Monday, January 27, 2014
The Black Rotunda
Escaping White Disillusionment
The body is to the mind what the mind is to the body. The conscience once obstructed is prone to disease.
I recently read Ekow Eshun's Black Gold of the Sun, memoir about his trip through Ghana in search of himslef. Birthed in London, he left for Ghana when he was two, lived there and brought back to London where he grew up. Centered on slavery while traveling through Ghana, the memoir is interspersed with stories about a conscientious black revolution in the early 1990's, his personal struggles through schooling and an acute madness which is never revealed as a diagnosis.
Disease in a carefully guided understanding would be a failed obsession with something which becomes perverse or nightmarish. It could be Nabakov's obsession with butterflies. Bukowski's three vices of women, gambling and alcohol. I come from a disease of love and philosophy.
The stage was set growing up in Ghana when I lived among other Ghanaian boys and girls, alerted to sexuality by the presence of my cousins on my grandmother's compound and the dolled up beauty of my classmates at The Royal Preparatory. My maturity was a little unsettled at the age of ten. But I had a libido as I looked over posters of Bollywood movies and other imports from the United States.
My sexual queries were based on innocence, a school crush, particular girls who were fashionable and a semi education from my cousins on what was sexual behavior. This was a pivotal stage in my life where I would have started dating or perhaps fell in love. At this point I was shy and removed from behavior of other boys which was arrogant and furious. I didn't do my best to attract the attention of women but they went out of their way to notice me.
I wonder what would have become of me had I continued to live in Ghana at least until I was a teenager.
The transition was then made from the basis of a black fancy of love and girls to that of a more white based group of girls. I remember sitting next to two Irish girls in particular while studying at grammar shool. One of them named Siobhan had pink skin with freckles. I was drawn to the perculiarity of her skin and difference from mine. It appeared sensitive and frail. What disturbed me was that her skin was different. It was stark, white skin, not to mention her blue eyes, pointed nose and blonde hair. She was different, an animal of an alternative beauty. The more I sat near her, the more I smelled the scent that emanated from her. It was close to that of an egg. I mark this particular girl as an example that was set in the other white girls that came along.
The obsession with the white female was made perverse by pornography on Cable television, adult male magazines and my mother's Italian fashion catalogues. Philosophy of love is a conscience. Obsession is a disease. I suffered from both. Whereas my classmates were involved in relationships, I was taken to making illustrations from porn magazines, watching cable television, defining myself as an African Marquis de Sade or Picasso. I was alone, unresponsive to the advances from girls.
I kept a crew of boys who traveled with knives. I accompanied them as they went on trysts with girls, came back and told me about them. It was as if I was a spectator in life.
My classmates and friends lived a life here in New York, as a foreigner I lived my life through them. I gained strength and sustenance, was introduced to rock and roll and courting women. This would have and did serve as foundation for highschool.
However unfortunate I went to an all boys Catholic school. What did serve as discipline brought awkwardness in how I approached women. Once again I was lead by classmates who went on trysts with girls. I accompanied them but not on a mission. My attempts at girls were made at school dances where my interests in white girls continued. I desired them but I didn't know how to approach them. Even when alone with a girl and there were moments of intimacy, they were always awkward.
At this point it was instilled in me that beauty was white. The white female was beauty. This had become the disease. Pop culture and society had done a number on me. My life as a Ghanaian, African male had been changed conscientiously to think beauty came in the form of a white female.
I grew up in an African household. Through my mother I met some beautiful African girls. There was no love attraction except for one who passed away. I remember when our meyes met. I made an effort. Our relationship was long distance but after ten years we started a brief love affair. I remember her rotund body. Her skin was dark and black and it was tough to the touch. I remember making love to a black woman for the first time. Our bodies were one. It seemed centuries had found us together in that bedroom. I sensed our souls were confounded as one.
It was not love play. It was love action. I felt as much as a lion makes love to a lioness she and I were from the same animal.
She has since left this earth. Our personal difficulties and our time apart caused a strain in our relationship. I felt I wasn't emotionally responsive to her. This may have been partly due to my invested interest in my work at the time as playwright. She longed for me. I was her first lover. And we were great lovers at first. But as we merged as a couple I withdrew. I blame it on our mutual differences, however personal. I would have needed to date other black women to define myself further.
This has weighed on my conscience of late as I do a social experiment on my personal history. I came across a Tumblr site called "Why I love Black Women" which displays pictures of black women both clothed and in the nude. Looking over these images the unresolved relationships I have had with white girls seem to fade away. It's as if I'm reinstituting the native black female back in my conscience. And it's working. I have plans to read books on African history.
The body is to the mind what the mind is to the body. The conscience once obstructed is prone to disease.
