featured gallery for August 2013

Love Minds and Anatomical Gardens

“AIDS is not only a medical crisis on an unparalleled scale, it involves a crisis of representation itself, a crisis over the entire framing of knowledge about the human body and its capacities for sexual pleasure.”
Simon Watney, Policing Desire: Pornography, AIDS, and the Media

For the August web gallery, I began with the work of Robert Flack, whose art I recently discovered through the Visual AIDS's Tumblr site, Not Over, a useful resource and part of Visual AIDS’s programming for its 25th year of working to fight AIDS through art.

Flack was a Toronto-based artist involved with Art Metropole, an art center founded by members of General Idea and dedicated to producing and distributing artist publications. I'd never seen any of Flack's work before and I didn't know anything about him until I saw his photograph, Anatomical Garden. An upright figure—it seems like this anatomical garden humanoid shouldn’t be standing at all, opened and exposed as it is—made up of spine, nerves, and blood vessels all leading not to a head but to a tangle of flowers, the colors of which echo those of the blurry background.

I love this image for its colorfulness, for how it makes me feel those colors, for its strange hybrid forms that remind me of anatomy books and superhero comics, and for its mixture of photography and painting (I learned that Flack painted on acetate over his photographs and then photographed the images again, creating seamless collages, pre-Photoshop).

I love this image because it makes me think about my own body’s complexities. There are processes I can’t see, but I know and trust that they are going on beneath my skin, through and with my skin, and outward, caught up in many more complex relationships with the environment and with other people’s bodies. And on a very basic level, I love this image because it makes me happy.

Like Anatomical Garden, Robert Flack’s other photo-collages and works by Curtis Carman, Chloe Dzubilo, Paul Thek, John Hanning, Hector Toscano, and Eric Rhein raise questions about the complex invisible and visible workings of bodies and the relationships of those bodies with other systems, other bodies, smaller and larger, singular and collective. Institutional, cellular, spiritual, political, ecological, and social bodies.

What are feelings?

What is trauma and how does it move (through) bodies?

What privileges does this body have that another body does not?

How is this flower 1981 or 1996 or 2013, or that thing that happens when you see the birthdates of so-called baby boomers and their deaths at '83, '85, '88, '91, '94, and you know why even if you haven't learned much else about them?

And what do you do with that knowing?

Is violet a lover?

How is my liver related to my blood, my hair?

What is a person?

Is this seat taken?

Do you know what I mean?