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Pageantry: Autumn 2013

SALT. Issue 4


a. Grand display; pomp.

b. Empty show; flashy display

When we set out to begin issue 4, we set out to question the upsurge in contemporary culture's HOT NEW LOOK; of appropriating the language of advertising rhetoric and consumer aesthetics, assuming a both celebratory, straddled with a critical, position. Yet is this recent trend for corporate swag (Bernadette Corporation), performed gender stereotypes (Mika Rottenberg) and ironic emulations of brand culture (LOGO) surely just the art world regurgitating patriarchal capitalism’s tricks? The pageantry of capital in art becomes not an effective means of critique but a mirage of critique, albeit a safe and well styled one.

The submissions we received endeavour to go deeper. To get under its skin, to the flesh of it; to the alienation and estrangement from capitalist interests this mode of being induces. They call for a new way of thinking both about human relationships and relationships with the objects around us.

'Simulation is not a thing. It is nothing in itself' (B) But the need for simulation is the driving force of this issue. Not the neutral tones and calming environment of the spa but the anxieties, the visceral pursuit of perfection that makes that necessary and the fears that spawn it. Precarious working conditions and the ever blurry division between labour and leisure time make for an influx of uncertainty that goes hand in hand with possibility. There is at once too much on offer and too little to manage it with. Anxiety is swelling and the only solution we've been afforded is to follow suit and avoid sinking.

Pageantry as practice, by its very nature, dismisses subjectivity in place of artifice and fictions - this issue, in as many ways, is an attempt to bring back the subject hood, pick apart the fictions, find a language of non-freedom through love, intimacy, anxiety and embarrassment. Love, intimacy, anxiety and embarrassment are patriarchies instruments of coercion; they keep us in check, maintain our consumption. The appeal of a lipstick is in the promise of a kiss, and everyone knows kisses are the remedy to loneliness.

It's doubtful that we have even come close to challenging the insidious nature of capital within the art world - who today could boast having any integrity? - but this issue is an attempt to come at it from the margins, creep in through the cracks. To rupture the glossy sheen of contemporary art (and literature) with our bleeding hearts It's the slippage that's important: the relationships that emerge through ASMR, queering materials and failed romances. Not through mimicry or simulation (the problems with…) but the symptoms, the off-shoots, of these strategies; the alienation, anxiety and nerve that getting outside the pageantry of the everyday requires.


Jenna Collins, Charlotte Cullen, Racheal Crowther, Alexine Haynes, Samuel Kenswil, Lora Hristova, Grace Miceli, Kadeem Oak, Naomi Pearce, Hannah Regel, Thea Smith, James Stradner, Linda Stupart, Alexandra Symons Sutcliffe, Hannah Tindle, Jala Wahid.


By Linda Stupart

The first time we talked about Kathy Acker was at the National Student Demo[1] at Sussex University. They were wearing a makeshift mask with only eyes visible and glitter purple eyeliner and perfect camp distance perfect queer austerity and they/we/they break windows burn things velvet mouth boots on broken glass and then we are sitting in a fucking meeting on the floor and we are angry because the boys wont stop talking and he is reading Queer Ultra Violence and I am reading Bodies of Work and he asks me what its about and so I show them her description of David and the Head of Goliath and we Google the painting and she says oh my god look at his sword and I say oh my god look at his nipples and we walk out of the meeting because democracy doesn’t work.

To know a thing is to participate in the knowledge it turns towards itself, and participation, which is the absence of relation’, merges the subject of knowledge, which is not necessarily a human being, with the object known:

[1] On March 25 2013 Sussex University called a National Student Demonstration against privatisation at their campus near Brighton. Over 1500 students attended the demonstration, which was the culmination of over two months of Sussex students’ occupation of a major building at the university in protest of 235 jobs to be lost through the privatisation of the university’s non-teaching services. Shortly after the demonstration, a court injunction was taken out to ban any form of protest on campus and the occupiers were forcibly evicted by bailiffs and the police.

