The collection of echo poems that comprise Les Bossip Mademoiselles, Vol. 1 are articulations of race and gender that can be both beautiful and grotesque because they evoke the space of identity construction—where carefully crafted identities occasionally give way to crushing insecurity or the prolonged state of negation that comes to define blackness. In “The Rachet Butterflies” a man laments a woman’s vanity, but fails to recognize his distaste for her “glued on lashes and silicone injected asses” is yet another critique of her body that pushes her further into private spaces and away from the “consciousness” he uses to define his own body. This first book in Les Bossip Mademoiselles, Vol. 1 unflinchingly explores the conflicting desires of men, women, and the bodily attachments (scent, value, pride) that define them. Book I explores the fundamental assumption that race and gender can alienate us from our own bodies. As the title of the book suggests, these attachments can transform people into sites that exist exclusively for the desire of others.
The Les Bossip Mademoiselles project emerged when Yanique Norman recognized Internet comments (the ones you are always warned not to read) are vexed sites of identity construction. Although these digital spaces are not intended to be the primary attraction to gossip websites like Bossip, Norman identifies these comments as yet another ‘attachment’ where men, women, and trolls can inflict harm from a distance. The Internet comment is a truly 21st century practice of race and gender. By digitizing the racial exchange, these comments displace these bodily concerns, away from the body and from familiar scenes like the plantation or the segregated street. Now, racial and gendered discourses are able to accumulate in a space that is anonymous and trivial. The rein of the “Princess of THOTlandia” is certainly just a bit of fun? Refusing to disregard these comments as banal, Les Bossip Mademoiselles demand these exchanges be revealed as carefully crafted and unwittingly reflexive.
Yanique Norman’s work has already engaged with the issue of bodily excesses. The surrealist impulse is consistent between Norman’s images and her poetry. The “psychological bodies” she brings into view in works like Middle Passages Redux: Fatherlessness I (2011) and The Drapetomania Defects (2015) are burdened just like the characters in Les Bossip Mademoiselles. Of course, sometimes that burden is an absence. As a male character in “The Stale Mackerel” explains, “there’s always something missing or wrong with the good ones.” In this new project, Norman takes that missing thing to its conceptual limit. As a visual artist, she is well aware of the significance of removing the figure from Les Bossip Mademoiselles. Readers are forced to reckon with this absence, at the same time we have to consider where we feel compelled to fill in the gaps, giving body to confounding images like “The Dickmatized Owls.” Like the bodies that are stretched and take on graphite weight in Norman’s collage work, the characters in Les Bossips Mademoiselles, Vol. 1 are complex because the mirroring of the echo poem though necessarily producing more (more images, more abuse, more desire) at the same time the artist allows (no, insists!) these bodies evade our grasp.
Written by Lauren M. Cramer
Lauren Cramer is a PhD Candidate at Georgia State University, studying race and visual culture. She is particularly interested in the ways race is visualized in hip-hop and is writing a dissertation entitled, “A Hip-Hop Joint: Thinking Architecturally About Blackness.” She received her BA in Communication from Villanova University and her MA in Film Studies from Emory University. Lauren is currently an Associate Editor of InMediaRes, a collaborative site for online scholarship that is part of the MediaCommons digital scholarly network and is on the Editorial Board of liquid blackness, a research project focused on blackness and aesthetics.