Monday, January 22, 2018

Stuart Middleton, The Gonks


 
Stuart Middleton, The Gonks, installation view

There is a lot going on about sexual harassment, consent, feminist agency, abuse of power, etc., etc.  It is miasmic and feels both liberating and heavy all at once. It’s a complicated and complicating subject because it is so personal and because it has so long been repressed by all players involved.

I’m not going to get into again on here, but I did want to share with you something that I magically remembered reading a few years ago. It was a part of Stuart Middleton’s show at Carlos Ishikawa in London in 2015. The show was called The Gonks, and it had a publication along with it. I remember really liking the show and finding the text perplexing, fascinating and shifting the installation in a way that was not expected.

I recommend viewing the images online here. And the most ideal way of reading the text is through their formatted PDF here, but for the sake of ease I am copy pasting it below.

I think this text is interesting because of its structure but also about the absurdity yet familiarity. I’m not taking a stance on if the narrator is villain or a symptom of some more insidious forces but read it. It’s revealing, appalling, funny and tragic.


Stuart Middleton, The Gonks


Hello Carol

Just wanted to ping you an email to say – Wow Last Night! I had a superb evening, and putting that slight mishap in the taxi aside (I’m certainly glad you didn’t let it get the better of you), can I just say that I really enjoyed your company. On my jog this morning however I did have a slightly anxious feeling that I mightn’t have communicated sufficiently to you the utmost importance that this ‘exo-work’ social activity of ours is to be kept strictly between the parties involved. Please can you confirm that you have received this email and understand what I am saying?

Don x

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Hi Carol! Many thanks for your speedy reply. Are you available for dinner (7:30 pm) and perhaps the theatre this Friday evening? I have taken the liberty of booking two tickets however I will not in the slightest be put out if you already have plans as I realise it is rather late notice. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Don

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Carol Re last night: I would never normally have gone ahead with that. I want you to know that the only reason I went along with it is because you wanted me to. You did ask me to do it like that Carol and to be 100% truthful with you I’m not really into that type of thing.

I think it’s unfair that you got annoyed with me for ‘ruining the moment’ as you put it. I’m not a misogynist Carol. You know as well as I do that I treat everyone the same when it comes to whether they’re a man or a woman and the reason that I was/ am not comfortable with situations like last night is precisely because of the fact that I have a deep respect for women. That is why before we actually got down to it, when you whispered in my ear that you wanted me to do that to you, that I had to just clarify that I was only doing it for your sake and that I was deriving no personal pleasure from it (but only some pleasure as a result of seeing your pleasure for e.g.). In which case I’m sorry if being considerate ‘ruined the moment’ for you Carol. I do not harbour any secret desires whatsoever to perform anything like that on women for my own sexual pleasure and if at times, as you suggested afterwards, I seemed to be ‘getting in to it’ that was merely my natural tendency to take pride in and commit fully to what I’m doing, whatever that may be. This is something I apply to all aspects of my life, as you should know well enough by now, considering we have been colleagues for some time

There are a number of reasons why a respectful man, one who is against misogyny in any way, shape or form would be repulsed by the things you wanted me to do last night. I think that goes without saying. I must admit I was a little taken aback. I was surprised to hear that kind of talk from you Carol.

Something that you suggested last night is that (in your opinion, I’d like to add) that I have a hard time articulating ‘what I want’ in the bedroom. Well that’s because I feel that it is plainly obvious ‘what I want’ via body language etc. but if it is necessary to spell it out for the sake of compromise if we could just stick to the more romantic, ‘love making’ dynamic I’d be much more comfortable.

Dx

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Well Carol, I hear you, and if that’s the case then I am willing to do that. Although in my opinion it’s demeaning for all concerned. I also feel like you are purposefully feigning ignorance to force me into stating the obvious as a way to punish me. If that’s the case here Carol, fine.

Reasons

You are underestimating my strength as you know Carol I regularly go to the gym and when I’m there I do lift weights. Over time I have become very strong even though it may not be immediately obvious to the casual onlooker.

This aforementioned superior strength and weight could cause you injury, and although none might be intended by either party, things could get out of hand and with you being weaker and more sensitive I might hurt you more seriously that you thought you wanted. Bottom line here – don’t underestimate my strength Carol.

You might think that because I live alone and am ‘committed to my work’ (as stated in my prior email) that I am secretly harbouring desires of violence towards the fairer sex. This would be completely  as I consider myself a feminist Carol. Furthermore, going forward you might incorrectly read this ‘hidden urge’ into my behaviour outside of the bedroom environs which would make you unfairly resentful towards me, particularly in my role in the company as director. I believe in mindfulness in every area of my life Carol – for instance if I see the cleaner struggling with the bins on the days when I arrive early at the office, ill ask her if she’s had a good weekend etc. regardless of how many pressing tasks might be in my inbox.

