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Noli Me Tangere (Touch me not): November 2016.

SALT. Issue 8

'What do we desire when we desire other people? Not them. Something else.' (Euripides, via Anne Carson, Grief Lessons, 2006)

It is this void that we are trying to grasp at. This issue aims to overthrow the privileging of the visual in favour of the sensorial. It is an inherently feminist art practice to muddy the translation between the see-able and the say-able. The parasitic nature of love, lust, and touch are examined throughout. Freud’s aphorism, ‘touch is the first act of possession’ hovers over the issue like a threat.


Alex Symons Sutcliffe, Alix Marie, Bronte Dow, Bryony Quinn, Chantal Faust, Clair Le Couteur, Deborah Birch, Freya Field-Donovan, George Nesbitt, Hannah Regel, Holly White, Isabella Smith, Jala Wahid, Jennifer Boyd, Jessica Ramm, Jessie Harris, Lauren Goddard, Lyle St, Madeleine Stack, Marina Xenofontos, Nancy Lin, Olivia Foster, Rozsa Farkas, Samara Scott, Sarah Boulton, Sikarnt Skoolisariyaporn, Thea Smith

Primary Pleasures

by Jennifer Boyd

Imagine Having to Bury Yourself Over and Over

By Hannah Regel


Smoking a cigarette is a way of boring holes into the present. It’s not that I want to die, necessarily, but that sometimes the momentum is too much. It’s funny that what makes a life shorter buys you time; a day becomes generative by way of its punctures.

If, under misogynistic eyes, my female body is defined by its punctures; the romantic, if not the logical appeal in “boring one hole after another, until what lurks behind begins to seep through”[1] is not lost. Though, as Maggie Nelson points out when discussing Eleanor Antin’s Carving: “it can be difficult to know when to stop chiseling.”[2]

[1] Nelson, Maggie (2011) The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc, p. 219

[2] ibid.


The original Koine Greek of the phrase Noli Me Tangere translates as 'cease holding on to me' or 'stop clinging to me'.[3] In the case of an addiction, of a clinging, the logic remains that it is “better…to be enthralled with what is impoverished or abusive than not to be enthralled at all.”[4]< The question though, when the clinging is deathly, becomes notwhen to stop chiseling but how much do I value what is being lost?When you are constantly in want of something, its absence is not really an absence but a holding. In the case of a craving, as in the case of making a mould to cast an object, “absence is not the opposite of presence, but its theatre, its frame of appearing.”[5]

In my yoga class, as I stretch out my abused organs, unfurling into a snake in a room full of women, panting on command but not as one, we are told to focus on what is precious and worthy of preserving: that which will rid us of what is toxic. I think of you. I think of how you are not damaging, but could be, as I have etched that into what I expect to come. I contemplate pickling you in a jar to slow the process.

And besides, if the ingestion of cigarette smoke is so deadly, then what of everything else our breath takes with it; unplanned lies that you gulp in after to take back? The scent of other people? Those that you fall in love with, and then gently cannot stand. Are you polluted by what of theirs you imbibe? Does it work away, unseen, on your insides? Durational and deteriorating. Or does it ferment?

[3] The words Noli Me Tangere, meaning "touch me not" or "don't tread on me”, are the Latin words spoken, according to John 20:17, by Jesus to Mary Magdalene when she recognises him after his resurrection, and reaches out her hand to him. In medicine and medical texts, as to Mary, the words are read as warning against meddling, touching, or interfering with organs notoriously delicate or prone to develop complications if disturbed; most commonly the heart, lungs and pancreas. The phrase was also known, by medieval physicians, to refer to a cancerous ulcer of soft tissue and bone in a body oblivious to it’s presence: cancer absconditus.

