Everardo García González – [+] Re-nacer (2016); [↖] La Espera (2018); [↑] Tu cruz (201X); [↗] Desprenderme (2016); [-] Proceso (2018); [↙] S’Acrofa (201X); [↓] Title unknown (201X); [↘] El deseo de… (201X)

The aesthetic of González‘s work feels like a deconstruction of fantasy art from the late 80s/early 90s steeped in sci-fi/survival horror video games then filtered through a metal-culture inflected preoccupation with the subversion of Xtian iconography.

I’m not entirely comfortable with the male gaze-y-ness of the work from a macro perspective–there’s an inescapable vein of feminine embodiment with death/apocalyptic tropes as well as a sense that as the viewer you are a party to a sort of theater of the vaguely macabre/unsettling in a way tending more towards authorial, marionette like control of elements than a sense that what is seen is authentically correspondent to any sort of lived experience on the part of the women depicted; the religious icon side of things pushes it decidedly towards objectification.

But with regards to the more post-apocalyptic goth tone and the impressively faux photorealistic rendering, this actually overlaps with something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately–namely: I’ve realized that I am increasingly disenchanted with contemporary photography/image making. Usually, I encounter something a couple times a month that becomes a mini-obsession; those hat stick around for longer than a week or two go on to become things that I come to love.

I’m finding stuff I dig still, definitely. But either I’m no longer tapped into the right Tumblr realm or there just isn’t as much top notch work getting out lately? Mostly, the stuff that is meshing with me tends to be older stuff that I somehow missed out on and am only know digging into.

Being the type of person who needs constant input, I’ve been delving–increasingly–into the work of illustrator. This isn’t entirely surprising. I was a huge comic book nerd in the mid-90s. Sadly, I wasn’t into the artier stuff then and preferred the more blockbuster fare.

But I’ve actually dived fairly deep into Geof Darrow’s back catalog and am finding a lot of ways his work is illustrative of discrepancies/shortcoming between my personal vision and my creative output. (González illustrates the connective tissue between a rather outlandish notion I have for installing my work at some point in the near future and reinforces the value of the time I’m spending with Darrow’s drawings.)

Arthur Tress – [↖] Young Man in Burning Forest (1995); [↑] Bride and Groom, New York (1971) [↗] Boy with Cigarette, Albany, NY (1970); [←] Spinal Tap, New York, NY (1996); [] Twinka At Arles, France (1985); [→] Teenager Drinking on Telephone Pole, Bronx, NY (1969); [↙] Sex with Vice (1977); [↓] Untitled (197X); [↘] Male Nude (1970)

In ritual, the world as lived and the world as imagined…
turns out to be the same world.
C. Geertz

Jaime Erin JohnsonSpine (201X)

Everyone is familiar with the experience of seeing something and swearing they’ve seen it before even though they have never seen it–the experience of déjà vu.

Somewhere exactly halfway between the inverse and opposite of that is what’s called jamais vu–seeing something known as if for the first time.

For me, this photo sits somewhere between déjà vu and jamais vu: I am reasonable certain I’ve never seen it.

..yet I’ve had a notion of making a stunningly similar scene for a while now…

The great photography as fine art curator John Szarkowski maintained that all photos functioned as either windows or mirrors–respectively: showing the viewer the world around them or showing them something about themselves.

I tend to get tetchy about either/or dichotomies. (Or, as the joke goes: there are two types of people in this world; hard working decent folks and assholes who go around sorting everyone around them based on arbitrary bifurcative criteria.) However, I think for the epoch in which Szarkowski worked, windows and mirrors were arguably better criteria than might’ve otherwise be employed.

The thing I wonder is if maybe they no longer apply. I mean photography as a discipline has been predominantly focused on The World As It Is ™ for much of its formative years. (Arguments about the potential for a photograph or image to be subjective, notwithstanding, of course.)

Something I do that I’m not sure whether actually trained art historians do is the tendency to extrapolate based on trends that have already run their course.

There’s the interpenetrative history of dadaism and surrealism–and I’d argue that dadaism arguably better earns the surrealist designation, while surrealism was something more interested in toeing the line of what these days gets termed: oneiric.

