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Ethics in Psychoanalysis

Ai no Korrida: The Cutting Edge of Feminine Eroticism

On Joan Riviere's "Womanliness as a Masquerade"

The Real Aims of the Analytic Act

from The Suburbanite


Plastic Fantastic Lover (object a)

The Rules of the Game

Interview with
Ashley Bickerton


Interview with Ashley Bickerton


Josefina Ayerza


This technical inquiry relishes scaring orgies. Manners of naming: 'Purple Thundering Sky,' 'Sexy Babel/Hunky Dude' spell over interchangeable capsules. Petrol stinks the waves, fouls them up to the sky, yet in these bodies are spasms, an aching.

'Wallowing,' a netting of film fragments, presents both a technical puzzle and an atomistic curiosity. One might climb up, take a look at the metal tubes retaining paper thin bresaola with a cluster of shitake mushrooms and fresh garden. . . but it is a deceiving structure, and crippled.

Behind 'The Mechanical Universe,' columns of faces. Within squaring peepholes, formally framed. Metallic shelves jut from, mask, each face. Bags droop from each nose; droop, emit mutt-scented stock, carry mean writing; dreg up flat stories strewn with flat trysts.

Unaware of time, all measures and structures fade away. Time becomes magical and luxuriant: whether it be moments in and around orgasm, whether it be states of inebriation chemically induced or whether it be displacement. The major clash is between irony and escapism. Irony as a way of twisting reality, as a way to lash out almost, in anger. Escapism is displacement, to displace from the known so that everything becomes an intoxication. The new, the exotic, the sublime.

Abstracts of a conversation with the artist

Bickerton image JA - So "The Limits of the World," the piece with the little bags...

AB - The nose bags, yes I first got that idea while discussing Althusser, Lacan or somebody equally incomprehensible to me. Here we had this ideal structure and this idealized convention of interaction, but in actual fact, what I really noticed was everybody sniffing everybody else's pheromones and having little power plays.

JA - Sorry?

AB - I thought about this ideal plateau of knowledge, information, meaning of the world, and the real grease of the universe. And that' s where I got the idea for the piece. You know, I watched people's feet twiddling, and I watched people sniffing other people. . . the sort of base mammalian behavior. That's why I laid it out as a grid. I picked what amounts to an easy target, middle-aged white males between 35 and 65, the prime money-earning years, power, control of the universe, control of knowledge, diplomacy, politics and the economies of the world-it is very much a construction of the human mind. I put all the "ologies," you know, teleology, terminology, sociology, anthropology, on the sides, the universe is divided up into these forms of knowledge. Then I hung right on their nose the sort of snot-bags, testicles, penises, whatever they are, sort of viscera, excrement, ectoplasm, semen...

JA - Why did you hang them from the nose?

AB - Oh, I just wanted to hang them right off the face, the idea that the stuff you shove down, which is the real grease of the world, the real play of presidential politics, is often driven by gonadal... you can't get away from it I guess. The other thing would be to hang them right on the forehead, but in this case I like the oozing, I like the bile, the grease that makes this mechanical universe work It's actually far more organic and far more.. .

JA - Is it lubricating?

AB - The real lubricant, yes. Actually, the whole show is about intoxication of some sort or another. I mean, it's a play on what we believe art to be. Some sort of removal or. . . I suppose my favorite word is transporting, transportation. To be transported from one point to another, from the inexorable greyness of the everyday infinite trajectory into a sort of absurd nothing. And the sort of vignettes of brilliant color that light up your life. I'm playing on art as an escape, and also alcohol. I don't see a big difference between beaches at some South Pacific Island and a bottle of rum or a bottle of white wine. In one piece, it's all about sex, I had three bottles of white wine. And inscribed on the piece is "hot, dank, steamy, tropical nights," because I figured that three bottles of wine were enough for two people to forget everything and be able to mate.

JA - To be able to mate you have to forget everything?

AB - I figured three was good. Four might get you into a sort of sloppiness. Three is enough, you need the desire to mate to begin with, three would help you to get over your inhibitions.

JA - There's a piece that makes a noise. . .

AB - Oh, the fan piece, yes. The whole show seems... only in retrospect I see I was playing with a big zoom lens, zooming right in, close on things, pulling out and zooming way out into space and seeing shots of the earth from CONSAT satellites, then zooming right into someone's genitalia, then to their face, then to crowds of people, then to a huge landscape. There's a real play between numbers.

JA - A play between numbers?

AB - I guess there is something sort of very cold about this body of work, even though there's a very strong romantic impulse. I suppose what's cold is this denial of the idea of the individual and I'm looking at humanity, not as a collective of individuals, but rather as a sort of single organism... sort of single, multi-headed organism, twisting and writhing across the terra firma. And I like to zoom in and out of the whole process.

JA - So this would be an organism with a lot of heads?

AB - Well, maybe not. Maybe just one, if you can pull back far enough. So I just like to play around with that stuff and I'm sort of obsessed with mating, inebriation and dislocation-geographic dislocation and psychological dislocation.

JA - So let's begin with the mating...

Bickerton image

AB - Well, it was very hard to get those photographs of male and female genitalia, now the male member is always erect... and the female genitalia shot straight on, not with the legs wide open, are impossible to get, they don't make it anymore, nobody's interested in them. And I wanted them to be as banal as if you just walked out on Prince Street and suddenly everybody had their trousers or dresses or tights missing. I wanted the genitalia to be that banal. In a way it was sort of saying, "You want it? Here it is."

JA - I see. So that's all we want?

AB - In a sense, yes. These are the sort of things that drive us, or maybe it's a desire to avoid it, I don't know. Or to process it. Or to negate it. Or to corral it. . . maybe we're not more complicated than the bee hive, probably not.

JA - We're much more complicated than the bees that pollinate the flowers, because we speak. Are you wanting to abstract the enjoyment of it?

AB - I just present it as what it is. Everybody's got one. They're all smelly. I sort of wanted to get away from the manicured, the presented, the stylized, the framed, the packaged. Just, you know, boring old genitalia. And it's not to subtract desire from the equation. I just like the play. . . on the top of the piece I have all the menus. It's all made up. I get terribly bored, I have a need to forget.

JA - Forget about what?

AB - Salvation.



Ashley Bickerton:
detail from The Mechanical Universe 1, 1991
detail from Sexy Babe/Hunky Dude, 1991

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