1 / EPIC POETRY: Cixous says that the transformation of a naked figure into a proper art-historical nude requires the intervention of at least one helpful ‘nothing’–the sheerer-than-sheer genital shroud, for instance, or a woefully insufficient leaf. Mythological compositions also seem to do the job, since a painting can’t be porn with a centaur presiding, apparently. Cixous has also insisted on more than one occasion that gender isn’t really a thing she wants to comment on, since she loves men and writes whole books about them. I’d argue that she writes books about the enculturation of love, not men, but I think it’s pretty safe to assume that I’d lose most any argument I started with Helene Cixous. That seems appropriate. Still, I go to lots of museums, and I see lots of fleshy, pink, important nudes from the European lair-decor canon. I also see their effortfully flattened Chelsea progeny in all their sequenced interpolations and reductions and desperate, nodding attempts at pedigreed distance. More specifically, I look at those nudes. I gaze at them, I study their surfaces, I consume the skin designed for a hunger that feels pre-ordained in its immediacy. Occasionally the woman pictured will sport some curt identity, but more often than not, she’s a figment, or a memory, or a lie, or whatever cross-section of those tandem pangs makes fantasy a thing. She’s not a woman, you see. She’s a painting. And it’s impossible not to mention men, by the way. That’s how reversal works.
2 / HISTORY: I think about this one time I suggested to a nineteen-year-old art student in critique that erasing the faces on her topless portraits struck some of the other undergraduates as violent, and she responded by reminding me sharply that she was a feminist.
“It’s not like they’re me”, she grumbled. “I just made them up!”
If the Renaissance proved anything to us, it’s that it’s not that hard to make up a face.
Four years later, I drew an elegantly splayed nude model on the back of a letter I wrote to a man I loved. I sourced the image from a plus-size-themed spread in an upscale magazine, since the Vs of the world seem to prefer their non-standard hangers free from the clothes they’re allegedly hired to hock. Not porn, fashion–she’s wearing shoes (!). What did that make my version? Shading her limbs and loins did not feel devotional. It felt like mincing onions. I sent a picture of the finished product to all my MFA friends, but didn’t snap the results for my website.
Juliana Huxtable exists at the knife-sharp axis of imagistic exposure, of othering.
I don’t. I never have.
The body gracing that boy’s letter isn’t a woman, by the way. She’s a metaphor, or close to that. I found her months later hidden under another card a thinner woman had written him after discovering mine. She was iced in a hard layer of messy candlewax. He had forgotten to snuff the light. She was ruined. He was sorry. He owns so, so many of my drawings.
I just wanted to look at her again. I needed to re-live her mincing.
Damn. See? It’s impossible not to mention men. That’s how reversal works.
3 / POETRY IN SONG: There was a “Female Gaze” show up last year at Cheim & Read. The website posited its major curatorial concern as a single question; “Would we react differently to these works if they were made by a man?”
Yes we would.
Reversal isn’t equity, it’s juxtaposition. It’s Deleuze, for fuck’s sake. We can problematize oppressive infrastructure all day, but some oil-painting second-wavers aren’t going to solve anything by rendering a dick or two. That’s…there’s no female gaze, everyone. There’s no alternative stream. We’re all just yammering away in the language we inherited and further wounding the bodies we swore to protect. Salable skins bleed exclusion for the imprints they owe the door. There’s a reason the toughest political prisoners are placed in a white cube for months on end. Isolation breeds confession, and confession, so often confused with truth, has been known to move collectors to tears on occasion.
4 / LOVE POETRY: When fabricating a body for display, invest in whiteness, cis-ness, and any trace of grostesquerie adjacent to viscera, so, violence, or whatever violence left behind. Rape trends, as you know. Make sure the mimetics of rotting, pillaged id you’ve wrought from silicone and clay retain themselves over time — aestheticized self-immolation should always be archival. ‘Archival’ trends. Push insides outside, drag them across the floor, shout and bare the parts of you that comment or titillate without commenting a thing. Continue. Continue. Continue.