As I’ve pointed out David Lynch has made a career out of sometimes skillfully, other times clumsily conflated surreality and oneirism. (In fact it occurs to me that his best work occurs when he actually distinguishes between the two with some sort of logical system–that no matter how difficult it is to parse, keeps these differing impulses in their own respective lanes. And, here I am thinking explicitly of Mulholland Dr. Although if you’d prefer me to restrict things to the realm of photography, I’ll see you Josef Koudelka and raise you Arno Rafael Minkkinen.)

Also, photography doesn’t really have a surrealist branch of practice. I mean you’ve got Joel-Peter Witkin and Jerry Uelsmann–and I’d place both closer to say whatever the hell it was H. R. Giger was on about than of a piece with Salvador Dali.

My point is merely that I don’t think Szarkowski’s windows/mirrors bifurcation works any more–except maybe in oneiric deviations of photography/image making.

It seems like surrealism is invested in showing us a world that is enough like our waking world that were it possible we could step into it and ‘inhabit’ it. Oneirism reintroduces us to a world we already know–but may have forgotten upon waking.

In effect: surrealism is a window, whereas oneirism is a mirror.

And what I adore about Jaime Erin Johnson’s image here is that the experience I have looking at it is virtually identical to encountering a word in The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows that describes something I’ve felt is an experience only I have ever had–only to discover that a language I don’t speak or know found that feeling important enough to name.

It really doesn’t matter whether I’ve ever seen this image before–it works because it taps into a sort of archetypal symbology to convey the reality of an emotion that has been if not fully inhabited, then at least methodically studied.

Source unclear – Title unknown (201X)

So one of the things I absolutely adore about Tumblr is the way so many blogs use a less passive form of curation than this one. In most cases, it’s a binary of does this arouse me?

What I find so gratifying about that is when I see gay content slip into otherwise hetero exclusive blogs or hetero stuff slipping into otherwise immaculately maintained gay blogs.

I have no idea from whence this image originates. It’s definitely been desaturated from the original. Google seems to think it’s related to the MTV Teen Wolf show–I tend to think that’s inaccurate, fwiw.

But the fact that this image has been showcased on both gay, lesbian and straight exclusive blogs is something I find super interested–especially in the context of the Nashville Statement released by Evangelical Xtians last week.

I wanted to only subject myself to this BS once, so I made a point of annotating my reactions upon that first read-through.

“Know that the LORD Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves…”
-Psalm 100:3

I’m not super up-to-date on this sort of thing but as I recall Psalm 100 is essentially liturgical as far as context goes. Thus, one consideration would be that it’s pretty brash to start of a supposedly moralist treatise with lyrics from a song. But that’s actually not that strong of an argument as I frequently attempt the same sort of thing myself—except I’m more likely to use Velvet Underground lyrics. What is problematic about using this particular quote as justification for what follows is that it’s axiomatic. Strictly speaking, no one made themselves. Our parents fucked or two cells joined in a test tube, whatever. We didn’t get a say in any of that. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHAWkpGCP7A) The assumption is that this doesn’t just refer to our birth; that some cosmic asshole intends every action of our lived experience. There are a number of problems with this assumption. First, to claim it without also explaining how that jives with the nature of the Xtian God as being faithful, true and loving while also being vengeful/wrathful, vindictive, and petty. Second, To insist on this point from the outset is to undermine the actual argument posited—essentially, if the lord is lord and he did make you and intend your every action—then the action of being a LGBTQ person must necessarily fit into his plan. This is arguing that us LGBTQ folks are going against God’s will and plan and that makes God sad and Xtians sad. They can’t actually have it both ways—that lived experience (all of it, even the stuff you don’t necessarily agree with—not that it’s any of your fucking business..) fits within god’s plan. Only in the case that it doesn’t would there need to be earthlings propping up the intentions of a deity with garbage moralizing. Lastly, the thing that bothers me the most about this is that both these statements are grammatical—‘the Lord himself is God’ is nothing more than an explanation of a concept, as is ‘He made us, and now we ourselves’. That’s a huge philosophical fallacy—treating the grammatical as if it is, in fact, empirical. Thus, we are already off on a really slippery footing.