Accordingly, everything that presents itself to man as his knowledge of being is the reflex in him of the self-knowledge of the thinking in that very being. Thus, there exists no mere being-known of a thing; just as little, however, is the thing or being limited to a mere being-known through itself. Rather the intensification of reflection in it suspends the boundary that separates its being-known by itself from its being known by another; in the medium of reflection, moreover, the thing and the knowing being merge into each other . Both are only relative unities of reflection. Thus, there is in fact no knowledge of an object by a subject. Every instance of knowing is an immanent connection in the absolute, or, if one prefers, in the subject. The term ‘object’ designates not a relation without knowledge, but an absence of relation.[2]

[2] Christopher Bracken. 2002.The Language of Things: Walter Benjamin’s Primitive Thought. Semiotica 138. (227)

Their looks form a sphere or enclosure; they have made a world; looks reflect looks as the spread legs wind around the cock’s head and enclose it. The snake bites its own head. When two people look at/fuck each other, they don’t see anyone or anything else. [3]

A few weeks or months later I am reading Kathy Acker on their bed while he sends an email to Southwark council about housing benefits. His bed is on a boat and I read out loud:

“Do you want to fuck”

“I don’t want to hurt you.”

I take my hand off his cock and grab his hand. I let his middle fingers stroke the delicate opening of my ass. He turns me over on my back’; he rolls on me, letting all the covers over his back cuddle him with my arms he slips his left hand under my right buttock, and slips his finger into my open wet asshole. A second of pain then throbbing pleasure. His cock jerks at my cunt. I let the pleasure overwhelm me I wait until I can’t wait any longer; suddenly I swerve around, stick my belly into the bed, just my ass against Peter Peter’s cock.

[3] Kathy Acker on Carravagio’s ‘The Gypsy Foruneteller (1594 – 1695). Realism for the Cause of Future Revolution. 1984 in Bodies of Work. 2006. London: Serpent’s Tail. (21)

“Is this going to hurt you?” [4]

Him not wanting me me reading Kathy Acker later me lying next to him him not looking at me both of us reading with the lights on feels exactly like the opposite of the nothingness I’m looking for. He says you can masturbate if you want: reading a copy of a lovers discourse they stole from Foyle’s on the South Bank after he tells me that his mother used to skate under that bridge where they are planning on relocating the skaters because it is dead space and they want another coffee shop and I say you never talk about your mother and he says no I don’t that’s what my therapist says but I stole her leather dress from my parents attic last time I visited them in the countryside.

[4] Kathy Acker. 2002 (by the estate of Kathy Acker). Rip off Red, Girl Detective. Grove Press: New York. (33).

Later when we do fuck we stare at each other for minutehours and I am about to leave because I realize you don’t want me and you say please don’t leave and there is a catch in your voice, a crack and the crack in your voice opens up to the void and I slip inside like my fingers slip inside you and like you your cock slips inside me and I finally feel you without between us and we stared at each other for so long that I am scared to move and our foreheads are touching this whole time and you breathe in as I breathe out like Marina Abramovic and Ulay in that piece[5] except that Ulay got the translator pregnant when they were doing their walk the Lover’s Walk[6] they left and I cant move because there is nothing left of me and we are perpetually inside each other.

In the morning I wake him up with a blowjob because I want things to be ordinary and later he says I’m just really scared and self-conscious about what just happened.

And of course I leave, in tact.

[5] Marina Abramovic & Ulay, Breathing in, Breathing out performance, 19 minutes long at the Studentski Kulturni Centar, Belgrade, April 23 1977

[6] In The Artist is Present. (2012. Dir. Matthew Ackers, Jeff Dupre) we learn that long-time lovers and collaborators Marina Abramovic and Ulay split up because Ulay got the Chinese translator pregnant while performing their piece The Lovers: The Great Wall Walk in 1988. This performance consisted of the couple walking from different parts of The Great Wall of China so as to meet in the middle. After the piece they did not meet again for 23 years.

The last night together he comes to find me standing on the pavement after being sick everywhere on the outside insides everywhere weeping I don’t know where I am I have disappeared I am having a panic attack, he tells me. I would tell him I know for fucks sakes, but there is nothing left to reply. I am stuck inside that other ending. Stuck I tell him when I can speak again that it was Renzo Martens and I just went to see an artist’s talk and he is starting a five year gentrification plan in the Congo and he JUST DOESN’T GET IT and he can never understand what it means maybe to be really invested in working on the continent and he doesn’t know how it ends he doesn’t know how five men take knives to your throat you on the floor tied up how you were so scared of being colonial how this death will swallow you over and over again. You tell him that you hate yourself for wanting Renzo Martens to be murdered by a Congolese worker on the old Unilever plantation and I swallow and sob and Renzo martens thinks he has gotten rid of aboutness and maybe he has but his medium is cruelty and I am so so so sick.

