The title of this exhibition, Fill:Full, is the literal inverse of Fulfill and also seems to invert the meaning of the word. It reminds one of Seneca the Younger’s (Roman Philosopher, 4 B.C.-65 A.D.) quote:
They vomit that they may eat, and eat that they may vomit.
First, there is the notion of vomit as a metaphor for art making. The videos (Fill:Full) are a direct and literal representation of the artist’s desire to make marks that are a true expression of the inner self. Here, the artistic material comes straight from the inside of the body (and looks like rich paint) in an unstoppable convulsion. It is at once a product of both thought—the controlled breathy moments preceding convey this—and an uncontrollable convulsion beyond the mind’s control; as if from some source more mighty than the conscience will. . . and perhaps the same source that produces the sense of magic and mystery which is so critical to art.
Second, it is worthwhile to draw the analogy between the products of the body (i.e. blood, spit, shit, piss, vomit etc. . .) and the products of the mind. For just as food and drink pass in and out of us, charging us with the energy to live throughout our temporal lifetimes, so perhaps do ideas pass in and out of us, making up the nutrient source of our consciousness. That is to say that as artists, what we do is use our subjective bodies (the physicality of ourexistence) to process and give form to objective ideas, which exist outside of us and potentially hold the key to the secrets of the universe.
Third, it is important to consider how the grotesque functions in art, and most often elevates its meaning. There is truth in the grotesque just as there is “truth in beauty.” In fact, the two polarities are often married to create a more whole and real representation.
The grotesque upsets thought by dislocating its structure. While the logic of reflection tends to be either Aristotelian (either/or) or dialectical (both/and), the grotesque involves the non-logic of neither/nor. Neither inside nor outside but inside-out and outside-in: shit, piss, spit, vomit, blood, sperm, and, perhaps most grotesque of all, a corpse—a rotting corpse. (Mark Taylor)
Hence grotesque vomit becomes an ideal vehicle—or even a testament—to realize the physical body as a transitional object.
As the point at which eros* (love, desire, the sum of life) and thanatos* (death, the death instinct, the vanished) intersect, the corpse is neither merely living nor dead. The stench of decay, which is the smell of death, is at the same time the sweet aroma of life renewing itself. An unassimilable ‘remainder,’ the corpse is a grotesque monstrosity that is disgusting yet strangely fascinating and attractive. (Mark Taylor)
Here, the moving images are presented as paintings—or as an extension of paintings—because they are clearly aestheticized in color, composition, and narrative. Yet their subject matter is grotesque. This combination of formal and ideological aesthetics adds depth and force to this art presentation.
Finally, it is meaningful to look at the act of vomiting in the context of humility. Since being photographed in such a vulnerable position is a submissive act, it’s like an agreement. Humiliation in front of your fellows is a shared experience in vulnerability that leads to a sense of brotherhood. In the sense that moments of clear vulnerability bind us and generate empathy in us for our fellows, the humiliating action has a relationship to art. It says look we all do it, were all lowly, we’re all the same. It’s as though we peel away layers to show increasing levels of similarity and of vulnerability. To see someone naked is one level, but how much greater the intimacy when we get down to our inner bodily functions- because there we are all very similar to each other, and even to animals for that matter.
Taking these considerations even further, it is important to note even the potential for intimacy that the sharing of any inner bodily fluid signifies. No product stored on the inside of the body has gone unfetishized. A very clear example of this exists in the 1970’s confessional by Ralph T. Castle entitled “My Thing About Vomit,” in which the narrator describes his discovery of his own erotic and emotional connection to vomit as:
…the primal thrill of gushing, of giving forth, which turned me on. It was like ejaculating but much more dramatic. And vomiting brought me into an intimate contact with the juices of my body that were normally contained and hidden. This, and the sense or turning myself inside out, was exciting.
Or, consider the actress Frances McDormand’s quote from an article about her in a recent New Yorker issue:
Now I’m a slave to my child. I hold my hands out and let him vomit in them.