When we hear the words “pervert” or “perversion,” we tend to think of them in terms of sexual deviancy. As with most words, “pervert” and “perversion” can convey a variety of senses. You can pervert meaning, for example. In this sense, you’re altering the meaning of a word or phrase to fit your agenda. Or you can pervert the system, changing it to achieve your goals.
Perversion as a concept isn’t limited to sex and sexuality. It can also mean actors or behavior outside cultural norms. We’ll focus on these two meanings of the word and how they’re sometimes, but not always, interconnected.
You could argue that every art movement since the mid-to-late nineteenth century is either predicated on or incorporates some sense of perversion. If we use “perversion” is the sense of an unorthodox approach, then modern art is explicitly founded on it. Institutions dictated what constituted art—and they did so with an iron fist: you could only paint in a studio, not outdoors; you had to hide your brushstrokes; you could only depict historical or didactic scenes or imagery, and so on. Institutions dictated style and form and, to a degree, content. Continue reading →
The Street Kid: A Beautiful Journey by
The street kid has been a prominent metaphor throughout my fiction, and there is a reason for this. In fact one could argue, I am The Street Kid. I go by Phoenix, Phoenix The Street Kid, and this is because of the way that I have attached meaning to the idea of a street kid just trying to make it in the world, expressing their innocence and resourcefulness, just trying to survive. I have a very picaresque idea of the young homeless kid, and this has no doubt influenced my perception of the homeless and my writing. Serving those experiencing homelessness has also influenced my writing and vice versa. My writing and my life would be very different if I didn’t serve the homeless population. Continue reading →
Near the end of his life, Andy Kaufman planned a college tour—but not as a performer. Instead, he envisioned a series of lectures entitled On Creating Reality: the Physics of Human Response. Although he died before delivering a single lecture, his agent had printed promotional material in the form of postcards. The material teased the lecture would discuss Andy’s career in relation to “the dynamics of human behavior.”
No known notes exist for this lecture and its contents remain as enigmatic as the man himself. His career in shambles, Kaufman had hoped to legitimize himself by touring the lecture circuit. Of all the titles and all the approaches to a tour, On Creating Reality seems most apt for a man who built a career on challenging peoples’ perceptions of reality.
To watch an Andy Kaufman performance is to experience the panoply of human emotions and experiences within the span of only a few minutes. Kaufman didn’t aspire to entertain—although he occasionally called himself an entertainer; instead, he manipulated and challenged reality itself. At his peak, those aware of him expressed strong opinions. Many people despised him, which he probably found more exciting than praise. But few people understood him—and it’s easy to assume he liked it that way.
Andy was playing a game, after all, and people took it seriously. Like most games we play in our day-to-day lives, his game wasn’t trivial or inconsequential. In fact, he did more to expose the illusion of objective reality while shedding a light on personality and persona than any artist, philosopher, or scientist of the twentieth century. Continue reading →
Surrealism encompassed a variety of media and artists of all kinds, many of whom found a place in the Modern Art canon. Some artists, such as Dali and Magritte, produced imagery we still encounter. Melting clocks and apples obscuring faces represent the kind of imagery surrealists excelled at producing. It unsettled you, disoriented you, confused you.
Few surrealists managed to match Hans Bellmer in the ability to confound and disturb. His pieces simultaneously deconstruct and fetishize the human form, the sum of which stirs a sense of disquiet—and occasional eroticism—in the viewer. By perverting the human form, he managed to express his own tortured mind while allowing the viewers to glimpse something inside themselves—something perhaps not altogether pleasant. Continue reading →
a. It was sometime around Thanksgiving, maybe a day or two later, when my boss wanted to talk to me. He spoke in an even tone, not somber but not enthusiastic. I’d be out of work at the end of February, he’d said. My position–data entry and accounts payable–was going to be automated.
I couldn’t respond, didn’t know how to respond–I’d held the job for nearly eleven years, showed up day in and day out, without suspecting anything, taking my job for granted, and now, over the course of a single conversation, I was obsolete.
