by emmy e smith
Teenage abandon, grecian cliffside, gay public sex.
Before we notice the carpet, we are brought first into male adult sexual worlds – red glow, sticky floor accuracy – allowed to become disgusting like a bathroom.
Like the pulp style painting near the gallery entrance – it stays “alive with pleasure” (movement of drips, joyous multiplicity of pissing, unpredictably- it is an ecstatic movement.) Its rhythms are stimulating. They recall to me the freedom of crowded dancing, both read, such as in Douglas Crimp’s 1970’s “Diss-co (A Fragment)” and those experienced. It is like a teen’s room, the wet carpet studded with melting chrome chocolate chips and little belly stars from a piercing. It is saturated with the unapologetic grime of teenage life, not yet burdened by an awareness of ants. For a show called Technolust, it’s ok to start with the most sensational. The sprinkling heart of Emma Beatrez’s show is a fountain cycling Mountain Dew through its plasticky tubes, splattering around in its ceramic basin, dancing in droplets onto the rug. It features: Piss, a drinkable substance, the wet look carpet, the action of carbonation giving way to the motion of the fountain, a mimicry of the action of a no longer fizzing drink. Fountain transubstantiation. In this room I am most struck by a small prefabricated cavity sitting at bedside table height in the corner behind the fountain. It is a sorrowful and obscure container; it looks like packaging material that shipped a series of objects. What is to be made of the empty specialized box? All I can identify is a spot for an inhaler and so I know the other articles must be exactly as necessary and as specific to someone’s daily experience. The action in them is that they are absent.
We exit the fountain room passing a vertical display of ceramic busts. The lingerie and camo appliqué on the cast virgin heads show many un-Mary-like modes of femininity, but she’s here for it, gaze down, quietly still being Mary.
Silver phrases swoop through the space, a room busy with paintings, text, rusted and ceramic sculptures. A ceramic rope chain hangs from a truck grill that says “disco,” as if disco is the truck that hits you and it’s wearing an ironic nautical chain. There are clean articles of genders (camo, rhinestones, the virgin) kind of wal-mart dyke meets pin up girl. The space takes me to a cosmo or teen ppl magazine segment breaking down an outfit into components but in an imaginary magazine tempered by reality and exhaling poetry.
Camo as the new Camp
The camoflage maybe lends an avenue for blending in – you could be any one of the many queers with a mullet and carharrt hat with a bill and a camo jacket, landing with a soft thud in someone else’s prefabricated cavity. The expectation precedes you, step through… its ok to do it because this conformity is a thrust on only one of several connected roller skates, pulling violently at the crotch of american politics. The straddle tears greater and greater, the feet away from one another as the ironic camo (camp) is brought to and past the mainstream of queer life, while in strictly rural settings, camoflage still functions as a social demarcation of a very classic red politic which accompanies real violence toward queer ppl and all the while, and all of this is confused by camoflage’s necessary involvement with practicality through the avenues of hunting.
Is Paradise biblical- is paradise to be concealed? Is it to be the hunter? Kick board tombstones ask these questions and many more. Somehow imperviously conveying foam-ness, the pair of works sit at the base of the gallery stairs. Facing at a 45 degree angle, these apparent kick-boards each have the distorted text “PARADISE” printed on a spray painted x on top of real tree camo slip covers. They’re underlit with a harsh neon. A vertical kick-board is a weaponized pool article, on the ascent to paradise at a dangerous velocity. In these pieces, the words are a vapor, the perfume of them works like an irreproducible substance, smell: midsummer, evening, humidity just like this, on a block with ash trees, on a block with no lawns, on a block of brick apartments, tar streets, specific people at this time in their lives and their habits and the odors of their lives. The words around the kick boards, strung like a belly belt on a mean teen I grew up with, breathe this intimate odor from their sticky phrases.
Horse as action, words as meaning
With the acuity of a bomber, Beatrez has soldered glamour by the foot into phrases that are incantations (an incantation: melodic, for a divine purpose, power through symbol and vibration). Horse gear hangs heavily here and there on larger sculptures and directly on the gallery walls. The absence of the horse calls in a stunt double, maybe it is us, maybe it is the sculptural – specifically the not-verbal – works. Well, and the works that have a word on them, distinct from the word. The mute forms contain a great action, muscular legs of a horse. The hardware to the software of interpolation. Actions and adornments. Meaning is an adornment, but it is also only as clear as the koan, harder for me to discern than the thrust of the actions in the objects. Spikes? Spikes protect, or they could be for sex (via sensation). A truck drives. A chain weighs, is swagger; a boat walks on a chain, the heavy item kept. A screen sells me to myself, and the phrases conceal their meaning in the logic of poetics (a place safe from fools for secrets, a perfect fiber optic channel of experience.) Spiderwebs are technically words (E. B. White, 1952) A fountain is for drinking, or for pissing.
