D'DG REDNESS
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REDNESS

Jaromir Jedlinski
Introduction

Urszula Czartoryska
Douglas Davis: Dialogy

Douglas Davis
Poland, the Reddest Redness

Joseph Bakshtein
Notes from Moscow on Douglas Davis concept of "Redness"

Martha Wilson
On Redness Exhibition

Douglas Davis
Intimate Tapes

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Introduction

Jaromir Jedlinski

This is the time that Douglas Davis, the interantional artist, has come from America to the Muzeum Sztuki (Museum of Art) in Lodz with an exhibitions of his art. When he was here first in 1982, he showed his video works art objectsa and prints, irrespective of the state in which our contry found itself at that time (the so called "materal law") - maybe because of that state Davis felt an even freater need to be here at that particular moment. Douglas Davis focuses his artistic expression, his intellectual attention and moral sensitivity on the issue of communication, on transmitting thoughts, on the notions of authenticity and freeedom, concerning the dialogue between individuals, communities and culturres. The artist is equally interested in a dailoque with himsef, an interal conversation that everyone practieces. Douglas Davis has been and remains fascinated with Witkacy; his personality, his whole oeuvre, and especially with Witkacy's photography - the game he plays with art and truth.

Now in 1995, we present a group of Douglas Davis' work called Redness - Czerwien; a series produced in the last few years mainly in America, but also during the artist's frequent journeys, which included visits to the countries of Centaral and Eastern Europe. We are pleased to be able to show again the work of the artist, who made intelligence, the critical faculty and the instinct of authenticity the basic material of his message - as convincingly as only artist manage. The artist is especially sensitive to the potential and the context of the media, to their expansion in everyday life and art: his mind and the way of demonstrating his own mental activity is unusually compact, compatible, one could say, with the era of electronic media, with digital technology, which radically transforms - a thing most clearly experienced in the artist's country - the ways of formulating, multiplying and coummicating information as well as artistic information. Yet we should remember that apart from the electronic media, which made our present enterprise possible and which largely determined it, great importance was attached to direct meetings and conversations which Douglas Davis had in Poland,France and in his studio in the New York SoHo; for all of them - as well as for the present meeting - I am very grateful to the artist. I am grateful also to all the authors of the texts dedicated to his work, published in this catalogue, and especially to Ms Urszula Czartoryska, Curator of the Muzeum sztuki, who together with artist prepared this multifaceted presentation of Douglas Davis's thought and work in Poland.

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Douglas Davis: Dialogy

Urszula Czartoryska

Since the early 1970s we cam observe in Douglas Davis' works, produced in the medium of video, satellite broadcasts, graphic works , collages and photographs, as well as in the assemblages from the series Boxes *(1) started about 1978, that the artist is first and foremost interested in the issue of communication. By this I mean the mutually active attitude of the observer and the author, which determines their shared participation. Also Davis' clear involvement in "extra-artistic" matters plays an important role here. One couls experience such a feelin at the artist's exhibitiom at the Muzeum Sztuki (Museum of Art) in Lodz in 1982, where the provocative atmosphere of the private call for a free voice and the protest against itssuppression under any set of circumstances were linked with a violent protest against media manipulation. The artist articulated his protest by installing a switched - on TV set with its back to the audience. He made it clear that this work, as well as a similar photograph on the cover of his catalogue, served as a commentary on material law in Poland.

An example of the artist's urge to establish a contact with observer is his video work The Last Nine Minutes from 1977: Davis struggles behind a glass partition which sepatates him from the viewers, then a shout comes from behind the scene (from Venezuela, in Spanish): "Break through!", after which in a few seconds Davisactually breaks thorugh the partition and jumps out of the frame, thus finishing his performance. In Davis' other works the artist repeats - in a variety of ways - his calls: "Can anyone hear me?" or "What's your name?" or "Come closer to the tv set. Put your hands in my hands. Think of our mutual touch". The ultimate gesture of asceticism which has however an analogous meaning , is an unanswered phone ringing for several minutes in an empty room, in Davis' work The Last Videotape (In the World) from 1975. These are all commentaries on a human endeavour th share emotions, sometines marked by a desperate absence of any positive solution.

