Posts from July 2023

to look without fear

July 27, 2023

The first time I heard of Wolfgang Tillmans was in my early 20s when I happened upon a photograph of his in Vogue. An editor had singled out “Sandcastle” as her favourite photograph, adding that it was the hopefulness of the image that she was most drawn to, “that we build them, even though we know the tide will wash them away.” There’s nothing remarkable about the image, but it’s what it represented to her that made it meaningful. It resonated with me and so I tore out the page and stuck it in a scrapbook. And up until recently, my only association with Tillmans was that one sandcastle and the uplifting ideas that came with it. I knew that he was enourmously prolific, and that his work was raw and real, but I hadn’t looked further than this one image. So, when I walked through The Tillmans show at the AGO recently, it came to me, somewhere between the black and white salacious club scenes and still lives of mangled crab legs that, “to look without fear” means to see the whole picture, better yet, to look beyond the picture and see that it’s rarely as frightening as we think it is. Just as significant as seeing the light, is seeing the shadows cast when something gets in its way. “I want to invite the audience to approach my work without fear but also to not be afraid of their own eyes and how they see,” says Tillmans. The show is a shining example of how seemingly unremarkable moments, when strung together over time, can tell a story that is as painful and complicated as it is beautiful and celebratory. His images, some 4 x 4 snap shots, are stuck to the walls with clear tape like one might see in a student dorm. It’s so crude and quotidian. So brilliant. The mundanity of it all. The gritty, tender, miraculous mundanity of it all.

cat woman

July 5, 2023

As a kid, we had a cat that pooed in our bathtubs when we went out for long stretches or forgot to feed him. He was cold and aloof. If not for the fact that he made for a beautiful foot muff — he was a Persian Chinchilla — I’d have nothing nice to say about Mowgli. To be honest, I’ve never had much nice to say about cats, in general. Sure they’re pretty to look at, especially those Russian Blues, but for the most I’ve always found them self serving, unpredictable and arcane. It’s a running joke with one my best friends, Izabela that I am, in fact, part cat. “But they’re so neurotic,” I say scornfully, to which she always smiles and says something like, “umm,” or “uh-huh.” If I’m a cat, she’s a toad. Then a few weeks ago, I happened upon this description of cats by The Colour Purple author, Alice Walker, that made me re-consider my view on cats. “Cats, in particular, teach us to be ourselves, whatever the odds. A cat, except through force, will never do anything that goes against its nature. Nothing seduces it away from itself.” As someone who has too often abandoned her true nature for the sake of acquiescing others, and/or an image I would like others to have of me, I have great admiration for anything and anyone that protects theirs. If Walker’s right about cats, then living like one is gutsy as hell. It means risking being disliked, dismissed and misunderstood — are cats selfish or self aware, aloof or deeply sensitive — in exchange for a freer and more fulfilling life. “Contemplate ways we can strengthen our resolve to live our lives as who we really are,” writes Walker. I can be selfish, solitary and very sensitive, all common cat traits that most humans resist in themselves and yet no feline ever makes apology for. More and more so, I’m trying to do the same. There’s a cat in me, after all. I text Izabela with the news. “I always knew you had it in you.”

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