• Adam Glusker

Gesamtkunstwerk

By Adam Glusker


On January 30th, 2021 at roughly 4 a.m.,

SOPHIE (probably drunk, maybe high) climbed up a mountain to watch the full moon rise over the Parthenon. But she slipped, falling down the mountain to her death. I’d like to think that she got to see the moon as she fell, but she might not have made it all the way up the hill in the first place. Like the heroines that came before her, like Antigone and Medea, the tragedy of her death is saturated in the gold-tinted big-ness of Greek myths,

myths that permeate us,

that fold inside us over and over again,

(falling in the light of the full moon over Athens)

…what an iconic way to die.

///

I think of myself as being too much yet never enough.

As a child, I painted seven-foot-tall tapestries in neon green that proclaimed, “LIVE, LIFE, OUT LOUD” and I have certainly followed through on that declaration: I have a medically loud voice (a spacious diaphragm) and a medically tight asshole (related?). I am six feet and five inches tall. I weigh [redacted] and have size 14 feet. I am a theatre major and I love the sound of my own voice especially when it’s in black and white and on 8 ½ by 11 printer paper. I am a CIS white homosexual man who wants more.

I want too much.

I came out in 9th grade with a loud crash, running down the hallways of my school with an oversized rainbow flag on National Coming Out Day. I was (am) one of those toxic theatre kids who heard their fourth-grade teacher quote, “all the world’s a stage” and internalized it to the nth degree. I have watched the National Theatre Production of Angels in America (2017) so many times that I believe Andrew Garfield is actually a homosexual man (and not just “gay in his work” as he claims).


HEADLINE: Attention Starved Gay Man Does Theatre to Escape Facing Himself



Well, maybe it should read more like:


HEADLINE: Attention Addicted Gay Man Does Theatre to Escape His Crippling Eating

Disorder and Numbing Loneliness


I should explain. The thing about theatre is that it takes up a lot of time. Time that could

have been spent working out or… not eating? I did theatre to take up empty space in my calendar

that could have been spent on the treadmill or elliptical. And sure, if I was in a musical, I could

say, “Hey mom and dad! We did the End of Act 1 dance number all rehearsal and I worked up a

sweat!” And maybe that made me feel better about the fact that I would sneak food up to my room while my parents were distracted watching The Voice.


///

Hello, my name is Adam, I’m a recovering vape, performance, and food addict.

Hi, Adam.

///

SOPHIE was an experimental electronic music producer who released music under her

own name, but she might be better known for her collaborations with artists like Charli XCX

(“Vroom Vroom”), Madonna (“Bitch I’m Madonna”), and Vince Staples (“Yeah Right”). Along with producer AG Cook, she was a pioneer in the development of HyperPop, a genre that takes the individual elements of pop music and explodes them into a tapestry of queer-electronic clinkclank. Her music can be hard to listen to at times, its textural landscape can hit a part of your brain that you don’t want hit, or it can hit just that exact right spot in the best itch-that’s-been-scratched way. There’s something (dare I bravely say) queering about her sonic philosophy; it’s not just that the music and artist are queer (SOPHIE is a trans woman) but that the actual compositional objective is to queer the very space and time it’s played in.


///


The first (and only time) I saw SOPHIE live was at Columbia Bacchanal in 2019, an event suffering from the same disease as the University itself: morbid heterosexuality. It was at the peak of my Binge Era, when I was eating, fucking, snorting, and smoking my way into wholeness. Sophomore slump. I invited my fag-friends who I liked to party with (they went to more faggy schools like Parsons or Tisch) and we camped out on Butler Lawn with Nalgenes filled with mimosas. But as SOPHIE took to the stage, we could barely hear her because the stage had been set up between Low Library and Butler Library, two behemoth Greek Neoclassical that sucked up her sound. It didn’t matter though, not to us, because she was there, in front of us, manifested. And we still danced in ecstasy as finance-bros and wannabe-Greta-Gerwigs stared in confusion and disgust as SOPHIE’s sonic-textures overwhelmed the South Lawn. A true Bacchanal.


///

There’s this thing that happens when you take psychedelics (shrooms specifically)—time sort of happens all at once. I’m at a house upstate with my friends. We sit around a table rolling lemon flavored spliffs using forbidden Ukrainian tobacco and listening to SOPHIE. I look to my left, and I see two of my friends disposing of a dead mouse that had fallen into the trash and died (most likely from starvation ‘cause the little guy couldn’t find his way out). The only thing is the mouse died in 2021 and right now it’s 2019 as I hold the spliff up to my lips.


///

Okay back to my clinically tight asshole.

That’s it, I just want you to keep that image in mind.


