QR_U - Artistic Transformation & the Search for the Higgs Boson
Double Penetration, 2018, concert piano, vibrators, Michel Foucault - Madness and Civilization, Judith Butler - Gender Trouble, Mary Douglas - Purity and Danger, Virginia Woolf - A Room of One’s Own and Three Guineas, Michel Foucault -Discipline and Punish, Frantz Fanon - The Wretched of the Earth, Judith Butler - Frames of War; When Is Life Grievable?
Shut the Front Door, (Day For Night) 2018, 115x195cm, shoe polish on door curtain, view from outside in and inside out, day and night.
Rub, Bitch Rub 2018. 120x194cm, shoe polish on door curtain
Do You See The Light?, 2018, shoe polish on found canopy, video projection and small theatre setup, video still.
I'm Very Bad At This, 2018, 55x75cm, shoe polish and canopy over panel.
You Is A Marvel, 2018, 45 x 62 cm, mixed media on tarpaulin over window.
A Whole New World, 2018, 95 x 130 cm, house paints, stains, and pre-exposure prophylaxis on tarpaulin/drop cloth.
Colors of the Wind, 2018, 95 x 130 cm, house paints, stains, and pre-exposure prophylaxis on tarpaulin/drop cloth.
Oops, 2018, 30 x 25 x 14 cm, home made olive oil soap with pine ashes.
Cock Sponge, 2018, shaped natural sponges, dimensions variable
Willem Jan Smit, Parrhesia, 10-16.09.2018, Melina Mercouri Hall, Hydra
Parrhesia: Candour, frankness; outspokenness or boldness of speech. Also: the act or practice of asking forgiveness in advance for speaking in this way.
“JOCASTA: That's a slave's life-to be forbidden to speak one's mind.
POLYNEICES: One has to endure the idiocy of those who rule.
JOCASTA: To join fools in their foolishness-that makes one sick.
[...] if you are not a regular citizen in the city, if you are exiled, then you cannot use parrhesia. That is quite obvious. But something else is also implied, viz., that if you do not have the right of free speech, you are unable to exercise any kind of power, and thus you are in the same situation as a slave.” Michel Foucault, Fearless Speech, p.29
A candid historicity about the Melina Mercouri Hall was shared with me, and in the tradition of taking oral histories for truth, I built a fiction on this story. The building was historically used to quarantine, hose down, and sanitize new arrivals to Hydra. At the time it may have been a reasonable demand, I will not attempt to sensationalize that. But it was a starting point for me to relate to health regulations and the precarity of these proceedings. The awkwardness of the situation on the island came to mind, being quarantined for prolongued periods, the regulation reminds of a type of prison, of rape, and the inability to discuss matters that are to do with sex. For a good moment I considered Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Querelle (1982). But that is fiction, and as certain as it informs our experience of the world as it is, so do the storytellings that arrive through the regular news reports to which I would like to turn my attention. About three years ago, Greece scrapped legislation (decree 39a) that forcibly tested people who were believed to be HIV-positive. Not long ago this is kind of legislation legalized eviction by landlords if one was HIV positive and having one’s personal medical records made public. It created a social structure of apartheid and double standards, it meant associating homosexuality with HIV and connecting policies that enable a police state to harass certain parts of the population and to extend the liberties of law enforcers; paving the road to discrimination, breach of privacy, and other reductions of rights that are available to everybody else. And to be completely fair, the message of inequality that endures on the front of adoption rights and marriage equality still signals, from the government, that there is something to attribute to homosexuality that is negative or inadmissible.
State discrimination against a particular group amplifies unacceptance for sexual deviance from the norm and turns what is deemed abnormal sexual conduct into a punishable act. Social coercion makes copied identities not only acceptable but also the standard. One must be easy to digest, to understand, to identify that this person can be used to strengthen the colony. I want to talk specifically to colonial thinking. The us-against-them mentality that patrols the borders of what is permissible, to boot wonderful people because they are too short,
or queer, or yellow, or whatever adjective befits the colony’s interest to oust. The heteronormative majority is always consciously pushing its colonisation of proper sexual behaviour forward. We can see this type of state-sponsored oppression in the military, a perfect example of this are the torture tactics in Abu Graib by the U.S.
military where the assumed Islamic subject is subjected to homosexual rape scenarios. ”The scenes of torture are conducted in the name of civilisation against barbarism, and we can see the ”civilisation” at issue is part of a dubious secular politics that is no more enlightened or critical than are the worst forms of dogmatic and restrictive religions”. Judith Butler, Frames Of War, p.132. Another great example is how The Netherlands attempts to oust immigrants who do not agree to a photograph of two men kissing. These are extreme examples of pinkwashing, or where we must ask ourselves if it is even a pinkwashing when the view of homosexuality that is endorsed is so intricately linked to the perverted ideas of a heteronormative anxiety.
