Who am I now?
On most afternoons, the only way I can keep my armour on is to take my clothes off. I’m heartbroken but I have perfect tits, isn’t that enough?
When is nudity not naked? Perhaps when the body appears as a mask, a mask that refuses to be taken off, but is slowly shapeshifting nonetheless, slowly dying. I am looking, or trying to look, at Rita Lino’s Construction series, but there is something between us, between the viewer that I long to be become, and the mask of her appearance. I think it must be her perfect tits. Pardon the expression. They stare back at the viewer I’m unable to occupy, like a pair of alien eyes, forbidding me to go any further. They freeze me somehow, and stop any further thought from going on. They are alien eyes that the artist-model has grown out of her chest, in order to look in all four directions. In order to look out from the back of my head. In nearly every picture they stare back at me in mute accusation, framed by a beret which turns her into an artist, or a Latin American prisoner, or else wrapped in a sheet as a Muslim devout, or else taking that same sheet but letting it fall away in a breathless, post-coital question mark. We’re not done yet, are we?
With a series of simple domestic props she models a role, and then throws it away. Who am I now? The body is condemned to a series of attitudes, posings, readings. Unable to escape its status as a kind of book waiting to be read. Even the most casual geometries provoke a detailed, absolutely precise reading of who she is, and what she’s doing. The more beautiful she appears, the less doubt there can be. It’s déjà vu all over again.
There is something cold, some beat before speaking, some unnecessary distance in these pictures, that admits, even insists, on their act of framing. My perfect body produces a frame, a remove. It’s as if she’s standing right beside me looking, while at the same time she’s still lying there on her universe of a bed, playing with identities, letting them enter and exit her. Of course she is both photographer and subject. This double vision reproduces her body as the entire world, like in the photo which shows her masturbating while holding a National Geographic Atlas. It’s as if she’s learning the maps of the world, that are also the maps of herself, and she’s the only one who can bring herself pleasure because it’s a closed circuit, it’s a world within a world. She’s absolutely complete, viewer and viewed, there is nothing missing that another seer might fulfill, not even in the role of a voyeur. It’s like looking at a blank sheet of paper, or better, the shine off a white suit at high noon, the intense glare making it impossible to make out anything at all, except for a shimmering auratic certainty that lies beyond understanding.
When she appears, for instance, dressed in hardly there panties and socks, apparently rummaging though shelves full of clothing and linens, she embraces a democracy of objects. She is no different from anything around her. Her body is a kind of camouflage, she is just another manufactured product, waiting on the shelf to be noticed, to arouse a frisson of anticipation or recognition, before being swapped for another item.
I’m imagining Guy Debord’s face in place of her face, half way through yet another bottle of wine, scribbling notes for what would become The Society of the Spectacle. Or perhaps one of his obscure movies. They might conjure a subjectivity like this, as if a surgeon had turned its subject, itself, inside out, so that every kind of interiority could be laid out on the surface, and then scrubbed to a high gloss capitalist shine. I’m so young and perfect and beautiful. Who do you want me to be? And more importantly: can you afford it?
Mike Hoolboom, 2011