EJ Hill at UCLA Open Studios
Sometimes when I am looking, the space between the work of art and me is too close to get any distance necessary for representation. Photography fails me, or, rather, my impulse to photograph the work disappears in the intensity of my experience.
Saturday at the UCLA Open Studios I watched – rapt, worried, teary eyed, wincing, clenching, and generally in awe, as EJ Hill crawled around the Center Bay gallery space with his tongue pressed against the wall. I think that he probably was caressing the wall in strokes with his tongue, rather than applying constant pressure. I know that at first he left a trail of saliva, which quickly dried and became indistinguishable on the painted drywall. Within a few yards of his start, at the second wall, EJ’s trail of saliva was tinged with blood and over the course of the 200 or so feet of gallery wall, blood became more and more the thing that the artist left behind.
I watched as Hill stopped and gathered himself to continue, I imagined that he was attempting to generate spit. I imagined that these attempts at salivating failed to lubricate his path. I wondered whether he had counted on bleeding, and I thought about marking one’s territory with spit and then blood. How quietly animal like, and crude. How confident. How disgusting. How good.
In the context of an art exhibition, where EJ Hill’s peers were showing paintings and sculptures, I found it wonderfully aggressive that Hill would abase himself by crawling on the floor, licking and bleeding and underlining his superiority by leaving permanent marks of his own body throughout the exhibition. He certainly stole my gaze from anything else.
In my brief look at Hill’s other work, in the studio and on his website, I find that Hill often uses his mouth as a place of communication beyond words. In the performance Saturday night, Hill made his mouth to be the aggressor and the thing that was acted upon, he used strong language with no words. Hill’s performance has left me wondering, “Why?,” and “Was the a self-aggrandizing endurance piece?,” and, “Wow, I can’t wait to see what else this artist does.”
EJ Hill website: http://ejhill.info/
EJ Hill has friends who filmed and photographed this exhibition. These nice people also offered Hill their support after his performance. Nicely done on all counts. Good work.