In an interview with Peter Frank in 1977 Douglas Davis said: "What I am obsessed about is the content of the contact I make with you I'm trying to make you see certain imafes in highly specific way, and to think about them, also in specific ways. I'm trying to remind the mind that it is there, that ist works that it is a pleasure when it works and that it is responsible for itself and for you". *(2).

In our times since the mid 1970s, the presence of the media in art has had a dual, double-edged character, poised between the cult of technology expressed in technological acrobatics and the need to foreground the contents of the message. As Davis once defined it, in most realizations and publications on that subject the enthusiasm for the technology of communication diminated at that time the possible distinctness of the personal aspect of the utterance *(3). From the very beginning of his practice Davis argued with McLuhan's thesis that medium is the message he believed that te message is the state of mind and the medium is only a tool. This makes for the difference which is not only verbal. Davis made use of video and satellite television broadcasting so as to strike the chord of personal, lyrical understanding on a global scale (Double Entendre from 1981; Davis, whose activities were registered in the Whitney Museum in New York, and his partner, in the Centre Pompidou in Paris, were simultaneously and directlu seen on monitors in toth places). In this work there was a feeling of separation, a certain sense of waiting for a meeting desire some kinf of a spark between the two personalities. It is not by chance that in his own theory and in his use of electronic media and other works his masters are not so much theoreticians of the technological trumph of the media, but rather those who proclaim the human directness of the dialogue especially Roland Barthes. And it is not Barthes, the semiologist, but rather the one who wrote about the "lovers' dialogue"; trying to find in what looks like amustical coberstion the stamp of mystery, privacy, understatement, in the unique but generally predictable separate love languafe of the partners.

In those days Davis referr ed also to other theoreticians of culture. Among them was Walter Benjamin. His theory of the "aura" of the original work of art and of the unstable balance between the unique work and the work reproduced in the age of mass-reproduction, has according to Davis achieved a completely new much more drastic content in the effect of the flooding development of the new technologies of electornic duplication, transmission, reproduction, prefectinf the illusiniositc virtual imafe of a copy - which together constitute an obtrusive simulacrum the fetish of modern computerized times.

Davis discussed this problem in a lengthy essay as yet unpublished in its full version, The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction (A Virtual, Evolving Thesis, 1991-1995). Whereas photography and the new "analogue" electronics have until recently been producing approximately identical copies, faithfull but not entirely similar, the new age of digital communication multiplies completely identical copies of electronic images, both kinetic and static. What is more it provokes maipulation: initations, reversals, insertions, changes in scale and colour , of the same visual material. One acould give here the example of Zbigniew Rybczynski's films and Ryszard Horowitz's photographs. Is it an inevitable future of communication, which excludes all other genres asks Davis and answers: in the technological sense, yes, but it will never replace the hitherto existing means of manual imagemaking since in the latter it is the personality of the artist the atmosphere also the psychological atmosphere, which detrmine the degree of its reliability and the effectiveness of the image. The artist Predicts that there will be a time when expectations about obtrusive illusion have become exhausted, and that the time will soon return manual executions of images are again trusted. Davis does not mean paitnig, but then what? I belive that one of the answers can be found in a series of works called Redness, shown in the Ronald Feldman Gallery in New York, the Art Center Collage of Design in Pasadena and the Charter Oak Cultural Center in Hartford in 1992.

What is the nature of the transmission between the assemblages and the theory and what does the redness of most of the objects from these series refer to?

