Cooties

For this piece, I intend to examine secret, unseen physical spaces—the ones that aren’t discussed in polite conversation. Those which we know to exist, but would fear to look inside of, or understand in explicit detail. We are consoled by our own unknowing of them. I want to create a work which illustrates the relationship between two different kinds of these grotesque hidden spaces: those existing in the outside world, which we consciously observe to be scary, alien or unclean—and those which reside closer to home, either within typical domestic settings, or within our own bodies. We might not regard the latter with the same kind of dread, but we still feel more at ease knowing that they are hidden. These spaces are cramped, but evoke strong emotions. Some of them carry associations of disease, bodily harm and discomfort. Others seem come to mind as special places of intimacy. My piece will exist on the thin line between the intimate, and the grotesque. It will both literally and figuratively delve into the visceral gaps and crevices of our everyday lives.

The piece will consist of several illustrative, mixed media installations that will utilize the specific surrounding environment. In addition to drawing materials, these pieces will include various kinds of paper, found objects, electrical tape and string. Each one will involve a figure interacting in some way with one of these aforementioned secret spaces: peering, reaching or crawling inside. The setting for the installations will be the tunnels beneath the university. I’ve always found their sublime decay and quaint trashiness a great source of inspiration. Also, they’re filled with the exact kinds of cracks, holes and gaps that I need.

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Each composition will present a kind of imaginary ‘x-ray’ view of the space it uses. Part of the figure will be obscured within its respective hidden space, but the interior will be displayed alongside it. As opposed to showing what one might imagine would be inside one of these spaces, it will have a biomorphic, fleshy appearance to it, giving the viewer a sense of repulsion and subsequently forcing them to think about what the similarities might be between, say, a shower drain and the space made by two mouths kissing.

I myself am not a germaphobe, and I don’t intend to condone or promote the fear of contamination either by contact with the outside world or with other people. However, I do intend to research Germaphobia for this project, particularly the effect it has on a person’s perception of the outside world in relation to their own physiology. I’ll also be drawing influence from the comics of Charles Burns (Black Hole, X’ed Out) and the early-‘80s ‘Body Horror’ films of David Cronenberg (Dead Ringers, Videodrome, Scanners). Other works of art that have influence on this piece include Dali’s Anthropomorphic Cabinet (1936) and the street art of Mark Jenkins.

I will have sketches up soon, as well as photographs of the areas in the tunnels where I plan on installing my pieces. My illustrative style has a surreal sense of humor to it, and I intend for this piece to address these ideas light-heartedly.

Here are some reference images:

1. Videodrome

2. Anthropomorphic Cabinet

3. Charles Burns

4. Mark Jenkins

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3 Responses to Cooties

  1. alaynafriesen says:

    I really like how much research you are doing to go further into your concept. Research, I find, always helps to solidify whatever ideas or thoughts you may have. What I am wondering is whether you will be working with a mixture of both 2D and 3D objects. And maybe playing up with the idea of incorporating various textures. I think using various textures and dimensions could add an interesting effect to the work and play off of the disgusting elements. What do you think?

  2. jalexanderson says:

    “As opposed to showing what one might imagine would be inside one of these spaces, it will have a biomorphic, fleshy appearance to it, giving the viewer a sense of repulsion and subsequently forcing them to think about what the similarities might be between, say, a shower drain and the space made by two mouths kissing.”

    What you said there^ gave me a kind of a tenuous association with this one comic by Gary Larson (The Far Side):

    I’m curious how you would create this fleshy bit of texture/environment – are you illustrating it only? I imagine if you fabricated 3D fleshy bits to adhere to some surfaces, the repulsive quality of this space in the underground corridor might increase, and because these pieces simulate >the flesh<, the idea of intimacy becomes more apparent and unsettling.

  3. This is a very interesting idea. Can you clarify for me the nature of the ‘things’ you’ll be making? You mention Installation, but also talk about ‘illustrative’ and compositions. Are these to be works on paper inspired by the tunnels or will they be installations in the tunnels?

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