My lost at virginity was a success. It was with an Italian girl. This also set a premise for my interest in European women as well as other foreign women. I now consider my love for women to be international.
There is an understanding of race and culture, history and slavery. It showcases where I come from, where I am and prospects for a stronger future.
The philosophical aspect of my obsession was served by my interest in European philosophers. The pornographic aspect has been rendered neutral as I now find profound joy in self respect and love of self and family.
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Body of the Female/ Born of Art and Pornography
What is love?
I nominated myself as artist when at the age of twelve I enrolled at the Metropolitan Museum of Art summer classes. It wasn't my choice, more or less a calling which came about based on the understanding my parents surmised. I was given a toy camera at that time, a project I undertook intensely, taking a photograph, developing it and doing the printing as well. As memory serves, the only picture I took was of the Chrisley Building in clear view outside our window. I made a print of it. Certainly my first professional work of art.
At the MET I sat in classes based on the interpretation of art, writing exercises and the overall appreciation of the profound works of art by the Masters. Sitting or crouched on the floor at a particular wing of the museum we did drawing and writing exercises. At times Rikah Burman our instructor took us through the museum stopping in front of one painting after another to inform us of the painting's history and thereby ask us what we thought. Our impressions were formal at that age, an attempt at philosophy.
The wings of the museum which made an impression were the American and the Modern. I remember painters like Van Eyk and Peter Paul Reubens, marble sculptures and the activity in front of the museum and the interior as we prepared ourselves for class. The afternoons wore on me as I made friends and gained respect from Rikah. This experience at the MET was a gift from my parents I haven't thanked them for because without it my path towards art would have been different. At that age I hadn't a clue about who or what I was. But as great parents do, they formulated a path for me.
With that came an overall piercing interest in what was art as in literature, even music, a definable acceptance that I was an artist.
Growing up in the city of Accra, Ghana, two distinct memories which carried over into my days in New York were my love of illustrating and working or (playing) with the muse. I sat in the back of the class at the Royal Preparatory illustrating horses and equestrians at the finish line or athletes playing soccer. As a child I had a playmate, her name was Regina, we would sit in the veranda playing house. Even then I knew of gender politics, the role of the male and the female.
I think of art and women and I think of Picasso's D'Amoiselles d' Avignon, the first art work which defined women for me. I had grown use to the classic works of painters like Titian while studying at the MET. But D'Amoiselles as abstract and pornographic as it was gave me a modern understanding of immorality and the interpretation of the animalistic sensibility. In retrospect I still am fascinated by the abstract depictions by Picasso of his muses, Dora Maar for example. They were my introduction to what became pornography.
In my youth I used centerfolds in publications like Penthouse magazine to illustrate women. I'm at a point now where I have to redefine my role as artist and my understanding of who and what is female. Over the years I reinterpreted the meaning of the woman as pornographic in art to fetish. Helmut Newton for me was some one who had the presupposition of pornographer but his photographs bordered on fashion and sex. This notion remains with me. I spent time as a child sitting next to my mother while she sewed, reading her Italian fashion catalogues. It brought about the notion of the Super Model to me. American Super Models like Christie Brinkley and Carol Alt begot what became Europeans like Claudia Schiffer.
My mother has always played a superior role in my life as mother, friend and mentor. Most of my heroes are women, both personal and some historical. As time has passed I am independent of my mother as I watch her grow into her own. Somehow she remains the cult of who the woman is to me as beloved. I have come far from when I viewed women as objects. That is where I draw the query because I desire women, a continuous charge that will never cease.
The physical body of the female has grown to be virtual in my life. What ever titillation I get is on line or the female passer byes in the streets. The female as she floats through time is not represented in my life through her physical breasts, pubis and buttocks. Once again, there is the query! I was chaste for many years wanting a cleansing. Madness contributed to an overt amount of perversion. The muse for me bacame disposable. I observed her at will, taking advantage. So chastity brought about my recharging and wanting a better solution, learning to communicate with something else other than the body and sex. I have found it. That is my sense of renewal. The ability to curb madness by making the transition into humanity.
I have love now, love of self and love of family. A community now grows on line and virtually. But the question then becomes how do I interpret the body of the female which once was of art and pornography. The availability of internet porn is an excuse. It is not a representation. It is not my vice. I need the total body, conforming from the canvas and paper to the bed. The very idea is love not fornication. The body of the muse is a gift, to touch, smell, sense.
The privilege which defined me for so many years as artist has passed. I no longer define myself as artist to muse. That very exercise changed when the artist became pornographer to a sex muse. An act which has been in practice for so many years. I saw the transformation as my muses were being drafted into more sexual practices. I turned the other cheek and became chaste. I found love, love of a girlfriend for what was almost the first time. It was short lived. It's been two years now. There is a sense of disllusionment.
