Letters between men:
(The) Now is a strange time. You wait but you also do. Is there any meaning in doing? Is there any meaning at all? Meaning derives from others’ lack of meaning. I shit. I had a dream that I didn’t flush out my shit, a second time that pissed my friend off. I got so pissed off that she got pissed off that I slapped her and then I run away cause I thought she would hit be back. Money making. If I had money I would look back and I would try to make new meaning. Fucking. My body on the mirror. I wonder what is it about to be alone. What does it mean to be on one’s own company. I shit again. I go to Greece where lack of meaning is excused. I wait. I lost, its ok. How much more am I supposed to feel till I am liberated from this fucking burden? What am I supposed to discover so I stop being scared?
The Father and Son pictures happened in a way unexpectedly. It was a crossing of paths. The important thing was to ask Lo’s dad to be part of this and take his penis out. What I like about these pictures is how we are all different but we have our cocks out and how we lose identity at the same time, perhaps through this very gesture of having our penises out. A thing about the residency, for me, was about identity and how it gets lost when prioritizing an appearance, how can you build a character from ‘within’? – or how I get lost in a sense when looking for an identity. An important thing is fucking. Fucking, desire, becomes something else. Especially now, now is a place where playfulness has died, no one to play desire with.
The pictures remind me of flashing exhibitionism, they suggest this ‘look at us we are male’, I mean, they are deeply ironic, they highlight that the penis (masculinity) is the important things. In a way all men in families that have ever posed in these sort of family pictures could have had their penises out. About signaling maleness. And then that the Father is a ‘real’ father, Lo is ‘really’ his offspring yet s/he is not ‘really’ his son and i am completely ‘fake’ there, not his son, not a real boy. So i guess it is a triangle/hierarchy of realness and fakery? Does Father’s penis makes ours more real or ours his less real? Who was I when we were taking these pictures? A posing man happy to be there, happy to belong, happy to have my long cock out. We were a proud family, all fully able, handsome, working penises, bonded in a family set-up. And i guess about our differences’…how different we look from each other and we hint towards different cultural characteristics.
To summarize it these pictures play with traditions, with men-bonding, with identity and inheritage, with representation.
I like the crossing of paths, and the unexpectedness that you were talking about. And the discussion of identity. I found identity and the lack, the deconstruction, the fragility, searching for and finding it in stages, snippets etc, very intense and prominent when I cast my mind back.
Summary of what comes into my mind when I think about the Father and sons piece
– A childhood fantasy of being just like my father, uncles and brother, one of the boys, and of being the one who seduces women instead of being a woman seduced by men.
Why is it important to have my biological dad in the photograph? The only cis-gendered man there, amongst two impostors.
Does Dad lend validity to our masculinity or expose it?
None of us actually look related, we even look as if we are all different nationalities.
Old fashioned style of image – evoking stiff traditional family portraits. Stiff, proper, conventional, ‘father and sons’ – at odds with the true content of the work. Serious, macho poses, reinforced by the measuring of our cocks.
Our proud cocks, a parody of masculinity.
For us (AM and I) with our cocks on display made us feel more like men, a significant addition to our costume, the heaviness of the silicone phallus lending extra weight to our guise. But for dad I am guessing it was very different, perhaps he felt very exposed, even though his proud demeanor would suggest otherwise. His masculinity was under scrutiny, as our faux penises mimicked and mocked his mortal flesh. All masked behind a masculine bravado.
I think it is important that we think about these Father and Son photographs within the frame of the whole project. In a way it makes sense that these pictures came first, for us to be born by someone or something (your dad) as boys/men. Also as a ritual – the first photo session we did etc. , again, our birth into being us as men. It was the first time we determinedly put full outfits and facial hair on and our cocks too. It is also important to consider that although the processes we put ourselves through were long and a lot about getting lost and finding, as you put it, snippets of identity, a lot of the ‘core’ we were approaching at different times with different ways, is about approaching something prohibited which is not explicitly prohibited. Like, no one tells us we are not allowed to be men or to think that we are, or to walk around packing etc. Yet there is a whole net of voices that ask what is that we are trying to do and in doing so they map a strange space where what we’d like to do, what others would like us to do and what others wouldn’t like us to becomes one arena. ‘What do you mean you are a man? I thought you d be a man, why are you wearing make-up etc. etc etc.’
Like we would obviously try to turn something that is not real into it being real or give a different status to realness. Where I think that we approach the ‘realness-ness’ of our genders in a different way, yet we take into account this sort of expectation.
I think when you first told me your dad is coming and that you had this idea, our mutual excitement was because his penis was the most ‘manly’ thing that he has in a way that we go about manliness. Fucking hell dude, it is complicated. I think our residency was a lot about the penis in a way. But not in a penis-envy way.
