Sweet Dreams by Johanna Drucker

I’m interested in the intersections.  Here’s an excerpt from Sweet Dreams by Johanna Drucker.  It seems to me to exist in the intersection between creative writing and art criticism.  Her book is published by the University of Chicago.

Sweet Dreams

Fine art criticism is currently poised between a state of activity
that is passing out of step and the awakening of a newly insightful
awareness. The crepuscular image of liminal transition suggested by
Gregory Crewdson’s Twilight photographic series is an apt metaphor for
our condition. Rarely have the critical terms of modernism hit so
stagnant a spell as in their current slumbers. The siren call of
vibrant new work needs to wake our critical impulses out of their

1. Twilight

Pale as death, the young woman stretches across the foreground of a
photograph that displays all the evident hallmarks of a staged image
[below, right: Ophelia].
The unnatural light flushes blue around her photogenic flesh. The fine
features of her face turn toward us to advantage. The vintage cotton
slip of handmade eyelet covers her slim form with a virginal modesty.
Along her flank the cloth sticks with wet–tee-shirt suction to her
flesh. Mixed messages are present from first glance. Small town motifs
waft through the air, ephemeral as the night sounds we cannot hear but
can well imagine as background to this macabre scene. An American
GOphelia_gregorycrewdsonothic Ophelia, she floats on still water, eyes open, hands at her
side. Her body is reflected in its stillness, hair fanning out around
her head. Her mouth is open, fresh and unspoiled, the teeth pearly in
the parted lips. Her staring eyes are rimmed with slight red color that
suggests she had been weeping. The signs are enough to pique our
sympathy but not destroy her cosmetic appeal. Our eyes linger on the
details. Following the profile of her chin, neck, shoulder, breastbone,
we linger on that exposed throat, as open and inviting as vampire bait
in a classic scenario of horror. Every trope of exploitative gendered
relations is present, intensified in the Technicolor highlights of an
eroticized image that could be a David Lynch film still, so perfected
and resonant are its motifs. Here lies innocence. Maybe.

An excerpt from Sweet Dreams: Contemporary Art and Complicity by Johanna Drucker

1 comment

  1. Oh, what beautiful writing. I think she’s right on the mark with the David Lynch comparison. The picture rides that same line between compelling and repulsive that Lynch seems to do so well. She looks dead to me, but I have to look.

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