One should complete this shortened sketch of the last stages of Davis programme in order to calim that in his arguments he has always paid considerable attention to the mainfestoes of the Russian avant-garde. david has always seen in them a far-reaching programme characterised by an extreme utopia which however undermined ist efficacy in te result its these remained suspendedin historical space without fulfilment in the situation of political defeat. The Russian avant - garde has often been a poin tof refernce for his explorations, including the ones which were actually from fthe very natyre of things quite different from its maifestations. Today the redness of his new works is a kind of generalization and a fusion of various intellectual operations. One of them is the fascination exerted on him by the symbolic meaninig of redness in human history the symbol of offering , passion, fervour, suffering. In the more recent years one of the inportant elements was Davis'admiration for the perspicacity of Husserl's theoretical analyses. Husserl wrote about the imaginative significance of the concept of redness. Another deliberate operation which naturally comes to mind is Davis' ambiguous reference to the rhetoric of imagery in communist propaganda, and to its reflection in ironic versions of the rhetoric.

The presentations of Redness are a whole but at the same time they are divided into separate works mainlyassemblages but also projections ; masses of paper on walls;photographs. each work which is in fact a kind of a reliquary of memroy, marked with redness refersto passion in various meaninigs of this word including the a reliquary of memory, marked with redness, refers to passion in various meanings of this word, including the polictical one. Since 1976 Douglas Davis has been an active observer of events and attitudesof the great changesthat occured in Russia and in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. He has often been there. Together with artist, Komar and Melamid, when they were still in Moscow, he produced a photographic work based on themotif of dialogue with them, in which both sides spoke at a distance. Many times in the 1970 and 1980s he visited motif of dialoque with them, in which both sides spoke at a distance. Many times in the 1970s and 1980s he visited Poland with lectures and with the exhibition referres to above. Later he would visit the Baltic states during various stages of their struggle for indepedence. When Ceaucescu fell in Rumanis, Davis was in Estonia and saw the events in the local TV; he was in Moscow during and after important changes. He is the only artist of the West for whom the countries of this region and their artists serve as an explicit point of reference from which he draws inspirations not so much as regards the matter of art, but rather from the internal political dilemmas since the October Revolution, from the atmosphere of heroism, from the understatements of the intellectual situation and moral triumphs over tyranny *(4).

Douglas Davis' assemblages have met with various critical resonses. One of them is an interpretation by Josef Bakshtein, a Moscow critic put forward in an essay reprinted here in excerpts. The essay stresses the chiefly political Russia-centred symbolism of Redness and imposes tge whole of the series to a discussion of the scale of meanings which historical facts of our signify *(5).

Eroticism is yet another constitutive factor of Davis' assemblages from the series Redness. It is present in allusions or more direct symbols and objects. The photographic series Inimate Tapes provides a similar situation. It is simply a series of intimate photographs, allusions to possible video recordings of erotic situations in which Barthes' language of love is the language of the body. The erotic motif builds up an allegory on two planes; on the one hand, there is akind of intended of the desire for the expected sensual excitement and an urge to experience the intellectual tension caused by far-reaching encodings, and on the other hand, there is fulfilment,the meaning of which seems to refer also to the realization of more general longings, including freedom in its political sense. The sexual aspect of the assemblages from the work Boxes was stressed by Helen Fisher anthropologist, in her text on the series Redness after its exhibition in the Feldman Gallery in New York in 1992. We could read there that: "I find this work refreshingly sexy, not vulgar not pretentious, just healthy sensual and sexual. To Davis women seem not to be the cictim of sex but its keepers - confident, joyful, and mature. Redness was saturated with a refreshing sometimes nostalgic sometimes political but always beguiling sensuality. And to me that's honesty". *(6)

One could I belive understand Davis' works from the series Boxes as a search for the unstable balance both mental and ethical between the features that have characterized Davis' works for a long time now. Let us recall, on the one hand that Davis spoke out for the pricacy of communication in spite of the one sidedness imposed on us by public electronic media. Today his new works fulfill maybe with a certain directness of memoirs the privacy of that longing. Davis does not ask any more: "Can you jear me, what us your name?', but gives his works titles which are the name of authentic women, Olga, Katrina....One could see in these works a continuation of Davis's attenpt to put the media, including photography, in a highly interpersonal role, despite its "public" nature. In the series shown now at hte Muzeum Sztuki in Lodz Davis refers to the ideas of preservation, salvation, maybe to the whispering speech which is not addressed to the masses but paradoxically to only one listener.Such packaging of remembered objects which Davis carries out in the present series maybe indiscreetly open, maybe too hermetically sea;ed for the viewers to guess, is farther an allegory of the activity of "packaging the contents". Such packaging is in his opinion a message sent from a long distance, a "dispatch", which imprisions human thought in the inpersonal frame of the TV glass plane. One could see similar things in Davis' video and satellite works.

