Girls Delta – Untitled feat. Rio Kakizaki (2017)

Parallax refers to the way different viewpoints change the way something is seen.

This image is staged so the viewer is allowed access to a personal/private moment under the guise of experiencing someone elses POV.

With mirrored reflections–it’s almost always an either/or situation: either the subject sees their reflection ideally or things are cheated to favor the cameras access to the ideal reflection.

Given the position of the mirror above, this is cheated to privilege the camera. In other words, despite the fiction it purports–i.e. that Kakizaki is curiously checking out her own genitalia in the mirror–it is unlikely that given the position and placement of everything that she’s got any sort of instructional view.

Thus, to the extent that this image might give someone permission to embrace curiosity about their body, I think it’s useful.

To the extent that it shrouds its voyeurism by co-opting a woman’s curiosity about her own body, it’s critically and conceptually underdeveloped and lazily executed.

@deluckas13untitled (2017)

Do something for me: use your hand to block the two finger tips you can barely see in the upper left corner. See how this renders the picture almost cartoonish in it’s exaggeration.

Remove your hand. See how that creates a tension where the cartoonish is constrained by a sense of equal and opposite resisting pressure.

I think there’s a valuable lesson here not only about the dynamics of dramatic composition but also about creative expression. Playing to your strengths fails to have the same effect once you remove them from their inter-penetrative connection with your limitations, shortcomings and weaknesses.

Chris Maher0876 Two Nude Women Abstract Vulval BW Photograph (2013)

One of the things I dig about photography/image making is that although I wouldn’t argue the form is inherently egalitarian, the line separating streamlined visual simplicity and lazy/creatively bankrupt work is an ultra fine one.

I think Maher’s work is actually 98% trash. And I wouldn’t say this is necessarily good–there’s some spill on the floor behind the left thigh of the rearmost subject which really should’ve been flagged off in order to underscore the interplay between bodies and landscape style abstraction.

It’s perhaps a bit essentializing but the simplicity of it and the clitoral piercing belonging to the subject closer to the camera manage to strengthen the tension between abstraction and concrete representation.

I think there’s arguably a way to take this general premise–stretch and otherwise complicate and enliven it so that it’s more than a simple (or, in this case, most likely lazy) meditation on form that is simultaneously tawdrily titillating.

Ofer DabushUntitled (2017)

This is the fourth time I’ve featured Dabush’s work in ten months.

His work emphasizes an astute attention to the interplay between colors, an impeccable sense of composition as a mode of graphic design as well as a stripped bare minimalism as act of visceral confrontation–a confection as intriguing as it is intoxicating.

The struggle that I’m beginning to have with his work, however; is that I see him leaning heavily on experiments other photographers and image makers have already done a lot of heavy lifting on.

We all borrow and remix–there’d be no art or creative expression without those acts. Yet, who Dabush borrows so assiduously from is a bit more problematic.

One of my previous posts was meant to point out that several recent pieces of his might as well be direct visual quotes from Prue Stent. He’s also posted work highly reminiscent of Laurence Philomene’s. The above is of a kind with the predominant thrust of Joanne Leah’s work from the last several years.

I keep thinking of Watson and Crick vs. Rosalind Franklin. If you’re a science nerd, you’ll probably know this story already but Watson and Crick had been researching DNA but were more or less stuck. Someone introduced them to the work of Rosalind Franklin–who had discovered that DNA was arranged in a double helix formation. Watson and Crick realized that the discovery was huge and rushed to publish it, so they could stake their claim to it. It’s only recently that the two thieving bastards are started being treated as such and Franklin is only just beginning to receive her due.

Not saying that Dabush is necessarily stealing. (Correction: he 100% is in the case of Prue Stent, the rest are more nuanced and I believe given the rationale that it’s not stealing if you take something and make it better–I do think he is pushing the things he’s borrowing from other artists in meritorious directions. But it is still somewhat off putting to see a cisgender dude seemingly target the work of up and coming women artists.

Source unknown – Title unknown (201X)

This is almost certainly an homage to Nobuyoshi Araki’s 1993 Erotos series. (Araki is someone about whom I have entirely mixed feelings; yet even I can admit the series is something special.)

