Saturday, April 5, 2008

In both directions, from the lens... (and a discussion of eyesight and nakedness)

Beloved Object, Amorphous Subject

A good friend, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, has a book about to be released. It is called Beloved Object & Amorphous Subject, Revisited, and it's stunning. Paul is like a lepidopterist, but instead of butterflies or moths, he lovingly captures and collects and preserves the beauty of his friends. You should all buy a copy for your respective coffee tables! It will be available through the Envoy Gallery and some bookshops.

Subject-Object Proof no.2 (2008)
2-channel video projection, photograph (24x30), xerox on paper. dimensions variable.

Paul recently had an installation at the Pulse Art Fair in New York City. It was his first foray into video, with two projections: one of Paul with his camera; one of his subject on his bed.

It was a sort of documentation of process, elucidating and emphasizing the the space between the camera and the subject, particularly because that became the space occupied by the spectator. Paul mentioned before I entered the room that he had expected a table in the center of the room to hold to the projectors, but I think the placement (seen in the photo) is much more appropriate.

The other mind-tangent the piece sparked was related to the act of declothing, and specifically the eyeglasses worn by the subject. For those without perfect vision, are we more naked with or without glasses? Of course, the obvious answer is off, in a more 'natural' state, but it's as always a matter of perspective. Without glasses, the subject is behind her/his own blanket of blurred perception. Is nakedness more a state beheld or held? The salience of nakedness is so often greater for the naked than the for the (clothed) viewer/voyeur. A kind of paradox then arises, because without glasses the subject cannot fully perceive her/his own nakedness, but with glasses she/he is no longer naked. Are contacts the solution?

The notion of a 'natural' state isn't a simple one either. Glasses might not be the best example, but consider someone with a prosthetic limb. I'd imagine they'd consider themselves naked with the limb still attached, but I don't know.

This doesn't seem nearly as interesting now that I've typed it.

But anyway...

Paul's work is superb, and it's great to see him getting so much attention!

UPDATE: More congrats to Paul!  The book got a post on the New York Times T Style Magazine blog!

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