[4] Butler, Judith (2006) Precarious Life: The Power of Mourning and Violence. Verso Books, p. 45

[5] Robertson, Lisa (2012) Nilling: Prose. Book Thug, p. 45


The first cigarette of the day always makes me want to shit, setting into motion peristalsis. It is perhaps obvious, but not uninteresting, to note the comings and goings of what is put into our mouths; its ability to alter, its assimilation into the bloodstream, its endeavor to become all the stories of matter-form. Its ability to turn living matter into dead.

Eva Hesse died in 1970, though all her life she practiced its onset like an art; I guess you could say she had a call. Finality was too familiar to fear, both by experience and proximity, and so, she made work to sneer at it. She was able to deride the end of things. That is to say, by being so un-preoccupied with ruination – with the time or processes it takes to stop existing – she was able to work backwards through time, calling out to an ethics of preservation. If the care and the conversation is in the process, not the trajectory, the heroic fictions of delivery that prop up the choreography of production fall apart: the fictions attaching value to that which lasts.

When asked, she would say, “I am not sure what my stand on lasting really is. Part of me feels that it’s superfluous, and if I need to use rubber that is more important. Life doesn’t last; art doesn’t last.”[6] I wonder whether I (or anyone for that matter) smoke because I do want to die, or to at least send out an invitation, however postponed: a kind of alchemic signal that says I know how to conjure you, should I need to.

[6] Nixon, Mignon ( 2002) Eva Hesse (October Files). MIT Press, p. 18


Like my blackened and fading lungs, the promise of death gnaws at me as it does in love. An addiction is a pairing and, as in building a world for a pair, its survival depends on the presence of another, as for Cixous, “the world-of-two is immediately surrounded and threatened by death.”[7] And I refuse to be overcome by the lack of a substance just as I will not be overcome by your absence, or at least this is the hope.

“But as soon as I love, death is there, it camps out right in the middle of my body, in daylight, getting mixed up with my food, dispatching from the far-off future its prophetic presence, taking the bread out of my mouth.”[8] Now that you have left, just as I predicted you would with my breathing, the compulsion to take care of myself is wearing thin. I am replacing my fidelity to you with the tiny death between my first and second fingers. The bonds that are breaking may be changeable, but their ambivalences toward my health are not.

[7] Cixous, Helene (1998) Stigmata: Love of The Wolf, Routledge Classics, p.113

[8] Cixous, Helene (1998) Stigmata: Love of The Wolf, Routledge Classics, p.114


Hannah Wilke treated making objects with the same care and recognition she had for her own body, which was great. She also remains somewhere permanent in my psyche, shimmering and immovable, telling me how to be.

To be able to make objects, which is also to be able look at the mass of all that is already, and think, ‘No, this is not yet right’ or, ‘I want to do this to that’, is palpably different if you are at the same time one of the those things. Hannah, being one of those things (because she was beautiful, because she was a woman), made her life a self-declared lesson in “how to make yourself a work of art instead of other people making you into something you might not approve of.”[9]Though, because she was beautiful and because she was a woman, her ability to do this to any satisfying degree during her lifetime was marred: the posturing body of her photographs that could twist into an alphabet of the most complex kind of fuck you was undermined by what could be done to the flesh. It was only when she started to deteriorate that the alphabet began to cultivate meaning. Unlike the convention set for art objects, Hannah’s value increased when she started to perish.

[9] Jones, Amelia (1998) Body Art: Performing the Subject. University of Minnesota Press, p. 182


The poet Marcia Nardi, lamenting her intruded time, wrote: “As if there were no connection between my being stuck at the ribbon counter in Woolworths for eight hours a day at a minimum hourly wage, and my inability to function as a poet.”[10] And Paul Thek, who nearing the end of his life, spent his days in a soup of repetition and frustration scanning groceries at a check-out counter, wrote in his diary, “My work is about time. An inevitable impurity from which we all suffer.” He also wrote, “Things growing are not ripe until their season.”[11]

[10] Boyer, Anne (2015) Garments Against Women. Ashahta Press, p. 71

[11] Kraus, Chris (2000) Aliens & Anorexia. Semiotext(E)/Smart Art Press, p. 66, 77


My mother always chastises me for smoking and walking at the same time. This would be, I imagine, because it implies an inability to separate leisure time from the necessary time of getting from one place to another, which in turn outwardly privileges dependency over pleasure. This equation frames dependency, in the way that it is perhaps always framed, as a class signifier. Or to be more precise, it is a class signifier for one to notice, and then to worry, that a dependency might have the power to define.

