Night has fallen on Vienna. And I have a date with three boys. The first one in weeks, maybe months. I am on my patched-up bike and my wine-laden, weary muscles scream at me with every peddle, I badger my vehicle up the hill, all the way to WAF Galerie. Already from afar I see soft, yellow light radiating from the windows where Juliana Lindenhofer has hung her three sculptures, »Boys without Fruit Basket«, each in one of the windows of the gallery. This light comes as the much-needed silver lining to conclude my way uphill. I throw my bike in the corner and face the windows with burning calves and sweat-wet armpits, my vision slightly fuzzy from an amalgam of exertion and alcohol. How they shine! Drawn in by their organic windings and crevices, I come closer. The three wax sculptures are hanging calmly from the ceiling directly behind the windowpane. They’re held by glaring red tape that is commonly used in boxing. This traversing red crudely disturbs their inharmonic, yet attuned color threesome of yellow shades. Desire is a FIGHT.
Reminded of Paul B. Preciado’s descriptions of a chimerically incorporated cybernetic cable that, in a totally absorbed moment of writing, connects the computer with his neck muscles and through them, with the world, I stare. The fissures of the yellowish wax sculptures seem to creep towards me like abrupt-sprouting tendrils, into the tense muscles in the backs of my legs, and further still, to coat and permeate everything around me. Vienna (snotty pretty thing). Together they pulsate.
Although I slowly started hugging people and going out more and more the last couple of days, my body is still deeply deprived of shared physicality. Now I enjoy this moment of intimacy with the »Boys Without Fruit Basket«. The crisis has verified two things: yes, we are totally dependent on the digital, but nevertheless, our physicality, our actual bodies and relationships don’t dissolve in pixels. On the contrary, our bodies with their moans and their omnipresent ailments, some smaller, some bigger, aren’t getting tired of reminding us of our being-flesh, our fleshly neediness, our vulnerability and hunger. Memento Mori, they scream even louder as we sit isolated between the opaque and invisible clouds and bitstreams. It’s tissue that builds the Cyborg, still.
The sculptures, as the title hints, are based on a personal encounter of the artist with Caravaggio’s »Boy with a Basket of Fruit« in the Galleria Borghese in Rome at the beginning of this year. What captivated her instantly was not the impressively painted, luscious fruits or the scandalously sensuous, slightly opened lips, nor the lasciviously drooping eyelids, but the thick and bulky triad of neck, shoulder and collar bone, laid bare. The boy is beautiful, the throat is uncanny. There is a certain cruelty in the pursuit of beauty. Maybe this is what made Caravaggio such a violent man. The painting’s overflow of beauté is almost unbearable, it is so excessively juicily fertile, its sexuality so blatant but implicit, such that in order not to recoil from the mastery of this piece, you have to encroach upon it, steal something from it. What the swag of this thievery was, we will never know, but it for sure is encapsulated ingeniously in JL sculptures.
Unlike Caravaggio’s boy, JL’s boys don’t care for gender. They come without heads and have no distinct limbs, or markers. MULTIPLIED. They’re flat and represent only themselves. Sometimes the outlines seem to trace plants, at other times, they come closer to human-like, organic forms or ornamental fragments. Extra-terrestrial landscapes.
JL is a talented alchemist, a master of morphing. Bringing together distinct beings and differentiated matters, she fuses them together in a witchcraft-like process of mixing and pouring. The outcome isn’t simply a modification that happened by going from A to B. It’s no sentence with an exclamation mark. In fact, JL refrains from all punctuation for the sake of an open end, anachronistic temporality and localities of in-betweens – an ongoing morphing. These wax figments aren’t simply hybrids, a bit of A and B. They form a completely new, uncharted, yet not unfamiliar, anatomy C (or DDSetMb1FNWbM…), one that is only slightly reminiscent of common shapes and grammar – they are a contemporary futurity, BOYS, that keep coming-of-age, without fruit basket.
We can only imagine how JL stirs the wax with a long wooden stick, how she colors it with a precise dosage of different pigments, grinding them between finger and thumb. secret. While the wax is hardening, she kills time by pumping some iron to toughen her corpus lines. With freshly swollen flesh she starts penetrating the soft material with hard tools. Soft-core magic. Maybe it’s a drop of JL’s sweat that is the clandestine ingredient in these works, breaking the seemingly effortless beauty of Caravaggio’s scene. The wax figments run counter to all norms of beauty. Lingering chippings from carving remind us that the sculptures are incomplete, in the making, precarious and ailing. They are wounded bodies, still searching, never still. Boys WITHOUT fruit basket. We ate it all. Basket included.
I feel like I’ve got their sympathy. My needy, intoxicated, aching body corresponds with their deformed, violated selves. It’s welcomed. In fact, is it desire that I, WE feel? Is that which attracts, our shared infirmity, the deformations that the flow of life necessarily molds out of us? Desire is a mischievous thing. Bestowed upon us when we’re young: the monster of normativity. Seduced in a heartbeat, we start to lust for the dreams of others, chase the grand tales told. As kids we’re all believers. Your desire doesn’t belong to you (yet). It’s nothing if not mirrored in the sparkling of someone’s eyes. Seduced, we stray right into catastrophe. The boys light a different way. They teach us DEVIANT DESIRE, arousing a joyous and imbuing tingle.
We are relishing ourselves, dancing between red boxing tapes. Ready to take a punch. I can hear the BEAT. It’s with rhythm that we transform ourselves. The night is a shelter for self-fashioning. We redirect our desire towards wrinkled skin, bad fruits and decaying yellow flesh. Falling in love. »Der Körper ist zum benutzen da,« echoes in my ears. The body not a temple but a tool, as my wise friend Sophia admonished me.
The panting on my arrival has long ceased, the twitch in my leg is fading. I turn sideways. Look for my poor, rusty, now more appreciated bike. As I glance back one more time, I am struck by the humbleness of the yellow things. Modest, they hide behind reflections during the day and shadow-casting backlight during the night. They don’t hang out in the window to pose. They do so to look out. To encounter. It’s not about a transgression of limits that asks for the greatest rupture possible, the ultimate resurrection of the repressed, or fixing a deficient system. Feeling for deviant forms of being together is rather what is at stake – as broken, vulnerable, becoming subjects, sending the blueprint of a beautiful, binary, unscathed body to hell.