“Best viewed without underwear,” reads the vinyl on the wall as you walk into the gallery. Below the text is a fishbowl full of what looks like other people’s underthings, left or “donated” to the exhibition. This is by no means a command, rather a “completely consensual suggestion,” says artist Faith Holland. Which is an apt descriptor of much of her show Speculative Fetish at TRANSFER Gallery in Bushwick.
On the opposing wall is her recent collection, Queer Connections (2017). The installation is a punny take on the gendering of cables and wires that has occurred over time. With brightly colored nail polish, Holland fuses what would be considered two “male” pieces together. As Holland explained to me, the project began as a daisy chain of wires rendered impotent by their forced connections. She then photographed sections of the chain, creating strange sculptural images that are cropped, enlarged, cut out and mounted under plexi. Together, they dance across the wall in a playful mural, or a “wire orgy,” as Holland says. But up close there is something disarming about the tenuous connections and the slapdash adhesive rendered larger than life, yet still human in scale.
Faith Holland, Queer Connections, 2017. Courtesy of TRANSFER. Photo: Walter Wlodarczyk
In the center of the room stands a display case. Its surface has a genius-bar-meets-world-of-kink aesthetic; the case below, filled with makeup and wires, resembles a defunct dollar store—the kind that might sell an assortment of cables just as colorful as the palettes of eye shadows also on view. For the works displayed atop the case Holland takes Apple products—already known for their softened use of hardware casing—and covers the touch screens with fluids or materials that either come from, or interact with the human body. The screens are alight with fleshy but pixilated gif loops, and smothered in used contact lenses, pubic hair, lipstick, or moisturizer.
Faith Holland, Fetish (Lipstick), 2017. Courtesy of TRANSFER
At first encounter these objects are abject, yet there is an element of self-care in their handling and upkeep that makes us think about our own relationship to our precious, but somewhat disposable screens. As Holland states, these devices have become so inextricably a part of our lives, yet they are “designed to die,” to become obsolete in order to be replaced by new and updated versions. In a way, they are utterly human in their needs and upkeep. Holland highlights this analogous relationship by treating the digital screen like a human visage.
Faith Holland, Wire Bath, 2017. Courtesy of TRANSFER.
This theme is carried through the final piece in the show, which is located in the restroom down the hall. The video work mounted on the wall depicts the artist in a soapy tub full of colorful Ethernet cables, taking equal care to scrub her own body as well as the wires submerged with her. Again, this feeling of abjection, of fetishism, takes root, mixing the physical armatures of the digital with the human experience in unexpected ways. These performative works, including the video installation and the display of Apple screens covered in fluids, are more unsettling to look at, yet they end up resonating in a way that Queer Connections ends up falling a bit flat. Where the cheeky comparison of “male” and “female” wires begins to wear thin, the screen-visage or wire-appendages sink in, making us uncomfortably aware of our own dependencies and new techno-fetishism that is increasingly normalized. We may not be physically bathing with our internet or moisturizing our iPhone screens, but most of us are guilty of this fetish-like behavior.
Faith Holland presents a picture of technological eroticism that fuses our consumer-driven tech culture with fluids and products more commonly associated with sex, beauty, and self-care. The works are colorful, yet dulled down by use; electric, yet rendered useless. From the image-sculptures on the walls to the iPhone-cum-living object, there is an element of clumsy affection that begs the viewer to come in, take off your panties, and stay a while.
Faith Holland’s Speculative Fetish continues at TRANSFER Gallery through January 6, 2018.
Olivia B. Murphy is a writer and editor based in New York, covering arts and culture. Her work has appeared in various publications both in print and online, including L'Officiel Magazine, Hyperallergic, Freunde Von Freunden, Whitehot, Riot of Perfume, doingbird, and Whitewall Magazine.
(Image at top: Faith Holland, The Fetishes, 2017. Courtesy of TRANSFER. Photo: Walter Wlodarczyk. All images: Courtesy of TRANSFER)