Includes text by Helena Haimes The Space Between
a review by Jerry Saltz, Senior Art Critic New York Magazine
*(no kissing) held in the Tate Library Special Collections
Size: 230 x 265 mm
Pages: 72, 26 illustrations
Binding: Hardcover, embossed title in artist’s handwriting
Publication date: September 2016
Printed and bound in Japan
Translation: Ayako Koide
Penile Papers, published by mnk press, 2021
(no kissing), published by mnk press, 2016
Flesh Wound, published by Draw Down 2016
The Space Between
by Helena Haimes
At first, I was surprised when Dominic asked me to write this introduction. As a straight woman with a relatively pedestrian sense of sexual adventure, I’m not what you might call a frequenter of Craigslist’s M4M section. The more you look at these intensely wrought figures and their exploits, though, the more you come to understand this work’s universality – broadly, this stuff is about the idea of sex vs its reality as it’s experienced by all of us, rather than by gay men in particular. These bodies – intentionally out of proportion, with stupendous thighs and tiny heads – and the caricatured absurdity of their ‘sexy’ actions, feel like a reference to the ultimate, inevitable let-down that we can imagine often accompanies the realisation of these men’s fantasies in, say, a suburban living room on a grey London afternoon.
Myatt’s pen relishes the nature of his chosen medium, scrawling hairy testicles, greasy bald heads, or distended limbs with the warped freedom and startling immediacy only drawing can provide. Were it not for the texts alongside them, you’d be forgiven for thinking these images had sprung straight from his fountain pen in a splurge of late-night erotic imaginings, rather than being grounded in anonymous, online cries of desire.
As contemporary as this net-inspired body of work is, its exploration of the space between sexual fantasy and its reality is one that ‘degenerate’ philosophers and psychoanalytic thinkers have pondered on for centuries. Since his time at Goldsmiths College in London, Myatt’s work has taken various inspiration from the classically-structured erotic novellas of the Marquis De Sade that balance dignified storytelling with the sinister sadism that earned him his reputation, as well as renegade surrealist Georges Bataille’s enigmatic musings on eroticism and its connections with death and sacrifice.
Echoes of both these thinkers undoubtedly haunt the works in (no kissing), but the two most resonant come from the ideas of ‘the French Freud’ – twentieth-century psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan – and contemporary LGBT theorist Michael Bronski. Lacan saw the human sex act as so entirely entangled in the realm of fantasy, that is, in a totally idealised image of both ourselves and our lovers, that when faced with the true materiality of another’s scarred, smelly, moley, real body, it will inevitably fall short. Bronski’s musings take these ideas in a heady, borderline Utopian direction that would most likely credit the boundlessly inventive nature of what he calls ‘the gay imagination’ for the richness of Myatt’s source material. “Fantasies,” he says, “allow us to create a context and a space for our desires. When we act out these fantasies, we, in a sense, kill them off. They are no longer ‘safe’ because they have materialised into the world in which belts and whips hurt, emotions are complicated, and other people have to be paid attention to.”
This line between love and disgust, as expressed so eloquently by Myatt’s distended figures and their dripping penises or wobbly limbs stretched to the point of comedic discomfort and the odder-than-fiction words which brought them to be, is a blurry one.
1. See Michael Bronski’s Notes On The Materialization of Sexual Fantasy, included in Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics and Practice by Carol Truscott, Dorothy Allison, Michael Bronski, Tina Porti; Allison Books, 1991.
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