Slant

SUNRISE: January 18, 2018

January 18, 2018. Photo: Ariana Reines.

I’M CURIOUS if you’ve ever found your soul upended by an image. By a single image.

This is the one that did that to me:

A frieze of Doubting Thomas from the cloisters at the Santo Domingo de Silos Abbey in Spain.

It was something about the awkwardness and rhythm in exact proportion—something about the Christ, in half-crucifixion position, offering his wound to the probing Jupiter finger of the Apostle Thomas—strange enough to verge on the sexual, awkward enough to wedge itself through the joinery of my skull, crack open my begging bowl, & let the light pour in.

I’m not Christian at all, but I did watch a lot of Nick at Nite when I was little, and my friends had stuff like this in their houses:

I mean, ew.

You imbibe certain gaseous forms of Christianity just existing in the United States.

But the various forms of Christianity aren’t my point—and it’s not my intention to insult anybody’s religion. It’s more that, because I’m Jewish and Judaism, like Islam, doesn’t like graven images or the depiction of divinity in anything like human form or humanoid terms, I was something of a tabula rasa for the various iconographic codes of Judeo-Christian Capitalism.

But I know you don’t need me to tell you those enamel angels look like the sex dolls of a pedophile. And I know you don’t need me to tell you that, when obscenity—sexual exploitation and rapacious war—is simply the background, the negative space against which we take our every breath, the space of reverence within us, almost imperceptibly, and even without effort, finds itself doing an unplanned and self-taught gymnastics, guttering and flickering like an insistent flame—to keep itself just strange enough, just barely-beyond our ken enough to evade the fornicating maw of the real.

Eskill & Vicky Accompanied by T.P. Poly Rythmo, “Ecoute ma mélodie” (Listen to My Melody), 1980

To return to the “Incredulity” of Thomas above—I see that moment, in which he demands to touch the wounds of the risen Christ, as a gorgeously weird instance of generosity, of lesbiating intimacy, and a hilarious conflation, on the part of mainstream Christianity (if the thousandish-year repertoire of Thomas Incredulities can be believed) of sight, touch, and belief. How generous, to offer your body yet again, after you’ve already poured out your life’s blood on the cross. How daring and brave, to bear witness to the enormity of a miracle by admitting you can’t believe it, while your comrades, in their neat rows, are acting all pious and docile.

I’m fascinated by the hypnotic encoding of those image repertoires we have no choice but to move through, and then the power of certain instances—in image, or encounter, or sound, or breath—to crack them open. I won’t waste this space posting images I consider forms of exploitation hypnosis. You’ve seen tens and hundreds of thousands of such images. I know you know what I’m talking about.

But I’d really love to hear about the images that make you feel un-hypnotized. That make the beelzebubs immediately stop feeding on your face, that banish the scums and the demons from your mind, that return you to your sovereignty. Write me at lazyeyehaver@gmail.com or letters@artforum.com.

See you tomorrow.

January 18, 2018. Photo: Ariana Reines.

Ariana Reines is a poet & playwright. She astrologizes at lazyeyehaver.com.

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