Davis' series of assemblages is an answer to the extra-artistis traditon which leads from mystic caskets, collections of meaningful trinkets popular in many cultures. We should not however ascribe to them too obvious allusion to religious content. Rather to fetishes in general. Such are the works which in their titles refer e.g. to "the father who died young"' to whom one of the boxes is dedicated. Such is though on a different level, Arm Box with English Text (the box, built of steel, found by chance near Moscow). One could extend this list of fragmented packages which preserve the fleeting memory. The motif of the past epressed with such a dramatic tension makes use paradoxically of banal elements, such as home appliances (press) plastic flowers, mirrors, bulbs from a bathroom dummies, tec. It is a mainfestation of a belief that uniportant fragments of tangible objects are linked with a remembrance of high emotional charge.

Packaging is in itself a highly symoblic motif, it can seen - without even mentionig Freudism - in the manifestoes and work of Tadeusz Kantor, e.g. Emballages. One is reminded here of Ilya Kabakov, who demonstrates his anonoymous or personified "memories" in cpmplex installations which conist of many divergent elemetns byt nevertheless form one person's point of view prove to be an itegrated work. These somehow literal works include Death of Karl Marx, a kind of a catafalque with a coffin in which the body is supposrd to lie with its head - a cast of the artist's own head One should mention here not only the obvous allusion to the dramatic "death" of Marxist ideology, but also the metaphorical tume to Malevich's famous funeral in a Suprematist coffin, and then - possibly - the ostentatious manipulations with Malevich's coffin carried out by a number of Russian emigrant artists form the 1980's. This allusion was stressed in Victor and Margarita Tupitsin's essay about Davis' work: the authors extend this allusion to cover also the supposed similaruty to the more recent mock-realizations of the same artists described as "soc-art", but I think this analogy less convincing. *(7)

Apart from all these references, Davis' works display a significant of humor. Each work, even the most directly lyrical is underwitten with humor. It is hunour that gives his works the completeness f human message, in the same way as it gives ti ti his older works, the completeness of human message in the same way as it gives to his older works such as the performances registered on video or on film, where - thanks to the electronic montage - the author is able to play both himself and simultaneously, his own confliced doubles from the past and the future, etc.

Davis made also a clear allusion to his own fascination with ghosts and doubles confirmed many times, and to his belief in the existence of his predecessor on this proceeding. He produced a paraphrase, a pseufo-replica, based on a motif form a staged photography by Igancy Witkiewicz from a social evening, with the "ghost", amde present the firgure of Witkiewicz himself. Davis arranged a similar situation with himself as a ghost, standing behind the seated friends. In this work similar procedures of the two artists were linked: the magic photoraphy and the psychedelic self-portrait with the practice os staging happenings, known form their everyday attitudes and from the performances to the author of The Madmen and the Nun and the author of Double Entendre (Witkacy and Davis). The most rcent works by Davis, as well as his older ones, are marked by ambiguity, between the vision of the future, which is supposed to bring the ambiguous realization of total understanding, and the everlasitng returns to the real private or fictitious past, and political debts. The past and the urge towards the future become united. The artist has found parallels between his bisions and ceratain modern theories ofculutre, eg. those by Hal Foster, Susan Sontag, Rosalind Krauss, but also in the significant theories of the past decades, which from Tatlin to Benjamin, despite the passing of time preserve the power to inspire the present.The parallels concern thes theoretical aspects according to which the essence of social life is a dialoque, together with the metaphor leading to all the meaninigs of the word "interaction". Let us not forget that in 1979 Douglas Davis called in one of his essays:"Simbolismo, come home". *(8)