I drop the copy of Chris Kraus’s Aliens and Anorexia I am carrying and they will put it in their bag and the next day I will have to go back to their boat to get it and I will walk across the walkway and it is swaying and I will realize that I don’t get seasick anymore and then it hails even though it is meant to be fucking summer and so I have to hide in your boat and it is so strange that the Thames has tides even though it isn’t real

They tell me there were a few moments of non-relation (which he calls ‘unguardedness’) which I call togetherness and she calls a snake eating its own head and since that moment he has become frigid petrified incapable of loving anyone else unsure: I just don’t think I can lose myself that way, he says.

This is what Kathy Acker wrote about David with the Head of Goliath (1609 -1610):

The boy’s left hand is holding the second figure - a cut off head. Since it’s cut off, the young boy has just cut it off even though he’s looking at it sadly. Since the part of the boy’s body which is closest to me is his left hand and the cut-off head is even nearer to me, the boy, though he’s not looking at me, is displaying the head to me. A description can’t be that which it is describing. This is one of languages’ presumptions. Formally, here, Caravaggio’s describing or showing. Such description’s the opposite of fucking or connecting. As the head’s cut off, relations in the world are cut off: the young boy looks at he who doesn’t and can’t look back at him; I can look at only what I’m shown. Sexuality, disconnected.

[…] Realism: Caravaggio simultaneously shows me this and makes me/my perceptual mode be this; (since the cut-off head isn’t looking at me but downward and into himself, I’m not being desired: I’m cut off from the sexuality I see). I’m being totally denied. I scream. I live in this world.

The beautiful boy, looking at his own sexuality, has to turn his sexuality or himself into frigidity or an image. The sexual is the political realm. There’s no engagement.[7]

[7] Kathy Acker. 1984. Realism for the Cause of Future Revolution in Bodies of Work. (25)

James Stradne Untitled (beyond bronze).

The dwelling place that is you

by Naomi Pearce

She is the Lycra running trousers pulled tight over long legs. Apple shaped, Amazonian. Head to toe synthetic fibers – processed pre-polymers that arrive mail order. I dust around the identical cardboard packages with Pledge. They leave rectangular outlines (all standard sizes) on the hand carved dresser. Runners World helps her follow step-by-step, but she’d never admit this. She likes the feel of the shiny pages between her fingers, the pictures and its general can do attitude. Her flat locked seams reduce chaffing. Black Dri- FIT fabric wicks away sweat to keep her dry and comfortable. She is the rubberized runners watch that wraps around her wrist. It includes a coded heart-rate monitor, a 99-lap counter and chronograph luminous edges making it easy to read on dark winter mornings. Five miles against concrete three times a week. She is the pressurized air lock of her trainer’s heel. ‘It’s totally wild’ she exclaims sweating. I load the dishwasher.

She is the large flat screen turned on to finish her workout. Cindy Crawford’s warm down takes us to the roof of some warehouse in Chelsea, World Trade Centre still there on the Manhattan skyline, Instagram tint for real. Reebok hi- tops, white socks – the American kind – extra thick and soft. Cindy’s grey Lyrca all-in-one creases at her hips as she bends: a reminder of breezy down times, skinny frappes minus the bitter aftertaste. Body beautiful, bottled water, feng-shui, fads fueled by an inward looking optimism only money can by. The twin towers might have come down but Cindy’s lunges still work the same. The exercise dopes her body with serotonin. On the floor, hands clutching abdominals, she breathes deeply, grunts a little too loudly and farts as she relaxes. Smiles. This performance – one of mechanical in’s and out’s - thrusting undulating pelvis against battered reclaimed floorboards makes her feel in/under control. A full-length mirror reproduces the scene. The dog pants on.

She is one of the four blenders that break down her breakfast smoothie. Mechanized extensions that slice, grate and press the wholeness of fruit into a mushy mass of nutrients. Pulling the flesh apart, goodness is extracted and the pithy internal infrastructure – all flaccid and empty – is discarded as waste. This is consumption by the cleanest means I think, emptying the plastic container into the brown compost bin.

The largest and current favorite instrument features a glass vessel that stands upright on top of a plastic base. A button with the words ‘Pulse’ protrudes from its centre, upturned metal teeth threaten the chunks of fennel, carrot, ginger and apple that fall from above. Mouth open she welcomes oats (freshly ground grouts bought wholesale) and finishes with spirolina, a green powder derived from algae.