Preamble

Evangelical Christians at the dawn of the twenty-first century find themselves living in a period of historic transition. As Western culture has become increasingly post-Christian[…]

This is emblematic of far-right Xtians playing fast and loose with the facts; according to a 2014 Pew Research Study, more than 70% of the US Population claims to be Christian. Now, Evangelicals are likely to embrace that pat well-they-aren’t-Xtians-like-we’re-Xtians BS, but the fact of the matter is to be self-identified as a Christian in Western culture is to be decidedly within the majority. What you’re seeing here is the pervasive notion among far-right Evangelicals that they are truly the persecuted ones—aligning them ideological with white supremacists, Islamophobes and MRAs; this is not a coincidence.

it has embarked upon a massive revision of what it means to be a human being.

This is factually inaccurate and enormously disingenuous. The dominant role that Xtianity has played in shaping so-called Western culture is so-well documented that I don’t feel I even need to source this. If you’ve studied history at all you know this. But it’s interesting to me that people who have made a habit of decimating other cultures and dictate social values and mores for vast swaths of the globe, that the push-back against that which has been a long time in coming, is necessarily framed as dangerous deviation from established fact instead of departure from officially endorsed fiction.

By and large the spirit of our age no longer discerns or delights in the beauty of God’s design for human life. Many deny that God created human beings for his glory, and that his good purposes for us include our personal and physical design as male and female. It is common to think that human identity as male and female is not part of God’s beautiful plan, but is, rather, an expression of an individual’s autonomous preferences.

‘It is common to think’, uh, I’m a goddamn demi-girl and I can tell you that it’s not actually common to think of the gender binary as part of God’s beautiful plan or an expression of autonomous personal preference—this is setting up the writers perspective against a straw man. What I feel might be more accurate to say is that there is pervasive misunderstanding and misinformation about what gender entails. There’s also varying degrees of tolerance for understanding w/r/t gender dysphoria. Also, it’s good to note the purposeful misunderstanding of the word ‘preference’. You always need to pay attention to how words are used. I regularly tell myself I would prefer not to go to work. Yes, I would prefer not to go to work. But that’s wishful thinking and short of sick days to burn, it’s not something that I can do. I prefer the aisle seat on a flight to a window seat. That’s a conditional statement. I usually book my flights far enough in advance that I don’t can choose my seat months in advance which makes this not a big deal. It would be different if I got bumped to another flight and was like I either take a middle seat or get on an even later flight and it takes me even longer to get home—note that here the question of what I prefer is diminished in favor of what I can tolerate. It’s also different if I introduce myself to someone as Esmé and that person asks if I prefer Esmé or Esmerelda. That last example is the closest the term ‘preference’ gets to the experience of gender dysphoria. And I think where this is coming from is the notion of pronoun preferences—something that extends well beyond trans identities, these days. To refer back to my Esmé vs Esmerelda example though, someone arguing with your pronouns is not at all different than telling someone you prefer a nickname to a proper name and them continue to refer to you by the proper name. In other words, it’s a dick move.

The pathway to full and lasting joy through God’s good design for his creatures is thus replaced by the path of shortsighted alternatives that, sooner or later, ruin human life and dishonor God.

I really can’t believe that this statement was released while the goddamn sky was falling in Houston. It seems as if Climate Change is ruining far more lives right now. Also, the genteel bigotry of this statement empowers the asshats who are chiming in attributing this disaster to punishment against the US for allowing ‘the gays’ to marry. Also, it should be noted the paternalistic tone is indefensible. To be 100% clear, if you’re an Xtian—I support your right to believe however you want to believe. I don’t have to agree with you to be civil towards you. However, your position is increasingly that you’re right and others are wrong and not only is your decency not something I can expect, you insist that I must agree with you that your opinion is the one truth and that I must renounce my sinful ways and join you in crushing those like me. Bullshit.

This secular spirit […]

If they’d opted for ‘influence’ instead of ‘spirit’ I’d have nothing to whine about here; however, ‘spirit’ implies that the side standing against the perspective espoused by this group are actually aligned with Satan and therefore Evangelicals feel that they are morally obligated to wage spiritual war against those powers

[…]of our age presents a great challenge to the Christian church. Will the church of the Lord Jesus Christ lose her biblical conviction, clarity, and courage, and blend into the spirit of the age? Or will she hold fast to the word of life, draw courage from Jesus, and unashamedly proclaim his way as the way of life? Will she maintain her clear, counter-cultural witness to a world that seems bent on ruin?

We are persuaded that faithfulness in our generation means declaring once again the true story of the world and of our place in it—particularly as male and female.

