The following is an informal response to the First Friday opening reception of Recreationical Serentorium, a collaborative installation by Monica Dixon and Annie Woodfill on view at Vulpes Bastille through the end of June 2018.
Inside the gallery some people were holding chiffon bean bags and I felt a sense of anxiety. A worry that I needed something to occupy my hands. White panels of fabric hanging from the ceiling kept me calm and secluded in my corner. Annie entered the room and handed me a bean bag, like the kind you would use to play corn hole. I could stop, ponder, and make sounds with this bean bag. It took up the space in my hands normally occupied by my phone. There were several of these bean bags on a pedestal, each slightly imperfect; not quite square, not quite round. I set down this bag and picked up another, the next one was heavier. It had more beans and oblong corners; as the beans moved from side to side it felt like an oversized worm.
Across the gallery was another pile of bean bags, one made of gold lame. The texture made me feel like sweating, the kind of sweating one does when dancing in the middle of summer. No relief, no tactile satisfaction, just dewy discomfort. As far away from comfortable as you’d want to get. My fingers stuck to the attractive metallic synthetic of the fabric. The rhythm with this object was off and it didn’t feel right, I was not in the mood to settle for subpar tactility. I picked up another oblong chiffon bean bag and kept walking.
A third pile of bean bags was near the door. I approached the pile, where on top sat a small pillow, slightly larger than the bean bags, made of well-worn terrycloth. The worn out fabric made me consider its age and the possible damage inflicted upon it, its traumas, its scars. And yet it was still so soft. I picked up this pillow, slightly smaller than something I could lay my head on. It was lighter and sweeter than I imagined. Its stuffing inside made me grit my teeth, in the same way one might when the conscious intellectual self is questioning the desires of an inner hopeless romantic. The pillow was wedged between my fingers, and floss of the foam layers were rubbing against one another. A tactile reminder of my cheap polyester mattress cover, a rustling of familiar texture. I couldn’t hold this pillow gently any longer. This object wanted to be squeezed, calling for contact beyond sweetness. This pillow made me suddenly aware of my sublimation of the romantic need for touch. A longing for exchange in power that might leave a mark. The pillow activated my own need to be handled in a caring way, like a delicate blouse: “wash on warm with two scoops of Oxyclean.”
With the bean bags, my desire was to support their weight and keep the object balanced and moving. However, the well-worn terry cloth pillow made for an intimate and haptic connection. Not in the Silicon-Valley-haptic way of your phone vibrating in your pocket with a notification, but in the way you would squeeze a lover upon waking in the same bed. The way you might embrace their pillow in their absence, or how you might hold close their twice-used bath towel. Each of these scenarios could play out in my mind along the pure white panels in the room, like blank screens at the drive-in theater. This called to the harmony of these tactile objects relationship to the minimalist potential of the rest of the work in the space.
This pillow forced me to consider all the strange actions we take when falling in love, when we find that one object of our desire, complete with flaws, insecurities, fear, shame, guilt, yet all of those negative things are diluted by our desire to touch. That moment of obsession you realize that loving is now your willing burden to bear. That person who dilutes your attention to any others and makes ever more beautiful your subtle awareness of the world.
I put the pillow down on a pedestal and allowed myself to let it go. Only to return home with this need to write it a letter.