The vast wooden work surface; a domestic scrapheap for the fallen or forgotten, stretches the length of two kitchen walls. Half broken utensils – still functioning but watermarked and dull – sit static gathering the splash backs from spitting rapeseed oil or Ecover suds. Months ago, she had practically possessed the Phillips HR1861 model. With its large vertical feeding tube, micro mesh filter and safe locking arms she would squeeze chilies, beetroot and orange to produce a blood red pulpy fluid. It raised her heartbeat and flooded her system with endorphins causing her to sing loudly to David Gray and rant at the bank down the phone.

No sugar.

No caffeine. 20 years sober.

She is the Apple product that gives access to her multiple personas – the same body replicated for ease of worship – six websites available on her iPad, iMac, iBook, iPhone. I see her watch herself, play with her hair and rub her face whilst talking on Skype. Hooked up for communication – lots of ‘me time’, not much of it spent alone. Producing online content and disposing of physical real time things – it’s all a worthy sacrifice for individual transformation. Self-Affirmation by representation. She says her life is a constant cycle of stress and trauma, consuming energy like a microwave. I couldn’t give a damn she says defiantly, but what’s going on in your current reality? She is the Sacred Chef (podgy post baby), the fashion designer (red lipped empowerment), the Kundalini yoga teacher (head dressed serenity) and portrait photographer (soul barer of the physically scared). I watch her addiction success story on YouTube as I clean her en-suite toilet – flushing her piss away and hanging up her towel. Weekly newsletters about her life, the divorce, her children, her feelings, her feelings and her feelings. It’s an online emporium and cathartic confession.

Faith and fitness.

Re group for wellbeing Decompression session.

She is her mattress made from coconut fiber. Brown and matted, a central internal cavity is flanked by two portions of organic cotton. Natural transformation begins at the inner core of where her body rests. It takes six months of soaking before the husks can dry out. Next, a natural latex solution is applied to make the coir more supportive and breathable – the fibers bond together in anticipation of a curving spine. She has a king sized mattress. Although a tall woman, she’s able to lay flat, arms and legs outstretched, her fingers barely touch the edges. Laid over this coconut comforter is a sheep wool mattress topper. This is covered with an organic cotton sheet so large it takes twice as long as usual to successfully fit it. Before her duvet she opts for a dense layer of blankets, a combination of knitted and down filled bedspreads. What she lacks in peas she compensates for with eye mask and ear plugs.

As I wipe around the bottles of ‘Liquid Silk’ or the framed self-portraits (various: often depicting a casual state of undress, facial expression one of exhausted bliss) I imagine her lying there, all filled – plugged up – sleeping comfortably under the weight of her sheets. Physical sensations keep the subconscious at arms length. In this boudoir, a personal shrine of recuperation, piles of unread books gather dust as two small kittens shit into a broken litter tray.

She is the dress of raw silk sewn by her Indian tailor, the four meters of fabric that make this charming and effortlessly graceful A-line. This is a shape that pinches at the waist and sweeps diagonally wider down to the feet. It accentuates and conceals, flatters without revealing any aspect of the illusion. Shadu bracelets, silver bangles: Your body is a temple, adorn yourself. Marble lotus bowls and altarpieces. Create your own sacred space with these objects she bought on holiday in India. Prices reasonable for you lonely women of a certain age. Exercise, Drink, Eat, Massage, Stretch, Breathe. Spend your day doing this and you’ll have no time (or desire) to concern yourself with anything that takes place past the pores of your skin. She is abstract yet made of absolutes. I hoover the home office, it’s jute woven carpet pulling against the Dyson head as it rolls along the corners of the room. Her company website appears on the screen, it's dedicated to the 4th Sikh Guru. She walks in counting a pack of notes from her last big sale. We smile at one another, but not with our eyes. Sitting down, she lights a stick of incense.

“Fuck, fuckity, cunty fuck – this printer doesn’t work”.

I walk over to the desk, plug the cable back into the computer – it must have come loose. “Thank you, thank you.”

“Oh, can I tell you something, if it was me, I’d want to know,”

I turn to look at her. Bogey on my face? Food round my mouth?

“You have a moustache”.

A plume of smoke, the sickly smell of inner peace, wafts through the air.