“I Really Don't Want to.”
“We may lay it down that Pleasure is a movement, a movement by which the soul as a whole is consciously brought into its normal state of being; and that Pain is the opposite.”- Aristotle, Rhetoric, Book I, Chapter VI.
The carpet grinds into my knees, and I can picture the skin – red and pebble-like – pulled tight around my bones. It’ll stay like that all day – soothing dimples of raw flesh – even when I am done. I’ll lightly run my fingers over the grooves and think about how hard I worked that day, how my muscles flexed and steadied. Somebody might ask, “how’d you get that bruise?” and I’d give a shy smile and mumble, “actually, it’s a funny story.” It is droll, I guess, to someone who hasn’t done the work that I do, that I’m doing.
Minutes leak out of the clock, and drip down my back, and I can’t even feel them. I’m in space, but I’m outside of time. Notes from my high school physics class roll out of my brain, and I remember that time and space are woven together in a continuum, but whoever said that has never been here, in this room, and can’t possibly know that isn’t true. It’s so freeing to escape the burden of time, if only for a while. It’s terrifying to carry around that responsibility all of your life. Time. What are you doing with it? What have you done? What will you do? It’s like my life can’t possibly exist if it isn’t being measured by the squares on the calendar. I do like that calendar though, and not in an ironic way. I mean, what isn’t there to like about dogs dressed up as humans? The golden retriever in the silk necktie is the only thing that makes the concept of time bearable. What is that feeling called when you look out of your skull, through your own eyes, and don’t connect to the world around you? I mean, what is this magical connection - this “being-ness” in the world - supposed to feel like? This weight is alleviated, but only for now, only for this moment where I am not here; I am not me. There is the carpet, the walls, and the furniture, of which I am now part and parcel.
It doesn’t help that I’m no longer meaningful to my lover. I’m just a sack of skin that carries around memories and guilt of the last three years together. I’m only useful today – here – now – as I am – a structure, a form of support that I never should have been. I start to think about where this is all going, how we can possibly evolve back into the shiny creatures that delighted in each other’s presence, and I start to panic. I’m not supposed to think about the time – the time that was and the time that is. There is only the carpet, and my skin, and my lover’s hair as it brushes my skin. Damn. A new surge of panic forces itself from my nerves as I realize I need to scratch my nose. The scent of that shampoo used to force the corners of my mouth into a smile, but now its contact with my skin is going to kill me. I can’t possibly ask for help; I am so alone in this. I couldn’t move even if I wanted to. It wasn’t even my idea, and it was supposed to be good, but I can’t stop thinking about that golden retriever and my nose is going to ruin everything.
This was supposed to be a last resort; I said I’d come in here and be this thing if we really needed help. It hurts. It hurts, and I have to keep going. The carpet is still there, but it’s no longer just a singular expanse of fabric; I can feel the individual loops of wool as they coil up and into my waiting flesh. My skin shouldn’t be feeling this. Skin on skin is supposed to elicit shudders and tender words whispered into ears. My lover doesn’t even acknowledge my skin - this skin that used to slide over the body I loved as we touched, and moved, and became. This skin is just leather now; it’s only a covering for the joints and hinges below. This skin hasn’t been skin since I kneeled down and stopped being a person, since I kneeled down and wasn’t there anymore. I am only a thing. I am a thing stooped on the carpet, held together by this leather, and by the hope that every moment will be the one that my lover chooses to end this.
My lover, my master, my builder shifts the body that once used to lay beside me in bed and talk about the future, while the flickering ends of dying cigarettes bounced near our fingertips. Hipbones dig into my thighs and she releases a sigh that I used to know every note of. She would sigh like that when she finished a new favorite book, and when my fingers brushed the final vertebrae of her back. There’s something off about it now. It used to waft to my ears slowly and melodiously, but this sigh uses something up inside her. Its acrid finale could only ever be detected by me, and it hurts less than I thought it would. Her hips move faster and I know that she’s almost there. The next roll of her body mashes me further into my body, and I can’t see her face, but I can hear her smile. I don’t cringe, because she built me well, but when she is finished I flex my left foot and pray she doesn’t notice.
I am no longer useful to my lover, except when I cease to be human. I come home exhausted by the weight of my shitty desk job, and she tells me that I’m a disappointment, and would I like to make it up to her. If I hesitate, or let her see the damage that she does, she will turn around and leave. She won’t yell, she won’t cry. She will look right through me before she turns around and picks up the suitcase that I know has been packed for months. So, I am here, and I am formed, and time stops, and I am useful to her. Useful is not meaningful, but it has “ful” at the end, and full is all I want to feel. This is my life as a chair. She’s done now, but she isn’t done with me. As she gets up, our skin peels apart and I know that nothing has changed. Her head swivels around to notice me, and she instructs me to stay where I am until she can tolerate seeing me dismantled. I almost whisper, “I really don’t want to”, but she is walking away now, and I clench my fists harder.
What are the lengths that we humans will go to to feel meaningful, useful, needed? Relinquish control and let Liu Dao show you how to escape the burden of time, and the pain of searching for a definition of self and value. With this exhibition, the Liu Dao collective explores how people use sexual fetishes as a means of momentarily transforming themselves to escape their jobs, daily lives, and even their partners. Using their sexuality to escape, people may take on an alternate personality, or even an alternate form. An example of extreme transformation is forniphilia, a form of bondage where an individual acts as a piece of furniture for a dominant partner. The subject may be tightly bound and forced to stay still for long periods of time, as their partner uses them as a table, a footstool, or even a chair. Let Liu Dao form you and slow the march of time as you explore the surreal landscape of “I really don’t want to.”