The state of Greece is no less guilty of coercing young individuals to mimic acceptable sexual behaviours in this matter. The message is clear; if you are not producing offspring with a spouse of the other sex, we will revoke your rights. E.g. If you want In Vitro Fertilization the sperm must come from your husband, or, you do not enjoy the same adoption rights as the rest of the “us”. When we read Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth we can deduce how an outsider view of those who colonise leads to a constant aggravated state between the social groups. ”The symbols of social order— the police, the bugle-calls in the barracks, military parades and the waving flags — are at one and the same time inhibitory and stimulating: for they do not convey the message ‘Don’t dare to budge’; rather, they cry out ‘Get ready to attack.’”Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, p.41.
Such conditioned responses come after decades if not centuries of torture. I am greatly indebted to the writings of Michel Foucault in his "Discipline and Punish” ,”The Birth of Biopolitics”, but particularly in ”Fearless Speech” wherein he talks at length about parrhesia. Parrhesia relating to those who are heard in society, those who can speak freely without being punished for speaking truth to power, or the intergenerational passing of shame. I am also thinking of Walter Benjamin's notion of time and messianic times in the present, the different times that are still actively part of our time today, how it can never be our time, or ”your time will come, you must be patient”. Forevermore it will be the repetition of familiarity that is put to the fore and the regurgitation of faculties that overcome an uncertain or indifferent majority. This also relates to Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s notion of micropolitics and how minor fascisms can spread like wildfire.
I am editing this text mid-exhibition because I have been forced to label the show unsuitable for minors even though I must strongly disagree with this statement, it is more important to remain open than to shut the doors altogether. I have been labelled as showing pornographic material, which is a gross inaccuracy perhaps due to a lack of vocabulary. It is with great sadness that I must inform you that there are no recordings of aroused bodies on display at this time, exciting as it might be for some. There is a reference to same-sex showering in this exhibition as the history of the building holds that untold story and untold stories are of interest to me. What eyes watch what parts in forced public nudity, what responsibility does the state have towards prison rape and allow ing the side effects of their conduct to flourish? I certainly do not want to tell but one history, there is an archive for that and that singular point of departure is not so much a focal point as a part of a cloud of social issues. Issues about phallogocentrism, heteronormativity, inequality, penis envy, or deobjectifying the hypersexualized body. What does bother me about the censorship is that the unspeakable issues that are at stake, do indeed involve underaged individuals whose lives are very much in the balance. HIV does not choose its hosts for their age, or race, or sexual preference, it affects us all. Censoring the speech around this issue puts us all at risk. Parents who cannot put aside their bodily shame and insist on passing their fear of nudity instead of discussing the risk of infection are responsible en masse for an uneducated youth.
Uncleanliness is another one of those issues that resurfaces in state violence on certain people, not long ago in the Czech Republic, for example, some HIV positive men who had undetectable viral loads were sentenced to prison time for not disclosing their status with their sex partners, they did not pass HIV to their sex partners, but not disclosing their status is a criminal offence in said country. I am reminded of Susan Sontag’s ”AIDS and Its Metaphors” and the destructive methods of government surrounding social phobia/hysteria and the measurable effects on state-controlled bodies. I fear the control of many states over my body. To quarantine anyone who might be infected with whichever disease they want to use as a crutch to subject parts of a population to discrimination. To stereotype large groups and divide them from social acceptance, to police the sex lives of people and to police what kind of sexual interaction is acceptable. I am not chasing conspiracy theories; there is a ”gay wage gap”; increased bullying in schools that leads to suicide; the rounding up of homosexual men in Chechnya; public executions of homosexuals by the Islamic State; the locals in Hydra who think they have the right to shout at me for kissing in public (but also in Berlin), the shaming of people who use PrEP to defend themselves from contracting HIV. In all these countries queer people are constantly refused and mocked. Not long ago these kinds of legislation proliferated, not long agoes tend to resurface in new relations. What other diseases may come that will empower discriminatory regimes and subject minorities to police violence?
The exhibition, then, deals with sexism. In a sculptural manner but also through musical performance, it deals with the disappearance of sexual experimentation and the rise of deodorized and faceless sexual encounters, state-sponsored hyper-masculinity and a variety of interactions between the topics related to the visual representation of sexuality in the arts and the lack thereof. If we cannot talk about it there is no true democracy but an oppressive regime that tells children from a very young age that it is not acceptable to use your body in whichever way they want to. A regime that enforces the intergenerational passing of fear, body shaming, and independent identity formation.