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I’d originally wanted to share this as a #follow-the-thread post–but I don’t think I can convey what I wanted without also including stills and since these depend so much on the movement they depict, interspersing stills seems at best distracting and at worst working at counter purposes than what I want to point out.

There was a spate of dark and/or Satanic/Halloween oriented posts by a bunch of folks over the last few days. These sort of are among some of the more fascinating ones. But I’m also seeing them in an even broader context–for example:

William Mortensen’s Untitled {staked witch scene} (1927), these three posts from @ritualsex (I, II, III) and this bizarre, vintage-looking BDSM photo.

From the standpoint of conceptual considerations, I’ve been doing a lot of work with the notions of extremity. Just as an overly simplified example to illustrate the principle: it’s difficult to appreciate light separate from it’s interdependence upon shadow–no light without shadow, no shadow without light.

I’ve been applying this to notions of sin/transgression as they are inter-penetrative with salvation/transcendence–salvation is unnecessary means nothing in the absence of sin, so you must sin in order to be absolved of that sin by salvation. Western history is built around one sided perspective which views sin as the reason for needing salvation but why not celebrate sin as a prerequisite for salvation.

Given this premise: I’ve been experimenting with elements of Satanism/the occult, witchcraft and ritual in my work. My most recent project drew an explicit relationship between orgasm and the exorcising of demonic forces. Thus, I’d have intended these .gifs groupd together as a pleasure, punishment, appropriating punishment for pleasure (be it through the subversion of accepted social forms of deciding who is punished and how much or the act of erotically charging punishment as a path to carnal pleasure.

I really can’t see any of these images as either singularly pleasurable or totally about punishment–there’s this interesting way that the erogenous and the torturous fuse into an ouroborean cycling. (Conceptually, the motion in each of these serves to underscore this point.)

Paul von Borax – Selections from SOOMBRE (2015)

Ninety percent of Borax’s work represents–to me–all the tendencies in contemporary image making that I consider inartful, tactless and conceptually bankrupt.

It’s not that SOOMBRE transcends those flaws–quite the opposite: it doubles down on them: presenting style as substance.

Typically, such a gamble doesn’t pay dividends. Here it does in at least some measure.

It’s honestly the aesthetic that gets me: the gummed edges indicating peel apart film, the soft focus, the replication of the sort of flat tableau that informed so much of Victorian photography–the way the artifice of constructing a set actually manages to increase the authenticity of the aesthetic. (In fact, I’m reasonably certain that the sets used in SOOMBRE were almost certainly predicated on a production design concept similar to Mark Romanek’s brilliant work on // | /’s Closer music video.

The other thing that works well is the implicit provocation of the staging. In the top image, the poses would be indecent were it not for the way the shadows play over the scene; the women maintaining eye contact with the camera makes a degree of voyeurism explicit–their expressions suggest that both are aware of being watched and aren’t bothered by the fact but also aren’t especially interested in it.

The bottom image toys with the same ideas but in a manner that is arguably more perverse. To me this photo hinges on two things: the position of the rear woman’s hands–less her right hand than her left; the latter being exactly on the line between contrivedly staged and unsimulated. The awareness of that boundary and the willingness to press up against it, in addition to the way the one woman seems aware of the camera while the other does not and the askew composition, gives a very real feeling that the scene is less presented for a camera’s aperture than a glimpse through some sort of illicit peephole.

Also, it would be disingenuous of me not to mention that fact that while I am typically into anything that fucks with the notion of the sacred vs. the profane, the use of crucifixes in this project is some milquetoast, weak tea bullshit. I’d kill to see what someone like Plume Haters Tannenbaum would do with this location. Like although there are definitely a few intriguing things about Borax’s work on this project, I don’t feel it reads as even a tenth as transgressive as it seems the creator would hope. Whereas, Tannenbaum would’ve made you feel almost deliciously dirty for looking at the images with such unrestrained wonderment.