In this prismatic and obliquely appreciative study of Antoine D’Agata’s photography, Peter Sotos arraigns the fraught vocabulary of gallery apologists — and of D’Agata himself — to locate a “finer definition of pornography” beneath the exigent demands of desire, transgression, and art.
From the text:
Not an argument with Antoine. What he says makes sense to me. Antoine can try. To articulate the lives, or his. Not enough like mine or how one should learn by now to mope. My choice to reduce his vague, perfectly desperate responses to even less isn’t done to pinpoint prurience or laud the banality of contradictions and intellectualized sexual honesty. I think he should be placed in art rather than pornography, since, honestly, one has to choose, label, sell, mutter. Having a place to go where the level isn’t boastful but conciliatory is a better place to have. The arguments are most often with those that need to blame the offer; who usually opt for the same slimy conclusion as me. Important to them to find expansion, humanity, a lean reason instead of bulk obsession. Failure, shrug-marketing and limp frightened objects performing jobs. Sex is tacky, central, but mysterious as long as the mystery is highlighted. Condemn the pain on one side while indulging it on the other. Pick bravery and introspection rather than impulsive divestiture and repetition. Point to the pain, reference a cause, track back but don’t return. Don’t progress unless it’s to be overwhelmed.
From the text:
Some will misunderstand it as pornography, yes? Reduce your introspection to their dogging level. The forum is sick, the conversation corrupted by the audience, the need for contextual references, the historical over the esthetic, diminished by lifeless answer rather than stiff ignorance. This, sucker, is where you become as lousy, easy, as the pornographers you seek to sound less like. Your tolerance, coming before your sale, is defensive. Your bravery given to you inconveniently by those who call you a coward. A rule of thumb, easily employed, only ever silently, my darling, is to substitute the word “adult” over every catcall of “coward.” “Thought” over every “need.” Repulsively, “product” over “art.” And it’ll help you to insist on “desistance” over “desire.”
From the text:
I like to think that the work I’ve done has forced me to look forward as an old dying man from the very first time I saw it. From when I was younger, not that I would have wanted to stay there. Drippy nostalgia, grief, that I have. But the questions, for example, that Antoine D’Agata bats off, come from him first. He convinces them before they open their selling robot french mouths. Might think they’re asking questions they’ve thought up. And you start talking about progress. The lack of it. The medication to escape. The desire to have desires that don’t lose yourself in desire. That’s for him. I don’t think the art stands up to the complimentary mock attacks but you don’t turn around and say that you just want to be happy. Or even learn to enjoy the pain.