Finally we are apprehended in the basement for our endeavors by a monolith. Of all of the acts to be caught in, we are here most surveilled when we look up at a small bite guard and a tassel, two small elements that feel directly tied into the building, bearing the traces of immanence and interaction with the gallery space (surveilled at our most vulnerable, the table leg you always hit your knee on.) The screen encounters me like an inevitability. My ontology is frail, needs my form to appear to myself in order to verify the experience anymore. The expansive static of the poetic language (lust) evacuates me, i remember my conditions (techno-)
emmy e smith is a writer and artist soon to be completing an MFA program. You can find her zines and the first in an upcoming chapbook series entitled “Probably Already Underway” on her website. Carpentry rate STARTS at $30 hourly. She can be reached for questions, comments, comissions and zines at emmyesmith.com
Technolust 3000: A Lexicon for the 2020s
by Brooks Turner
Technolust 3000 bristles with frenetic energy spilling from a profusion of materials, references, and structures in Emma Beatrez’s exhibition at Hair+Nails. The exhibition feels somewhere between an immersive installation and a show of discrete objects, challenging and disrupting norms of display. Somewhat overwhelmed and adrift, I find myself able to grasp onto chains of rhinestones with soldered text affixed to wall, ceiling, and floor throughout. These shimmering moments illuminate my path through the gallery, shaping a poetic lexicon…
Technology is infrastructure, the bedrock for cities, nations, and institutions. Despite its sexy, cyberpunk title, Beatrez extracts from the techno- prefix an infrastructural poetics of agriculture, architecture, transportation, and communication.
Beatrez engages the architectural specificities of Hair+Nails with porcelain spikes affixed to engaged columns, rhinestone chain hanging from ceiling joists, and busts of the Virgin Mary set into a cut open doorframe. Above one such spiked column at the front of the gallery hangs SOFTWARE HARDWARE, a rhinestone chain spelling just that in all caps, but with HARDWARE reversed, the -WAREs mirroring for a moment. Through this juxtaposition, the porcelain spikes become hardware, absurd but nonetheless structural in gesture, recalling hostile architecture but disconnected from the anti-houseless violence of this reference. Perhaps, we can read the fragility of these objects (Beatrez shared that several broke during installation) as a poetic rejection of institutional violence, a reminder that infrastructure has power only when we give it reverence.
SOFTWARE HARDWARE also extends techno- into the digital, which has become an essential aspect of modern infrastructure. While elements of digital language appear throughout Technolust 3000 (including this title), the objects on display are firmly rooted in their materiality. More than anything else, the digital operates through absorption: the two dimension plane of a screen transports and subsumes the viewer into new hallucinatory realities as does Beatrez’ material language. Further, through a lustful lens, the soft-/hard- duality becomes a phallic operative, and thus the absorbtion of sex meets and reflects that of the digital.
With a frame of rusted steel pipes and spikes appropriated from broken soil tilling equipment, Cherry Portal continues the poetics of infrastructure via this inclusion of agricultural technology. A translucent magenta sheet of vinyl is stretched to the steel and spikes by rhinestone chain. “AFTERLIFE” appears almost as a hallucination, text melted into the cool red expanse. There’s nothing theatrical about the object, neither hidden hardware nor falsified veneer turning it into a prop fit for fantasy or horror B-movies. And yet, I am drawn to project myself into and through that deep, cool red, to find the afterlife within a cherry fog.
Shut your eyes and access your imagination. Open them and that immaterial image held in your mind’s expanse casts a shadow into the world. Technolust 3000 is an interface for those otherworlds of consciousness.
SIRENS DANCING IN A LOW CHERRY FOG
The sirens sing so beautifully anyone within earshot is immediately absorbed so thoroughly they give up their life to listen until death. Is their song aesthetic perfection or witchcraft? Is this death transcendent or the tragedy of overdose?