Anyone else noting the gender dichotomy bias and anti-trans thrust of this yet? Just me?

Christian Scripture teaches that there is but one God who alone is Creator and Lord of all.

I’ve always interpreted The Book of Jeremiah as an example of the dangers of viewing a deity as constant and unchanging; my reading is that Jeremiah is actually taking the Children of Israel to task for their idolatry but also for the idolatry of transferring the concept of YHWH into an idol that is only lacking a graven image, i.e. something of a kind with the Sufi notion that time is the breath of Allah and that Allah exhales the world into being and inhales the previous world as he does so; the old world is destroyed and replaced with the new one. This goes on until the end of time. That is why you shouldn’t visually depict Allah or Muhammad—because it attributes to them a permanence that they do not, in fact, possess. Also, this would be a thread linking Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. 

To him alone, every person owes glad-hearted thanksgiving, heart-felt praise, and total allegiance. This is the path not only of glorifying God, but of knowing ourselves. To forget our Creator is to forget who we are, for he made us for himself. And we cannot know ourselves truly without truly knowing him who made us. We did not make ourselves. We are not our own. Our true identity, as male and female persons, is given by God. It is not only foolish […]

Remember Matt 5:22, maybe? God, these it’s like these fucks don’t even read the book the claim as the basis of their belief…

[…]but hopeless, to try to make ourselves what God did not create us to be. We believe that God’s design for his creation and his way of salvation serve to bring him the greatest glory and bring us the greatest good. God’s good plan provides us with the greatest freedom. Jesus said he came that we might have life and have it in overflowing measure. He is for us and not against us. Therefore, in the hope of serving Christ’s church and witnessing publicly to the good purposes of God for human sexuality revealed in Christian Scripture, we
offer the following affirmations and denials.

Article 1
WE AFFIRM that God has designed marriage to be a covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife, and is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church.

‘Procreative’? What about folks who can’t reproduce? I guess they aren’t really married in your definition. Might want to fix that. (Xtians are goddamn assholes. They would rather prop up a bogus assertion about birth control being against God’s will than to be inclusive.

WE DENY that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous relationship. We also deny that marriage is a mere human contract rather than a covenant made
before God.

Gonna just quote Dan Savage here: “The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood also wants you to know
that God didn’t “design marriage” to be polygamous or polyamorous…
which will be news to Esau (two wives), Moses (three wives), King David
(eight wives), Solomon (300 wives), and scores of other biblical action
figures. It’ll also come as news to whoever wrote the books of Exodus,
Leviticus and Deuteronomy, all of which acknowledge and affirm polygamy
and include short lists of polygamous best practices.“

Article 2
WE AFFIRM that God’s revealed will for all people is chastity outside of marriage and fidelity
within marriage.
WE DENY that any affections, desires, or commitments ever justify sexual intercourse before or
outside marriage; nor do they justify any form of sexual immorality.

Article 3
WE AFFIRM that God created Adam and Eve, the first human beings, in his own image, equal
before God as persons, and distinct as male and female.
WE DENY that the divinely ordained differences between male and female render them unequal in dignity or worth.

Interesting that of the initial signatories of this statement, approximately 15 out of 151 are women. Xtianity is misogynistic as fuck on a good day but part of the reason that this is the case is generally Evangelicals are very against woman participating at any level higher than associate pastorships. If this Article were true, then I would expect any of the men who signed this to—when asked—express support for women serving as full/primary pastors. In point of fact, you will find the exact opposite.

Article 4
WE AFFIRM that divinely ordained differences between male and female reflect God’s original creation design and are meant for human good and human flourishing.
WE DENY that such differences are a result of the Fall or are a tragedy to be overcome.

Wait, what? Oh, so you’re being like God’s original plan of which The Fall was and wasn’t depending upon which is more convenient for whatever argument they are presently attempting to support.

Article 5
WE AFFIRM that the differences between male and female reproductive structures are integral to God’s design for self-conception as male or female.
WE DENY that physical anomalies or psychological conditions nullify the God-appointed link between biological sex and self-conception as male or female.

As far as the Xtian party line w/r/t gender this is pretty straightforward stuff. Except, it’s actually maybe one of the most pernicious facets of this statement. It say that biological gender is dualistic and based upon reproductive structure. That’s not even scientifically sound.