Anxiety consumed me. I felt frozen, locked in a state of inertia. Eleven years. Gone. A stable job. Gone. My future: uncertain. With a wife and two kids, with rent and bills, with debt, I couldn’t afford to dawdle. I couldn’t afford to coast through life, hopping from one dead-end job to the next. I had to act decisively.
But I froze.
Time stood still.
Is this the future? Locked into a job only to watch it disintegrate as algorithms replace people? If I’m so easily replaced by reams of code, then am I worthless?
Tour my house, scrutinize it, and you won’t find a single visible universal product code. I
loathe them. If I’m drinking from a can, I spin it when I set it on the table so the barcode isn’t facing me. In the kitchen and the bathroom, the bedroom and the living room, from cereal to toothpaste, books to condom boxes to movies–barcodes never face me.
I detest them.
“What do you know that we don’t?” my friend Chris often jokingly asks, as if I’m aware of a conspiracy few others know or understand.
But there aren’t any conspiracies–at least as far as barcodes are concerned. As far as I know. No, I turn or obscure or hide every barcode in sight for aesthetic reasons. I can’t stand their look. I don’t know why, but I find them aesthetically unappealing. And since UPCs are ubiquitous in our society, I spend more time than I’d care to admit hiding or destroying or ignoring them.
Source amnesia prevents me from knowing when or why or how this detestation started. I’ve despised them for as long as I can remember. As a child, I’d shiver on seeing them. They filled me with annoyance as a teenager. Now that I’m an adult, I tend to treat them as an art critic stumbling on a low-rent art fair might treat the canvases: with revulsion, then dismissal. Continue reading →
In France in the nineteenth century, an elite group dictated art. The Academy, as it’s known in English, held strict ideas about art–all of them derived from the classical world, the Renaissance, and the baroque era. The men who ran the Academy dictated artistic tastes by preserving the past. New artists didn’t stand a chance if the Academy refused to exhibit their work.
Their power constituted a form of cultural totalitarianism–and few people challenged them. If you were an artist in the nineteenth century and you wanted them to consider your work, then you had to follow their rules. Paintings could only depict mythological, historic, or religious scenes or stories. Artists had to conceal brushstrokes. They couldn’t depict modernity. They could stage models or paint modern landscapes, but they had to present them as ancient or historic stories or allegories.
An artist violating these and other rules didn’t stand a chance with the Academy. And if the Academy rejected you, you’d probably never make it. Continue reading →
I came across Graeme Jukes’s mixed media on Ello. The images immediately arrested me. Steeped in early 20th century avant-garde movements, especially the Dadaists, his art expressed a nightmarish yet strangely familiar quality—the kind of familiarity you intuit, unable to articulate.
Captivated by his imagery, I decided to ask him about his work, his inspirations, and his need to create.
Your work seems paradoxical in that it rejects aesthetics while establishing one—or, the very least, coherence; the illusion of one. Is this conscious on your part?
Rejecting aesthetics? Possibly rejecting conventional aesthetics but I think it is part of a well-established Dadaist aesthetic. I don`t really think about it that much, I do what feels natural and as such it is not a conscious decision on my part. Paradoxical is good, however—I like that.
How did you settle on collage and mixed media?
That was largely accidental. I discovered collage back in the 1980s and decided to try my hand. I did thirteen collages and then abandoned the idea, turning to oil painting instead. These early collages are not on Ello.co but can be seen on my DeviantArt site…
I gave up on art altogether in the 1990s, destroying most of my work. In 2012 I became seriously ill with cancer. That brush with mortality made me determined that if I survived I would start making art again. I was given the all clear early in 2014. Around the same time I discovered the collages I had done thirty years earlier, which had somehow survived the 90s immolation. Simultaneously there was a major exhibition of the work of Hannah Hoch at the Whitechapel Gallery. I was absolutely bowled over by the beauty and the absurdity of her collages so I decided to have another go myself. Initially the work had a retro-scifi-popart feel before turning darker and more dada. Continue reading →