I’m worried that this need of yours to be degraded as I see it is stemming from somewhere subconscious, from some past trauma (e.g. childhood) and I think you’d be better off getting professional help rather than indulging in perverse games that would probably push things further down below the surface where, ultimately they will end up doing more harm than good. The thing is Carol; I read something recently that was talking about a certain bestselling book and more generally about the effect of ‘popular culture’ (which as you know I rarely tarry with) on certain people’s heads. Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying that your desires (‘kinks’ as the aforementioned article refers to them as) aren’t ‘real’ or individual to you I’m just saying Carol that you’d better look hard at yourself in the mirror and just check its not some product of our jumped-up overly self aware mass-media times. It takes a strong person to know what you really want out of things these days. With so many subliminal campaigns, and when what your seeing is basically misogynist pornography on the sides of busses how can you be sure what you say you want, you really want and is not some collaboration between a internet trend forecaster and some equally highly paid executive’s secret fantasies? I’ve spent the last couple of days on the Internet looking into this stuff for you and its absolutely rife, let me tell you.

I know you say you want to be treated roughly Carol but I don’t believe that you really know the meaning of that. I don’t think you would actually like it as much as you think if I was to perform that.

To be frank, I just don’t understand how you could think that by being violent and rough towards you was anything other than disrespectful and/or demeaning to women in general. The last thing I want here is to be some sort hypocrite going around supporting maternity leave/women’s rights etc. in the boardroom and then indulging in sexual battery and highly misogynist rape style scenarios in the bedroom!

Furthermore if you fail to understand that more sensitive and natural ‘sweet lovemaking’ is much more meaningful and arousing for all concerned then I’m afraid we will have to curtail these meetings, which as I’m sure you would agree would be a shame Carol, because I feel that they have up to this point been highly mutually beneficial.

Dx

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Hi Carol, I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I just don’t want to engage in gratuitous ‘rough play’ in the bedroom. Simple as that. I feel I have made myself very clear. It was one time, I didn’t enjoy it and I don’t want to get into it again. End of story. Now if we could just move on from this episode it would be beneficial for all concerned.

Dx

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Also I am not ‘scared I might like it too much’ whatever you mean by that I think its ridiculous to suggest and now your getting mean which is uncalled for. In the future I’d advise you to respect the ‘closed door policy’ we have in the workplace as its there for a reason. If you are seen to be allowed to walk around, barging into senior directors offices without warning etc. If you go on behaving as if you are somehow ‘above the law’ then you will arouse suspicions.

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Carol, I don’t know why you are refusing to respond to my emails, text messages and various other ‘olive branches’ however I will say that the comment you made in the kitchenette this afternoon was completely and utterly childish and immature. And Carol if you think that I’m going to rise to that sort of petty jibe then you hardly know me at all. Also considering the way that Rachel sniggered when you said ‘Oh careful you don’t hurt the teabag, squeezing it so hard with that spoon’ made me think that you may have shared our clearly private conversation with a colleague. All I will say in response to this Carol is: Make 100% sure all your ling, expenses, tax etc. are in order and up to date because I’d hate to have to let you go for something as trivial as claiming petrol back for non work trips, say.

All the best
Don

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Mike

I trust this finds you well, I hope that your recent short family break was restful and re-invigorating!

The reason for my email is unfortunate however I have reason to believe that one of our employees has been regularly submitting fuel receipts for trips made in ‘personal time’ for reimbursement. As you know our expenses system operates on that same thing the rest of our systems here at Sutton Ore run on – . All it takes is for one person to abuse that trust for the whole system to be threatened. I am writing to ask your advice on which is the appropriate procedure to act on these suspicions.

Many thanks in advance

Don Donald Sutton


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Dear Ms Carol Clode

I’m writing on the behalf of the board of directors and management here at Sutton Ore  to ask you to attend a disciplinary hearing regarding the fraudulent expenses claims it is suspected that you have submitted during tax year 13/14.

It is your right to assemble any defensive and/or supporting evidence on the contrary to this allegation.

I have to tell you that failure to attend the hearing will result in immediate dismissal from your post as finance officer at Sutton Ore  effective immediately.

Sorry to be the bearer of hard news, and we on the board are all certain that there is a rational explanation for this and we can get back on with being a ‘happy family’ once again as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely

Don Donald Sutton


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Carol I apologise for my repeated attempts to contact you via telephone late last night. It was a gross miscalculation on my part and I wont be ‘crossing the line’ like that again you can be sure of that! Mike from  told me about the situation with your brother, which I wasn’t aware of and whilst recent events must doubtless make such personal things even more difficult to deal with, I hope you understand that we have to play some things by the book. I built this business up from the ground and I had no one looking out for me when I slipped up, no one to teach me. One of the things I’ve learnt along the way: sometimes there’s no alternative but to learn the hard way. I failed time and time again and I just hope you’ll be able to look back on this as a learning experience. And anyway its out of my hands at this point, but I wish you the very best of luck going forward.

All the best
Don