Odysseus refused the sirens, heard their song, and still managed to escape fate, saved from death by his crew. I can’t help but wonder how music sounded to him after such an encounter. Could anything come close to the beauty he heard passing the island of the sirens? Did he long to hear even the foggiest of approximations? Or did those moments of similarity repulse him with bodily memories of deadly sorcery?
Must we risk death for aesthetic perfection?
DANGEROUS SOMATIC TERRITORIES
In 1757, Edmund Burke published A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful wherein he defined the sublime as an aesthetic experience generating from some power outside of ourselves capable of our destruction. There is no danger in viewing art, and yet a sublime experience triggers a somatic response, death creeping towards us, crawling up our spines.
Spelled out in rhinestone chain “DEATH SPIRAL” droops between two figure skating blades fixed to stretcher bars hidden beneath faux black leather. White scratches in the black leather transform the material into a layer of ice. In figure skating, the death spiral is performed by a pair whereby one lowers the other to within inches of the ice while both spin across the ice, using gravity to keep them from falling to the ground. Despite its name, the maneuver is not particularly dangerous, and no death has ever been recorded from attempting a death spiral. However, the precarity of balance, the dependance on another’s strength and grip, the speed over ice on sharpened steel all engender an aesthetics of the sublime. But, in the surface of Death Spiral, I see my car spinning out of control, careening across a winter roadway covered in black ice, crashing violently into a cement barrier—a death spiral more real, haunting our Minnesota winters.
Bite, a cyanotype on canvas, is a fantastical nightmare inflected with moments of sublime truth. A deer stares from its deep blue monochrome habitat into our interloping eyes in the moment before bolting. I choose to believe that it is frozen not by fear but by curiosity, adrenaline coursing through its veins. There is pleasure in curiosity, in staring into the unknown or the uncommon, in seeing what you’ve never seen before, even if it’s frightening. Centered beneath the deer, Beatrez has aptly collaged an image of a car crash. A friend of mine almost lost his life to a car crash. He recounted to me the way that time slowed as his car hit a rail at 80 miles per hour, flipping over and over again, totalling the car and breaking numerous bones in his body. He felt neither fear nor pain in those harrowing moments, only a detached curiosity. When the car came to a halt, he was able to climb out of the wreckage before passing out. The threat of violence, of pain awakens our senses to a new realm of sublime experience through flooding adrenaline. Most of us only experience death once—might as well pay attention in those final moments.
A close cropped face repeats along the bottom of the canvas, overlapping and obscuring each appearance. The face belongs to a wax figure, amplifying the discomfort emanating from the uncanny visage. In proximity to Madonna, a series of busts of the Virgin Mary, this repeating face begins to take on the Holy Mother’s appearance. In the dogma of the church, Mary avoided death by ascending directly to heaven. To find Mary in the mask-like, emotionally detached, almost psychopathic stare of this wax figure reveals a degree of inhumanity in our perception of Mary. Without experiencing death, Mary is almost inhuman, inspiring in us fear and curiosity.
Pain might be the most primal experience, essential to any living thing. Thus the reality of pain implies a worldview constructed from internal experience. Idealism posits that the foundational principle of the cosmos is consciousness; matter generates from mind. But invoking the real also drags with it the possibility of its opposite. Unreal pain might define a phantom sensation, the mind tricking the body into feeling something that doesn’t exist. Inversely, it might define suffering so extreme it ruptures any possibility of a shared reality. But in neither case is the pain false. It is felt and so it is real.
What is aesthetic is not always real, but what is real always conveys an aesthetic. The snow chains in Mirroring Strategies are immediately recognizable, but in this orientation, interwoven with brass chainmail, they transcend their material reality, conveying an aesthetic of pain, recalling for me some medieval tool of torture or war. Chains, even when used for protection or pleasure, tether to pain.
MY PSYCHE WITH HOT VIOLETS OF EXQUISITE SUBTLETY
The opposite of pain is not pleasure; the opposite of any feeling is all encompassing numbness. Our senses are entangled; feeling makes us real.
ALIVE WITH PLEASURE
“Alive with pleasure” describes to me some sort of orgasmic reverie or MDMA-induced dance-trance, not Newport Menthol Cigarettes, which used this slogan throughout the final decades of the 20th century. The phrase appears twice in Technolust 3000, each time leveraging different connotations, navigating the space between advertisement and ecstasy.
