Always Steal Never Borrow
today i’m stalking someone who looks
both like a grandmother and a person who
could be my lover and who is
triggering, triggering …
so this is about love and
i walked into this place, not knowing
but expecting everything.
and in the first room, there you were,
a specter video projection, dressed
like joseph beuys in renegade wear
with your head buried in a pile of fat,
just holding still. the church lady guard
in the room making a sketch
of something else. her grin is disconcerting
juxtaposed with the image of you,
now lowering your legs into the fat.
A throw of the device doesn’t abolish chance.
I’m just trying to walk through the door
[somebody else, somewhere else asks:
What should change?
What should stay the same?
What could you imagine doing if you didn’t
do what you do?
the brutal truth.
the relationship between original and
originality, as well as accessing space for
A wild throw of the dice.
Hate, violence, our hot desire for death.
Raising a lot more hell.]
here’s how I’d like to tell the story:
I’m standing in a room, around me are some
of the things you’re most (un)known for—
precisely imprecise repeats of iconic works
by privileged mostly white male artists,
many created just before these men became
canonized as “masters” of the 20th century.
what’s catching me by surprise
in this showroom is the live go-go dancer
in tiny silver shorts. Surrounded by repeats
of warhol, johns and lichtenstein, my man
is shaking his thing and his thing and
his other thing, listening to headphones on
a low blue platform that is bordered with
small light bulbs in the middle of the room.
this is repeat as well, a gonzalez-torres
moment. made from her recollection
of the work and from the available materials,
its details differ slightly from the ones
i’d seen in photographs, smaller light bulbs.
the dancer in this case wasn’t a muscle man
with a buzz cut, but a thin tattooed twink,
dancing in the silver lamé short shorts and
with the yellow sony sports walkman that i
know from the books. that particular walkman
catches my eye because it is inscribed
in my childhood memories of the 80s;
it’s one the kids in the know had (not me)—
the first status symbol of cool.
I wanted to hear what he was listening to,
or ask, “Hey, what’s it like up there?”
“How much are they paying you?”
“Maybe we could talk when you step off that
pedestal, what are you doing after this?”
Language is not jargon, but language is
jargon—demanding and diminishing it to
non-function with the powerful reversal of
Always at stake is pushing the silent power
of art to create a hovering force and energy
that leaves the spectator rocking and reeling.
The work is done predominantly from
memory, using the same techniques,
making the same errors, and thus coming
out in the same place.
That might be a bit abrupt. But still,
you’re sending these signs that I can read
and maybe those tourists taking your photo
can’t. you’re on live display every saturday
from 12 to 3, I’ll be back. I’m distracted
by the other objects in the room.
the lichtenstein hot dog in a bun painting,
a repeat of this enduring symbol of the
fast-food penis … and then, the big flat
endless warhol flowers, oversized,
the image pirated originally from a kodak
advertisement, repeat repeat repeat.
and then there are these johns
plaster and bronze casts of light bulbs,
resting on top of little blocks that are like
oversized soap bars. just lying there
a little flaccid, a bit testicular, a little bit
like the way a body with a round shape
might lie on top of a body with a square
shape. i find these little beasts sexy,
and absurd. i’d never seen them that way
before, some kind of echo/shadow
being cast …
this might be an exhibition hall, but it occurs
to me that she’s staged a takeover.
reco(r)ding an exhibitionist/deeply queer
disco/hot dog/decorative/light bulb/orgasm
space. something is turning me on.
Reading Michael Jackson was My Lover
by Victor M. Guttierez (self-published,
1997)—the super reality of truth as falsity.
And always in between, Gilles Deleuze and
Michel Foucault to prevent brain damage;
using horizontal thinking.
remake reuse reassemble, recombine—
that’s the way to go. the force of the work
lies in the premise that thought is power.
ruptures and leaps, tensions and
intensities, and strident repetitions that
bring to full force the blatant exterior:
the outside brutally dismissing the interior.
she doesn’t go to porn movie houses
to jerk off, doesn’t wear her collar up …
the work is loaded with guts and passion …
those who came were moved to tears
prior assumptions (the icons, the art history
lessons, the neutralizing figure illustrations)
quietly accepted come unhinged.
things that are recognizable: hot dog is a
hot dog is a flower is a dance step is a pulse
strips down what happens when one
object stands next to another.
how to image-name the system,
that one that gives some things surplus
value while undermining others,
that turns declarations into logos,
that whitewashes our ability
to see for ourselves.
it is something primed for detonation.
now. it’s time to start, (re)new. i’m watching
my seeing unravel. this is a moment
there never has to be something else.
There is no end. The head doesn’t go dead
after you understand it. On the contrary
there are many places to go …
fraught with linkage and displacement;
a tight play between screens that shoves
originality has its limitations and requires
every kid with a lollipop knows … absolute
clarity is a rigorous
Sturtevant, “Sliding Parameters of Originality,” in Original, Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 1995.
“Questionnaire: Sturtevant,” frieze, October 2004.
“Sturtevant talks to Bruce Hainley,” Artforum, March 2003.
“Bill Arning Interviews Sturtevant,” in Sturtevant, Munich: Oktagon, 1992.
“Sturtevant as Sturtevant as Sturtevant is John Waters as John Waters as John Waters is,” in Sturtevant: The Brutal Truth, Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2004.