remember that you must live

 
 
 

see below for source imagery
of the installation

I wish to create an inversion of established human paradigms—to birth a universe of limitless queer potentialities. To do so I draw from this trinity of religion, science, and nature to deconstruct power and build it anew. Principles of alchemy guide me through this story. Whereas the concept of nature has been written into laws against queer people in many societies, I use elements that belong to the planet as metaphors for monumental change and as the formative objects of new beings. Offering these items in bowls of lead that I have melted and hand crafted atop mounds of pulverized limestone, which itself is the calcified remains of our ancestors, I suggest their potential for radical transformation into as-yet unknowable beings. In each are five elements of distinct change—Carrara marble for the human attempt to fashion stone into unobtainable idealism; lodgepole pine cones that reproduce in extreme heat and fire; jet which starts as a tree and is formed through millennia of waterlogged pressure; rainbow obsidian solidified from rapidly cooled felsic lava; and water, the most abundant component piece of the human body. Together, these five pieces weigh as much as I do.

 
 
 

triptych 1 — the subconscious builds new structure
triptych 2 — the braid of hair, burned
triptych 3 — the trauma of the ancient breeds
archival pigment prints

 
 

Considering the Church, I made a triptych in the vein of Caravaggio and other artists controlled by the centuries of Catholic rule. Lit minimally to mimic the subdued light of pre-electric cathedrals and framed in gold leaf to reference how the Church emphasized narrative, this triptych revolves around the chimeric capacity of photography. What is a body—my body—and what can it become? What happens beyond the edge of the frame? Instilling autobiography into this world, I burned with the help of friends a braid of 20 inches of hair I had grown over four years of recovery from a trauma, and placed the ashes atop my spine. I believe that identity is formed and broken in cycles; from each pain we grow new appendages into the collective unconscious. Flanking this are a left arm holding a cow’s vertebra and a right arm holding the charred remains of a protea plant, one of the most ancient on Earth, which also releases its seeds in fire. These objects hold memory and are creators of their own. Here, the binaries of left and right, masculine and feminine, light and dark operate to illuminate a whole if only we allow ourselves that fluidity.

 
 
pine cone wall whole_small.jpg

this cosmology is mine, nature is not yours you cannot use it against me
pine cones burned on silver gelatin paper
unique photograms [inverted]

 

In my photography blackness references the void. It is the surface of possibility from which all emerges and by which all is destroyed. Thinking of the foundational elements of phos-graphê, I burned lodgepole pine cones onto silver gelatin paper to better understand their catastrophic change. I then made a wall of universes exploding into parallel being, each its own ground for an alternate reality coexisting alongside ours. To express this space of potential, I inverted the images from positives into negatives, disrupting the photogram, giving this 8’ x 15’ wall its own agency to transform. I, the progenitor; they, my worlds, freed.

 
 
 
 

this cosmology is mine, created and destroyed
gallium skull melted or constructed
in my passive hand

 

On the reverse is another universe, one that contains a virus. Gold, that initial pursuit by the first alchemists to metamorphose lead, has been a constant thread of visual representation of divinity, a space reserved for the pious and wealthy. But its creation is imperfect, its threads laid bare. It, too, is a construct, a false idol. In the center of this space is a wheel of 10 opened left hands, each melting or building its own memento mori / vivere. Made of gallium, a metal that melts at 85 degrees, or when cradled by the human hand, this mold-poured skull lives in precarity. The danger of the queer body, even in its most passive, resting, and subconscious state, is in its ability to destroy empires—to infect paradigms and promulgate alternatives. We are feared, and perhaps rightfully so. We have the power to change.