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October 03, 2019 - Image 10

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

“It’s one of those things that gets better with
time. These books are passed between artists
as gifts, and getting one from someone you
look up to means that you’ve really made it.”
Having been shown their work on a somewhat
peculiar date with a somewhat immodest poet/
artist/editor person, my introduction to the
couple and surrealist photography duo known
as Pierre et Gilles was loaded to say the least.
He ended up using the book in our conversation
as a strategic means to an end, one that I sort
of fell for, before succumbing to the moat of
inebriation and overall failure to hoist myself
back onto the drawbridge. With regret, I must
inform that my self-important and multifaceted
fantasy man is no longer in the picture. Despite
that night’s tile placement in the collective
mosaic of uneasy semi-romantic encounters,
however, its memory holds a lot of water for
me — it served as a keystone exposure to really
great queer art. The kind that needs to be
experienced in person, on a page.
Pierre Comoy and Gilles Blanchard are well
into their fifth decade of doing what they do:
marrying fashion photography, portraiture,
painting and a sensibility steeped heavily in
camp and magical realism to build worlds,
concepts taken to the highest extreme, befitting
whoever is in front of the camera. They have
several photo books, the most recent of which
celebrates their 40th anniversary and compiles
some of the work they are most well known for.
Their several magazine covers include Out,
Numero and Fucking Young!. They’ve worked
with models, muses, artists, friends and larger
than life figures (a particular favorite is an over-
blossomed vignette of Marilyn Manson and
Dita von Teese), all while manipulating each
image to bend in line with their overarching
Pierre et Gilles create drama. They are
immersive. They are jouissance distilled
in an image, in a single expression that is
at once complicated and crystal clear, then
cast throughout like speckled debris. They
democratize the Venus, an art historical
trope that positions the depicted figure as an
aesthetic celebration, in such a way that women
are exalted and men become objects of desire.
They are feminized. Hairy-chested masculinity
is given its day in the sun, make no mistake, but
the men in the photographs are not men in the
traditional sense. Strength and gravitas are
undermined by their placement on a dinner
tray, while the feminine looks you in the eye,
pulling you through the fourth wall as though
the barrier is nothing but a flimsy partition.
And then there’s the ambiguous soup of flesh
that resides somewhere in between those two
poles. Religious iconography, phallic weaponry,
political affiliations, Greek mythology and
other cultural cliches are mobilized to subvert
the more implicit markers of identity. They give
breathtaking scenes, each threaded with teases
and a touch of humour, creating a space for the
viewer to look into themselves without raising
the stakes to those of life and death. It can be

fun to look at, or it can be something else.
It doesn’t quite come alive through a
computer screen. Not like it does in print. Even
as a reproduction of the original work, most
of which are expanded photographs painted
over to achieve their full effect, the textural
interplay, the vividness of some elements
contrasting with the smooth grain of film,
make sense. The feeling of immediacy that
comes with holding a bound photo book or
a magazine with nice, thick paper cannot be
replicated, nor can the experience of being able
to flip through one and get completely lost in
it — coming back up for air with a perfectly
coherent understanding of what the artists
and everyone involved in its publication meant
to communicate, even if that understanding is
unique to you.
Print media has been “dying” for a long time,
but in that death, or at least relegation to niche
markets, there is a great deal of personal value
placed on what we choose to fill our shelves
with. In the information age and the apparent
mass exodus of trees, the only things we can
afford to keep around are those that move us,
challenge us and inspire us to create and be
better people. Pierre et Gilles, to me, is joy. Their
work represents the ability to weave through
the world with all of its weight and create
something worth looking at. If homoerotic
portraits of communists adorned with wreaths
of red roses and crystal tears aren’t your thing,
OK. I hear that. And yet the point remains.
Regardless of what ill-fated endeavors lead to
its discovery, when something that carries real
weight makes itself known, it’s important to
hold on to it.

The paper-bound legacy
of the great Pierre et Gilles

Daily Arts Wrtier


opportunity I’ve been waiting for
my whole life: the chance to wax
poetic about a Colin Firth movie.
When asked to think about
the representation of paper in
film, the immediate thought that
comes to mind for most romantic
comedy fanatics is this scene
from “Love Actually.” I know
it did for me. If you’ve seen the
movie, you’ll know exactly which
scene I’m talking about.
In the scene, Jamie (Colin
Firth, “The King’s Speech”) is
working diligently on his novel,
which he tellingly chooses to
write with a typewriter. Why
use a typewriter? He could
have easily used a laptop —
2003 is not as ancient a time
as we believe it to be. There is
something inherently romantic
and people who use them are
unquestionably engaging in a
kind of performance when they
do so. The use of a typewriter,
or any method of writing that
doesn’t involve a screen for that
traditionalism and poise. Some
may even call it pretentious,

