Thursday, 28 July 2011

Is This a Penis?

George Ttoouli responds to some letters to the Editors.


Dear Editors,

I write knowing that both of you are fans of Baroness. I have a query regarding the cover image of The Blue Album.

Some months after buying it, my eight year old daughter happened to be playing with the CD cases in the living room and suddenly shouted out, “It’s a willy!” Obviously I scolded her and have written to her primary school teacher to find out where she learned such language.

However, on returning to the image on the cover, I suddenly noticed for the first time – and to my great horror – that the breaking egg looks distinctly phallic! While breasts are a perfectly natural thing to display to children (I regularly used to breastfeed in public places and see no problem at all with it), genitalia are otherwise something I feel should very much be protected from the gaze of children, or anyone for that matter. 'Packages' should be delivered from pants to pyjamas, without being unwrapped.

Yet still, I feel the most troubling aspect of this is how I failed to notice the egg wasn’t an egg. Or was it? Is the egg an egg? Or is this a penis? This strikes me as a distinctly poetic problem that you may be able to help with.

I can’t have my daughter developing some kind of Freudian complex which manifests every time I serve her a fried breakfast. It’s bad enough with my husband.


Mother Metaphor

Dear MM,

First of all, HAHAHAHAHA! Did it really take you that long to work out there was cock on the cover? Next you’ll tell me you missed the vagina!

Talking seriously now, this is a wonderfully deep question you’re asking. At the heart of the question, ‘Is this a penis?’ is the question, ‘What is a metaphor?’ Beyond that, ‘How do we understand the world through language?’

The question of whether the egg ‘is’ a penis or not is exactly the conundrum posed by every metaphor in associating two distinct objects and, arguably, every attempt to represent the world in artistic, or even non-artistic terms. For example, when you say ‘package’ I take it to mean genitalia. More than that, it reveals something of your understanding about the world: you are prudish about talking about cocks and cunts.

Metaphor therefore becomes a revelation of the observer’s state of mind. This is all about context, of course. So we must look at the context of The Blue Album in order to understand if it is a penis or not.

Baroness are working on what appears to be a series of albums. The Editors have occasionally debated the context for the series. My own feeling is that it is a quadrilogy based on the four elements: Red for fire, Blue for water, with following albums being Brown and possibly White for air. However, my co-editor’s theory suggests that traces of the next album can be seen in the latest album’s cover art – elements of blue in the Red cover and yellow in the Blue, suggest the next album will be yellow.

What is clear is that the first two albums are elementally connected, so there are liquid symbols throughout The Blue Album’s art, alongside pagan fertility symbolism. The egg is a distinctly female symbol, yet appearing in the shape of a phallus blurs gender boundaries. What we have is an almost archaeological sense of liquidity, in which boundaries not only between concepts, but between physical things, people and animals, people and people, people and objects, are fluid.

By describing an egg as a phallus, John Baizley is making a unique association that ties in with his philosophy, the philosophy of the music. Rock, folk, bluegrass, are some of the fluid influences operating on the music. Similarly, there is fluidity in the ideology of the content.

The metaphor of egg and phallus evokes a Bataillean notion of eroticism and sexuality, which doesn’t necessarily know where it’s going until it’s arrived. In other words, at this level of art, first one comes up with a fresh association, secondly one asks oneself if it says something valid, if it ‘works’ within the context of the project. There is a mystery to the metaphor that demands self-exploration as much as interrogation of the object, to determine whether it rewards the viewer.

In other words, the answer to the question is one you must decide for yourself. I reiterate your question back at you: “Is this a penis?” Is it? Well?

On a side note, your separation of breasts from other bits is a decidedly inconsistent approach, showing a naively developed understanding of social mores. Furthermore, your use of “packages” as a metaphor for genitalia is both unoriginal and very simplistically positioned in the context of your letter. This could be considered an example of clarity in communication, but also shit as poetry. To put this in poetic terms: a mother wunwilling to tongue her child’s wounds would offer that same child's heart in human sacrifice, even though the gods have not demanded it.

Our condolences to your daughter,

The Editors.

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