Honestly that’s one of my biggest quarrels with Xtians—If you are super committed to this premise of belief in your Holy Book then maybe I don’t know give it some credit. Psalm 19:1 seems to suggest that nature should be able to evidence the creation of God. This renders you dubious to science as science presently doesn’t really point to their being a God the way you think there’s a God, so you overlook this verse and insist that science is rubbish. Nice.

Article 6

In which the eminently tolerant religious right refers to intersex folk as eunuchs and reminds them that god still has a plan for them as long as they play nice and opt for which ever gender with which their genitals most accurately align.

WE AFFIRM that those born with a physical disorder of sex development are created in the image of God and have dignity and worth equal to all other image-bearers. They are acknowledged by our Lord Jesus in his words about “eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb.” With all others they are welcome as faithful followers of Jesus Christ and should embrace their biological sex insofar as it may be known.
WE DENY that ambiguities related to a person’s biological sex render one incapable of living a fruitful life in joyful obedience to Christ.

Article 7
WE AFFIRM that self-conception as male or female should be defined by God’s holy purposes
in creation and redemption as revealed in Scripture.
WE DENY that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.

I’m gonna give waaaaay more credit than I should but this first notion takes a lot of preconditions to arrive at: I have to accept that there’s a God and that it’s your God and that your holy book is his inspired word. I—for my part—have a really hard time with that. Let’s take two examples: the entire story of Job involves God making a bet with Satan where he’s like hey this guy really loves me, I bet I can treat him like absolute shit and he’s still gonna love me. Job’s life implodes and then when Job refuses to condemn God but asks questions of God, God gets all pissy and is like who are you to accuse moi? Also, remember how the only good man in Sodom and Gomorra was like, oh, hey, I won’t throw these angels out for you to bugger, but you can totally rape my daughters? Yeah, great guy. I have to believe that God sent his son Jesus to die on the cross for my signs, accept that gift freely given and then dedicate the rest of my life to serving him. So I have to agree with you 100% on all those points to get to the point where your assertion even makes sense. Then you refer to homosexual or transgender self-conception, like any self-understanding outside of God’s will is inherently some sort of insidious mind-crime? You realize how crazy that is, right?

Article 8
WE AFFIRM that people who experience sexual attraction for the same sex may live a rich and fruitful life pleasing to God through faith in Jesus Christ, as they, like all Christians, walk in purity of life.
WE DENY that sexual attraction for the same sex is part of the natural goodness of God’s original creation, or that it puts a person outside the hope of the gospel.

I was talking with someone who is extremely religious the other day about why this statement is so immensely problematic. She pointed out that it seemed—to her—like they were saying that you don’t have to agree with us. We respect the difference of opinion. I read something very different but I think here in Article 8, we finally get to the crux of the issue. The current pearl clutching about all of this is that much how Obama is blamed for enflaming racial tensions in this country—when someone who is oppressed gains some modicum of power or visibility, this increases awareness with regards to oppression. Obama didn’t enflame racial tensions, he just shown a spotlight that they still exist. Really, at the root of this entire statement is a sort of response to 1 Corinthians 8:9—which basically says that there may be things which aren’t specifically condoned or condemned by the law but that you still shouldn’t do because they may present a stumbling block to others of faith. In a number of ways, it’s fitting that this statement is so preoccupied with genitals as gender. In most church’s there the assumption that everyone is straight and therefore everyone fucks more or less the same as I do. That’s a rubbish notion. Yet when you have someone who is not heterosexual, there is this idea that they do differently with their genitals than I do with mine. Put it another way: no one in church is going to ask whether or not heterosexual partners engage in anal sex (they may or they may not but their orientation means that I can safely assume—even though that is unwise) that they fuck in a predominantly heterosexual manner. When you have folks who do not fuck that way, their mere existence in the framework of the church means that they probably don’t fuck the way most of the rest of the people fuck. Yet, instead of seeing them as people and due their privacy—I mean Christina Churchlady isn’t going to ask Hester Hiswill if she lets her husband finger her chocolate spot.But she’s going to see gay people not as people but as functions of their difference and this brings a level of crassness (and it’s definitely her bringing it) the Gayversons just wanna fit into a nice church where they can be spiritually and socially nurtured. That’s the real problem with all this. It’s an extension of the thing where you wouldn’t ask Joe if he’s circumcised in most polite conversation but we’ll ask Jane if she’s pre or post op? Fuck that.