///

It’s 2033,

And I’m about to get horrible lip injections. I’m in a loveless marriage and I have a dog

with scoliosis. I run a cutting-edge-multi-media-cross-platform-production-company that

produces content by and for rich white homosexual men. My doctor is a Slovenian woman with

huge lips. A nurse readies the syringes of Juvéderm as my doctor plots out with a Sharpie her plan of attack. I ponder the racial implications of the injections for a moment and I recognize my

actions as contrary to the morals and virtues I signal in my work and in my online activism (reposting pretty infographics). But the moment is a moment. As the needle pierces my cupid’s bow, I think about SOPHIE’s lips. I also think about her song “Faceshopping”:


My face is the front of shop

My face is the real shop front

My shop is the face I front

I’m real when I shop my face…


“FUCK!” I yell. something is wrong. My lips are swelling. “I think I’m having an allergic

reaction to the…” I trail off, I pass out. In the coming weeks doctors tell me I’m going to die

soon enough. My husband is probably happy about it.

His final words:

“Had to have more, didn’t you?”


///

Gay twitter exploded over SOPHIE’s death. Among the onslaught of obits, playwright

Jeremy O. Harris tweeted, “SOPHIE did really make music that made me feel like I only feel

watching the best experimental theatre. Each song a Gesamtkunstwerk.” German for “total artwork” and made popular by Richard Wagner in his 1849 essays, Gesamtkunstwerk is an artistic aesthetic defined by the confluence of forms into one total or whole work. Referring back to the Greeks, Wagner points to Aeschylus’ tragic works as an epochal example of total synthesis, in which tragic plot and song meld to create a sensation of completion, of wholeness. Post-Modernist playwrights like Brecht and Artaud took up Wagner’s artistic philosophy (which he applied to his operas) and created a theatre defined by its ability to show the totality, the all-ness, of life onstage through theatrical devices like alienation and cruelty. The theatrical, then, became something spectacular; lights, sounds, movements, and speech acts coalesce into a bombardment of stimuli. What’s so mind-shattering about SOPHIE’s particular Gesamtkunstwerk is that she found the same kind of totality through sound and sound alone. Her sound was light, was body, was movement, was… I actually stopped doing theatre at the same time I started listening to SOPHIE.


///

“you want me to fill you up?”

“yes.”

“yeah? you want more? you want it all? you want my seed?

“yes”

“greedy fucking fat pig aren’t ya?”

“what did you—”

“fuck i’m cumming”


///

There’s a play already written about a year in my life which I have not yet lived and will

never live. In it, there’s a character named Adam who wonders whether there’s another version of himself somewhere in the past who is thinking about him, wondering if he will ever live to see that version of himself manifested. He ponders whether history is a discipline worth indulging and decides to masturbate instead of working on his memoir of auto-fiction.


///

Synthesize the real…

Sophomore year I smoked a lot of weed but, because I lived in a dorm, I resorted primarily to vaping it from distilled wax cartridges. To make the vape liquid, cannabis growers often use butane to extract the cannabinoids (the psychoactive chemicals like THC), stripping them away from their flower-y plant-materiality. The result is a honey-like liquid that can be heated to just the right temperature so that the cannabinoids are activated but do not reach a smoke point. Originally marketed as a lung-safe alternative to smoking flower straight from its origin, the prevalence of black-market vape pens, which add a dangerous chemical (Vitamin A Acetate), has caused an epidemic amongst vapers, especially teens, causing what’s known colloquially as “popcorn lung.” Even the state-sanctioned vape cartridges that I used to smoke every-day-all-day, those that use all organic processing materials, still had six-times more THC than the original flower. It made my mind melt but it made me feel nothing which, of course, was better than everything.

The thing that was made to resemble the real,

through its synthesis,

becomes something more powerful and potent than its original form.


///

I became temporarily involved in a molly-loving raving friend group of Satanists from

Spain. It was November in London and it was rainy, and my international phone plan had run out. I forgot that faggots could meet in bathrooms and when I met Sergio in the bathroom of an illegal underground rave his tongue was a bitter chemical. I told him that I was on ketamine, but he corrected me and told me that I’d also start to feel the effects of the molly that he had hid behind his gums. I worried for a moment that the drugs wouldn’t make good acquaintances and that I had been drugged at an illegal rave, but Sergio assured me that he was a nurse with the NHS and that the Devil who he worshipped would take good care of me. We moved to the dancefloor and as I searched for his exposed skin, I only found bangles, shields, hoops, and chains. He had gilded himself in excess with Cleopatra-gold. And when the sun came up at 7 a.m. and I left him suddenly and without a goodbye, I looked down at my hands to discover them streaked with gold paint.

Cheap metal.


///

It’s 2019,

And I’m in the financial district of Manhattan weighing the pros and cons of urinating on

the raging bull statue. It’s also 4 a.m. and I’m really sad. My gaze wanders down Broadway to find

SOPHIE falling from the sky and I think to myself that I should try and capture this moment

somehow because I think it could make for a pretty fucking sick play one day.


