Vlad KrumUpstairs (2013)

I’ve been staring at this image for an hour trying to find a way to express what it is about it that hits me like an anvil dropped from a skyscraper.

If I was in my apartment, I’d dig through my college notebooks–nerd alert: I still have all of them–and couch things in terms of the points of contrast between Balinese and Javanese dance.

For better or worse, I am a long way from home. And unfortunately, once my brain shifts into a particular mode–in this case compare/contrast–I keep trying to find the words to point to what is so breathtakingly radical in this not necessarily good image by subtracting this image from it and analyzing the difference.

And that difference would almost certainly get at something with which I’ve been trying to come to terms for half a decade: when and if pornography can also be Art.

But every time I try to approach that vector my brain redirects me to a recent memory; namely: last week I boarded the subway and standing across from me in the opposite door well was this young woman. She was tall, perhaps an inch shy of six feet tall. It wasn’t her height that drew my attention; it was the not yet completely unlearned, painfully self-conscious awareness that made her cross her feet at the ankles and slouch slightly.

She had that I’ll-never-be-a-cover-girl-and-I-could-be-style-myself-in-such-a-way-as-to-be-conventionally-pretty-but-I-can’t-be-arsed look that gets me everytime: black Shure studio headphones, flaxen hair with ginger root highlights, alert eyed, constantly scanning her surroundings.

I found myself achingly aroused. An odd thing during morning rush hour in NYC. I tried not to look at her–I’m sure she realized I was eying her and the last thing I wanted to do was make myself a nuisance to her.

I’ve thought about her frequently since then. I still get the same pheromonal flush but it’s not sustained. Yes, my initial response was to her body. But a body is just a body unless it’s understood as part of the totality of a discrete personal identity. It was that searching spark–like the glimmer of a starving fire–that I saw that made me look closer.

And that’s the thing that gets me about this image: it’s not staged to play towards my preconception with regard to the semiotics of desire. It declares this is what my wanting looks like.

Pornography lacking in consideration for the empathy underlying the mechanics of pleasure will be forever incapable of being Art.

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