Spoilage is a class signifier, too. To be unconcerned with waste, and the casual violence this infers, is designated only for those that have never had to worry or see it dealt with, have never had the moral weight of leaving food uneaten on a plate drilled into their very comportment. It is in this way that spoilage becomes a question of shame. What then, for a practice like Eva’s, like Hannah’s, that makes a play out of things going bad? To choose your material from the realm of things defined by a time span is to look at food rotting and see a body politics.


On seeing a figurative landscape painting of cows by Lois Dodd in the late 50s, and noticing that it was met with praise instead of, as per, the accusation that she “paints like a man”, the implication of this being “how dare she”, Yvonne Rainer sardonically remarked that “men are from abstraction and women are from cows”.[12] Gertrude Stein called orgasms, or bowel movements, depending on which scholar you believe, cows. If someone wishes to be crude, they will call the meat around a cunt beef curtains.

Mad Cow Disease conjured itself out of all the misjudgments and assumptions that the act of consumption holds. That human bodies are resilient and immune from, or distant to, what we put inside them and their process of conception. That animals are simple, and that their metabolisms will fall in line with our demands. That things should be in abundance, and that abundance will always taste good. Though of course, anything you force to cannibalise itself will revolt, if not knowingly, then in its cells. Mad Cow Disease spread via the presence of contaminated cattle remains in the feed of otherwise vegetarian animals bred for human foodstuffs. The disease affects the central nervous system as a gene mutation, one that leaves the brain quite literally full of holes. In an interview in 1996, when discussing the disease’s presence and its effect on her work, Carol Rama declared, “The mad cow is me, and this has given me a joy, an extraordinary joy.”[13]

In her musings on female anal eroticism, Maggie Nelson asserts, “I am not interested in a hermeneutics, or an erotics, or a metaphorics, of my anus. I am interested in ass-fucking. I am interested in the fact that the clitoris, disguised as a discrete button, sweeps over the entire area like a manta ray, impossible to tell where it’s eight thousand nerves begin and end.”[14] As one of the most innervated parts of the body, the human anus is a hole that feels, and knows, and does. As with time, a body becomes generative by way of its punctures.

[12] Rainer, Yvonne (2013) Feelings are facts: a life. MIT Press, p. 158

[13] (2015) The Passion According to Carol Rama, An Interview with Carol Rama: Corrado Levi and Filipo Fossati. Norprint, p. 227

[14] Nelson, Maggie (2015) The Argonauts. Graywolf Press, p. 85


In A 7.5 Minute Talk for Eva Hesse, when speaking of process, Lisa Robertson notes that, “without forgetting the speed of resin – The structuring gesture must be truncated, definite, minimal, so as to complete itself before the setting moment of the material. So time enters the work in two ways: in the gestural present of making, and in the durational time of deterioration, given Hesse’s choice to work with unstable materials. No–” She corrects herself: “–it enters the work in three ways, the third being the time of a haunting.”[15]

Paul Thek, on the popularity of his work The Tomb – a wax cast of his own body as corpse – and his total boredom with it, with having to install it repeatedly, protested, “I really don’t want to have to do that piece again… Imagine having to bury yourself over and over.” His corpse held within it the repetition and frustration of living and he resented its crassness. He also knew, I imagine, that to make objects is to enact a sort of death (imagine having to bury yourself over and over) not necessarily to kill, but to investigate an unknown: to entertain a certain chaos. When a wax, metal, or any other solid for casting is heated, its molecules vibrate under the surplus energy, “they push outwards against their bonds and force the substance to expand. Yet at a certain temperature and pressure, the change becomes sudden and discontinuous - the flow crosses a boundary from smooth to turbulent.” Tobacco smoke undergoes a similar confusion: that of a material giving way to itself, “the particles of cigarette smoke rise as one for a while… then a menagerie of mysterious wild motions… the skewed varicose.”[16] What appears first as one begins to unfurl and dissipate: a rope has been stretching and now it breaks.

