Floating Head by Mychal Handley
The motivation behind my work is to dissolve into the anxiety. Each image within the still life series is branded with anxiety—like a scarlet letter, denoting a gendered crime contained by a culture of contradictions. In using photography as a practice, I am interested in creating an exaggeration of reality and compounding of fears. I ask myself: When does a dream become a nightmare?
The still life, as a type of representation, nods toward product and food photography, but I try to complicate the subtext of desire with elements of violence and disgust and humor. In this way, the familiar becomes something strange. Colors and textures and clichés play off each other. Everyday artifacts are carefully arranged within the frame, becoming monuments or symbols of a confused nature. I ask myself: What am I selling here? What am I condemning?
I shoot objects at least in part to avoid the blinding light of human bodies. However, their very absence reinforces their dominance, since still lifes are essentially the staged remnants of human interference. The body is a temple, a profoundly sacred space, from the holy hand to the holy asshole. The body is also a repulsive thing—hairy, itchy, dripping with blood and mucus—signifying the monstrous. The body, moreover, is a site of pain and pleasure, a resource for production and reproduction, and a place for the markings of vulnerability and force. I am both attracted to and repelled by bodies.
The pictures act as a sort of evidence, then, of a logic distorted. They could be introduced in court as Exhibit A, Exhibit B, and so on, for a Kafkaesque trial where no verdict is possible. The crime is indistinguishable from modern living and morality from consumer capitalism. There is a banality to evil, and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
And now my admission of guilt: I am a consumer, too. I wish I could plead with some dignity that I stole a loaf of bread out of hunger, but in actuality I crave sugary food that has been marketed to me all my life. I bite and I chew and I swallow what I am given. Modern society is built on overabundance and addiction. This state of anxiety is the starting point for my work, in which I attempt to embrace the tautological regurgitation. After all, I am peddling the fetish.