Monday, 21 April 2008

Composition in Navy Blue and Flesh ("Whole Pitch")

Can there possibly be a work of more intense intellectual significance than "Whole Pitch"? This is a creation that is so often referenced as a synopsis of the whole cult of 'Western Male Anxiety', a work hailed and revered by such diverse groups as Marxists, Feminists, the Avant Garde and the Wandsworth Prison Warder Association, that to review it here seems almost sacrilegious. And yet for a work of such depth and profundity it seems so ... innocent.

Fleydon himself is so convinced of it's importance that he insisted a whole room of his exhibition be dedicated to this single flag.

"I am by birth a Western Male and it is the vision of the Western Male that has shaped the world in which we live. Like myself, this work is charged with a profound sexuality and unfathomable depths of both power and vulnerability. Truly a soul-baring experience both to create and to contemplate."

Standing together in the dimly lit room, the back-lit image resplendent before us, I felt a shiver of excitement run down my spine. Looking across at Fleydon's fine, leonine profile, his thatch of golden hair swept back, mane-like over his broad shoulders I found myself caught up in the majesty of the moment. When Fleydon turned and looked at me with his slate-grey eyes I felt truly transfixed, a moth caught in the destructive light of his bright candle.

"It's all in the eye you know" he said slowly and with a calm, measured voice "The 'Male Gaze' beloved of cinematic auteurs. Voyeurism. Peep-Shows. What the Butler Saw. The Private (Prying?) Eye. The inescapable fact is that the whole of Western Male sexuality, and therefore Western Art, is based on the concept of the all seeing, all devouring, yet distancing, eye. To see is to objectify, to render the object of the gaze less powerful, less threatening, less unknowing. Typically the female form, of course, with its uncertain depths of devouring fecundity, but the Western Male's need to see, record and list and control spills over into other areas of anxiety. Life, death, religion .... and AFC Wimbledon.

Anxiety is the common currency of all male supporters, myself included, an anxiety centred, of course, around notions of performance. Performance is the dread yardstick by which the supporter nervously measures himself against his peers. 'We didn't perform today. Will we perform next week or are we now too anxious?" Such corrosive attitudes can only be held in check by the Male Eye diffusing the anxiety by observing and objectifying that which is laid before it. A barrage of facts and figures line-ups, whose in , whose out, points lost, points gained, goal difference, shots on target, bad refereeing decisions, all are noted and recorded by the gaze.

'We must have been watching a different game' they cry, and so of course we were. We each watch the game that serves our needs. We each take from it what we need to see and want to see. In a very real sense NutsTV provides us all with football pornography, edited highlights that reduce the anxiety, even when we withdraw in limp defeat."

So much more has been written on the inherent anxiety symbolism within the work by the likes of Camille Paglia and Germain Greer that we must step back a pace and accept our limitations, both of space and time. However I did broach the fact that the male depicted had only one eye. Was there any reason for that? And what of the slogan 'I can see the whole pitch from here, and the Dons are all over them!' ?

"In brief, two eyes imply depth of field and vision. A single eye, however, is a concentrated burst of light, transfixing in a second. Think of HAL, the Eye on the Tower in Lord of the Rings, Bunuels symbolic slicing of the eye (female this time - we can brook no competition!), Daleks and the mighty Cyclops. I htink we can say that Eye = I (see) squared."

He gave a faint smile and continued

With regard to the text, the 'Whole Pitch'? is an obvious metaphor for the bed, scene of primal anxiety and displacement - Have you ever thought of the range of activities men use to distance themselves from the emotional envelopment of the female? I ask you, what are fantasies of cuckoldry, sex toys, lesbianism and even bestiality? Obviously they are nothing more than projections of male anxiety, hasty barricades erected against rampant, emotional, devouring nature of female sexuality. By allowing something more reliable, more willing and more able to step in the anxious male can remove the anxiety (I can't fail if I'm not present) and retire to preserve his fragmented feelings of control through his 'controlling' gaze often represented by his camera or video recorder. Not that I have that problem of course, but I believe lots of others have and they tell me all about it.

Then there's the exultant shout 'The Dons are all over them!' - sexual again of course, I mean do you want me to draw you a picture? Or better still would you like a discreet photograph or two or two?

Uncertain of his intentions and wary of the sudden glint in his eye, I declined his offer and we moved on in uneasy silence.

3.9 Composition in Navy Blue and Flesh ("Whole Pitch") is on view courtesy of the Heffner Foundation, Las Vegas.

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