
detailed information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, see .  The mission is managed by JPL, a division of the
California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, for the NASA Science Mission Directorate,
Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is the prime contractor and built the


To remove yourself from all mailings from NASA Jet Propulsion Labratory, please go to

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 19 Sep 2006 14:55:50 -0700
From: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory <>
To: "" <>
Subject: NASA Rover Opportunity Takes First Peek Into Victoria Crater

PASADENA, CALIF. 91109 TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011

Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Image Advisory: 2006-111				        September 19, 2006

NASA Rover Opportunity Takes First Peek Into Victoria Crater

On Monday, NASA's Mars rover Opportunity got to within about 160 feet of the rim of the
half-mile-wide Victoria Crater, the rover's destination since late 2004.

The new position gave Opportunity a glimpse of the crater's opposite wall.  That view from
the navigation camera on the rover is available online at .

"Opportunity has been heading toward Victoria for more than 20 months, with no
guarantee it would ever get there, so we are elated to see this view," said Justin Maki of
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., an imaging scientist on the rover
team. "However, we still have another two or three short drives before Opportunity is
really right at the rim, looking down into the crater."

Once Opportunity reaches the rim, the rover's panoramic camera will begin the task of
creating a high-definition color mosaic.  That mosaic of images will provide scientists not
only with a beautiful view of the crater, but will also provide geologic details of the crater

The width of Victoria crater is the equivalent of eight football fields placed end to end.
That makes it about five times wider than "Endurance Crater," which Opportunity spent six
months examining in 2004, and about 40 times wider than "Eagle Crater," where
Opportunity first landed.

The great lure of Victoria is the expectation that a thick stack of geological layers will be
exposed in the crater walls, potentially several times the thickness that was previously
studied at Endurance and, therefore, potentially preserving several times the historical
record. Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, are robotic geologists with instruments for
examining rocks to learn about the ancient environmental conditions that existed at the
times the rocks were formed.  Opportunity has already found exposed rock layers that were
formed in flowing surface water and other layers formed as windblown sand.  Analyzing
the layers at Victoria could extend the story further back in time.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, manages the Mars Exploration
Rover mission for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.  For additional
images and information about the mission, visit .


To remove yourself from all mailings from NASA Jet Propulsion Labratory, please go to

Generated by Mnemosyne 0.12.