with what horror would those actions pierce
my heart 2017
to pump blood
Words by : Ashik Zaman
I feel as though tonight we likely reached the end of our run together. Lately it has been though we are always spending some time talking circles around an issue of faintly problematic nature, whenever together, that has sprung out of conversation. Something that was either just said or had previously been said and since then chewing on the mind of either two. There are no two ways about it, the early stages of relationships are so volatile and ambiguous that the only rational way to go about is by putting all the inevitable and decisive questions to the fore, in the strive for consensual ground to move forward. Our rapport occasionally having been combative comes down not to vacancy of tenderness and affection but to putting up defenses against getting hurt which manifests in the inability to discard immediate impulses of something being unjust, whether founded or not. For one more so than the other, it appears rather a question of crucial necessity not to bear any further pain departing from this point, following a tormenting year of reversals, which have upended the mind. The old brag of one’s pride would have you thinking it is an impossible equation. A risk in the least, says experience. Pointless, when confronted with cynical reason, but so worth shouldering the attempt based on beating muscles from within.
His being an artist, we will have been working on a video together, which is due for first public screening in a week’s time. In the dark of the night, it sees two for the viewer anonymous men, us, interlocked in a frolicking embrace. The scene is blatantly intimate from its first frame yet the course of action quickly spirals into a much more dubious and disconcerting realm with the emergence of controlled yet forceful violence as the men wrestle each other seemingly for submission. A pressing feeling of foul voyeurism is stressed onto the viewer in the face of imagery marked by close-up shots in night-vision. From the queer eye, there is a gratuitous and fetishized element on the account of how the men are tightly clad and the test of strength and muscle on view. It alludes to sexual positioning between gay men and subversive sexual power play along the lines of S&M, in stark contrast to heterocentric depictions of intimacy. Yet for its apparent homoeroticism, the narrative of the video remains open, accentuated by muted sound, and whether sinister pleasure or else is ultimately left at the behest of the viewer.
Making it was neither overtly erotic nor is the watch itself most likely for myself but what increasingly strikes to mind is how perfectly it fits as an allegory of the binary power dynamics that underlines arguably even your most run-off-the-mill relationship. It is as though the video by way of its voyeuristic approach inverts the public spectacle of a relationship from the mere fraudulent appearance into something more truthful that extends to the inherent struggles and sliding shifts in command and position.
It is Friday evening and he texts me about the final edit of the video being done. I suggest on the phone that we could have a look at it together, but sense a growing hesitation as to letting me see it before the premiere, realizing that he is wary of my critique and inputs and is afraid I might demand for any last-minute changes. “Listen, the video might have come out of meeting you and you are a performer in it, but I’m the artist and it’s my work”. I find myself taken aback by the blunt audacity. I begin letting him know that it has never been contested that it is his work and somewhere halfway through delivering the words, I just lose my composure and tell him to go to hell and hang up the phone. I know my overstated reaction is the collective sum of frustration that will have built up inside over time, and can tell from the text messages that flashes onto the screen of my phone in the next few minutes that he knows that whatever just played out is serious. He lets me know that he is coming over. I tell him that now hardly is a good idea. He lives at most a couple of minutes and blocks away in the neighborhood and I know him enough to know that he will be heading out here anyway, no matter if told not to. When he does show up at my front door – because he does indeed show up – I decide not to let him in and grab my jacket to meet him outside.
Photo: Jean-Baptiste Béranger
© 2023 by Håkan Stergos Machlis