Alan SonfistMyself Becoming One with the Tree (1969)

Me (to myself): this sequence is naturally predisposed to a .gif format.

Myself (to me): you know how to make a a .gif, you lazy ass hussy.

I can’t say the idea of making photo sequences into .gifs was is original. I stole it from this post featuring a .gif of Duane Michals’ 1969 The Human Condition.

But I do sort of take issue with that post because although culture dictates that the .gif is how we are most accustomed to processing photo sequences, the sequences were not originally contextualized as animation. Thus while this is definitely a good idea to get people into work they might not otherwise encounter, you really absolutely must be honest about the intervention upon the work, IMO.

Source unknown – Title unknown (201X)

I’m going to attempt to coin a hybrid word: demi-sequitur. (And yes, I realize I could just use medium sequitur but conjugation will always be the part of language learning with which I struggle–and since I’m not in the mood for some snarky classics major (E.D., all classics majors are snarky af), I’m just going to opt not to conjugate and instead invent a hybrid word.

Anyway, if you’ll excuse my coining a hybrid word, Imma get back to this image but first I need to indulge a bit of demi-sequitur exposition.

One of the struggles I have with writing is sorting through a constant barrage of information in my head.

It’s not without use to think of it a bit like this. You’re in a store, purchasing a toasted bagel with scallion cream cheese and tomato. The cashier plugs your order into the register and tells you that your total is: $3.87; behind her someone scurries to shove a bagel into one of those toaster ovens with a metal grill conveyor belt.

You open your wallet and realize you only have $3 ones and it’s NYC, so get bent trying to get them to let you charge anything under $5. You turn to your friend and are like, hey, can I borrow a dollar.

But instead of them extracting their wallet and handing you a one or four quarters, they reach into their pocket and pull out a handful of change and throw it directly into your face. It scatters on the counter, shelves containing chewing gum and candy bars.

There’s a long line of people behind you and, the cashier is impatiently waiting for you to pay but you’ve gotta pick all the change up at some point so while it would make more sense to look for zinc plated change as opposed to copper, you just have to get all of it. (Trying to count as you go.)

Every moment my senses are not impaired, deranged or otherwise altered feels like trying to count out change from a handful of coins that have been tossed at velocity directly into my face.

A practical example: I was with a friend in a grocery store. We’d gone in to purchase beer. I was carrying a 6 pack, she was carrying a 6 pack. We were standing in the express 12 items or less line. Being in NYC, it was a very small space. You had to be careful to not knock over the snaking lane dividers that keep everyone in an orderly line. The loudspeakers were blaring Maroon 5 or some other intolerable pop fodder. There are people everywhere. Standing, talking on phones, chatting with others. Elbows, glasses, ironic facial hair, colors, textures–all of it registering, demanding focused attention.

My friend started kicking me in the shin. I did my best to keep my voice level but she was offended by my tone. See to her, she felt bored and under stimulated, so she did that to help distract herself. Whereas the kick to my shins was the stimulus that broke the camel’s spine.

I flew out to Los Angeles on Feb. 15th.

I love the food and climate in L.A. I detest everything else about the place. But as someone trying to cultivate a patina of legitimacy w/r/t my fine art photographic aspirations, I end up out there a couple times every year.

Also, I have friends there. Two amazing models: Marissa Lynn & Kathleen Truffaut (who I was able to collaborate with), as well as a friend from my time as an undergraduate.

My college friend is having a really difficult time. An ex recently pulled some of the classic cishet male bullshit where he was like I dumped you and my life without isn’t working out how I planned so I’m gonna make you feel like shit to feel better about myself. Also, her beloved pet Boston terrier is having pretty serious health issues.

So the trip was a good bit heavier than I anticipated as far as emotional labor and needing to be responsible/supportive.

The point is when I headed up to Oakland on Feb. 21st, I came down with whatever the fuck upper respiratory BS is going around out there at the moment.

Now–to put forward a crucial piece of information I’ve been withholding–my friend Amandine lives out there. And really: while, yes, I did go to L.A. to see my college friend, eat some of the best food in the damn country and work with amazing models, I mostly went to spend time with Amandine.

