This project began as an excavation and appropriation of stills from surveillance footage. This series of prints explores these extracted and abstracted “portraits” juxtaposed with the Vanitas; the symbolic representation of the transience of life, and the futility of pleasure, in this case represented by abstractions of flowers.
In the summer of 1962, the Mansfield, Ohio, Police Department filmed men having sex in a public restroom. A cameraman hid in a closet and watched the clandestine activities through a two-way mirror. First, it's just pissing and shitting, hand-washing and checking their hair in the mirror. But before long, the footage shows various men, mostly middle-aged or older, having sex: hand-jobs, blow-jobs, anal sex, the works. The film is a perfect example of Foucault's panopticon, in which behavior is enforced through the threat of surveillance. These films served as evidence of their desires, and that desire was used to destroy their lives, leading to over thirty convictions and prison time.
There is something poignant, almost romantic about these images, which remind me of the literary voice of Jean Genet’s descriptions of his fellow hustlers in his 1949 novel/memoir The Thief's Journal.
1. Jones, William E. Tearoom, 2nd Cannons Publications, 2008.
2. Sicinski, Michael. Tearoom, Academic Hack, 2007.