She asked him at the bar if he liked art, and he said he liked words, the sounds she had made on stage, and the feeling of objects. He stole a tumbler for her as an example, because it was there, and he could touch it, feeling the condensation of the ice inside under his fingers. Smooth and round, nice to hold in his palm; he took her hand and pressed it about its shape and took advantage of her objectifying fascination with the “mysterious” blind man. He dunked her hand in the ice, and she gave a drunk little shriek. Joseph laughed at the prank and Don suggested a bit loudly that they all go get food at the diner.
She was always so damned fascinated with him. Then the Zero. She stores her sharpened pencils in the tumbler on her desk now. A reclaimed space, a better, more productive use for what is now just an empty container. She wishes he would just move on.
He’s leaning back in his roller chair, the one with the wheels he took off with a screwdriver. He keeps this one in her dorm room, one of the many that he has placed all over campus. He steals them from the classrooms and pushes them out to his favorite corners of the school--the library, under the oak tree by the fountain, the back corner of the auditorium. Next to the computer in Don’s bedroom. Then he removes the wheels. He stores them all in a box in his closet like a clutch of strange eggs.
She jokes that Joseph is a natural installation artist, deconstructing stolen chairs and leaving impressions of himself in space. Certainly people seem to just naturally make their way to him and start asking questions. For him the chairs are just outposts, a place to land. He needs the touch points as he makes his way around the maze of the university every morning. Running his fingers along the facade of the buildings, counting his steps, looking for familiar landmark shapes among the transient forms in his vision. All day long the two of them enter his world, dim but lovely.
When they find him he’s always a bit preoccupied, always willing to be woken up from his meandering thoughts by a touch on his shoulder, foot tapping slowly to the rhythm of whatever verse is tilting through his head. He gazes at the empty space just to the left of her feet. She’s not quite sure where she is for him; perhaps nestled in between the meter and ether and rhyme.
Rarely does Joseph look right at her. Donald seems to live for her attention, looking at her out of the corner of his eye when they work, hoping their eyes might meet and linger when they all gather at the bar. She feels his darting, jealous glances when she sits on the arm of Joseph’s chair in the library. She wonders if Joseph can feel them too. They make her feel powerful, cut up, towering, fragmented, cyclonic. “Slice a visage to build a visage, a puzzle to its owner.” She wants to be the center of their puzzle and Donald eagerly puts her there. She is resentful because he gives her what she wants.
In the late 70s she attended a female classmate’s photography exhibition on “The Male Gaze.” She remembers a film project, titled something like "Surveillance in the Style of Doisneau." It appeared to be some sort of comment on “The Sidelong Glance.” A hidden camera had been placed above a pornographic image of a woman hung on the gallery wall. Patrons could pay to watch other gallery patrons look at the image through the television feed.
Ultimately she had found it boring. It had occurred to her that maybe this was the point, but the passive aggressive accusations of postmodernism really weren’t her thing. Rather than provoke moral questions, it is safer to make the object unviewable altogether. The best you can do is obfuscate and confound the viewer. Use impossible materials with unbuildable designs. Build massive, intricate installations that collapse under their own weight.
Does she want the world to see her pieces as they are meant to be viewed? Decades from now, art critics will comment on how she takes the viewer into an auditory experience far more embarrassing and intimate than any pornographic record could imitate. Her art becomes angular, stark, a bit cruel, designed to embarrass and punish the viewer and the objects they perceive. Drive both viewer and object underground where they can no longer be seen.
Carrington reads Joseph a review of her latest show in Mexico City:
“… What is singular about this magnificent installation is that it can only be seen from 'inside,' and at the cost that the painstaking intricacies of its exteriority then appear hidden from view. The viewer becomes a ‘blind spot’ within their own perception of the piece, disturbing the transparent visibility of its structure. It bears witness to our inability to fully frame the objects that appear within our field of vision, however much we may want to see them--or be seen by them. Chamberlain’s work reminds us that we, and with us our desires and fantasies, are implicated in how a space is used--and therefore how it is seen and remembered.”
“Sounds like triumph. I should hope to see it one day,” Carrington says, folding the newspaper closed.
“Hmm,” Joseph muses, slowly tapping his foot. “Glad she made it back.”