A rope has been stretching and now it breaks.

[15] Robertson, Lisa (2012) Nilling: Prose. Book Thug, p. 44

[16] Plant, Sadie (1997) Zeros + Ones. Forth Estate London, p. 165, 166


A cigarette acts a comma for the day. It says this is a break, yes, but here is more to be done inside. A comma is also a claw, with it I scrape at the hagiographies of the dead. Sculptors consumed by degenerative diseases. Boring holes in this text through the words of others, he said, she said: a cavity. And I am boring holes into myself by the degree to which they haunt me, which is deep. It is also a problem. It is a problem because I resent equally my impulse to martyr them and the forces that conspired to take their lives. More likely though, my skewed curiosity sits somewhere with the truth that the dead are so appealing because everybody wants to die some of the time, and also the truth that everybody is dying all of the time, and even truer then, that it is easier to romanticise the dead than attend to those struggling to live.

It is then in bad faith to read their persistent manipulation of time as prescient of their eventual and obvious fidelity to it, rather than the astute articulation of what living does to everyone. As is my fidelity to a substance whose principle allure is my dependence on it, and its supposed ability to structure time – as if these logics were either true or good reason – or would make me somehow better attuned to using time, or more acquainted with its end. But the point is not that in accruing the experiences of others I can manifest an excuse, but that I am trying not to separate how I have felt to how I am able to think; the problem of what to do with the energy form that is feeling, which is to say an urge, and turning it into information. And besides, isn’t the want to die, or not wanting to, but saying so, just what we say when we really mean: I want to live.

Samara Scott
Samara Scott

i made this for you eat it

By Bronte Dow

renaissance faced Fingering Gentleman
wandering vaginal path
half sleeping &
full but still eating
my cute little fruitcakes
i keep in my
licky sticky picky land of
yoink! crunch! fart!
on your molars,
jam out

meanwhile me:
plump on bed
whose female-ity ebbs further from the truth
as Fingering Gentleman
yoink crunch farts my
slurps my
jammie up
in him,
and him in me
turnt the corner now flaneuring up my arse!

me inverted (much alike
deflated CGI-body in Fingering Gentleman's video art)
deflated marshmallow
impaled on stick
by Child and
mutilated in
illegal fire
floppy head
plopped in my bottom now–
i'm like alice in that house
'cept up her own arse

HA! i spy you
little spider creeping
'long my virgin path!
blurt some 19th-century sounds
but the boy's
too busy
vomiting against my anal wall
and anyway my mucus muffles me
completely so
i just swim and swim and swim and
hero-blast through
uterinervix skins
(my eyes crumple in)
On the Rectum Express
purblind body is flooding
gushing propel you t'wards my
skinny lips burnt and crispy
kissy kissy once
our brains met once
in kissy blissy
now you're moving so ferocious fast you
blast right through me

you paralyse me

through my throat
yanking my flabby vocal chords as you go
inflaming rapidly flung
o'er your shoulder
(a dazzling scarf for your renaissance complexion!)
despite the bits of my womb drizzling from the chords
you pull it off
the look
cos your skinny man-hips beautify

these paths are even-ing out before your eyes,
long toes
they know these roads
baby you own these fucking roads
you're going home.

a tea, a wank and a doc on untouched tribes in jungle rubs you
right to sleep (shhhh,
forget my body sprawled on bed
severed throat and steaming
curried mess of broken hotpot womb
in agony
but not yet dead)