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'THE MAGAZINE' - OCTOBER 1999

 

LETTERS
edited by Guy Cross
 

Dear Editors:

I am writing to commend the intentions and sensibilities displayed in the recent show at Plan B, Out West. Issues of authentic identity and the challenging of sex‑role expectations are too rarely explored in socially sanctioned exhibits of this type.
As a Jew. I feel I must however take up debate with one of the works in the show‑TefiIlin by Geoff Laurence. While it is tempting to glibly accept Laurence's associations of sex and prayer or to accept as innocuous his references to being vulnerable and receptive to God or "spirit," I find I cannot. I stand before this triptych and find myself asking, 'What's wrong with these pictures?" Bondage is an adult game about desire and limits that challenges preconceived notions of acceptable sex. The participants of such an erotic exchange usually have agreed upon a scenario and have established basic limits. The one on the "bottom" is responsible for telling the "top" if his or her limits are reached. It is just one component of a complex set of adult games, which include a range of technologies and methods.
To call this painting Tefillin is to think without thinking. Phylacteries are an ancient and mystic form of prayer ordained by a commandment in the Bible. The wrapping of leather straps encompassing boxes of prayers around the forehead and around the arm and hand is a strictly codified ritual. The binding of phylacteries is a covenant with God to remain in alliance with the principles and teaching of Judaism. Are Jews who use phylacteries like people who have moved beyond vanilla sex? Which sex toys are Jewish and which are not? On a continuum scale is there a cut‑off point where sadomasochism suddenly becomes not Jewish? The associations of dominance toward willing masochists are especially disturbing. Six million Jews did not have a safe word to use with their persecutors. The Nazis were on "top," the Jews were on the bottom," and there was no prearranged script between consenting adults,

‑Miriam Salmon
Santa Fe

Dear Editors:

I am writing in response to Ms. Salmon's letter regarding my painting Tefi/fin in the Out West show at Plan B.
I believe that it is one of the rules of art, and of this show in particular. to question and provoke notions of righteousness about what s or is not acceptable. Whilst I find' her comments interesting, I stand by my explanation in the catalogue accompanying the show of what painting means to me.
If sex is a 'game" for Ms. Salmon, I would remind her that homosexuals were singled out for particular brutality and death in the concentration camps for their "notions of acceptable sex."
As a child of survivors of the camps, I have experienced the world without grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins. Painting is a way for me to explore the complex questions that I have over the Holocaust and role of my ancestors in it. It is also a continuing exploration into the mystery of every aspect of living, including the fanatical belief in "right" and "wrong."

‑Geoff Laurence
Santa Fe


 
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