In response to Hazel Dooney’s exhibit: Lo-Res Nudes
I’m looking at a woman. Stretched on a bed. Struggling towards pleasure like a woman in labour freeing her body of the dreadful progeny trapped inside it. And here is the veil of grain, of filter, of technology. Always keeping me at a distance from the viscera of the act. A taste of an impossible intimacy. Underscoring its impossibility and yet, simultaneously, the jouissance of reaching for it.
I am circling this object of desire, aspect after aspect; not her body, her skin, her sweat or the musk of her cunt, but the knowledge of her, turned inside out and made porous by my desire. I will never get inside her, no matter how many orifices I penetrate. But that doesn’t subdue my desire to try.
In writing on eroticism, Georges Bataille said that nakedness was a “state of communication revealing a quest for a possible continuance of being beyond the confines of the self.” Here is the struggle towards that. Unadorned by mysticism or romance. The woman on the bed, the camera and me, all receivers, consumers of these intimate proofs. Here is the narrative of pleasure, fighting to get out of its skin, trapped in the violence of discontinuity, individuation as prison. In the process of reaching and failing, returning home with the consolation prize of orgasm and exhaustion.
In much of her earlier work, in the pattern formed by the many identical images of abstracted femaleness, Hazel left me gaps. Gaps in the abstracted artifice of the commoditized woman. Upskirt moments of neon-coloured crotches. Reminding me that no matter how much I thought I’d successfully avoided these simplifications, these absurd distillations of female in my culture, they had infected me regardless. That instant recognition was the firm slap in the face. And the sting was the exhortation to search beyond the simple lines and into the gaps. Maybe she felt there was no visual language adequate for the truth within the gaps. Maybe, at that time, she doubted it existed. Maybe she felt there was only perpetual deferral.
I am glad that she has embarked on this journey so eloquently. On this language of an approximation of truth, knowing that none of us will ever truly speak it fluently. Knowing how many of the cognoscenti will write it off as unfashionable and naive. It’s a bravery to attempt it. It is the most any of us can do once we’ve left the bullshit of feigned disinterest behind.