Sep 292016
 



ALT TEXT

Greg-I’m-A-Kiwi

Greg-I’m-a-Kiwi says this photo is après Duane Michals. Most of Michals’ work isn’t Art Nude; he worked as a fashion photographer on Vogue etc. Also, a lot of Michals’ photographs have a hinted-at, if not strong, narrative, which is what Greg has aimed for in this photo. Greg experiments with interesting settings or situations for nudes; stuff that suggests a back-story. And perhaps due to being in the Orient, he has got into – of all things – paper-cuts.

Dear Artists and friends of Bel! Party at Qi Qi’s Café Bar, tomoz 8pm, to launch Bel’s fantastic ‘Qi Qi’s Life-room’ movie – some of you are its stars! Be there or be square! All welcome, pls spread word. Suki x

It’s a full turn-out.
    Mike Little has chipped in with champagne and canapés, and has got some press representatives to come along. Trish has over-excitedly parcelled her bulky form into a black satin evening gown topped off with a net-festooned purple hat. Besides Greg-I’m-a-Kiwi and his artist friends there are half a dozen Art Nude group members, including Cyril, who inevitably heard on the grapevine, plus a bunch of Fei Mo Di’s designer friends and Alvira, Wei Wei, Qi Qi, Lily Hong…
    Where’s Bel? Everyone asks. It feels strangely like a Bel memorial event.
    Lily Hong pats my arm, as though comforting me: ‘She come back soon. Three days.’
    As if I’m not counting.
    How ironic, that a circle of international arty friends seems to have crystallized since Bel left.
    Could I stay on here, after all?

Midnight. A drunken conversation between die-hards Cyril and Greg-I’m-a-Kiwi who are propping up the bar. The talk meanders around photographers, sex, relationships, sex.
    ‘…Whereas Lee Miller, being both model and photographer, is totally outside the box.’ Greg drains another pint of Vedett Extra Blond. ‘She’s hard to categorize. Like, I totally agree with the photographer Duane Michals, that the nude figure implies both vulnerability and sex; but Miller, as a woman – whether as nude model, or as photographer of women – well…’ he sets down his glass – ‘she may not have seen either vulnerability or sex as part of the equation.’
    ‘Vulnerability and sex?’ I knock back the rest of my glass. ‘She’d certainly have disagreed with you about sex being automatically implied by nudity. Nakedness can be so unsexy. As for vulnerability – in my experience there’s a paradoxical combination in nudity of both vulnerability and strength.’
    Cyril is hunched over a Jack Daniels. ‘I share Michal’s view that the photographer of the nude is intensely aware of the presence of the body and is taking pleasure in looking at the body.’
    ‘Ha – honesty at last!’ I stab a finger at Cyril. ‘You’re motivated by sex, not Art.’
    ‘I’m simply quoting Michal’s words.’ Drunk, Aussie Cyril reveals a totally different side of himself. Assertive. ‘The viewer of the nude inevitably “responds out of a sexual curiosity”.’
    ‘Rubbish. That would mean, no gay guy would be motivated to photograph a female nude. So Robert Mapplethorpe disproves that, for a start.’
     ‘That pervert,’ Cyril snorts.
    ‘I think Michals was gay,’ Greg chips in. ‘He produced at least one gay-themed picture-series.’
    I gulp my wine (fourth glass). ‘To get back to Lee Miller – did you know she was into polyamory before the term had even been coined? As in, she actively encouraged her lovers to have other lovers.’
    ‘Loada crap,’ Cyril growls from his corner.
    ‘And obviously she didn’t expect her lovers to have a problem with her sleeping with others.’
    ‘My second wife was full of that shit.’
    ‘Well, I personally would like the kind of marriage Lee had with Roland Penrose. They let each other sleep with whoever they wanted.’
    Cyril knocks back his whisky. ‘As a matter of fact, the agreement between Lee and Penrose was that their love for each other would remain “sacred” – as in, they would be absolutely faithful in that respect. They just permitted each other to sleep around. Which is still a loada crap.’ Cyril looks directly at me. ‘I mean, what does wife mean, if not “belongs to husband”?’
    I look directly back at him: elderly, fat, slumped; his chin almost resting on the bar.