Alive with Pleasure I continues the series of rhinestone chain text. But appearing above Neon Font and Untitled, the work becomes one part of an installational tryptic. The red neon of Untitled floods the back room with a red electric light. Neon Font introduces sound and the cloying smell of Mountain Dew which circulates endlessly in a fountain at the installation’s center. A faux fur rug on the floor makes the fountain feel almost like a hearth. The splashing Mountain Dew laminates the floor in a sticky wet veneer reminiscent of a house party’s fading hours. There is a hallucinatory pleasure to this space—a cherry fog—recognizable but off, club-like but still, comfortable but sticky.
Alive with Pleasure II turns towards nostalgia, dragging images from a commercialized, feshized past onto the canvas plane. The eponymous phrase spans the top third of the painting in the same font used in 1980s Newport Cigarette posters. A splotchy green and blue spray painted cobra partially obscures the left text, extending down to meet a reclining, bare breasted woman plucked from a 70s softcore porno. Emojified teardrops fall from her eye, while a hand painted smiley face annotates her lingerie. (There is Mary in this figure too: Mary, Mother of God, bare breasted; Mary Magdalene, sex worker, Christ’s wife—perhaps a freudian compression of Jesus and Oedipus.) Pain meets pleasure in the image of a stenciled chain looping around 3 sides of the canvas. Pain can mix with pleasure or contextualize pleasure, but to be alive with pleasure strikes me more as a release, an unchaining.
TONGUES LIKE HOT POKERS
Beatrez pulls this phrase from Diane Ackerman’s A Natural History of the Senses. The passage describes “passionate,” “inventive,” “extravagant,” “delicate,” “torrid,” “timeless,” “furtive,” “shameless” high school kissing. Even in the uniqueness of her phrasing, there is a kind of cliche in the nostalgia for the naive but deeply sincere romance between 16 year olds. Cliche and kitsch appear throughout Technolust 3000: monster hands, madonnas, flame decals, coin fountains, cows… So often cliche and kitsch are used imagistically to invoke irony, but Beatrez uses them as structures, reworking recognizable moments into fantastical and material abstractions. This is most clear in the Madonna series: the topography of each bust facilitates topological abstractions of models and monsters. The tension between surface and structure becomes a tool for analyzing the replication of images and the weight of recognition—the madonna as model, the model as madonna, Christianity and corporate marketing compressing, both monsters. But even more than this critical lens, Beatrez deploys kitsch with sincerity, an interest in the images and materials that populate our multifaceted world. Cliches become cliches because at their heart they are deeply true, deeply human.
MYSTIC FLESH VOID
In June 16 / July 20, mulberry stains accumulated over a month become gaseous clouds in a sea of stars. The vastly empty cosmic expanse embodies the sublime, and yet photographs through telescopes project an unparalleled beauty. Life and death cycle, one causes the other. From nothingness somethingness generates. And from something, entropy guides matter back to the abyss.
XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX
I read this rhinestone chain text as redaction, which leads me to reflect on Technolust 3000 as a whole: What is erased from this exhibition? What is obscured? But rather than direct redaction, Beatrez employs misdirection. Throughout their exhibition, the image acts as a Macguffin. We see the cow in Disco Drip, but it is only useful as a structure for the vastly different material gestures of a wrecked grille guard and a chain made from slipcast loops of battle rope.
Sumi Baby Girl
This rhinestone chain text piece is dedicated to Beatrez’s cat. To me, the cat is unimportant to the piece, but what is essential is Emma’s subjectivity, Emma’s personhood. By incorporating pieces of their life, not only through naming their cat but also through repurposed family farm equipment, a Catholic past, and references to their sister’s career as a bodybuilder, Beatrez reflects a cultural moment through their specificity. We exist in a postmodern moment of disembodied images, a neoliberal moment of corporate aesthetics expressed through advertising, a nostalgic moment in search of truths lost to the past, a digital moment of hallucinatory in-between-ness, a hedonistic moment of contemporary bacchanalia, an infrastructural moment of Anthropocenic transformation, a liberatory moment of unchaining…. Beatrez’s frenetic and disjointed aesthetic reflects this absorbing chaos, depicting a more real image of 2022 than any photograph could.