I’ve thought about just leaving it there but it occurs to me that there’s a parallel between this and Greta Gerwig’s directoral debut Lady Bird–which is also something truly special.

If you don’t really follow cinema, Gerwig has made a name for herself as both an astute and incisive actress as well as a startlingly original writer–she co-wrote and played the titular roles in Noah Baumbach’s Frances HA and Mistress America.

Anyway, Lady Bird is every bit as good as you’ve heard. Yes, it’s gallingly lily white. And as much as diversity and inclusion are of crucial importance, Lady Bird aces the Bechdel test in a way that few other things have had the audacity to even consider.

In fairness, I should also confess my own bias: as someone who went to a parochial school (and had much the same relationship to it that Lady Bird does), who felt stultified in my mid-Atlantic, white bread hometown; further, as someone who managed to escape that town by gaining admission to a prestigious liberal arts program, the story was unnervingly resonant for me. (Also, it was like a peak at what my life might have been like if I’d grown up female–as a trans girl, it made me feel seen in a way that I’ve never experienced in my life, if that makes sense.)

Anyway, minimal spoilers ahead: there are three scenes in Lady Bird that run parallel to this image: In the first, Lady Bird (portrayed with an utterly incandescent lack of self-consciousness and vulnerability by the staggeringly talented Saoirse Ronan) is laying on the floor at her prestigious catholic school next to her best friend. They are both on their backs with their legs propped up against the wall snacking on pilfered communion wafers.

The viewer joins the scene en media res and while it’s clear they are talking about using the faucet in the tub to masturbate–their candor is intriguing. Lady Bird is trying to seem cool and worldly, but it’s her friend that actually centers the conversation in the politics of self-pleasure not as an exercise in social conformity but as a means of enjoyment. There is nothing salacious or even remotely titillating about the scene.  It’s solely focused on the way teenage girls talk about their experiences of being embodied with each other employing a guileless openness and trust.

But like everything in the movie, the jokes are polysemous–frequently doubling as self-deprecating asides directed to the audience, who is given the advantage of something closer to third person author omniscences w/r/t the narrative.

During a later scene, the viewer is shown the faucet of a tub. A bare leg enters the frame and braces against the pink tile beside the faucet. It’s clear that it’s Lady Bird’s leg due to the pastel polish on her toenails. It doesn’t hold on the shot. It’s presented matter-of-factly, devoid of any lecherous voyuerism–however, in the context of it’s function as a call back it’s honesty is thorougly disarming.

In a scene approaching the end, Lady Bird is called into the Mother Superior’s office–ostensibly for disciplinary proceedings. The nun, however, is far more interested in the psychology than the behavior. She tells Lady Bird that she was impressed with the way she describes Sacramento in such vibrant detail in her college admission essay that she seems as if she rather loves the place. (An on-going joke in the movie is how she considers the city the mid-west of California.) So it’s surprising for both her and the viewer to hear this interpretation.

Lady Bird realizes her typical brusqueness on the subject will not be well met, so she–brilliantly–counters with: I guess I just pay attention to things.

Without missing a beat the nun responds: some might say that loving something and paying attention are, in fact, the same thing.

I keep returning to what the nun said: paying attention and loving are two manifestation for the same underlying truth.

But back to the image–because no matter all the extraneous stuff I routinely throw at you to try to keep your attention–the reason you read this is because it’s supposed to relate to the work showcased.

I won’t argue that this is a good image. At the very least: it isn’t an image that’s easy to immediately digest. You look at it. Think wait. Did I see that right? Look again. Yes, it’s what I thought it was the first time. Wait, are you sure? Look again.

It occurs to me that the image above is erotic only in so far as it invites sustained attention–even if it’s only decoding how things are oriented in the frame. And to me that suggests a potentially worthwhile framework for disguishing pornography, from erotica, from art. Porngraphy is a specific text in framed in a more generalized context–heteronormative patriarchal expectations with regard to libido, lust and physical intimacy. Erotica is less focused on the specificity of the given text and more concerned with the expansive context. Whereas, art, is–in some ways–entirely focused on the marginalia expounded and clarifying the relationship and interpenetration between text and context.

There’s a saying that the mind is the body’s largest erogenous zone. The only way to stimulate the mind is by paying attention–by loving.