a world behind a curtain / a thought behind a head
by Mahmood Fazal
A brick wall I drive past, outside the Love Machine nightclub, is cordoned off by detectives. I wind down my window, as the breeze and conversations pour in about victims and geometry. One of the policemen is measuring something. Another is assessing the scene, drinking coffee, while asking his colleague about the game last night. Blood was still shimmering off the bricks after bouncers were shot with an automatic assault rifle. Their heads exploded leaving the wall with remnants of whatever was going through their minds momentarily beforehand. I wondered about what happens in our heads and how we’re always trying to bring them inside out; through literature, marketing and diagnosis. A splatter of black membranes sprayed across Connor’s canvas reminds me of that night on Chapel street and a rorschach inkblot I found decaying in a book about Michel Foucault. According to Damian Searls, who traces the long arc of Rorschach’s influence in his book The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing, inkblots are interesting because they present the subject with a visual task. As in art galleries. I read somewhere that for Searls, “the blots are a testament to the power of the aesthetic in the Romantic sense of the word: a state and study of heightened perception, one that exists somewhere in between feeling and cognition.” What happens when these cognitive feelings are pressed by the lights of a Xerox photocopier? Connor interjects, “It feels handmade. It’s always different. It has personality.” I listen to an album by Xasthur, To Violate The Obvious, framed by Dominic Fox’s ideas in Cold World: The Aesthetics of Dejection and the Politics of Militant Dysphoria, “Xasthur is designed to confront the listener with the waste and horror of human existence, the worthlessness of all human striving...the affect it aims to induce is one of overwhelming despair.” Connor observes his art like a clinician. There’s an undercurrent of painful forgetting. He wrestles with the thought of stretching personality, and individual differences, to their finite conclusion. His work is personified with the vessels of mass production. Connor uses screen printing. He repeats his process in cycles. He works with concrete. He clocks on and off like a factory worker. He comes from labourers stock. He understands the program. He does not think about his personality. Theodor Adorno understood personality typing and testing. On the management of workers in The Authoritarian Personality, he writes, “It cannot be doubted that the critique of psychological types expresses a truly humane impulse, directed against that kind of subsumption of individuals under preestablished classes which has been consummated in Nazi Germany, where the labeling of live human beings, independently of their specific qualities, resulted in decisions about their life and death. The rigidity of the construction of types is itself indicative of the potentially fascist character.” Connor’s smiles always seem forced. “Any sort of material, like whether it's concrete or something, it's all going to be a little bit shit and a little bit fucked-in. And you kind of play into those idiosyncrasies. It’s a nice reminder, you know? Don't try to control too much.” The concrete slabs find their identity in unmanageable forms. The dry paint feels like distortion. Everything is unsettled. Nothing is certain. The strokes are loaded with intuition and left with fate. “There’s something about this obsession with destruction that rubs me up the wrong way. It's sort of like breaking things down, and then you're rebuilding it because you're seeing it in a way where you want to break it down.” How do spectators break down his sculptures and paintings in their heads? “In that process of breaking it down, it appeals to something. A need to break it down to be reconfigured. In a way that works. It’s who we are. It’s how we think.” In the middle of the room, concrete is drying. “See. It works.” I have nothing to say. The room falls silent. There’s noise from a neighbouring construction site.