I was running a 102 fever when I woke up on Feb. 22nd.

Add to that my office–which wasn’t supposed to contact me during this leg of the trip–blew up my phone because one of our senior analysts thought his personal laptop had been infected with ransomware.

It wasn’t an especially great space to occupy–being extremely ill, being insanely stressed, not to mention anxious about the will-they-or-won’t-they questions with regard to the mutual and insanely complicated feelings between Amandine and I.

Confession: I’m growing increasingly put off by–it’s probably fair to say–most of the porn that crosses my Tumblr dash. It’s not that the production value is lacking. (I actually have an upcoming post on how a certain subset of porn displays a fetishization of quality that is both consistent and remarkably aestheticized.

And, yeah full disclosure I’m not super into heteronormative porn. So that means 90% of the stuff crossing my dash isn’t ‘made’ for me.

But things like this just seem repetitive, mechanical and focused on orgasmic release. (I do like that he kisses her after she sucks on him post-orgasm–there is nothing in the world like kissing your partner(s) post coitally and tasting your orgasmic juices mixed with theirs.. the taste is freaking intoxicating.)

On the other hand I do have a backlog of threesome/group sex stuff that I love and have been struggling over how to feature in a contemplative fashion. For example: this gif of three studs masturbating in a triangular form, one who has already orgasmed while a second boy ejaculates with impressive force while the third watches both his friends; this vintage image of an FFM threesome outdoors; this von Trier-esque image that vextape reblogged a while back; a lot of FMM stuff (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), FFM stuff (1, 2, 3). Want FFF? I can point you in the direction of one. MMM? Don’t mind if I do. FMMM, I even have one of those. All female orgy? Aren’t you glad you asked?

I feel like once you move beyond the strict binary interpretations of physical intimacy, things automatically become more sensual. I mean that’s my experience, yes. But also, from a strictly pragmatic perspective, it has to. I mean, yeah, if you’re, 22 and having mad group sex, it’s probably cool. You can get off again and again and again without much muss or fuss.

As you get older, your body changes–late 20s are amazing, late 30s–meh. I’m not to my late 40s yet, but yeah… I’m banging on that door and I do not like how things are sounding from behind it.

That means that you learn to become a little like someone who is going with friends to dim sum. You know not to fill up on just one item–you want to try a bit of everything. But you really like this dish and those dumplings, so you over eat a bit but you also get to try everything. It’s about the different tastes/flavors but also a bit of discipline allows you to walk away feeling fully satisfied.

So I’m in Oakland. I have a 102 and change fever. I feel like death. My stress and anxiety is through the roof. Everything feels like it’s falling apart and I’m supposed to hang out with Amandine for part of a day so that we can catch up and clear the air.

See Amandine is only the third person in my life who I’ve ever been like I have feelings for you and the person’s response has been anything other than no, run away. She basically said: I feel the same. It scares the crap out of me and I wanted to run away, I even tried, but I can’t; there is too much here that I want to explore. We just need to move slow. This is new for me. I know what I want but I need to figure out how to reconcile what I want with the life I’ve made for myself.

I somehow managed through sheer force of will to be more or less operating at 85% that day. I was still definitely under the weather but I managed it so that she hardly noticed.

We had a fancy breakfast. Talked about her art. How things are going with my suicidal ex. In the process of updating her, I realized for the first time that we’re not taking a break like she’s said–that even if she were willing to discuss all the shit that’s transpired between us that I’m fundamentally unconvinced that what we have is worth the hell it will require walking through for months to work things out. Amandine held my hand while I sat at the table and openly wept; she said, you’ll figure out how to be fine again. It’s going to take a while. Longer than you think. It’s going to be hard. But you won’t have to do it alone this time.

We went for a hike. Saw an egret and snapping turtles. Then had coffee at a snooty cafe in Oakland.

