Alive with Pleasure

Index Magazine (Unpublished)


1. New York / Winter 1996: Musty and greyed the huddled trundle muttering with flannel tongues, smelling of mothballs and slush. Already dark, we gaze hopefully upward to the illuminated tableau vivant of our other selves: although we are shy and hesitant, they are delirious in their enthusiasm and glee. Although we are hunched and ashen, often undefined, our Newport colleagues gleam with perfect clarity and density of color, buoyed by an invulnerable green. We are tentative, they are emphatic; we are wan and they wax in perpetuity.

2. In an era of increasing pictorial realism in advertising photography, from the use of dappled sunlight and shallow focus to imbue a romanticism to the most banal products, to the use of pre-existing documentary images to hawk fashion, the Newport cigarette campaign noteworthy for its choreography of artifice . It is an artificiality so hyperbolic that to compare it to anything familiar and experiential is to misunder.stand its terms and ambitions. The images' mania is matched by their longevity: in an industry whose images and strategies change seasonally, the Newport players remain fixed like a demented high school cheerleading squadron whose enthusiasms remain long past many, many reunions.

3. Photographs of the most frenetic sporting activity conventionally describe a crest of energy an emotional truth. The photograph's authenticity is as an infinitesimal rendering of real time, and the resultant pictorial vocabulary: blur or grain and a spontaneity of framing reinforce this authenticity. In our Newport world, this energy is so mannered and self-conscious, it is like tax idermy that depicts a predatory activity, some animal and pulse-quickening event in infinite stasis. In postmodern parlance, the Newport pictures are not a simulacra of the real at all, but a completely new strain of the unreal and more stifling and brilliant than any known ideal.

4. I propose a situation comedy entitled Alive With Pleasure, a high velocity Up With People combi laugh track olympic coverage and Friends without the burden of plot devices, melodrama and relevance, just high octane athletic teasing in a field of green. Otherwise, what are their names and can they come to dinner? If I am depressed, tired, defeated will they be uplifting or irritating? What if it rains?

5. It is inevitable that the Newport billboards would thinly coded erotic scenario. What is interesting, however, is that in this teasing and flirtive foreplay some familiar high school ritual is being enacted ad infinitum: a long ago gender competive hysteria in which the girls are permitted to play with the boys in a suggestive athletic romp. As the boys grin maniacly, the girls open mouths wide in a frenzy of ex hilaration and ex pectation. The boy's supplicance is merely strategic and temporary: in high school sexual politics, eroticism and competition are tightly woven.

6. Horizontal green is a landscape format that, by implication, suggests those ruddy and ex pansive activities that occur outdoors: think touch football at Hyannisport. The presence outside as billboards reinforces this. It is a more perfect than astroturf landscape that is pure color without the bother of texture. This airless and claus.tro phobic green box engulfs the figures; more than indoors it is a place that is almost underwater in its density. The billboards feel like aquariums, the figures sometimes thin plastic decals on our side of the glass. (The cropping of the figures is invariably ackward and vertiginous. To accomodate the goofball dayglo typography, the figures slide forward or careen off bottom right).

7. Team Newport does not engage a subtle or sophisticated eros, but a rowdy and athleticized event, a fetishized screwball c6medy without the verbal wit. Consistently coed, the body is trussed and armored by athletic leather and latex . The pictures are about power and vulnerability, about humiliation and teasing, an explicit play of power and desire.

8. Some random Newport events: A toothy and grinning woman squatting whose hands display two catcher' s mitts, one with baseball in center and one of the mitts presumably belong to the male figure behind her. Male and female rollerblading: female careening forward and him closng in and gazing to middle distance. Two female figures laughingly pulling a tall rubber boot from a reclining male figure, his right leg extended along the bottom frame. A couple painting with great mirth and ation (the paint matching the lurid orange of the Newport typography), the rear of the male on his knees having received the painted palm.prints of the woman.

9. The Newport pictures are a mutant hybrid of advertising control and artificiality from the 1970's grafted with something from the future, however dated and vacant the future may appear . It is a disorienting place between cultural memory and anticipation, our past and future, the familiar and idealized. It is difficult to pinpoint precisely what is so unerving ultimately about the images. Is it the exact combination of the wholesome and perverse or is it a confluence of self-confidence and artificiality? Is it a particularly complex combination of the subliminal and the overt?

10. Canal Street / Summer 1996: Flatulant trucks spew malton gravel; the asphalt weezes and cracks and steam escapes as if from the very center of earth. Malevolence is many tongued here; body hair sprouts humidly as we stand stranded as blazing metal wobbles by. Blurred, our eyes fix on these sweatless and metholated bodies, without burden or dread, perfectly air-cooled and filtered. We are wilted and fetid, they are pneumatic . Here is the future perfect that refers only to itself: endlessly recreational without regret or anxiety, a past without loss and decay, a future available now for all.

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