Dec 312015
 

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ALT TEXT

Bel

Bel took this pic while we were making the movie Suki’s Life Room.

‘She fancies you, right?’
    I am ramming underwear into my suitcase’s remaining nooks and crannies. ‘Ha ha. Dunno if she’s even a dyke.’
    ‘She wouldn’t have invited you otherwise.’
    ‘She wants me for an Art Nude photographic project.’
    ‘Photography isn’t Art.’
    ‘I can’t believe you said that! The “photography isn’t Art” debate is anachronistic, tired and anyway stupid.’ (Pause) ‘Okay I just read that in The Guardian. But it’s what I think.’
    Ilka is in hard-line mode. ‘As Susan Sontag said, paintings and drawings of an image are considered to be interpretations whereas photographed images are viewed as miniatures of reality. i.e. documentary, not Art.’
    ‘I read that article of hers. I think you’ll find she goes on to say that photos are still interpretations, shaped by the photographer’s own taste.’ I will win this argument. I fetch the book from the top of the fridge where it got tidied to, turn to the article and read:

‘In deciding how a picture should look; in preferring one exposure to another, photographers are always imposing standards on their subjects. The 1930s photographers of the ‘Farm Security Administration’… blah blah blah… took dozens of pictures of their sharecropper subjects until satisfied with the precise facial expression that supported their own notions about poverty, light, dignity, texture, exploitation, and geometry…’

    ‘Whatever, Suki. As far as I’m concerned, photography is just another imposition of male supremacy and control.’
    ‘That comment is straight from the joyless, outdated feminism of your bookcase. Look at Lee Miller – she was totally liberated as a model! Right back in, like, 1920! Like, totally free in her sexual behaviour and attitudes. Multiple lovers and stuff. Polyamorous. I mean, even nowadays most people are possessively monogamous, but she wasn’t. Polyamory is still even today associated with kink rather than being what the mainstream wants.’
    Stony silence from Ilka.
    I persist in having the final word. Even though it’s stupid. ‘That ‘male gaze’ theory, the one that says all the looking in the world is from men’s viewpoint and for their exclusive pleasure – it’s so 1970s. It’s so over.’
    Ilka is now by the door. ‘Suki, I’ve got an overnight in Leipzig again. A work thing. So I won’t be here when…’
    ‘Good. Coz we hate goodbyes, don’t we.’
    The door closes behind her.
    Tsk. She has never once stood up to me.

…Does Bel fancy me?


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Dec 102015
 

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ALT TEXT

Anton Büller

At my afternoon session in Prenzlauerberg, an obese artist paints me huge-bellied. Bastard – leaning over his grotesque gut to reach his canvas. But the artist beside him is worse, copying the drawing method of tediously mechanical Euan Uglow, who in turn honed his technique (according to a thing I read by Adrian Searle ) under the tutelage of equally anal William Coldsteam. These are guys who compute the information the eye receives in order to reproduce the human form with the technical precision of a surveyor’s plotlines. Passionless.

Come on a 3-month tourist visa in first instance, stay in this flat w/ me (uni campus) & write. I cn get you plenty cash-in-hand wrk as Art Nude photographic model, eg Shanghai Art Nude Grp. No more 2-hr poses in freezing Berlin cellars! Bel

I’m at the breakfast table, still in shock, re-reading Bel’s text. Shanghai!!! God, it would be amazing. And her promise of photographic work is uncanny, because one thing I realised in last night’s session is that contemporary Art Nude photography is not necessarily blokes photographing gorgeous birds naked. Was it ever?
    But… Bel. This weird photographer woman. She’s really nice but she barely speaks. We got friendly due to her project making fly-on-the-wall docu-movies of artists at work in life-rooms where I had bookings. But not that friendly… What do I know about her? Her website says she used to be a photo-journalist in places like Afghanistan, but that career seems to have abruptly ended. A bad experience? A nervous breakdown? I think she’s got Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or something. I once spotted her leaving my psychotherapist’s office as I was on my way in.
    And how old is she – fifty? Older? Early-retired? Her photography blog divulges nothing about family, hometown, partners, early life…
    Why invite me? Does she consider us close?

Hey – an email from Hong Kong Ron! You can view the photos from last night via Dropbox.    Dozens of images… I prop my iPad on the table for a good browse. Shifting aside Ilka’s current reading-matter, some words of an article by Susan Sontag (late partner of fantastic New York photographer Annie Leibowicz) leap out at me:

To photograph something is to appropriate it.’

Yawn. Feminist analysis is so single-track. Hong Kong Ron’s images are sensual, sexy; but that doesn’t mean he has ‘claimed ownership’ of me. There is texture, geometry, intricacy. They portray submission, trust, intimacy, ecstasy, pain, beauty. They are Art.

Why did Tamara set this up? She must still want me! I was the one who ended (by running off to Berlin) our brief flingette: a hedonistic riot of sex – her dominating, me submitting – and laughter, conducted in the windows her crazy schedule allowed. Tumultuous fun and pleasure – which is of course not sustainable in a long-term relationship.
    Or could it be?

Afternoon. My weekly session at the Volkshochschule. I get into pose, and into my head. First thought: why am I once again submitting myself to being mapped; turned into an architect’s plan? Whereas being photographed last night felt so sympathetic. That, too, was submission – to the rigger, and to the photographer. Yet the Master and Hong Kong Ron were humane towards me – to my body – in a way that many artists are not.
    But on to more pressing matters. I must urgently consider my three options:

1) stay in Berlin with Ilka. Get fatter. Get more depressed. Never have a laugh. Never write again.
2) Shanghai! Amazing… But I think Bel’s got issues, and I’m rubbish at dealing with mental health (scares me).
3) Return to UK. Write books living with Tamara. Let her dominate me, tell me what to do (I need that); make me shut up and listen (no mean feat), kneel at her feet, obey her… I love all that. Maybe “fun” really can be permanent!


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