n e w f l e s h

Curated by: Efrem Zelony-Mindell

Photography has a sexual prowess. There’s an intrigue between the camera, the figure, and the viewer. There’s a lot of art that might give the impression that one’s body leads to sexuality and is integral to its gender and identity. Sure. But then there’s this flood of nudity and genitalia coupled with that work. It’s social; it’s pornographic; it’s fine art. 

There’s a boom of interest in gender, identity, queerness and the study of these subjects. It’s often exemplified by a kind of idealized sexuality. The body gets in the way. What’s behind that flesh? A person is not the simplicity of their genitals, nor is their gender, character, or their desirability. A person is a whole wonderful thing.

Hannah Whitaker, Eye, 2014, Courtesy of M+B, Los Angles Marinaro, New York Galerie Christophe Gaillard, Paris

Hannah Whitaker, Eye, 2014, Courtesy of M+B, Los Angles Marinaro, New York Galerie Christophe Gaillard, Paris

Beek, Ruth van, Untitled, Folded Photo, 2013, Courtesy of The Ravestijn Gallery

Beek, Ruth van, Untitled, Folded Photo, 2013, Courtesy of The Ravestijn Gallery

So capable—of anything—it’s not assigned. It’s not dictated or intentional. Behind that skin is more than a man or a woman. There’s a person—a human—full of so many parts, feelings, and ideas. Photography can personify the forming of these personal characteristics.

The camera is a crafty thing; it is dangerous and intelligent in the hands of hungry and humbled makers. The self is not nearly as solid and definitive as it is abstracted and ephemeral. Queer has got to be about acknowledging that state of possibility, being strange, new or maybe even unusual. 

It becomes intimate. If you’ll have it.

The anatomy needs stripping of its titles and formalities. Forgetting specific parts so as to see the effervescence behind. The future leads to a path of equality and inclusivity. That’s the hope. These works epitomize that desire to stray from the straight and narrow.

They release the physical body and craft a broad pressed intent. They have many things in common; homosexuality is not one of them. And yet they are totally queer. They alter the state of reality and document-reinvented concepts of coming into individuality. They allow for imperfections and unfamiliarity. There’s a cleansing ability of clarity in that uncertainty. 

The works ascend peculiarity; they do have that in common.

Theirs is an aesthetic of confusion, wonder, and possibility. The disorder and obscurity of a once recognizable body plays on the desire to understand. Conventions inform a history of who we were. Celebrating them and saying no to them will eviscerate the toxicity of anything, and allow us to become what we are capable of. These works are out of context with reality, but not totally out of remove. There are no illusions except the ones in a viewer’s head.

The images become otherly. There is no segregation. The artists are questioning the materials and subjects they use; both where the objects come from and what meanings they hold. The confines of defined lines, the power held by government and patriarchy, the norms of any society or culture must all be free game.

Anyone can search for a sense of achievement in their society that seems important at a certain time, but now is so vague it’s almost, antique. Capturing that hazy memory—remembering it—and allowing it to change into what it wasn’t before is a powerful accomplishment. It’s these works’ novelty that creates their sense of time and the composition of the image that allows them to transition into totally new objects.  What once was is allowed to move forward, becoming more. What is clear is queerly defined.

David Avazzadeh with Shirin Omran, Unspecific Textile intervention #2 (purpleflesh), 2015

David Avazzadeh with Shirin Omran, Unspecific Textile intervention #2 (purpleflesh), 2015

What can be seen is temporary.

These images build new realities from fragments; they are beyond repugnant but rejuvenated in perception. They are a mass of vertiginous contradictions. That quality allows them to be truly queer in their humanity. A body has parts, but the simplification of its identifiers that we use to build expectations, especially those around gender, is a form of control.

Visual assumptions can only lead to one place—the future is cancelled. It must be overhauled. Facts are held by individuals, but they are not simply their selves. Our bodies fail to be us with any kind of specificity. We are learning to see. There’s a place inside each of us where we know nothing - there’s no telling what happens there.

We are becoming ourselves, and everything’s equal. The body’s potential exists beyond its conventions. Places where bones and beliefs meet will glue new arrangements into bouquets of formidable aptitude. These works act as a pathway to illuminating manipulation; they create a new reflection so that we can stop just looking at the things we know, so that we may see them for what they could become. There are no limits; there is instigation and imagination. The things worth valuing most will fill us up. These images are of a new flesh, they will expose that truth can no longer be finalized.

Efrem Zelony-Mindell

Efrem Zelony-Mindell is a curator, writer, and artist. Their curatorial endeavors include shows in New York City: n e w f l e s h, Are You Loathsome, Familiar Strange, and This Is Not Here. He writes about art for FOAM, Unseen, SPOT, DEAR DAVE, VICE, Musée Magazine, and essays for artists’ monographs. Their first book n e w f l e s h, published by New York’s Gnomic Book, will be available in late August of 2019.