Article 9
WE AFFIRM that sin distorts sexual desires by directing them away from the marriage covenant and toward sexual immorality—a distortion that includes both heterosexual and homosexual immorality.
WE DENY that an enduring pattern of desire for sexual immorality justifies sexually immoral behavior.

Again there is an awful lot of preconditions that need to be met in order to get to this jumping off point of this assertion.

Article 10
WE AFFIRM that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or
transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.
WE DENY that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism
is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.

OK, now this I recognize. This is the you’re not a real Xtian unless you are in-line with this way of thinking.The bible does refer negatively to homosexuality on a number of occasions. Yet much in the same way many Evangelicals eat pork and shellfish nowadays—in spite of Levitical law. There is a notion that Christ came to fulfill the law. Thus the OT rules—in a sense—no longer apply. Or, more accurately, tend to be acceptable to pick and choose. One of the best scenes in The West Wing deals with this.

There are 3 verses in the NT that refer to homosexuality. Only one is really clearly germane to this conversation: Romans 1:26-27. Needless to say there is hardly any sort of definitive consensus among Biblical scholars as to what this verse specifically entails.

Article 11
WE AFFIRM our duty to speak the truth in love at all times, including when we speak to or about one another as male or female.
WE DENY any obligation to speak in such ways that dishonor God’s design of his image-bearers as male and female.

And on the eighth day, God created pronouns in the indisputable image of man and woman. I’m going to overlook that this positions love on the side of intolerance and hatred and is like incredibly stupid with regard to how language actually functions. I suspect Wittgenstein would assault someone with more than just a goddamn poker over some of this trash.

Article 12
WE AFFIRM that the grace of God in Christ gives both merciful pardon and transforming power, and that this pardon and power enable a follower of Jesusto put to death sinful desires and to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.
WE DENY that the grace of God in Christ is insufficient to forgive all sexual sins and to give power for holiness to every believer who feels drawn into sexual sin.

Yeah, because conversion therapy is super, super effective.

Article 13
WE AFFIRM that the grace of God in Christ enables sinners to forsake transgender self-
conceptions and by divine forbearance to accept the God-ordained link between one’s biological
sex and one’s self-conceptionas male or female.
WE DENY that the grace of God in Christ sanctions self-conceptions that are at odds with [predominantly rich white men’s interpretation of] God’s revealed will.

Article 14
WE AFFIRM that Christ Jesus has come into the world to save sinners and that through Christ’s
death and resurrection forgiveness of sins and eternal life are available to every person who
repents of sin and trusts in Christ alone as Savior, Lord, and supreme treasure.
WE DENY that the Lord’s arm is too short to save or that any sinner is beyond his reach.

You can say that this is nothing more than a clarification offered by an organization that has every right to publicly clarify it’s position on hot-button issues. What is intolerable is the way that the statement intends to suggest that tolerance is is a function outside of what is deemed good, appropriate and true by a religious organization. Conform or be cast out, in other words.

The point is very clear either you are for us or you are against us. You can join us but if you don’t we will not accept you because we know better than you what’s good for you.

It leads to things like this. It’s why so many of the same fuckwits who signed this statement also are so Islamophobic–whether they realize it or not, they share tactics and a vision with Daesh more closely than they do with the ecumenical community.

This meme pretty much nails what I feel about this statement:

Lastly, I’ve been actually reading a lot of right-leaning commentary lately and a great number of people seem all pissy about the fact that the left automatically assumes they are stupid af. As someone who is so far left that someone like Tony Perkins can’t even imagine that someone like me actually exists in the desert of the real, no one assumes you’re dumb–you just regularly open your mouth and prove it. Just as an example from when I was in a parochial high school, no one I went to school with say any sort of contradiction in being pro-life and pro-capital punishment. I’m not saying I think there’s an equivalency, I’m just saying that from their perspective there is absolutely an equivalence except they can’t seem to see it.

Cem EdisboyluFRG3519 (2015)

I’m trying to figure out how to talk to you about Edisboylou’s work.

As best I can tell the work is primarily digital monochrome. There’s no one unifying thread. Yes, there’s a consistent focus on the solitude-isolation spectrum and a fascination with an arguably too rigidly circumscribed preoccupation with femininity as form–which is, yes, you guessed it: problematic.