I am thinking about what I am writing at the phd. I knew of course that I d show and talk about our residency material in my last chapter but I hadn’t realize how it fits so much in the theoretical context of ‘porno-graphing’. I mean that we start up, recalling an ‘origin’, a ‘truth’, and a very strangely subverted deviation from propriety, hinting in incest in that way without really doing so etc. The playfulness of it all and the ‘now what?’ or the ‘oops! – look what we’ve done’ childlike attitude we somehow have in producing these material with your dad, and later other material.
So I guess thinking like that, you can tell that I am going down a route where I am focusing on something about impropriety and prohibitions and gender. The thing with gender and sex (sexual organs) is that they are a lot about statuses of being, being ‘real’ in a way…
I really liked what you wrote about your dad and his pose and how actually exposed he feels. And yes it is definitely parodical , and i guess we use this parody to talk about something which for us is real, our real manhoods or masculinities.. People have talked a lot about how the ‘parody’ , the ‘copy’ unveils the ‘original’ as ‘fake’ but i guess we are jumping back in the ‘original’ too, no?, or we
somehow claim or explore ‘originality’ in ways?
Taboo, prohibition: being women being men, standing next to my dad with his cock out, and our fake cocks – crossing boundaries – the sanctity of family, of the prescribed relationship we are supposed to have between a father, a daughter and a friend.
Is the image sexualised just by the fact that we have our flaccid cocks out? Or the fact that he is my father and I am standing next to him fulfilling my own desire, a desire to be like him, to be a man? The fact that he is my real father, makes the image more transgressive, the act more prohibited. I must not show my desire in front of my father, I must not show him that I want to be like him, I must not tell him of my fantasies of masculinity, where I imagine being just like him, not him, but like him, I must not see my father’s penis, even though that is from where I was made. Who made these rules? And why is the fact that we cross them so dangerous for some people? Just because my fantasies of masculinity are steeped in my desire to fuck like a man, why can I not give voice to them in front of my father? Why are they so obscene? If I was a man, and I was talking to my father about sex, I could lather it up with jocular comments and jokes about the size of her tits. My father and my brother out on the pull are like a double-act with a side of brandy.
I am interested in what you have said here about other people: ‘there is a whole net of voices that ask what is that we are trying to do and in doing so they map a strange space where what we’d like to do, what others would like us to do and what others wouldn’t like us to becomes one arena.’ – I feel what we are doing in this project, everybody has an opinion about it, how a ‘man’ behaves, how to be a man, how not be woman, how to look more authentic, that we look a certain way, still female but ‘lesbian’, coded. But it’s not real – they say, it is never allowed to be real. We are only pretending. But what is real? What is a real gender? Do we have to be one or the other? Why does ambiguity make people so uncomfortable? Why does not knowing the answers cause blame and fear for the one asking the questions?
‘his penis was the most ‘manly’ thing that he has in a way that we go about manliness. Fucking hell dude, it is complicated. I think our residency was a lot about the penis in a way. But not in a penis-envy way.’ – I’m not sure I even understand penis-envy. Yes, I’ve always imagined having a cock and fucking with it, but it never felt like an aching lack, it was a like it filled out in my mind whenever I closed my eyes. It’s so nice to write, I am sick of talking, of defending and trying to convince people of my intentions. I feel like I tell them it’s white, but they are apt to convince me that it’s black. Yet it’s my feelings, my history, my emotions, why the fuck do they purport to know more than I do on that matter? It really pisses me off. And what pisses me off more, is that I worry that they are right. That they can see something that I cannot see, and that I am a sick fuck who is caught, stuck in the phallic phase, rife with penis envy, and intent on winning dad, whilst seeking a way to upturn mummy dearest, text book psycho-babble for those who do not possess the knowledge to read deeper than the surface. Why do I feel like I am on trial? Why do I feel like I do not know my own mind? Like I am a liability, and my thoughts seek to betray. Why the fuck do I care if they believe me or not? Why do I care at all?
‘how it fits so much in the theoretical context of ‘porno-graphing’. I mean that we start up, recalling an ‘origin’, a ‘truth’, and a very strangely subverted deviation from propriety, hinting in incest in that way without really doing so etc. The playfulness of it all and the ‘now what?’ or the ‘oops! – look what we’ve done ’ childlike attitude we somehow have in producing these material with your dad, and later other material’ – What do you mean by us recalling an origin, a truth? Also what do you make of the childlike way we made it, like we didn’t really think that much about what it was about initially, we just went with an idea, of an image sounding like a beacon in our mind. Like two kids playing, exploring and learning. I think perhaps the whole process of the residency was like this in some way, a doing of things that we wished, desired, wanted to see happen, and then afterwards we began to pick it apart and to fathom it’s meaning.
Image credit: Father & Sons, 2014, Daddy I am a Man project, AnnaMaria Pinaka, Dad & Lo Liddell, (photograph).