We got ready to part ways. I told her that she was one of the most amazing, kind and radically empathetic people I had ever known and that I was in love with her. She said, I know. I’m just hoping that you know you are all of those things just as much as I am. I said I know. She said: and I love you, too.

I walked her to her car. She hugged me. It was quick, perfunctory. Guarded.

I think she thought I was going to cling to her. And that’s not an inaccurate premonition. I wanted to. But I didn’t. And I think that surprised her. (I can occasionally be self-possessed enough not to shoot myself in the foot several times every day.)

She returned to me and wrapped her arms around me again. She pressed the curve of her midline body mass into mine. Pulling me toward her that were her arms positioned differently, would’ve knocked the wind out of me. I stroked the back of her Guatemalan sack dress, could feel that underneath she wasn’t wearing a bra, just a cotton shift. She held me tighter. I could feel her muscles straining over her bones. As if she was trying to fuse her soul with mine.

She let go and looked at me. Then turned and walked to her car. I said, wait a second. She turned and I made a show of kissing my finger tips and them touched them to her forehead. She giggled, hiding her smile behind her hands and angling her face downward. In that moment, I warned with all the constant influx of information I suffer under, why I couldn’t stop time and memorize every single one of those marvelous laugh lines that wrinkled up her young face like an old newspaper balled up for kindling, spared at the last minute, unfolded and pressed flat against a table top.

You honestly deserve a medal if you’ve read this far.

I said I’d get back to the image and I plan to. But I feel like now, I don’t need to explain it to you. I feel if you bothered with all this you’ll understand why when I look at this I can see past it’s short comings: the over exposure, the flatness of space, the fact that the genders presented don’t actually match Amandine or my own.

But it’s profoundly relate-able because I can’t think about it without thinking of how it felt to hold someone like that for the first time in my life.

Gustav VigelandKneeling Man Embracing a Standing Woman (1908)

When it comes to sculpture, there’s a steep drop off in my familiarity compared with cinema, painting or photography. I can differentiate between Michelangelo, Bernini & Rodin but that’s about it.

As someone who reads oodles and oodles of Scandinavian crime fiction, I am familiar with the connection between Vigeland and Oslo’s Frogner Park. I’d never (embarrassingly) bothered to look into his work because I am (shamefully) lazy and laziness in combination with depression facilitates a both comfortable and cloyingly complacent apathy.

I’m not exactly enraptured by his work, but this is just fucking devastating.

With the female bodied figure standing over the supplicant male bodied figure, the discrepancy in respective elevation feels like a subversion of the Pietà motif.

Also, there’s an interesting ambiguity w/r/t whether or not the embrace includes a sexual component. Both figures are nude and the male-bodied figure seems to need out of some profound feeling of loss. Whereas, the female bodied figure might be attempting to push his head further from her genitals, closer to them or merely adopting a posture exactly halfway  between bodily acceptance and rejection.

It’s a completely atypical presentation of gender and I adore it for that and the craft is beyond on point–the detail in her braid, his face and texture.

Misattributed source; proper attribution sought (The furthest I can trace it is TinEye’s entry–dated January 11, 2011 on a now defunct Tumblr.)

Sometime before the October Revolution, filmmaker Lem Kuleshov made a short film. The film consisted of the same shot of Ivan Mousjoukine wearing a blank look interspersed with footage of a bowl of soup, a child in a coffin and a woman splayed on a couch.

Despite there being no difference in the footage of Mousjoukine, the audience was extremely impressed with the depth of his craft–feeling that he was hungry when he saw the soup, grief stricken upon seeing the dead child and highly desirous of the reclining woman.

Today, film studies peeps refer to this projection of the audiences feelings in response to an image onto an actor/surrogate as the Kuleshov Effect.

(I argue this interpretation stops short: that which precedes informs with regard to the nature of the seeing, what follows contextualizes what has preceded.)

In other words: my experiences/prejudices not only color but dictate to a great extent what I see.

For example: one person may read the above as a trite riff on fashion photography voyeurism, giving the finger to prevailing tendencies for female-bodied folk to be openly arranged and displayed.

Someone else could claim it has D/s overtones.

