The Bernadette Corporation encourages people to “run out of energy,” “become no one,” and act “drugged” and “retarded.” In the past 11 years, this “company”—an international group of artists—has created its own training videos, fashion line, and films. The Corporation’s most recent product is Reena Spaulings, a novel about a listless underwear model. Her “eyes are brown? Blue? Something like that.” It’s hard to tell. Written by 150 people, the story of her rise to fame is generic and often “magnificently boring.” Reena has little going on in her mind. She wanders around saying “hi” to pieces of furniture and, in her best underpants poses, looks like a corpse. She’s bland and unknowable—the “coolest girl in the entire world.”
When a supernatural tornado—a loosely disguised version of the World Trade Center trauma —transforms New York, Reena barely pays it any mind. (The TV networks replay footage of people in business suits flying up through the air, not down.) “It’s all about being yourself,” a group of male models squeal, seconds before the windows are sucked off their building. Reena surrounds herself with people whose conversations sound like press releases, but she’s still vague and amorphous: She likes sleeping, hates alarm clocks, and looks in the mirror every morning. That’s about as specific as it gets. Conceived by enough people to comprise a small town, she has no distinguishable identity. “How regrettable,” she thinks, “when people all around the world start becoming selves, tooth-brushing, anus-wiping, voting selves, Americans. I guess it has to happen.”
An ideological shame perhaps, but in the absence of more compelling concerns like personality or emotions, Reena’s life becomes “so stuffed with plot and action that the day would suddenly regurgitate its contents and flop at her feet like an empty sack.” This “may not be quality literature,” the Bernadette Corporation freely admits, but they see their work as an act of resistance. Specializing in blankness, the book is impossible to brand. The anonymous authors, who called their most recent film Get Rid of Yourself, are so opposed to the idea of an author that the only thing on the back cover is a final note from the slippery title character: “Dear New York, Here’s your novel—fuck you too, loads of love, loads of novel, and it’s been real.” Always out of reach, Reena disappears without a trace.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 1, 2005