The room was a sea of black marble. Black marble floors, black marble walls, black marble ceiling. Paintings adorned the sleek walls, hanging by some invisible thread. The room was immaculately and delicately designed. So delicate that the designer must have known that no child would ever enter this room. In the centre of the room was a statue. A statue of a woman, made of white marble. It stood upon a small tower of black marble. The woman was hunched over and naked.
Her hands clutched her face as her mouth seemed to let out a silent shriek. The finesse of the marble showed her fingers digging into her face, as if the woman was in such agony that she might claw her face asunder. Her hunched body made her breasts hang and come to a point, almost pointing towards the floor. The slim figure had rolls of skin that if she was standing straight up would disappear. The woman’s pubic hair was neatly trimmed. Her legs stood shoulder width apart, the folds of her sculpted vagina sitting between her thighs. Her legs were firmly planted upon the black marble. Upon the black marble sat a small gold plaque with the title of the piece ‘Object’.
Moving away from the sculpture, behind her some feet away sat a video camera. The camera was pointed upward at the sculpture. Looking through the viewfinder revealed that the camera was pointed directly between the sculpture’s legs. Whoever had placed the camera had also attempted to capture the breasts in shot and had just barely managed it. The face was avoided profusely, carefully avoiding the agony of the woman, instead focusing on her body. It was as if her head had been removed from her body. Stepping back revealed the name of this piece to be ‘male gaze’.
Moving to the walls, there was a portrait of another naked, young woman screaming. She stared intently at the viewer, whip in her left hand. Her right hand steadied her upon the brick of the well, from which she was emerging. The little white plaque next to it read: ‘Truth coming from the well, armed with her whip, to chastise mankind’. The French title followed in brackets.
Turning to see the room again, an old man stood before the ‘Object’ statue. He looked to be in his nineties. He looked as if he hadn’t shaved in ten years and the hair recedes from his bald head and curled around his temples. He had piercing blue eyes and walked with a cane. He wore a ragged, three-piece suit made of tweed.
The old man spoke.
“This is the only way I could capture her. I tried to draw her pretty and resigned, but she resisted. I had to accept the way she wanted to be portrayed”
He walked around behind the sculpture and viewed the pedestal upon which she stood.
“They have the plaques the wrong way around. Subject should be her face, Object should be her back. Though, looking back, even that feels duplicitous. A quiet resignation to Descartes and the art world that followed him. All those bloody drowned Ophelia’s, accepting their fate, resigned to the river”
The old man made his way to the camera. Somehow effortlessly he lifted the camera from its place, tripod and all, and began moving the camera to face the woman. He planted the camera on the ground facing the statue. Looking through the viewfinder he adjusted the camera. On the display screen, it now showed the face of the woman, screaming harshly down the lens. The old man did not bother to move the name of the camera exhibit from its original place. Rather he approached the plaque and bent it out of shape. He then went to the pedestal of the statue and removed the ‘Subject’ plaque. He did so with deft hands and a previously hidden screwdriver.
He then placed the ‘Subject’ plaque by the camera.
“Subject. Object. Object. Subject”
The old man began to pace between the two plaques.
“Object. Subject. Subject. Object”
The old man then ran from the room as fast as possible. Impossibly fast for a man of his age. He returned just as soon as he had left, sledgehammer in hand. He ran, weapon aloft, seemingly at the statue. Then, on a dime, he stopped right beside the camera and delivered a mighty swing out to his side, smashing the camera. He began beating the camera to a mushy pulp. As he did this, he spoke a mantra of sorts.
“The camera is the problem. The camera creates the image. The image cannot respond. The image is object. The camera is the man. The image is the woman. The only solution is to destroy the camera.”
Black plastic debris hit the black marble with furious force. The marble remained unscratched. Despite their similar colour, when the plastic rested on the marble the two could not look more different. The marble deep, the plastic shallow. The old man continued his rage at the camera.
“Subject. Camera. Object. Woman. Subject. Woman. Object. Camera. The object must be destroyed and the subject must take its place.”
The old man stopped his crusade against the camera and exited the room quickly again. Returning quicker again he has disposed of the sledgehammer and returned behind the wheels of a wheelie bin. He stopped by the camera and threw away the ‘Subject’ plaque. He moved to the statue and removed the ‘Object’ plaque, again with deft hands and hidden screwdriver. He disposed of the ‘Object’ plaque into the grey-green wheelie bin. Then, from somewhere behind the wheelie bin, he pulled a dustpan and broom. He began to sweep the camera pieces into the dustpan. Soon as it was full he would dispose of it in the wheelie bin. The broken plastic thudded against the soft metal of the plaques. The old man swept and swept, searching the room for any trace of the destroyed camera. Once the marble floor was as clean as it could be, the old man departed.
As the old man exited, he passed the Curator.
“My mess, my art. I clean it up. Fix the broken art” he said to her.
The Curator gave him a nod of understanding and walked into the black marble room. She walked slowly, with the intention of someone who had seen the art a million times and never tired of it. She approached the place where the camera had been moments ago. There was no trace of the camera where she stood. She merely looked up at the sculpture of the woman. Her eyes staring straight into the blank eyes of the sculpture. She smiled.