Still another might be triggered due to similarities between the depiction and memories of past abuse.

What I see ties into the emerging trend of referring to physical intimacy as ‘sharing’ your body. To the extent that this phrase functions as sharing something neither party can own, I find it conceptually fulfilling. When it comes across as this is my toy and I am only letting you use out of my heart’s boundless kindness, I begin to have problems.

To me, this toes the line from the side I endorse.

What do you see?

letmedothis:

saw a crappy screenshotted version of this photo I originally uploaded.
Don’t understand why someone would do it that way.

A wide-oh mouth spreading vents vocalizations to stem rising tide as if moans lessen the straining pressure. The protruding angle of wedged elbow hinge and the shift of wrist raise strange and secret maritime Braille poems between yawing thighs. Another arm stretches to press a finger into parted lips up to the second joint.

The first pornography I saw was a gift for my fourteenth birthday from Charlie.

A year younger than me, Charlie was really Kyle’s friend. Despite our parents efforts to ensure their kids maintained our own non-redundant age-appropriate friends, Charlie and I were thick as thieves.

So when I demanded a miniature golf/slumber party birthday celebration, Charlie and I finagled getting him invited over the same night to keep Kyle from feeling neglected.

Charlie had discovered his father’s stash of girlie magazines and he had cut out an assortment of images from the few he had managed to steal.

Except for being fourteen instead of ten or eleven, it was entirely prosaic.

That’s why I claim my second experience with pornography as my true first.

….

Every summer my parents invariably got sick of us not being in school and would hand off Kyle and I to whomever would take us. And despite Charlie being the kid who all the parents considered to be deeply troubled, his folks were always willing to host a rowdy bunch of teenagers.

Also, it didn’t hurt that Charlie’s older sister Caitlyn was just a few year’s older than me. Granted she was boy crazy cheerleader who wanted to be a vet and made a point of volunteering at an animal hospital four days a week. But even though we had nothing in common, I never disabused my mom of the notion that we were friendly.

After all getting scuttled at Charlie’s was generally held to be the best thing ever. And with Caitlyn giving me a wide berth, Charlie’s folks being so permissive and the fact that I could have as much privacy as I wanted or be one of the boys depending on my mood was thrilling.

On the second to last day of our stay, Charlie convinced Kyle and I to accompany him to a place he called The Fort. We got all the necessary gear together: Charlie grabbed a box of shells and his dad’s shotgun. I was assigned the Daisy BB pistol which consumed CO2 cartridges at roughly the same rate we consumed Mountain Dew.

Kyle wasn’t happy I got the pistol. And he actually had a point. I was hand’s down the best shot with it—able to hit a grape at thirty feet; but I had constructed a shockingly functional shoulder holster from some RJ-11 wire we’d found discarded.

Kyle, against bitter and vociferous objections ended up stuck with the rifle.

We set out across the back yard toward the woods lining the property.

The trek itself was mild to moderately pastoral with some Appalachian grace notes thrown in for good measure. We climbed fences, crawled along a fallen tree over a lazy creek.

We only stopped once.

We’d been angling through a rolling meadow when I spotted to Jersey cows staring at us from behind a barbed wire fence maybe sixty feet from us. Charlie saw them too and handed me the shotgun, motioning for holstered pistol.

I handed it over and watching him draw a bead down the barrel on the rightmost cow, fired—a whiz-click sound; missing high and right. He reloaded before firing again: a palpable hit. The cow didn’t seem to mind.

Charlie handed the pistol back wordlessly communicating: your turn. He reclaimed the heavy shotgun. I raised the pistol, aimed, breathed in deeply, halfway out and squeezed the trigger. The cow snorted and shook her brown head so I fired again.

I passed the pistol to Kyle who for all his pissing before now wanted nothing to do with it. Charlie was adamant he take a shot. Knowing Charlie we wouldn’t have gone a step further until Kyle at the very least shot in the direction of the cows if the darkening of the sky along the horizon didn’t so thoroughly telegraph the approach of a gathering storm.

