AdeY – dependency (2015)
I think it was in third grade where we learned about the five questions a good reporter always answers when relaying a story: Who? What? Where? When? And How?
This isn’t exactly a shabby mode of approaching art, come to think of it. Except, there’s perhaps a proscribed order (at least as far as visual art goes).
I suggest you start by asking: what is this, what am I looking at?
In this case, it’s a stereotypical locker room–rows of lockers on either side of a central bench running along an aisle. A woman (nude) is standing on top of the bench leaning backwards in a manner that has to be both uncomfortable and precarious as far as balance goes. A male arm extends into the frame from the lower right corner; its hand holding her face not unlike a basketball superstar slam dunking.
The lighting in the locker room indicates that it is currently unoccupied and the lighting on the interaction in the foreground has a sort of cinematic flare that is suggestive of a nightmare tableau or horror film. (I can’t look at this and not think of the penultimate scene in It Follows–where they fight the monster at an indoor pool.)
What is seen speaks to viscerality/physicality but in a fashion that is unsettling/menacing/sinister.
Now–if this we’re in hanging in a gallery–there would be some placard someone explaining that the artist’s name, the title of the piece (if there is one) when it was made, where the nationality of the artist, perhaps (I’m pretty sure he hails from Sweden). Astute galleries will address the how with notes on media (in this case medium format Polaroid), the size of the work, provenance and ownership/bibliographical information).
And here’s what I think people who think art is dumb mean when they criticize it. If you’re going to understand what you’re looking at, you often have to conduct the same operation multiple times. In this case, when you get to the title, i.e. ‘dependency’, you are forced to ask yourself what that means in the context of what you’ve already figured you’d gotten super clear about.
The first thing I think of is that dependency can indicate something suspended–like a pendulum or the Sword of Damocles hanging by a single hair from a horses tail. (The position of her head to his hand is in keeping with this reading and it further strengthens my original notion that there’s something malevolent happening here.)
The second thing that pops into my head is this woman I walked by two mornings ago. She was speaking loudly on her phone to someone and I heard her say: I’m not going to waste my time on you, ‘cause I can’t depend on your ass for nuthin’.
I think there’s a tendency to view dependence as a bad thing. But I’m a dependent upon food, water, shelter and clothing (alas, we have not yet returned to the naked idyll of Eden). I depend on my job to pay me for the work that I do so that I can trade the money I earn in order to survive and exist in the world. I–personally–am also dependent upon a steady stream of illicit substances to counter the stress of functioning somewhat normally in this completely fucked world.
In other words, there are degrees of dependency and degrees of acceptability of various forms of dependency which general relate to whether they serve society or the individual.
Yet, my gut is that the sinister tone is a projection I’m placing onto the image–and it’s a strange feeling. I’m not used to it. And when I poke at it a bit more things shift for me.
My BFF and I have been talking recently about how depression–despite being awful and numbing–is actually sometimes beneficial. When you’re numb the generally awful stuff has a muted effect and things need to be really horrendous to register. That’s a defense mechanism, of sorts. I think this photo functions similarly.
For me it’s about the fact that her face isn’t so much held as covered–the proceedings the viewer witnesses here are reasonably anonymous. And anonymity is a concept without a point unless the one who wishes to be anonymous is likely to be seen.
It feels to me like this is–in a fumbling way–trying to get at the dichotomy wherein the voyeur watches in order to see/understand and the subject wishes to both be seen and unseen at once.
And if this is more than just pedestrian hearsay, which equivocation muddles meaning more–that of the voyeur or that of the subject?