How do I approach the body of a woman? How do I communicate with my body, not that I ever did. It was always my heart and mind. I feel defiant now as if I am in control. I approach with my physical self not the virtual. Time has yet to bring about my newer definition of woman.
In a virtual age love still exists. The body is still crucial in mating, loving and accepting.
I prepare myself now to find myself among women. The notion of her as art is different. She is a warriror, self made. Virtual and floating.
I continue to desire her body. I speak to it with a different language.
A language of love. Not of art.
Monday, January 13, 2014
The Be Be Finale of Lesbianism
Role of the Punk
I recently saw a post online which featured the women that JFK may have had an affair, Marle Dietrich among them. It occurred to me that there were certain women in art who may have allegedly had affairs with other women as in Frida Kahlo and Georgia Okeefe or any number of women with Dora Maar. History supposes this and they are certainly unproven but as much as I'm not prone to women on women sexual fantasies, the idea of Frida Kahlo and Georgia OKeefe as lovers overwhelms me. They are at first androgynous whether its OKeefe under the guide of Steiglitz in those portrait photographs or the famous stoic and yet eloquently represented images of Frida.
What is it at first that excites me the most? Fair to say I endearingly love Frida Kahlo and Georgia OKeefe as artists. They exemplify love or more so amour. There is that presence of lust in them. Lust for life and lust in art. The portraits of them as androgynous draws them together. They resemble each other, gaunt and thin with chisled faces.
I think of Frida and her committment to Diego Riviera, Georgia and her love affair with Stieglitz. These are two women in history who are remembered for their exclusive relationships with two powerful and overwhelming men. Their lives certainly collide if not for love and art then their conscience as feminists. History will also remember them as two women who overcame the empowerment from men to find their own unique identities.
Circumstances surrounding them will suggest the male fantasy or the female lesbian. What allows the male to want the fantasy of two women mating? Where in history does art possess this? I certainly came upon this in the hot 1990's through pornography. There were the exceptions of the butch and the lipstic lover, blonde vixens with brunnette pubis and the super models with perfect bodies.
The butch and the lipstick lover stemmed from punk for me. In 93' I met an Israeli video artist at a Kathy Acker reading at The Kitchen in Chelsea. Kathy almost exemplified the look of a butch and a lipstick lover in one. By nature her face was soft with ruby lips. But her skin was tough and she had a hard exterior. She was punk. In a white gown much could have been said about her femininity. Kathy was prone to apocalyptic literary prose. Much of this could be associated to a male ego, something similar to Patti Smith and her love for the male hero.
The punk is androgynous. He or she manifests an alternative nature. It is not the artist that is punk. It is the nature of the artist.
My Israeli friend and I would meet occasionaly at her residence on Christopher street. We were drawn to each other by philosophy and flesh as our discussions and trip to movies led to splendour in her bedroom. There was a mutual attraction built on love and respect, respect for each other as artists.
There's a notable translation within this. What of our backgrounds as an Israeli and an African? Were there broader examples which brought us together. I had a sense of her as a tremendous talent. It was abvious in her silence as I watched her, grew fond of her. What is intelligence is that which is less spoken and is sensed in the quieter moments. I admired her girth, her body. Her flesh. Her flesh had body. And so it was this the combination of philosophy and love that which we built an understanding.
We engaged in mostly soft foreplay when we met. It became the regimen for our playfulness, quite moments in her bedroom on Christopher Street. I grew in intensity getting to know her friends, other Israelis. I was growing within a society of Israelis, a common understanding of what is love and respect. Our interactions were based on kinship and my role as perculiar and idle from the mainstream. I was more or less a wanderer who had fell into company with them.
On her birthday we made an attempt at love making at my apartment. It was uninvolved and uninspired. We were basically going through the motions. It was not our bodies that were communicating but our strained minds. It was yet another expression of us not represented as lovers but as friends. Passion never existed between us. It was the mutual respect for our flesh, the conventional flesh.
Time passed and I recieved a letter that she had become lesbian. She found a woman she was in love. My first reaction was that I had caused her to be lesbian. It was my fault. My inability to bring a rise out of her caused her to change. But it wasn't that. In retrospect I know now what is a friend and what is a lover. Somewhere inbetween an attempt is made to merge the two. She had become lesbian while traveling through Europe.
This again was the hot 90's. Fetishizing was common. I grew to understand it was a momentous phase. I met the female lover. There they were kissing, holding hands in my presence. I grew accustomed to them. That was the great ideal of us being friends. She respected me enough to introduce me to her girlfriend.
This is nowhere near why women are lesbians. Jenny Shimizu and Michelle Harper are a couple. Jenny knew from the beginning she was lesbian. She felt unattracted to boys. My Israeli friend and I bonded as male and female. Perhaps there was not a sexual attraction as on one evening out she came onto a stranger who was less a friend and more of an acquaintance, letting me know she was physically attracted to him.