Brooks Turner is an artist, writer, and educator currently focused on the history of fascism in Minnesota. His work has appeared at the Weisman Art Museum, Soo Visual Art Center, Steve Turner Contemporary, Claremont Graduate University, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Zhou B Art Center, among others. He is Chair of Visual Art at St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists and a lecturer at the University of Minnesota and St. Cloud State University. He is the author of A Guide to Charles Ray Sleeping Mime, published with Paperleaf Press, as well as numerous essays published by Hair+Nails, TEMP/reviews, and Art Papers. Brooks is currently a Jerome Artist-in-Residence at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and a 21/22 MCAD-Jerome Early Career Artist Fellow.
Emma Beatrez – Technolust 3000
by Cameron Downey
Contrary perhaps to the gyration and speed implied in the aptly titled name of Emma Beatrez’s solo show — Technolust 3000 — all but one of Beatrez’s work contains an element of music. Still, Technolust 3000 and the work that comprises it manages to pulse and sing in all the ways an exhibition can.
It could be the immediate sheen of cherry red vinyls stretched translucent or the urgency of glimmering stones, chrome-coated ceramic protrusions or pluming aerosol on canvas. Technolust is at once secret and loud, masochistic and rusted, filled with tool and toy of corporeal use.
Cherry Portal hosts the space as a culmination of all these beats. A party for one, the sculpture operates as shrine and foyer to trance and transcendence. ‘AFTERLIFE’ bulges, embossed in blocked text across a simultaneously pink, orange and red dermal. Punctures and gapes from what one can assume to be misplaced heat gather at the bottom. The entire edifice is hung, taught by steel bars that congregate with a certain pragmatism— which is to say, you could scale the sides of AFTERLIFE’s supports and arrive elsewhere in the same way that you could sprint through it and arrive at an identical location. The marbled brown rust makes Cherry Portal’s facing statement supple with truth. It’s been there a while and may be there a while more.
What follows is the promise of Cherry Portal made real. Alive with Pleasure, Neon Font and above all the room that holds them, fulfills with hyper lucidity a prophesy that only an altar, its beaming guard and serial Madonnas can. Cherries become just throbbing red. Lights breath and the whole space shivers and caves along wires and halogen. It is at once respite and purgatory. Water trickles at constant from the fountainous urinal form at center. Neon Font rages with sense and reserve; AFTERLIFE in manifest. Clues of the body lead and rest here. If this moment-destination axis was all that Technolust 3000 had to offer, it’d be more than enough to deserve the nomenclature.
Beatrez’s event (if any exhibition can be called this) riddles on with clues and intimations of the artist’s conjured and collected reality. A body all but saunters through Technolust 3000’s gossamer rhinestone attics and basements, caves and crevasses. Beatrez makes poems abrupt and ephemeral in chain. Phrases whisper, whistle and disjoint themselves if not taken with careful glance. Andrew’s Stone cements the material destiny of jewel and caretaker; three webs relax in similar yet more delicate supports than previously found in Cherry Portal. This place and time congregates and shrieks as much as it blows lightly out of shadowed corners, refracted luster leading the way as traces of pleasure once had.
Technolust toes the line and hurries along the edge of all possible body-concerned sensation. But even in its saturated, glossed and waxed things, the pale light of decay and its echoes are what above all spackles this installation into one. I’m left with the feeling that I’ve just walked through a graveyard. Still, it sings.
Cameron Downey (b. 1998) is an anti-disciplinary artist and environmental scientist born and raised in North Minneapolis, Minnesota. Their work oscillates between photography, film, body, sculpture, curation and otherwise in order to mediate the concepts and bounds of world-building and survival artistry through Black, fantastical and precarious spaces and forms.
Downey graduated from Columbia University in 2021 with a double concentration in visual art and environmental science. Downey’s art has been exhibited by HAIR+NAILS in: HAIR+NAILS at 9 Herkimer (Brooklyn, 2019), FUTURE FUTURE (2020), “The Human Scale” at Rochester Art Center (2021), and in their first solo show “Three Things Last Forever” (2020). Cameron will present their next solo show of new work at HAIR+NAILS in spring 2023. Downey guest curated HOLDING SPACE, an exhibition of video, image, light and sound, in the H+N front yard (summer 2020). Cameron’s recent exhibitions have included “Wild Frictions” at Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien in Berlin (2021), “Intersections” at Engage Projects in Chicago (2021-2) and “In The River” as part of Midway Contemporary Art’s Off-Site program (2022). Downey’s film “Hymn of Dust” is in the collection of the Walker Art Center where it will be screened in fall 2022 as part of a fall/winter residency.