For Valerie Simmons' elegant and textured upcoming show at Galerie Dentaire, one of my personal heroes of Montréal's contemporary dance élite gets frozen in time, over and over again. Known for his show-stopping performances at the Agora de la danse and Flexx, José Navas is an innate mover, strong, anti-balletic, and ageless. Simmons says her Personae ("masks" in Greek) and Trois Battements ("three beats") series are meant to show how
human behaviour “is impacted by its surroundings; when speaking of the surroundings, I am referring to human environment as well as human attire. That which encompasses us has agency over the roles we play,”she writes eloquently in her artist's statement. In an age where our surroundings and our relationship to them are reduced to “Liking” and posting on peoples' “Walls”, it is a relief to see a photographer taking a path that diverges from the rule of immediate comprehensibility, and strives to express something more poetic.
Works like Simmons' have weight and silent power, but also an erotic frisson from the presence of Navas in various nude or semi-nude poses. Images like “Ave Maria” (above) of the nude male buttocks can get you “reported” on Facebook, as happened to yours truly on December 10th after I giddily posted an image by French neo-mannerist photographer Vincent Malléa (Pain Capital, see previous post).
It led me to wonder how we have come to so police and diminish our visual and social worlds that one or more of my own contacts chose to report me to the site's censors rather than discuss the merits or challenges of nude male butts in artwork with me directly.
As I write this I am on day 8, and already, I find I have more original ideas, an expanded vocabulary, and I had a three-hour long hang-out with a close friend I hadn't spent sustained time with in over four months. I also find myself less concerned with where I am supposed to be, and more concerned with where I am.With the Harper Government pushing through Parliament its notorious Omnibus Crime Bill C-10, which will impose mandatory minimum sentences for minor drug and non-violent crimes, and broadly expand the prison sentences for any sexual behaviour at or around minors, the issue of nudity in visual culture is poised to become hyper-relevant once again. If Bill C-10 is passed by the Senate unamended, many readers of LGBT and art publications could be charged with exposing sexually explicit material to minors, for merely displaying (or holding a copy of) some of the artistic images in galleries or publications that happen to contain nudity when people under 16 are present. The devious and Puritanical nature of Bill C-10's sweeping new sentencing guidelines are none other than a reflection of who supports the current Government and why: social control in a punishment-based society functions on suspicion, judgement, and an irrational equation of nudity with porn, drugs with violence, and criminality with mere irresponsibility.
It is well known that poverty and discrimination are the real reasons that crime exists. Who's reporting on that?- Jordan ArseneaultImage: “Ave Maria” by Valerie Simmons with José Navas Exhibit: Jan 6-25th, 2012. Vernissage January 7th, 2012. Galerie Dentaire 1239 rue Amherst, Montreal
Photos by Valerie Simmons, Danser and model: José Navas - (Compagnie Flak) www.galeriedentaire.com