A night which explained how the lover loves with his body and how he attempts to with his mind. Sex is of the body. It is not imagined. It is expressed. It's a physical act. My friend had found a physical means to express her love for another woman.
In examining the lesbian, I admire her. Not sure if its her attempt at success in a male driven world, her role as feminist, my respect for the woman due to the role my mother played in my life. There is a common interest between us, the lesbian and me. I have had friends who were lesbians. It was clear there was no physical attraction but on one instance an attempt was made at sex. It's my ability to provoke, bring about enlightenment where there is none.
Jenny Shimizu is lesbian to me. I have known women who fetishized lesbianism.
To be female and want to be with another woman. To be female and identify yourself with women.
To be lesbian is the finale.
Wednesday, January 08, 2014
Where Language Meets Flesh
Now that I have parted ways with my classmates, art muses left me into the wonder world, I reflect on the virtual muse.
This for me came to pass when I came into virtual contact with a woman by the name of Gaynor Evelyn Sweeney. I was interning at the Eickholt Gallery in Soho. It was a night during a conference call when I spoke with Gaynor. She was at first unassuming, making jokes, but quite the smart woman. Our friendship started when I would come to work in the morning. The gallerist Lisa Eickholt had an international phone link which she didn't pay for, so Gaynor and I were able to chat. I would call her long distance. Soon enough our conversations reached intellectual heights.
It was the early 2000's, gender politics was the topic of the day, whether it was the young white femme having found growth and success in the business world, the flesh of the white female teenager viewed as pornographic, the strife and interchangeability between the male and female in the dating world, Madonna making way for Lady Gaga... It was a time when women took on multiple lovers as much as seven at a time. I know of this because in one relationship I was the third lover and in another I was the potential seventh.
Gaynor had set up a cultural initiative between New York and Liverpool. The link was the Eickholt Gallery where I worked. So our conversations drifted into topics such as my background, hers in Liverpool and our preparation for the Liverpool Biennial. Seemingly our morning conversations were a basis for a true friendship.
We, the artists, at the Eickholt Gallery were supposed to go to Liverpool but due to certain politics Gaynor was removed from her status which made the programme a failure. However she and I continued our dialogue. I continued to serve as the chief executive of Transvoyeur New York. Through our links she and I and another artist succeeded in setting up a virtual art project called Gender, Space, Art and Architecture. It featured me and a Polish artist living in Liverpool communicating on subjects such as our lineage. This project was a great success.
Facebook at this point and time was attracting a great amount of the general public. Soon enough I was invited by Gaynor to join. This became a playground for our inter-connectivity.
Gaynor had became a goddess to me. What was worship took on intellectual and philosophical boundaries which helped me start this blog.
But who are these virtual vixens? I was living under some stress at the time in a transitional apartment in the East Village. And so my interactions on Facebook was a deviance from my life at home. But who are these virtual vixens?
I studied under American photographer and artist Bill Beckley on the subject of semiotics. I delved into books by Roland Barthes, Nabokov, Andres Breton. This was pivotal in my upbringing because I favored the European woman. And I do come from colonialism and not slavery. The women I drifted towards on Facebook were the typical European art girls.
There was a Polish model who lived in Italy. On one afternoon I linked up in a conversation. This lead to what is known on Facebook as poking, where you alert another person of your availability and the other person does the same. It's more or less a game which summons a sexual drive. She and I went on and on. Soon enough it became the basis of a relationship where she would poke me and I would poke her.
The relevance of all of this is that these women on Facebook, more so there than any where else online, perpetuate a desire and fantasy. There are no circumstances which involve truth and friendship. Other women I have known become friends on Facebook and we never bother to communicate. They serve as profile pictures with a status update.
Gaynor and I are no longer friends on Facebook. Word has it she has drifted into another social media, Twitter. But as I reflect on who she was and how we served each other in a real but virtual relationship, I see now how there are no real means of communicating on Facebook. It becomes nothing more than pseudo politicizing, pseudo intellectualizing and the Facebook anti heroes who rule and their followers who subject themselves to these status updates.
Gaynor and I were friends first. As a British woman, she fit perfectly into my philosophical upbringing. Further investigation into this blog and earlier blogs will prove so.
I'm at a point now where I have certain connections with women on Facebook. We share intimate virtual moments instant messaging. They are polite. There is truth and innocence. There is a friendship be it virtual.
The greatest difficulty now is consider Gaynor a woman of my past. Move on. Understand the wherewithal to exist in normality, approach the virtual world as human. Not exist in a virtual world. But be able to counterpart this virtual reality while maintaining a true and profound life.