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Footnotes: 1. Works from Davis' series Sound Boxes can serve as an example here, for instance The Last Videotape (in the World), 1978 (a burnt box with a magnetic tape), Night Voices, 1980, (a box with a tape), Sound Box, 1981 (a box with a sound of laughter recorded on tape), from the collection of the Muzeum Sztuki in Lodz.
2. Interwiev with Peter Frank, Chelsea,1977, quoted after: J.G. Hanhaardt, Douglas Davis; Video /Radio, in ; Douglas Davis, video, obiekty, grafika (exh. cat.) Muzeum Sztuki in Lodz, Lodz 1982.
3. Cf.D.Davis, Fotografia jako kultura, Fotografia, no.2,1980; E.Lajer, Douglas Davis. utopista bez zludzen, Sztuka no. 4, 1981 (confiscated by censors), also: U. Czartoryska, Douglas Davis: artist / critic, in: Douglas Davis, video, obiekty, grafika, FOTOGRAFIA, op. cit.
4. Cf. D. Davis, Poland: the Reddest Redness, text in this cataloque.
5. J.Bakshtein, Notes from Moscow on Douglas Davis' Concept of Redness. Redness, (exh.cat.) Art Center Collage of Design, Pasadena 1992.
6.H. Fisher, The Sexuality in Redness in: Redness, op.cit.
7. V.M.Tupitsyn, Re-thinking Redness: Non - Identity as a Pigment, in: Redness, op.cit.
8. VILLAGE VOICE, no. 33, 1979.

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Poland, the Reddest Redness

Douglas Davis

"A French firend said to me two years ago that there are two yeaways for Poland to emerge its appailling crisiis. The first would be through common sense: amiracle would happen and angels would descend to free Poland from Communism. The second would be thorugh a miracle: the Poles - including both the Communists tand the opposition - would come to an understanding with one another". [Adam Michnik, 1990]

It is impossible to reach down the bottmo or out to the end of Poland. A friend who is a physicist tried to describe for me what it might be like to fall into a black hole: History would reverse itself. At first you see the past. Then You lose your own age. As a child, you then grow into a future that occured before you were born. His struggles to explain reminded me of Zen, of the Master in Kyoto long ago who called on me to admire an ugly pot turned badly in the 15th century: "It is best he could do at the time". Of love, of my self-destructive attempt to own what I workship. And of art, of the attempt to make what cannot be made. All of these ideas are Poland. Why? Poland is the center of things. It splits the world, and itseld, in half. We know the countless examples fromhistoryy and from politics. But for me it cuts closet in almost every aspect of Polish art, music, and literature. This fatal tension, this edge. I see and hear it in Witkiewicz, in Schultz, in Kantor, in Wajda. Maybe also for example in Dlubak, in Robakowski, in Bruszewski, in Urszula Dudziak, in frends and allies like Masza Potocka and Wasko. I sense it always in old and new Polish friends, in Henryk Stazewski and Stefan Morawski, in terrible beauty of Polish women and the small children I see on the streets. The edge nicked me in December of 1981 when the Army and its allies inprisnoed many of mu colleagues and closed dowm a number of cultural events, including the legendary '4th Number" of SZTUKA magazine, in which my work and words (in an interview with critic Ewa Lajer) were confiscated - among with those of many other artist, including Joseph Beuys, another friend, before they reached more than a handful of readers.

But it pricked a little deeper when I first came here, in 1976. On my second day I was driven to Lodz to lecture for the Museum Sztuki at a university hall. I showed everything I had done, in video , in performance, in conceptualart. The first artist to rise in the question period was not impressed. He roared in Polish and stamped out of the hall. "Timid Art"!" repeated the translator, toninig down the shouts. "Timid! Timid! Timid! I can't stand it !' And then he apologized: "Please excuse him. He is under great strain. Last week, for a performance, he hung upside down for days".

