Dan Finsel, The Space between You and Me / Hammer Biennial first visit, immediate impressions, part two

Dan is dancing, his feet do a ballet (they writhe like nervous, eager virgins) while his  mouth directs his muse, “Spread your legs.” His toes paint on the floor, “Now smile – not so tight. Tell me you love me. Say it.” Is it shit or blood or paint that his toes and heels smear? Clay.

A sculpture asks: “Can I wait in the fireplace?” (yes sir, can I hide in your hearth, with its blow job, knee-hole eye-hole, at the very center of your heat? Can I?!)

Like Penelope and like Philomela (and like neither, for Odysseus is present, not absent in his exceptional perversity and no one has been devoiced, although a rape – or two – may be taking place), Dan has woven rag rugs of inexpensive (and promisingly mec or trade) tank tops and tighty-whitey briefs, these serve as blankets to protect his obsession from the floor, or vice versa, resting on these are a table that supports one sculpture (a Minoan goddess or bastard Venus of Willendorf) and the body, the impression in clay of a months-long, torrid – if imaginary – affaire de lust.

A pineapple makes an appearance and I am relieved. Two black and white photographs of this tropical fruit hang in the gallery and I wonder(ed) why. The appearance is neither explained, nor is it given context in the twenty plus minute film. I think that pineapples promise wealth and welcome guests, I recall the sweet, hormonal scent of a pineapple left too long on a table in the summer, and my imagination conjures the sticky, tangy fluid that spills when I split this fruit and my eagerness to taste of its promise.

If one scene in the film does bring to mind Étant donnés, as the guard suggested to me, then when I think of Dan Finsel can I hold at once in my head the roaring, gonadal monster of Picasso with Duchamp’s sly, intellectual, and also sexy, wit? And, thinking of Duchamp’s sculpture with its closed door, through whose hole am I peeking when I view Dan Finsel’s installation? That of his young muse? The artist, himself? Has Bataille’s solar anus colonized my mind and I see through this?

When I remember that they are acting, Dan and his friend, things become more interesting. I can imagine living this tale, but not making it up. I wonder how the clay feels in their fingers, and how it smells? The nice guard smells it for hours. The recumbent muse, or the artist, for they are indistinguishable, squirts oil on his chest like cum.”Touch me there.” I want suddenly to touch, to sit on, to sniff the tank top and briefs material in the rugs – I look closely and note the guard watching me, incredulous. I fear that she may ask me to move, and so I do.

“What is the table about” she asks me, “um, to hold it up?”

Hammer page for Dan Finsel: http://www.madeinla2012.org/artist/dan-finsel-2/

My own past writings on and mentions of Dan: http://notesonlooking.com/?s=dan+finsel

I note that Richard Telles now represents Dan Finsel: http://www.tellesfineart.com/danfinsel.html#

Post Script: those who read this piece early may note some revisions from the original. They are done and that is that.

I extend my thanks to Dan Finsel. His work cannot be easy to make, for he is never less than present – even when he is watching himself be watched by us, as here when under a greasy, matted wig, he glances out and catches himself when responding to his lover’s urgings. For a bare moment the veil dropped and I saw Dan smile at his absurdity and at his shocking, debased, transcendent grace. Dan Finsel’s willingness to arduously craft and inhabit for months a character and a history, and to then, amidst his passion play to allow me the revelation of glimpsing the artist (the artist, did I say? Nay, the man, for “artist” is another of culture’s imposed roles) at his work – all of this goes far beyond the mannered telenovela that is currency in high culture in our time. Thank you Dan Finsel.

There are mushrooms that grow in Central California, after the last rains and the heat has dried the earth – baked it, really – at night, all at once grow fungi, thick, fleshy, white mushrooms. This growth is disturbing, it pushes aside the earth and cracks the clay-hard soil. In the morning these mushrooms cover fields, fist-sized white horrors, surrounded by earthquakes. This is beautiful and creepy beyond words, as are you Dan.

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