Dring dring!
    Eight a.m., the sun too bright. Jeezus. I crawl from bed to answer the landline. It’s Lily Hong.
    ‘Oh. Lily. Think my head’s going to explode. How’s yours?’
    ‘Miss Suki, please come now. We wait you in Foreign Affairs Office.’
    Lily Hong stands up when I walk in, her lip trembling at me like a little girl’s. The Director of Foreign Affairs gently tells me they have received news that my colleague Bel is ‘deceased’.

I am then left for some time.

By myself.

Peace and quiet.

The office is very simple.

After a while, green tea is served.

It is late evening when I finally get a message to your brother. I have to go on your laptop – sorry – and look in your contacts for his email address.
    John.

It takes him more than 24 hours to reply.


 

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Jun 302016
 



ALT TEXT

Greg-I’m-a-Kiwi

Interesting props were provided by Fei Mo Di’s friend Greg-I’m-a-Kiwi for today’s life-drawing session at Qi Qi’s boho café-bar. Greg took this picture himself.

Air Quality ‘moderate’: Unusually sensitive individuals may experience respiratory symptoms and should consider limiting prolonged outdoor exertion.
    A slight reprieve for Bel.
    On our taxi journey to the life-drawing session at Qi Qi’s, Bel mentions, ‘Lily Hong will be meeting us there with a voice-recorder to get some vox-pops for the sound-track.’
    ‘Brilliant!’
    Hesitation. Then – ‘she confides in me.’
    Is this an oblique reference to their triste or whatever it was yesterday? ‘Good! That’s good.’
    ‘She’s lonely, is Lily Hong.’

After twenty minutes of warm-ups the group decides they want one long pose for the rest of the two hours. And thus I am able to retreat peacefully inside my head in a way that I used to do every day in my former existence, modelling for artists. Without knowing it, I have missed this. A time for swimming thoughts to become ordered.
    On the long Metro journey into the city Bel had shown me a really interesting homily on the Guardian Online’s book pages. Tim Lott – successful writer – warns today’s parents against telling children they can be whatever they want, because it is so difficult to achieve those big dreams, to reach for the stars and attain them – barring a lottery win or some fluke of good fortune.
    He suggests that, given the competitive nature of modern society, it’s better to keep our enthusiasms and passions for our hobbies, claiming he has gained the most joy in his life through the commonplace activities of home, family and hobbies, rather than his actual profession as a novelist. The latter, despite having given him a few particular moments of success and reward, has taken a high toll in terms of effort and struggle and disappointment.
    It’s better (he says) to ask children not what they want to be, but who they want to be. The neoliberal regime benefits from us all believing that it is purely success in the workplace that makes us a success as a person ( – he’s obviously been reading that Pankaj Mishra article). But we are presented with only two alternatives: superstardom or – that loaded term – mediocrity. As such we are all – almost all of us – going to endlessly feel disappointed in ourselves and our achievements.
    It’s good, what he’s written.
    Shouldn’t I aim to be, first and foremost, a kind, generous-spirited person, rather than a writer?

Throughout the session, kind Qi Qi is constantly checking on my welfare. ‘You okay? Enough warm?’
    ‘I’m totally happy thanks!’
    But I’m not totally happy.
    Why can’t I be content with my modest successes – my small online readership, my poetry collections, my novel, my collaborative movies with Bel, my prowess as a doughty energetic model? I already have a legacy to leave to this world. Is it time to just stop questing, stop striving, think small, local, intimate; stop getting on aeroplanes, try settling? Is it time to commit? And thus reap small, satisfying benefits? I am approaching my half-century of life. Is it time to give something back, rather than fret that I haven’t received enough?

I don’t even notice Bel’s camera clicking away. She’s so cleverly unobtrusive. It’s lovely to be working together again on a small good thing.

It’s late when we get back to the flat. I bring Bel hot milk in bed. ‘It’ll already be a little bit spring-like when you get to Antwerp!’
    But she has lapsed back. Face closed. Remote. Incommunicado. A terrible state that is more and more her usual one.
    How could she not have been uplifted by that wonderful session at Qi Qi’s?


 

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