Anika Jeyaranjan, "face down, I lay frozen in motion", found objects, various fabric, batting, thread, black tea, silicone, pigment, steel, wiring, 2022.

Somewhere there is a field where you and your beloved can sit with your legs intertwined like ribbon. Feel the chill of their skin upon the warmth of your forearms. This distance of worn denim, flesh, bone, all that permits you from knowing their innermost, secret of selves means they’re still here, sitting, right next to you. They are no longer gone.   

Robinson Crusoe dreamt of cannibals: flesh smoking with the pain that makes saints pale, fat congealing like molten gold upon the ground, and white teeth meeting the sinews of each and every muscle. 

Cannibalism is old. It is an act older than me, you, and everyone we love. Cannibalism is old like love and old like power. Saturn ate his children; a father fueled by desperation, jealousy, and perhaps also a love grown inward for too long. How could you live apart from me? I could not bear for you to leave me. Never die, never be born, just be here, in me, with me, of me, for this moment. Our veins twinned like ribbon. Forever.

In Luca Guagdagnino’s 2022 Bones and All, morning light casts spidery shadows against grime-smeared bus stop windows, fluorescent bulbs expel a sickly pall within rural highschool corridors, and nightlights make sleepovers feel somewhere close to heaven. Empty farm fields, with abandoned machinery overripe like burst phoenix eggs, glint fire in the dusty morning sun. Trailer parks sprout in unnamed Rust Belt towns and our lovers Maren and Lee meet for the first time in a hidden corner of a Walmart parking lot. Both have eaten people. Both are tortured. Both have hidden and protected themselves for so long against love, hate, and connection that discovery of one another feels like a blighted miracle. Bones is at its heart a fairytale about what it means to love in a world formed by contradiction and violence; and how cannibalism becomes both metaphor and curse for two young outcasts who finally find one another in that far off field. 

The figure of the cannibal holds a fickle shadow; it adapts, it changes, it transforms within its given environment. The core of the cannibal’s identity, the act of cannibalization, can even become a container for something much more frightening: sex. The “vore” fetish functions in a loop. Someone wants to eat another, the other wants to be eaten. A sadist needs a masochist, a masochist a sadist, and the tiger in space shines ever brighter. The presence of this voluptuous excess, what’s left behind in the wake of skin, words, and fluids, takes center stage at Parlour and Ramp’s Structured Impermanence, with work by Lauren Bradshaw, Anika Jeyaranjan, and Theo Trotter. In each piece the moment where orgasm erupts, language fails, and skin blooms vermillion is given shape: tenuous, reaching, screaming, blinding, oozing shape. 

Fibers seep open upon gallery walls, wounds and jellyfish both float, and pain crosses the threshold into the home of your ribcage. In the center of the dark paneled laminate floor Jeyaranjan’s face down, I lay frozen in motion (2022) appears like a spectral bed. Steel bracings hold fabrics and batting aloft in the shape of a sinking, sickly bed. The white of the fabrics is faded, like long ago hospitals or morgues. Birth, death, angels and demons, or something in-between them all lay within the sheets. Black tea combines with pigment to sit atop the batting like an ill humor, staining rivulets of white to brown. The sculpture contains the imprint of absent bodies, ones once come undone in animal fear and ecstasy. There is a scene in Bones where Maren finally finds her long lost mother in a sanatorium. The sanatorium sits on the outside of a dirt road town, a feared and haunted place where sickness reigns. The concrete walls look like prison. An attendant escorts her to her mothers quarters, where she peers fearfully and fitfully out from behind a corner. It is revealed that Maren’s mother is also a cannibal and throughout the years she has self-cannibalized her arms and legs. I lay frozen in motion is the bed where your mother laid, strapped bare and out of her mind with the overwhelming immensity of being human. The only way to cool the fire in your skin is to bite down as hard as you can. Black tea pools against knotted batting like vaginal discharge or the ghosts of stillbirth. I lay frozen is a moment, a sculpture, time without hands, a love letter where the words bleed off the page.

