writer: So Cal Punk
Danny's mom was a very strange and weird person, and sometimes scary. Without warning, she'd burst from her back bedroom door down the long hallway, and float by in her night gown, her face slathered with some unknown viscous cold cream- like fluid, and her thin hair bobbie-pinned up in tight little wheels. She would then yell, "Danny!, David!, Boys!!," which would urgently interrupt anything we'd be doing. Danny was a year older than me, and despite getting pounded daily by his older brother, was a normal 15 year old. Danny's face was always tanned with freckles, and his body was compact. He was a true surfer, and our friendship was bounded by the relentless body surfing we did every summer.
We were walking to his house in the summer afternoon, when suddenly he whipped out a thick magazine. Curiously, I turned and said "Let me see." Danny reluctantly handed it over and said, "Keep it down, it's Porno!." I looked at the pages but wasn't shocked. My innocence prevented me from perceiving exactly what I was seeing. Every image was an extreme close up of a vagina. These might have been taken with a telephoto lens two feet away. They resembled glossy pink (not local color) abstract caves, which took up the whole page. I only looked at them three or four minutes as we walked, but I simply couldn't comprehend these images, only that Danny said they were Porno! Up to that point Porn was Playboy, locked in my neighbor's garage, or stuffed beside the toilet seat at a house party that my family went to.
When we got to Danny's house, we aimed straight to his room. He then slid down the hallway and tapped on his mother's closed door. "Mom!, Mom!,"...no answer...good, she wasn't home. Danny came back and whispered, "Where am I going to put this?" He tried stuffing it in various parts of his room - each more cloistered than the last; in the closet, under the bed, behind the book case, above his surf board. I just sat there not saying a word, watching this suddenly desperate kid sweating it out before his mom came home. But then Danny did a magical switch, a move so sly that even I, watching his every move, didn't know where he finally put the magazine. Danny turned and said, "Let's walk back to the store for some Cokes." O.K., yet it puzzled me why he would leave the magazine, and take the slightest chance.
We casually walked about four blocks to the store. Danny bought a couple of Cokes and got an older teenager to buy some smokes for us. On the way back to his house, we laughed and joked so hard that we forgot about the magazine. Danny had this thing with timing, and could be so intentionally goofy with faces and voices, that I'd crawl from the fire laughing.
When we got about three houses away, I noticed little bits of black glossy paper strewn on the sidewalk. And as we walked even closer, the shreds of paper became greater. The remnants of Danny's magazine appeared as though it was snowing. The ripped pages were dispersed in the yard, in the trees, on the parked cars in the street. His mom had somehow, even more cleverly and clairvoyantly, found the magazine and ripped it up like confetti, and it blew all over the block. Danny, one of the few times I saw his serious face, turned to me and simply said, "You better go home now."
I thought about this for a long time. I remember the moment of trying to see through the veil of my innocence, that I was unable to, and how this has never been completely stripped away. How we see the world is tenacious, but art can provoke and shock us out of our tendencies and habits of seeing. Art is off center, and its intention is to exhibit an idea that is framed. With porn, the frame is static, the images are centered, closed in, and straight on. It's about nothing more than what it is, and even its process of seduction is quickly revealed. For example, the Seinfeld shows are about nothing central, which then shift into something else. With porn, its intention is known even before it's exposed and it stays on its track. Artists are aware of the difference between porn and erotic images. There are so many examples of this throughout art history. Courbet's paintings are erotic, yet his paintings are about a realism that plays on how goddesses were depicted by the salon academy, that he rejected. But there are a few artists who investigate this space because of its inherent danger of crossing into porn. Picabia, and especially Duchamp, methodically transversed visual eroticism and its meanings. The viewer could even consider this to be Duchamp's subject matter. Many coffee table books seem to intentionally avoid Duchamp's "Given 1. The Waterfall /2. The Illuminating Gas". The current discourse is about its shocking visual level, and little about the erotic image. My strong sense is that this work is a funeral pyre and Duchamp's end to the central image. I know what is erotic when I see it, and my sense is always changing. When art breaks the boundaries, we experience the difference. Duchamp's sense of meta-irony and the beauty of indifference is one expression. I'll say that with my tongue firmly in my cheek.