I am at the Frieze Art Fair
on May 18, 2013 and it’s
raining on the inflatable
Paul McCarthy sculpture
of Jeff Koons’ balloon dog.
I’m looking at a painting
by Monica Majoli,
at complex forms rendered
in shadow and the geometry
of available flesh,
dissolution of youth in the dark,
this opening in me like a wound
without recourse to a mend
is totally Frieze.
Frieze is like those jobs
that say you’ll be compensated
commensurate with experience.
How many times have I read that
as “commiserate,” thinking
we might “weigh in”
together to express sympathy
for my having to beg them
to pay me a living wage, itself a term
so vexed in its little assertion
of a metaphysics of cash,
the negative Eucharist of David Brazil,
it hurls me further
into whatever anally-tiny
rabbit hole I’ve already found myself
crawling down, toward
a demon rabbit with a Koch Brother’s face.
The number of times reverses me
into ecstasies, crucified on the cross
of precarious employment
but in so less royally
a martyrdom I am rent
anonymous by it.
Frieze is kind of like that,
except it’s about buying art,
which I can’t do.
And writing about it
is so much worse,
so I’ve been reading
Bruce Hainley to get away
from “the process” of doing so.
Bruce is the LA-based art critic
and poet who writes so well
about artists a lot of us
don’t pay much attention to,
like Lee Lozano. She
was so pissed off
at the corporate art world
she threw it away,
left New York after a dispute
over her rent with her landlord
in a final piece called Dropout.
She more or less spent the rest of her life
living a single, continuous event
as someone totally outside
of the art world, more or less
reclaiming the space that surrounds it,
redoubled in sequestration
of the suburbs where how many of us originate,
she the suburbs of Texas, me
the suburbs of Florida, Monica Majoli
the generalized suburb Los Angeles.
I’m reading Bruce’s writing in Pep Talk,
a little art mag produced somewhere,
I can’t tell where from its website,
but probably LA,
where everything cool
comes from to die back east.
Ben Fama lent it to me
one afternoon after I quoted this from a blogpost of Bruce’s in an email to him: “I like pros, especially when it comes to tennis and rent boys”—and here I’m really wondering if the pun on prose consolidates Bruce’s feeling toward it versus poetry under the sign of sex, which Bruce suggests he pays for, in order to direct us toward the pleasure of its use-function when monetized, a pleasure seldom associated with poetry, and one that might lead to the company of more pros. He continues: “If I can get a twofer, and the trick looks like Rafael Nadal, I’m in heaven.”
I’m so in heaven
when I Google image Rafael Nadal,
and find him radiating solar joy
on the front page of nytimes.com
after having just advanced in some open
I’ve already forgotten the name of,
proving to us
that the champions
of the world
still wear jockey shorts.
I might even collapse in a heap
he’s so hot. Bruce
has been everywhere
in my life recently. Last night,
I went to a party
and ran into Alan Gilbert.
We discussed Bruce’s
really great new piece
on Monica Majoli in Artforum.
Bruce starts with this description
of Michael Jackson, whose death
spiked such an inarticulate
slush of feeling,
of feeling so sick to my
stomach when a friend
called me to tell me the news
while I was walking down Magazine
Street in New Orleans.
I almost threw up
and had to sit down. Bruce writes: “Forgoing outright atrocity, of which there is so much—too much—right now, aren’t the ‘life,’ ‘body,’ and ‘face’ of Michael Jackson in the running for some of the most abstract events of the last century? (I use the tweezers of scare quotes to approach each of those precarious terms because I’m not certain I could handle them at all otherwise.) ‘His’ face and its occlusion, in the final years, when any nose he had was entirely prosthetic (not to mention the permanent eyeliner and chemical bleaching), became a brutal inversion of all the solar joy he beamed as a young performer—that is, when his face appeared at all, since he was prone to wearing what appeared to be a niqab, ‘transgendering’ his complicated presence as much as cloaking it. I’m bringing up Jackson’s ‘desire,’ every bit as abstract as it was intractable, because his ‘desire’ strikes me as even more elusive and imponderable, although many during his lifetime supposed they understood what he repressed or compensated for, even if a fundamental component of whatever his desire might have been remained the sense that he seemed constitutionally uncoupled (and uncouplable).”
Wow, right?
Monica’s work is really great.
In particular this crucifixion-like
scene of a BDSM orgy
in which one subject
is hung up on a cross of boys
who pleasure him:
one boy is half-burying
his face in Christ’s ass,
and another boy has the tip
of Christ’s cock dipped in his mouth.