though I’m not sure I agree.
Regardless, whatever kind of
person Jamie presents himself
as through his writing setup is
instantly deconstructed when
his finished pages are blown out
of his grasp by the wind and into
the dirty, freezing cold pond
right behind his cottage.
beautiful Aurélia (Lúcia Moniz,
immediately strips down to her
underwear and dives into the
pond, believing she is saving
something that might be of
significant literary value. Jamie
knows what he’s written is not
worth getting into that water for,
and is thus shocked by Aurélia’s
Regardless of whatever value
Jamie’s writing might have, it
seems to be that trying to save
it is a futile gesture — I imagine
the ink-printed words on the
page would bleed to the point
of unreadability. But Aurélia
doesn’t have time to think of
these logistics: She jumps right
in, and Jamie is clearly moved by
her behavior, by how much she
believes in him. He follows her
into the water.
Jamie and Aurélia engage
in both a literal and figurative

stripping of layers, taking off
their cardigans and plunging
into uncertain terrain. Their
individual ways of going about
this are brilliantly revealing of
them as people — while Aurélia
takes off nearly all of her clothing
and dives into the pond as though
she’s a professional swimmer,
Jamie leaves on everything but
his sweater and clumsily falls
into the pond instead of jumping.
She is confident and determined,
he is insecure and apprehensive,
and they’re just now learning this
about each other. Having come
to understand the pointlessness
of trying to save the paper, they
laugh, and the rest of their love
story is history.
nothing, of course. What matters
is what the paper represents,
what the thing printed on its
surface signifies. In the case of
“Love Actually,” what’s printed
on Jamie’s pages probably isn’t
even what matters — after all,
he even says, “It’s not worth it,
it isn’t bloody Shakespeare.”
What does matter about this
paper is that its plunge into the
pond’s murky waters is what
drags Jamie and Aurélia into the
pond, allowing their romance to
advance to new and uncharted

A dive into ‘Love Actually’

Daily Arts Writer




I used to despise journaling.
required my sister and I to keep
a journal, hoping to cultivate
our writing skills and keep
us sharp for the upcoming
school year. No matter how
incentives presented to us —
worn, leather-bound covered
journals or neon jelly roll pens
— I protested. Out of teenage
spite, I sloppily composed my
entries, triple and quadruple
spacing my sentences to meet
the minimum page requirement
and scribbling in near-illegible
scrawl. My vocabulary was
bland and disjointed, detailing
activities I could conjure up,
like “woke up at 8:32 a.m.”
or “brushed my teeth for 46
petty? Yes and yes.
Once I reached high school,
summer requirements, and I
gleefully vowed that I would
never journal again.
Then something changed. It
was the fall of my senior year
and I was bumbling through the

Common App and frantically
completing last-minute college
visits. Nestled on the plane en
route to Washington University
in St. Louis for an interview, my
nerves were buzzing. Whether
it was an introversion-induced
terror or a need to proactively
process my anxieties, I felt an
unfamiliar impulse to write. As
if by fate, I’d packed a “college
journal” at my mother’s request
to take notes and look engaged
Hesitantly, I pulled a pale
blue book from my backpack,
pinching it like an alien object.
I awkwardly brushed the pages
and aimed to focus my thoughts.
Pen in hand, I began to write.
concentrated, restricted even,
limited to the topics of college
and leaving the bubble of home.
broke and everything poured
out. Memories of insecurities,
friendships lost and heartbreaks
of the past flooded to the
surface, spilling out of me like
water. My hands failed to keep
up with my thoughts, jerking
from line to line as though
possessed. Before I knew it,
page after page was covered
in black ink and the plane was
close to landing. Emerging from

my trance, I re-entered reality,
hands shaking slightly and eyes
wide and alert. I felt electric
processing the words from my
mind to the blank sheets had
lifted a physical burden from
my body. I felt weightless.
It would be a lie to claim
that my plane ride flirtation
with journaling turned into a
full-blown love affair. I did not
become a daily journaler, nor
did I find inner peace every
time jotted down an entry, but
I did discover the value in self
reflection. Growing up in a
I’ve had the privilege of access
to endless piles of information
at the touch of a screen. But just
as this information overload is a
blessing, it is also a curse. In the
maze of posts and likes, it is easy
to get lost in the lives of others
ourselves on the backburner.
journaling has morphed into an
outlet, a crutch and a therapeutic
tool for reconnection. Though
it kills the thirteen-year-old
drama queen inside me to admit
it, my parents were right all
along. Their simple, sincere
message to me all those years
ago is one that I’ve finally
decided to heed. Just write.

On comfort and journaling

Daily Arts Writer


They are joissance
distilled in an
image, in a single
expresion that is at
once complicated
and crystal
clear, then cast
throughout like
speckled debris.

Print media has been “dying” for a long time,
but in that death, or at least relegation to niche
markets, there is a great deal of personal value
placed on what we choose to fill our shelves

More than anything, journaling has morphed
into an outlet, a crutch and a therapeutic tool for

4B —Thursday, October 3, 2019
The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com

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