Perhaps Husserl is wrong. Perhaps there is an essence to Redness, or at least a center that is redder than the margins. Of course I don't mean "Red" in the sense captured by the Bolsheviks and - later - by the ideologists of the Cold War. In this sense, "Blue", too, is defamed. No, I mean to recapture the essence, of Red, that is, of the edge, of that man hanging by his feet. I want to re-name Red, as well as Art. I want to make it cut us again, to bleed us in our minds, before it is too late.

And now let me tell you about the figure in the center of this exhibition:
"He (Marx) never accepted the principle that society's obligation runs first to its living citizens". (Andrzej Walicki)
"Utopia and depotism are pwerful mafnets". (Leszek Kulakowski, 1981)
"The forming of the five senses is a labour of the entire hidtory f the workd down to the present". (Karl Marx, 1844)

I do know what to make of Marx as an economist, or political thinker. Walicki and Kolakowski have the advantage. They lived in a sysytem that bore Marx's name. I have lived in a system where Marx was proclaimed the devil.

But I know what to make of Marx as a poet. It seems to me that here we can also find a form of edge. Here there is a Marx that will not die, that will always ground the masks placed upon him by countlessgenerations. I believe you can see this poet beneath the layers in my coffin. Kolakowski blamed Marx for thearrogancelater practiced in his mane by Generals and Intellectuals. when he claimed the "working class"saw the world correctly, whle others did not, Marx handed Stalin a theory that justified enndless horror. But Kolakowski also saw that Marx was a superior excue, not simply a cause. Hitler had only xenophobia and anti-semitism to defend his actions. Stalin had socialism, or the conviction that each of us needs to be rewarded according to our needs, not simply according to our needs, not simply according to our power, our greed, or even our skills.

It seems to me this conviction is widely sharred, even now. Perhaps it has always veen here, in myth, children's play, in the practice of love. Perhaps there is somewhere inside of us a "Marxist unconsicious". It was the poet in Marx him that stirred this unconsicious, that captured men with rhythm , not logic. And there is no doubt Marxsaw the making of art as an analogy to the end of necessity. A final forcing or pushing toward a dinal, self-justyfing pleasure.

I only take issue with this poet in the use to which he put his beautiful figure - the forming of the "five senses". Marx meant the forming of a specifically "socialist" system, a konwn, predctible end. This is not why Tadeusz Kantor in his last, unperformed work of theater, meant to sit in a chair on the stage and listen to himself talk on a tape about the mysteries in his past. Nor is it why I am coming back to Poland tolisten to similar tapes. Neither of us knew, or know, where those senses, undeniably forming, are leading us.

Listen to Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, son of a barrelmaker in the last century, anarchist, friend and rival to Marx. Though he is French, he speaks as though he is Polish, that is, redder than Redness, in a letter to his adversary in 1846:
"Let us by all means collaborate in trying to discover the laws of society, the way in which these laws will work out, the best method to go about investigating them....but simply because we are at hte head of a movement, let us not set ourselves up as the leaders of a new intolerance, let us now as the apostles of a new religion...Let us welcome, let us encourage, all the protests...let us never regard a question as closed, and even after we have exhausted our last argument, let us begin again, if necessary, with eloquence and irony".

The forming of the senses knows no clear end, in other words. There is no final state, no past that is not present, no future that has not preceded us. Surely this is whay I feel so much at home in Poland, why one of the two ambiguous miracles foreseen by Michnik actually occured, for the time being, why the incentive to hang,suspended in space, is precisely what we all seem to want ot do, as 2000, the final essence of Redness, approaches.

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Notes from Moscow on Douglas Davis concept of "Redness"

Joseph Bakshtein

It may sound paradoxical, but the true meaning of Douglas Davis' idea about the concept of Redness becomes more profound when one looks at the subject itself from Russia, or to be more precise from Moscow the heart of Russia. In fact, Moscow is geographically situated in the center of Russia. Therefore, the idiom "heart of Russia" can be interpreted literally as in the language the words "middle" and "heart" share the same grammatical root - seredina. In any case, we should take into consideration the Russian dimension of his projest. Inthese notes, I will try to explain why it is important, seen from thisside of the world.