I guess I like Monica’s painting
for the ecstasy in which Christ finds himself
nailed to a cross by bodies who desire him,
subjugating fear, this physical imposition
of desire that restrains him
and through which he finds himself
desirable. S/M frees you
to a sex without romance,
formats desire on these interpersonal axes that belie
the fantasy that drives it,
our interaction matches
a preset system of behaviors
which we are already aware of,
introducing within its grid
a notational set of inputs
that activate certain desired
outputs. Nothing is veiled
in order to forefront
the point of the act
in the first place, and
from this the world’s
primal motion is set onward—
So, like, I know I like
to get tied down
and jerked off and for my partner,
that’s really, really clear,
you know? Frieze
is kind of like that, too,
totally honest
about its tradeshow quality,
even if that honesty betrays an unhappiness
not quite depressed in its paralyzed tears
but certainly deprived of recourse
to the promissory world of liberation
it might have once suggested.
Flow my tears,
the painter said. Or as Majoli once wrote, “I only paint actual experiences, not fantasies. Within that I elaborate and alter things in the environment, but the activities and the rooms and objects in the interiors are ‘factual.’ So in this way I view the paintings as documentary, as a way for me to memorialize events and relationships. The male sex scenes began when a close friend of mine started to go to underground piss parties and became increasingly involved with S/M sex. I had always been fascinated by his anonymous encounters with men. I envied the nonverbal quality and the absolute sexual abandon of his experiences. AIDS confused all this—and I began to wonder about this decision to pursue this despite the consequences. I understood his desire to ‘connect’ through sex regardless of the cost. I viewed these paintings as religious, although I still can’t explain this. As I continued to paint I slowly realized that I was identifying, uncomfortably so, withthe masochist in the composition. I switched reluctantly to images of myself when I fell deeply in love with a woman and felt compelled to paint her after our relation- ship ended. These autobiographical paintings all involve dildos. Right now, I’m working on a round painting in which I’m fucking myself with one dildo while sucking on a double-headed dildo. The feeling I want to express is of a huge emptiness and isolation. I haven’t figured out why dildos are the central ‘props’ in those paintings. I think it has to do with this false tool—that the mind wants to make real. Using a fake device to try to communicate with a lover or comfort oneself—so in a way this communication or connection is ultimately doomed. The body fragments are self-portraits which I began when I first painted the scenes. In this way I felt it was like a conversation between the intimacy of the details and the voyeuristic, removed quality of the scenes. I feel that both bodies of work concern the same issues—the body fragments address mortality and vulnerability more directly. I chose parts of the body that seemed particularly fragile. The parts are either cut or in a state of exposure to describe the perils of love and simultaneously, the compulsion to love.”
I’m no longer sitting in a café
in Brooklyn, texting James La Marre,
listening to Ariel Pink’s
“Symphony of a Nymph,”
writing about Monica Majoli.
It’s no longer late spring,
surprisingly brisk
for this rainy mid-May. I guess
I’m so over “it,”
another season’s change
so vexed its character is essentially
meaningless in its punishing irregularity,
over even the famous path of trees
that line Eastern Parkway,
where I sat texting below
the lush panoply
of sky slinking
over the concrete
and the simple matter
surrounding me
that congealed into
the comfort of natural objects,
in this case 1,100 American Elms,
that dimensionalize the reality
we interface with
into a thing we really
should be fighting
much harder to save.
I texted Ben,
I texted Kate,
I called my mom,
and yet the simplicity of these actions
failed to regulate my sense
of their eventual departure
from the things I do. Looking back,
doesn’t everything seem cryptic,
sealed in its place
a symbol of the near impossible exchange
between times once alike but deprived
of the way back to one another,
like the scrunched face of Rafael Nadal
when he lost Wimbledon,
his face no longer legible as a holy thing,
I thought wow, Rafael,
if I could be there for you, I would.
Anyway, wherever I am
I’m not with you,
whoever you in the plural are,
by now I’m all the way down the line
into garbage time,
embalmed in its vision
of an apocalypse
tearing up what’s left of
life in universe zero,
where perhaps our love
will be stored
on a hard drive
forever, fastened
to its post-physical life away
from things as they really are.
Maybe it’s the afterglow of the end
in Majoli’s paintings,
which dissolves us
in one form only to restructure us
in another. Who is my preserver?
Descended into this crystal hard drive
I am stationed among the nodes
asserting me in the various networks
that have become feeling.
The one world
we have found
flattened in its emergent disunity
will itself be annihilated
in a compromise with fate
and the physics
of this cooling universe
that will dissipate so slowly
it’ll be like nothing
ever changed.