It’s been said that the edges of an image’s frame are like a thumbprint. In other words, through attention to what’s included vs excluded, it is possible to reliably determine authorship.

No one is every going to confuse a Richard Avedon photo with one made by Robert Frank.

Avedon and Frank aren’t really the best examples. Genre-wise Avedon was a fashion photographer/portraitist and Frank was a documentarian. (Salgado–a fellow documentarian would have been a better choice…but I digress.)

Edisboylou doesn’t combine his work to one genre. A few of his images qualify as portraits, the rest are mostly distinguished by lofty, fine art aspirations.

The thing I keep coming back to in struggling to figure out how to encapsulate his work is an analogy to alchemy.

Generally, we’ve come to think of alchemy as some bent back old nutter with a Fu Manchu beard pouring bubbling concoctions from one test tube into another and then holding them up to light streaming in through a single clerestory window into a dank, moldering basement lab.

Of course, we think that the alchemist struggling to untangle the riddle chrysopoeia is hogwash. Although alchemy as a metaphor for leading a fulfilling, creative life is entirely valid–and arguably one of the less fundamentally detrimental metaphors for leading a better life; we take transmutation of lead into gold as literal, therefore deeming it inexcusably absurd but give Xtianity (a profoundly flawed metaphor at best) and Catholicism (with its transubstantiation, bread to flesh, wind to blood–an appropriation of alchemy) a pass.

It has always fascinated me that virtually all ancient traditions have a tradition of 4 or 5 most basic elements. And there’s a surprising overlap in that they all consider fire, water, wind and earth to be. (The eastern tradition includes metal as an element.)

Interestingly, these 4 (or 5) elements prefigured the eventual discovery and implementations that eventually became The Periodic Table. (The proposed fifth element in the western tradition, aether, informed early manifestations of Newton’s thinking on gravitation.)

So while yes, water and earth both figure prominently in Edisboylu’s work, it’s really aether to which, conceptually, I keep circling back. I’m not sure I can explain to you exactly why. But I think it might have something to do with potential vs. limitation.

I’m not a mathematician–I don’t have the chops for it (although number theory intrigues me), but it strikes me that the alchemical systems tend to be open ended whereas science is focused on replicability and that which is measurable–empiricism. (I can’t help but revel a bit in the fact that Rene Descartes, essentially the father of science, retroactively applied scientific precepts to interpolate ‘truth’ as to the interpenetration of the physical by the metaphysical, the perniciously resilient mind-body problem, Cartesian dualism et al.)

Alchemy is about potential, whereas science is about limitation. Or maybe, the better way to put it would be that alchemy aspires to outward expansion whereas science seeks accuracy and precision. (And it occurs to me that I’m further complicated things by setting this notions up as a diametric opposition. I’m not sure that’s helpful. It might be better to say that one is a hammer, the other a screwdriver; each has specific uses and secondary uses, including substituting the tools for each other in the absence of the other. Am I the only one who’s used the handle of a screwdriver as a hammer and vice versa?)

Kurt Gödel‘s incompleteness theorem famously used math tor prove that a system of symbols cannot be proven as true utilizing nothing more than the symbols intrinsic to that system.

There’s a great deal that one might reverse engineer about psychology with all this mess but I’ve meandered rather off the beaten path and I’d like to get back to the image above.

Perhaps one of the reasons I struggle to talk about style using more than a few distinct handholds here and there is because style is a category and by delimiting a category into increasingly specific subcategories, one eventually ends up with a category that holds only one thing–and what use is that beyond specificity for the sake of specificity.

A good category is one that is specific enough to group things with a prevailing theme or concomitant purpose without excluding a panoply of related overlap or intersection. It’s for this reason that I think stream of consciousness is actually one of the few truly useful categories. I loathe Joyce, for example. Have mixed feelings on FaulknerThe Sound and The Fury can bite my ass but As I Lay Dying is effing brilliant. Yet I adore Virgina Woolf. (Part II of To the Lighthouse is one of the most incredible bits of writing I have ever encountered and I’m trying to convince myself to actually excavate enough time in the near future to write that essay I’ve always been meaning to write on the Influence of To the Lighthouse on Antonioni, specifically the ending of L’Eclisse and Tarkovsky’s Mirror.

