Click below to hear the visual description for Jill H. Casid’s Spirochetes of Contact and Untitled (Throw Out):
Below is the visual description text for Jill H. Casid’s Spirochetes of Contact and Untitled (Throw Out):
Hello. This is Jill Casid (my pronouns are she/they) and it is a pleasure and a privilege to have this chance to use my voice to describe for you my two art installations Spirochetes of Contact and Untitled (Throw Out). These two installations are juxtaposed spatially to invite intimate encounter with material vulnerability. Spanning the back part of the gallery, Spirochetes of Contact takes its name and animating figure for the biopolitics of public sex from the spirochete form (Greek for spiraling hair) of the bacterial agent of Lyme disease Borrelia burgdorferi spread by infected blacklegged ticks (known as deer ticks). Here it takes the materialized form of 28 original SX-70 Polaroid prints with their delicate surface emulsions and distinctive white borders uncovered and unprotected. These fragile originals are laid bare and exposed across the surface of a 16-foot-long lightweight, precarious and yet flexible wooden support structure that was conceived in collaboration with and fabricated by sculptor Sylvie Rosenthal to echo the sun-bleached and sea-salt rubbed wood of the boardwalk infrastructure of Fire Island, once the epicenter of the AIDS crisis (that is not over) and now ground-zero for Lyme Disease.
Untitled (Throw Out) takes the form of an intimately-scaled video projection with a densely layered palimpsest of image and sound, weaving the Polaroids with archival shards of an incomplete correspondence, my voice spelling out the words to speculate with the other side of spell, and my increasingly smudged, tracing hand realized by Jack Kellogg. The projection is thrown out from the exposed apparatus of a small portable projector perched atop a gallery pedestal (both in the deep black of the gallery walls). And thrown onto the exposed paper surface of a rectangular mailer in the standardized 6 x 9 dimensions of the frayed envelope that launched the film’s research. The envelope’s handwritten instruction to “throw out” and “throw away” serves as the film’s central, animating vehicle. The throw length of projection and visual and audio amplification of its instruction to throw out away confront to contest the conditions of being thrown by an activated melancholy that holds fast to and keeps company with the cast out in refusing to move on into the new post-pandemic normal until there is justice and material reparation.
The installations are not just spatially adjacent but also materially touch in their allied drawing on the wild and errant agencies of photography to intervene in the extractive and surveilling logics by which photography metes out its death sentence in the scene of our being thrown out -away which I call the Necrocene. Both installations began around 2016-17 with participant-observation research conducted using the Polaroid SX-70. The single-lens reflex camera introduced in 1972, the Polaroid SX-70 was the first camera to condense into its chrome and leather-cased apparatus the taking and making of an instant-developing photographic image. Marketed widely as the swinging camera indexed by the slyly implied but silent and unseen e in Sex-70, the Polaroid SX-70’s inherent capacity to bypass the dark room also opened a channel for evading the everyday micro-surveillance exercised by the local photo developer that also points to the fugitive crip-queer archive of the kinds of throw-away images one may make to enhance a moment and then toss in the underwear drawer or even gutter. Working outside the reproductive and preservative logics of a negative-positive process for fixing an image, the Polaroid SX-70 operates within and yet defies the regime of the compulsory visualization of photographic identification that requires us to not just submit to being produced as an image to be used an instrument of surveillance but also to appear within the constraining frame of the able-ist standards governing the photogenic. At the same time, highly susceptible to the elements, hard to control and even more difficult to preserve, and often refusing to register a legible image at all, the Polaroid SX-70’s disgorged images perform their crip-queer deformation of the regime of compulsory visualization by the ordinary alchemy through which their defiance of control and fixity becomes the medium of their wild beauty and affecting power.
While the research for both installations began well before this exhibition, both works encountered here were conceived in collaborative dialogue with curators Jessica Cooley and Ann Fox in articulating ways of manifesting crip aesthetics as a praxis that understands the radical welcome of access as the kind of aesthetic gain that, in Jessica Cooley’s vital formulation, crips our vulnerable materiality by refusing the unaddressed compulsory “fitness” governing museum and gallery presentation that conceives material fragility as a weakness or even an inherent vice to be corrected or cured. Refusing the eugenic logics undergirding much of what passes as “conservation,” both installations work the vulnerable exposure of material fragility as primary aesthetic vehicle by which to call out the eugenic fantasies that restrict care only to the forms of life and matter that can be preserved while calling for the supports for our thriving even and especially in our mortality and states of decay. De-stigmatizing not just access as need but also those forms of mourning that refuse the imperative to grieve and move on, my contributions to Indisposable: Tactics for Care and Mourning embrace a wild melancholy as a crip-queer tactic of refusing to move on and into the imposed new post-pandemic normal by working with the throw-away beauty and material fragility of the Polaroid and the short throw length of projection to take us close to the island sites of the abjected and cast off that also returns in the form of the promise and risk of the intimacies of contact to demand the supports for our thriving as we must learn to live with more than one virus, more than one pathogen in ways that refuse to make crip, trans, refugee, and racialized life disposable.