Brutal Kicks: The Witch Hunt for Michael Jackson

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BRUTAL KICKS is about the effects of child abuse on the life and career of Michael Joseph Jackson. In this artwork I re-contextualize the misogynistic theme of my prior work, BRUTAL MYTHS, a web based artwork that I produced in 1996 in collaboration with Marie-José Sat. In this new version, I do not focus on the historic hatred and abuse of women by men in global cultures. I examine
instead, the very specific local instance of Michael Jackson's life to discover the how the abuse that he suffered at the hands of his father Joe affected his whole life and death. In my prior work, about women, I used the seeds of hatred (bitter herbs) to symbolize the effects of men's abuse of women. In this new work, the herbs symbolize the fears that Michael Jackson's father instilled in him through his abusive behavior.

In 1487 Pope Innocent VIII endorsed the Malleus Maleficarum: The Hammer of the Witches – a witch-hunting manual, written by two Inquisition monks. It accused women of destroying men by planting Bitter Herbs throughout the fields. The field soon became a Garden of Herbal Evil where Bitter Herbs germinated Brutal Myths about women because of the fears in the hearts of men.

Under the shadow of Michael Jackson's early death, I am compelled to unearth the methods by which the Bitter Herbs described in our web work, Brutal Myths, infected the life and career of the King of Pop with witchcraft.

"Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee,
And thou shall eat the herb of the field." Genesis 3:18

The wound man toils with herbs that perpetuate myths that ultimately destroy him.

Male fears: The man is not able to hide and control his sexual desire.

"And so he continued that for, like, a lot of the trip. And he kept on saying, 'Tell me when you're ready and I'll do it for you.' Because up till then I had never masturbated or anything. And I had never, ever, indicated to him that I was ready, like, to be masturbated. And I guess that wasn't according to his plans, and so, one time he just reached over and said, 'Okay, just tell me how this feels.' And he put his hand on my—"1.

: The man will not be loved unless he performs deeds to prove himself.

"I remember it very clearly. [Joseph] would never hold me or touch me. I never felt love from him. I wanted to become such a wonderful performer that I would get love back."2.

: The man fears castration because his genitals are exposed and vulnerable.

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"He recalled having to run through crowds of screaming girls with his eyes covered by his hands for fear that they would scratch him, and hid in broom cupboards, hoping the throng would rush by and miss him. 'They grab your hair and pull hard and it hurts like fire,' he recalled. 'You feel as if you're going to suffocate or be dismembered'."3.

: The man fears dissolution of Self.

"Escaping his childhood demons had led Michael to recreate himself. Gone was the brown-skinned, broad-nosed youth with an Afro whose natural charisma charmed an audience. In his place was a fragile, doll-like man it was impossible not to stare at in sheer disbelief."4.

: The man fears his desire to seek refuge in his mother's womb.

"Michael saw that Rabbi Shmuley Boteach was critical of him and couldn't handle it. He curled up and got into embryonic position."5.

: The man fears isolation and solitude.

"I needed someone. That’s probably why I had, uh, the mannequins, I would say. Because I felt I needed people, someone, and I didn’t have, I was too shy to be around real people."6.

: The man fears being abducted.

"Michael's father Joseph climbed into his room through the bedroom window. Wearing a fright mask, he entered the room screaming and shouting. Joseph said he wanted to teach his children not to leave the window open when they went to sleep. For years afterward, Michael suffered nightmares about being kidnapped from his bedroom."7.

: The man fears being seduced.

"Michael was traumatized at age 15 when some family members decided that he was old enough to lose his virginity. They brought two prostitutes into his hotel room and locked the door on all three of them. Neither the call girls nor Michael ever discussed the incident, but there is reason to suspect that Michael was still a virgin.8. Even at 17, Michael was still traumatized. As Tatum O'Neal recounts 'He once came to my house and asked to come upstairs because he'd never been in a girl's bedroom before. He sat on the bed, and we kissed very briefly, but it was terribly awkward. For all my passionate crushes on people like Dustin Hoffman, I was just 12 and not at all ready for a real-life encounter. So I said, “I can't.” Michael, who was sweating profusely, seemed as intimidated as I was. He jumped up nervously and said, “Uh, gotta go”'."9.

1. Ian Halperin, Unmasked: The Final Years of Michael Jackson (New York: Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2009), 255.
2. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, The Michael Jackson Tapes: A Tragic Icon Reveals His Soul In Intimate Conversation (New York: Vanguard Press, 2009), 91.
3. J. Randy Taraborrelli, “How Jackson's surgery was a desperate bid not to look like the father he hated”, Daily Mail Online, (Accessed December 1, 2009).
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4. Unknown Author,“Jacko didn’t want to resemble dad!” Times of India Online, (Accessed December 1, 2009).
5. Campbell Brown Interview with Rabbi Shmuley, Jackson rabbi-friend: Singer was 'a tortured, tortured soul', " website", (accessed December 1, 2009).
6. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, The Michael Jackson Tapes: A Tragic Icon Reveals His Soul In Intimate Conversation (New York: Vanguard Press, 2009), 74.
7. Unknown Author, “Michael Jackson Early Life” Newsnlidea, (accessed December 1, 2009).
8. Ian Halperin, Unmasked: The Final Years of Michael Jackson (New York: Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2009), 116.
9. Tatum O'Neal, A Paper Life (New York: Harper Entertainment, 2004), 99-100.