Theo Trotter’s Untitled III (2022-2023) hangs suspended from the ceiling like a pirouetting ballerina held aloft by her music box; a frozen girl, a slab of meat, a memory upon memory upon memory calcified into personhood. Eyes knitted into perpetual transition. Transfiguration. Gauze, lace, and latex merge with hair, like a river’s deep vein; calcified rock worn into earth; soft edges craft a form that speaks the language of the ouroboros, of semen wasted on the ground. Lick every drop. Sully is the grandfather Maren never knew. He is a dangerous man who finds her by scent. Like Goya’s Saturn his love has turned inward for too long. Sully carries a hair braid containing strands from every person he’s eaten. Grey, black, blonde, brown, dyed tresses are illuminated by clips and bobby pins. There’s a weight to the braid, like Trotter’s floating dream. Story upon story, memory upon memory, life upon life embeds itself within the folds of each lock and stream of gauzy fiber. There’s melancholy and madness to be had with each blow, each injury, each mark upon one’s personhood. Yet where the braid holds death and absence, Trotter’s bloodied cotton candy holds its own life. Glistening and seeping, like a jelly fish that births itself, Venus emerged from the foam of a father’s castration, Untitled III holds no beginning or word. The work knows that words fail, they turn slippery in mucus and cum, they drip and change until something entirely new is made;such as death and something more, something excessive, something beyond. 

Theo Trotter, “Untitled III,” Gauze bandage, lace, latex, plastic beads, hair extensions, nail polish, pins, size variable, 2022-2023.

Lauren Bradshaw’s Umbilical (2020) sits slick on the dark floor, its soft and fleshy whorls reminiscent of a pulsating sphincter. Like a sphincter, the umbilical cord can contract and move nutrients, shit, blood, and cells, from one to another. We’re connected, for better or worse. Love left on the vine for too long. Love turned inward, love gone wet, and soft, and penetrating. Pantyhose, polyester fiberfill, and tender alpaca yarn look so soft, inviting. Sully speaks in a breathy falsetto, there’s menace in that voice as his gelatinous tongue licks Maren’s face. His spittle rains into her mouth as he has her pinned on a bed. He is Saturn, she his child. How could you ever leave me? We’re one and the same. Lee feels the bond between him and Maren, he returns to their room and she is saved. The lovers don’t have long. Lovers never do. Lee keeps Maren safe but dies by Sully’s hand. He doesn’t want to be here without her. These bones are yours, these eyes, these hands, this blood, this flesh, take it. Cut the cord and take me with you. Take me the only way you can, now. Each separation between us is a reminder of our connection. Bradshaw knows what connection means; its softness, its comfort, its many abjections, those strange desires that take you someplace like home. 

Lauren Bradshaw “Umbilical,” Pantyhose, polyester fiberfill, handspun alpaca yarn, (size variable), 2020.

In 1974, Jacques Lacan presented a paper now colloquially referred to as “The Third” to the Seventh Congress of the Freudian School in Rome. In it he writes of the impossibilities of the subject to present a coherent self through speech. These pains are borne to a world made by what is cast off, what is unclean. Desire and despair are closely intertwined. Immonde and La Monde. Fluid, mucus, shit, vomit, peeled skin, and cum, are cast off from the subject’s body. Someone once told me, if you ever saw the Real, you’d never stop screaming. The sickly body, the ecstatic body, the bleeding body, the body at the limit of what a body can be, beyond speech, beyond coherence. That casting aside, the disintegration of the boundary between you and what is cast off, what cannot be spoken, is a place where abjection can live. The art of Structure Impermanence, Bradshaw, Trotter, and Jeyaranjan’s work, treads in these narrow, forgotten tracts. The plastic sheets dyed and pulled to resemble skin, bulbous protruding structures soft and fragile, and liquid seeping upon virginal fields of fabric, speaks to the processes of physical expulsion. That moment of speaking, of recognition, of giving voice to what we see in each work, what we cannot, should not say, that is this show’s tender dance with abjection. The cast away is given new life, love, a home here. 

The moment of breakage, of going beyond, of losing everything, that first bite of familiar flesh, is brought to life with spectral breath. This language of ghosts is given new meaning and bloody, steaming life through each amorphous form, each reaching skin, each darkly-stained hair and intestinal sack. There is a story running through the underbelly of the show. It’s the story of the body and its hungers. Once upon a time, there was a far off field where we sat like ribbons, twinned under the cold sun. Does your body remember?