///

Unhinged skinny white women with blonde hair: Donatella Versace, Lady Gaga, Marilyn Monroe Anna Nicole-Smith, Britney Murphy, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paris Hilton, Amanda Bynes, Britney Spears, etc. There’s something about their sheer lack of excess, of fat, that is just… camp. Their surplus of influence and intense privilege compounds with their cigarette smoking, Adderall-popping, frailty to create something so much bigger than themselves. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re bodies contribute to the myth itself that skinniness is beauty, or maybe it’s just that skinny white women don’t necessarily have to do or be much for their bodies to be deemed as iconic.

These bodies, though, have consequences. As paparazzi and fans online rip them to shreds, the camp of their bodies turns to melodrama in a blink of an eye. Sex tapes are leaked, or addresses are doxed, and this public circus of depravity causes many of these Skinny Legends to check themselves into rehab, develop serious mental illnesses, and even die in the process.

“I’m Mrs. she’s too big now she’s too thin

(…her skinny body falling in the light of the Athenian moon).

You want a piece of me?”


///

“i like bigger guys”


“what does that mean? big? like fat? or tall?

or just like being too big,

like,

being really ya know um…”


“like i just think you’re sexy i don’t know”


“yeah but like sexy as in sexy because i’m big?

is my bigness just like a factor in your attraction?

i mean, like, is it a factor or like the defining feature?”


“---”


“i guess i’m just asking you um

are you like a… chubby chaser?”


“yeah you could say that.”


“SO, YOU

THINK I’M FAT?”


///

It’s January 30th, 2021,

And I stand on a cliff. I look across the city to the see the Parthenon lit by the light of the

full moon. I am on steady and even ground and I will not slip and fall. I take out my cock and piss over the city of Athens, pretending that it’s that summer that time ago and I am in love with a city and a friend.


Illustration by Rea Rustagi

///

Yeah, SOPHIE was about embracing bigness, but she was this skinny, bombshell, cigarette smoking trans woman with like… very little stage presence? She was by no means a performer, she really just walked onstage, plugged her computer in, and DJ’d the fuck out of whatever she was playing. She presided over the dancefloor, she took up space with her sound, she didn’t need to present this crazily self-curated persona. She could just stand there, amongst the lights as this brilliant intersection of flesh and machinery, blood and plastic, and press play. I think what made me so intrigued by her was my recognition of her as a being who could not die.


///

I was first introduced to SOPHIE through my friend Lerman who pulled me into his dorm

room freshman year, read my tarot cards, and told me that I would soon undergo a period of intense transformation and enlightenment. Days later he knocked on my door in the middle of the day, unannounced, and showed me SOPHIE’s new video for her single “It’s Okay to Cry.” And Lerman really took that to heart because he was sobbing, I mean like truly gripping-my-upper-arm-for-support kind of sobbing. But I was… well, to be honest I was more or less unimpressed. SOPHIE was sort of just standing in front of the camera and lip syncing with plumped red glossy lips. I thanked Lerman for showing me and told him that I would see him later that night for drinks which he ended up bailing on.

But the title of the video stuck with me throughout the night. It’s okay to cry. Okay but…

was it? I realized that it had actually been a while since I had a good cry. Was it the years of antidepressants that had dried me up? And so, with the night to myself I put on Call Me by Your Name, watched clips of dogs whimpering over their owner’s graves, and listened to Sufjan Stevens. Just total classic sad gay shit. But nothing came out. Sure, it was okay to cry but what if I… couldn’t?

The next morning, Lerman knocked on my door room again, eyes still puffy, and explained to me that he would be leaving Columbia for good. The combination of homesickness, his out-of-control borderline personality disorder, and the stress of freshman year were too much for him. I gave him a hug and told him that I was there for him if he needed me, but that was the last time we’d ever speak to each other.

When SOPHIE died earlier this year I went back to the video Lerman showed me that morning. In it, she’s shown from the clavicle up against a backdrop of clouds, as if she’s welcoming the viewer into heaven. What I first interpreted that day in my freshman dorm room as unremarkable transformed into something eviscerating. Here she was, naked, euphoric in her trans body, telling her fans that it was okay to cry at her passing. That it was okay to feel the overwhelming all-ness of an icon dying too soon, with more to give.

She was no longer Medea or Antigone

but Tiresias,

a prophet.


///

I will walk into a nightclub after this pandemic has gone to bed, after all the theaters have

closed for good, and I will see SOPHIE in all her fleshy materialness. She will play music that has yet to be written and I will dance shirtless, my bigness hanging out, with all of my dead friends around me.


And I think I will tell them all that I love them very much.

/// /// ///


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