The Fort, as it turned out, was less northing more and nothing less than a northeastern style farmstead, its wood panel exterior warped and waterlogged. It been white at one point; however, the paint had long since fallen away, revealing the ugly wasp daub grey siding. Scorch marks spread char-black up and out from the second-story windows.

Inside, there was only enough drywall left to imply the boundaries between rooms. Charlie headed upstairs, my brother trailing after him.

I moved room to room. But with the exception of dead leaves piled in corners, discarded beer cans and a grime-matted mauve hoodie ground into the floor beside a mangy, dust-encrusted mattress there was nothing to see.

The stairs sighed under my weight. And I heard a faint hissing, like rain against the side of the house as I climbed.

The stairs opened onto a picture window which Charlie stood centered in facing out. I realized the sound wasn’t rain; he was pissing out the window.

The second floor was completely open end-to-end: charred floor, rafters and dead light drifting dustily in through a handful of dormer windows.

Charlie’s stream of urine ebbed then stopped.

He turned away from the window; I looked away down the length of the open room where a dozen plus knee high stacks littered the floor.

I approached the nearest stack. A bespectacled young girl—too young?—smiled up at me; her glasses and face were lined with thick, white fluid. A second before what I was looking at dawned on me, I realized this girl bore a startling resemblance to a classmate on who I had an outsize crush. This girl had the same glasses, same playfully innocent smile and nearly flat chest.

The other stacks revealed comparable material, a hodge-podge of hardcore mainstays (Hustler, Stag, Swank) as well as more off-beat fare with highly questionable legality (i.e.70’s vintage Color Climax).

I was in a daze and it Charlie a minute to take a green object from him.

The object consisted of a thin, green scarf carefully wrapped around something square-ish. I unfolded the top two flaps, followed by the two beneath it to reveal a stack of Polaroids.

The first two were only clear enough to offer a general impression of what was depicted: high school kids having sex on the ratty mattress downstairs.

However, the focus in the third image was stunningly crisp: a girl, maybe fourteen, naked except for an open, button front shirt, cradled by a second girl—naked except for panties—who crouched beside her. The second girl’s left nipple was pinched tightly between the first’s bone-white teeth. The cradled girl’s right elbow was clasped behind her knee. The fingers on the second girl’s right hand where laced together with the first girl as she helped her hold her knees wide for the naked boy between them. The cradled girl’s right held the boy’s cock, covering the head; a forked trail led from a small pearlescent pool on her abdomen—the longest branch stretching across her flat chest to just below her supersternal notch.

With the angle of view the second girl and boy’s body formed an ellipsis framing the first girl.

I was too overwhelmed by what I saw to discern whether or not I liked it. Not knowing how I felt about what I had seen made me profoundly uncomfortable.

I flipped through all the Polaroids once before wrapping them up and handing them back to Charlie. His expression asked what I thought. The roar in my ears was deafening, I couldn’t think so I ran down the stairs and out of the house.

Outside, I circled the building aimlessly. I picked up a black spray pain can. Stood it on a white rock Grabbed the pistol, shot, reloaded, shot again until the can spewing the rabid black foam.

The boys were inside for a while. But before we headed home, Charlie took the pistol from me and gave it to Kyle. Who in turn offered me the rifle but clutching the shotgun, Charlie advised him that it was better if he held onto both.

With each step, my wire holster swung awkward and empty against my body.

In my life, maybe half-dozen things have caused such overwhelming sexual arousal as that third. It wasn’t just that I felt an affinity for the content and or the execution hauntingly beautiful; what got me was the openness.

Keep in mind that at my Xtian high school admitting to suffering any sort of sexual appetite let along a non-standard deviant one was forbidden. Anyone who even intimated as much was castigated.

And while I have no way of knowing how matters turned out for the people in that Polaroid, I believe with all my heart, mind and soul that sharing that kind of intimacy with others is the only truly sacred thing in this world.

It’s like asking: is this darkness in you, too? Have you passed through this night? But instead of telling about it, you take the questioner by the hand and show them your answer.