[ ... ]

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On Redness Exhibition

Martha Wilson

When Franklin Furnace was a mere infant, in 1976, I met Douglas Davis. We joined with Kitchen and with Anthology Film and Video Archives in sponsoring one of his early performances, Reading Brecht in Three-Quarter Time. It took place over two nights in there sites and gently persuaded the plot from place to place. I enjoyed this multiple movement but later, Davis presented at Franklin Furnace on Wednesday, January 13, 1980, another performances of greater interest to me, Night Voices: A Performance for Live Audience, FM Radio, and Beyond. Let me explain why. Over the years, I have pointed to the number of women who take sexuality as their subject, not only Karen Finley, Annie Sprinkle, and Scarlet O - but Julia Heyward, Renate Bertlmann,Gina Pane, Leslie Lebovitz, Anne Ben, Guditta Tornetta, Laurel Flick, Charlie Gauke, Twinart, Y Pants - each in their own way exploring the darkness of womens's sexuality. So did Doulas Davis - explore the darkness of all sexuality, that is. Unlike 90% of the men who perform at Franklin Furnace in blazing white light, Davis closeted himself in a small space - with vast listening potential, I might add. Night Voices was simulcast on WBAI, so that the most intimate, dark thoughts, of the artist might infiltrate our own, and might even encircle back to Earth milions of years from now. This, it seems to me, is as close to the unconscious as it is possible to get in a public performance. Now there will be a series of performances accompanying Redness. I expect we will once again be able to see, hear, and feel these depths, in company with a larger audience. It is a pleasure to see an artist's work as it grows toward the light of the future.
1992
(Martha Wilson is Director, Franklin Furnace Gallery, New York)

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Intimate Tapes 1989 - 1991

Douglas Davis

I call them "tapes" rather than photographs because they seem to me to be moving, not static, virtually a contradiction of their medium, which is of course always my goal. And Intimacy, that is, closing the space between eye/mind and work, or event, is another impossible dream I have always pursued. These "tapes" contradict the genre we have variously called "romantic", "voyeuristic", or "soft-core" art, film and photography. Because here the photographer is engaged in the act that nomedium can ever hope to represent. In this sense these pictures are not in the least voyeuristic. Nor are they in any sense pornographic. I am always amazed by the diffidence with which we approach the depiction or discussion of the act of consummation. No act is more basic, more human, or more necessary. Roland Barthes once said the sentence I love you is probably asid or gestured nine of tenth any single sentence throught all cuture. Yet every time it is spoken, it is different. This time was different. The two partners herephotographed each other in a series of actd over these years in Russia and Eastern Europe. Of course this technical leap in the art of lovemaking and artmaking occured partly because th tool - the camera - has decreased in size while the motion and light sensitivity of the film has increased. But partly we were also interested in the act of description from the point of view of gender differentiation. You do not see her pictures of me inthis installation, though you do see considerable evidence that she shared equally with me the responsibility of representation (in this sense the worj is double-genedered as well as double-imged). But this ideal drove us with considerable nitesity, surely fired by fiminist theory and criticism, whcih i sin the process of revising the metaphysics of sexuality. Luce Irigaray, in her beautiful amd movinf book, An Ethics of Sexual Difference, asys it concisely: "To arrive at the constitution of an ethics of sexual difference, we must at least return to what is for Descartes the first passion: wonder. This passion has no opposite or contradictuim and exists always as though for the first time. Thus man and woman, woman and man are always meeting as though for the first time because they cannot be substituted one for the other. I will never be in a man's place, never will a man be in mine. Whatever identifications are possible, one will never exactly occupy the place of the other - they are irreducible one to the other. (L. Irigaray, An Ethics of Sexual Difference, Ithaca 1993)



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