I fell in love as I watched him view the monotypes up close. Previous to the exhibit, I had appreciated the slope of his nose and his warm, thick hands. I had laughed at his jokes. His quiet appreciation for a process that abstracted painting from its material fetish rooted new blood in my heart, though, and I now find myself trying to prove that the full moon is fake when it hangs too low in the sky for my liking.
5 / TRAGEDY:
Saul Williams was interviewed on Power 105.1 and talked a lot about brain diets. He argued that Hip Hop artists should diversify the musical genres they ingest if they want to avoid sounding like carbon copies of each other. I wonder if that’s what ‘Like Art’ is. Painting has become so defensive of its history that it’s lost the ability to abandon mirrors.
The ultimate hang-up. (Pardon the pun).
Dissect the form. Abstract the form. Dispose of her theatricality in a Corsican Vampire trap–removal proves more elegant that way. No actors remain, so the set can speak. Context is funny, that way. Do you know about anatomical Venuses? Do you know about the Austrian one that breathes mechanically while you remove her organs one by one?
She’s not a woman, you see. She’s a teaching tool.
And it’s still impossible not to mention men. That’s how reversal works.
6 / HYMNS: At some point, I should really ask myself why I persist in drawing organic shapes if I’m so certain contemporary modalities in identity political art are ripping the ground out from under art practice itself. “Organic” just means “torn” or “fucked” or “already over”, distinct from the ever-proliferating, independent virtual, or the binaristic minimal. A linger vs. a pan. “Organic” is how L’Oreal pushes physical sun-blockers. This is not to attest that crisis has ever proven un-useful, that we should abandon body all together, but can’t we admit that think-pieces have failed us? Can’t we admit that resin won’t make us free?
Can’t we admit that coating our think-pieces in resin won’t make us free?
Makers got comfortable. We decided didactics were unstylish. Now evil tells people where to piss.
At some point, I should really ask myself why I’ve put the breaks on production. Whatever comes next is big, and I feel ill-equipped. I feel so, so tired.
7 / DANCE: A curator with a baby voice once told me that music and film might occasionally approximate the feeling of falling in love, but contemporary object art will always fall short. I asked her to describe what falling in love felt like to her. She changed the subject. I stopped making paintings two weeks after that.
8 / COMEDY: I’m a funny bitch, but I don’t like funny work, or at least not work that other people find funny.
I’m moved to think about the places I find funny, then–under a bar stool, for instance, or in the crease of an ugly stranger’s pillow, or next to my mother on a couch originally intended for fainting.
Afterwards, I’ll indent the names of the sites where I left that funny behind.
-UberX, 4 am
-Room 20 bath tub, the blackest peak of Tuesday morning.
-On the phone between mouthfuls of Thai delivery while I laugh at how many crabs he bought.
-Over email, as usual.
9 / ASTRONOMY: How cyborgs expand is a matter of survival. I’ve surfed the helix of existence through membranes fused to ideation. We’re allthoughts, now, and we mold despite ourselves to the exact proportions of a prison shell, not even a captured dialectic.
Mortar my ass.
Mortar can’t abandon you! I reverberate through your every firing in multi-chrome data-streams—no doctor could untangle these veins of ours! The sweet paradigm of home that starts and ends with muliebrity—how very disciplined.
This is my lot number. This is my fuel date.
Torey Akers is an artist and writer based in Brooklyn, NY. She currently writes art reviews for This is Tomorrow and is on an un-ending quest for the ideal bagel order.
Gem Blackthorn is QMT's Sex Columnist, and the author/curator of Lust Thrust Thursdays. Send her your submissions and questions at sexsexsex [at] queenmobs.com Image: Cyber Kowloon Walled City - 08. Kowloon nymph rests in apartment - Warehouse Kawasaki, 2014-06-02 (by Ken OHYAMA) - doll blurred from Flickr album "電脳九龍城（川崎）" by Ken OHYAMA from FUNABASHI, Japan