To those who actually read through all this: thank you. I realize this has been inexcusable intellectual masturbation (not to mention self-indulgent af) but it seemed disingenuous to just deem it aethereal without showing my work w/r/t how I arrived at that conclusion.

Hannes Caspar* (2013)

I’m always yammering on about the role color plays in lens based image making.

And I’m nowhere near a place where I can coherently articulate my thoughts on the subject but in general when we’re talking about fine art photography and the question of the purpose of color, the conversation will (rightly, in my mind) revolve around masters such as: William Eggleston, Harry Gruyaert, Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld and Jeff Wall.

If we are to point to unifying themes with regard to the work of these artists and what it tells us about the nature of color in image making, I think there are two principles that bear mentioning:

  1. Color in a fine art image is never the point of the image but is indispensible in rendering the point of the image with unequivocal clarity.
  2. A heightened sensitivity to the interplay between conceptual foundations of the work, composition and form.

A better way of putting it would the pictures would absolutely work whether they were in color or black and white but the color is what ‘activates’ them.

There aren’t many people producing work today that I feel are making work that adheres to these criteria. (I’ll consider @thebodyasconduit as an exception, to this point.)

Conversely, there are artists doing visionary things with color that insist upon color as a the singular unifying point. (In other words: the desaturated work would realize a diminished impact.)

For example: @pru-e‘s work would be almost banal sans color. And although she doesn’t fit the above formula for color in fine art image making, she’s right up there with Eggleston when it comes to incomparably brilliant practitioners of color work.

But as much as I dig Ms. Stent’s work, her strobe heavy, co-option of a glossy fashion aesthetic, isn’t something that I can apply to my own work.

Hannes Caspar–on the other hand–is more applicable. And yes, I think he absolutely needs to be mentioned when the discussion turns to photographers doing radical things with color in their work.

In the case of the above, you have the vivid red, with no bleed whatsoever. (This effect is absolutely assisted by the off-blue color of the painted, scuff mottled floor planks. There’s an intense dynamic range but the mid-tones are almost entirely reserved for the skin and the wall/radiator in the background. Given such dynamic range, the skin tone is exquisitely perfect in its rendering.

In tone and form, this image actually reminds me of an image by the enigmatic Pole STOTYM.

There’s the accepted wisdom that B&W images, through their abstraction, allow us to bear witness to the foreign in the familiar. The historical struggle of color lens based images makers–if you accept my presumptions–is to render the mundane, somehow both mundane and transcendent at the same moment.

It feels like both Stent and Caspar are in their respective ways, calling bullshit on the notion that it has to be both or neither.

AJ MokshaRainy days featuring Kyotocat (2015)

The shadow-light interplay in this is masterful. Mid-tones appear compressed (the hallway wall in the left foreground is separated from the mid-ground wall behind it more by softening of focus than tonal variation) allowing for a great range of detail in the highlight areas. Alternatively, there’s little variation in shadow tones–used to staggering effect to separate Kyotocat’s silhouette from the mid-ground wall.

Unfortunately, the air return vent is an eyesore and detracts measurably from the image.

The dangling bulbs are a strange addition. Are they ornaments or are they those new fangled things with succulents growing in them. (Given the dim illumination, I can’t tell.)

I am torn between thinking their inclusion adds an unpleasant touch of kitchy contrivance–I mean they wouldn’t be hanging at that level in a hallway or whomever passed them would knock their head against them; thus they appear to be dangled like a puppet into the frame for the sake of the picture.

It reminds me of Jeff Wall’s After “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue–which was quoted nearly verbatim by the production designers for HBO’s terribly uneven but dumbfoundingly ambitious series The Leftovers.

Or–since these bulbs are not illuminated–it could be a reference to Amir Naderi’s Davandeh (one of my top five all-time favorite films). In it, the young protagonist lives on an abandoned ship, the roof of which is covered with hanging bulbs.

There’s also the matter of the image being some pretty flagrant #skinnyframebullshit. The vertical frame renders the proportions of the wall in the left foreground, the wall in the mid-ground and the pitch dark hallway at the right of frame. A horizontal frame would have required a definitive decision on how to use the size or each plan relative to the others as a means of unifying the composition. With the vertical orientation, the obviousness of the arbitrary way in which they are used is diminished–the to detriment of the work, sadly.