Today BURNAWAY welcomes Johannes Göransson for this month’s Authors on Art, a series of creative responses by poets, novelists, and experimental writers curated by Blake Butler.
Camille Rose Garcia’s art functions as fantastic illustrations to an apocalyptic environmental allegory or fairytale. When talking about her art, Garcia often emphasizes this quality, talking about the narrative that pulls the works together, often a very cohesive narrative, complete with symbolic characters. Often these allegories seem pretty correct: in one, people keep eating poisoned cupcakes even though they know it’s killing them. In all the paintings, there are poisonous drips—sometimes tears or blood or raindrops, sometimes explicitly poison, and often just drips of stylized paint. The world is saturated with poison after all.
However, the drips also seem a parody of Jackson Pollock’s drip-paintings: instead of his icons of authenticity, strewn violently across the canvas, Garcia’s drips are stylized, complete with outline. And this leads me to how I read Garcia’s work: not only as environmentalist allegories, but also as headless allegories about the saturation of art. This hyper-stylized “brushstroke,” the dripping, represents art as media, which moves through everything—bodies, nature, the canvas itself.
And further, her art moves out of the canvas. Garcia has designed wallpapers for her shows, moving away from the guiding exhibition principle of sparse white walls into a model of supersaturation. And you can see it on her website, where people post photographs of their tattoos taken from Garcia’s work. It is as if the art leaks out of the paintings and into the skin of its spectators, saturating everything. And, of course, the artwork itself is inspired in part by tattoo art, as well as comics, fairytales, sci-fi, punk, all kinds of disparaged genres.
In the paintings, little girls are particularly prone to saturation, to leaking and infestation of poisons. This seems correct to me: the girls as figures of possession and saturation. I also agree with the way Garcia doesn’t set up nature as the opposite of artifice, as so often is the case in environmentalist fables, fables that tend to fit into easy models of nature as an untouched goodness we need to return to. In Garcia’s work, animals often are on the side of exploitation, and nature itself seems highly artificial: there is no happy, safe Natural to return to. Instead what you have is something akin to what my wife Joyelle McSweeney, talking about Jack Smith, Sylvia Plath, and others, has called “the necropastoral.”
In many ways, Garcia’s work reminds me of Korean poet Kim Hyesoon’s writing, for example:
“The Road to Kimp’o Landfill”
Cut my hair short again
I don’t want to pull out
the names etched onto my hair that grows daily
As rain fell, garbage bins from the 2nd, 3rd, 4th floor
must have been turned upside down
Hair fell profusely
I kissed in a place where garbage came down like rain
I kissed where I vomited all night long
Every time I sang, vomit flew in
I turned the garbage bins upside down in my room
and had morning sickness, then had a smoke
My poetry books burned
Three hundred million babies were born
One hundred million of the young and the old died
The day I took the pills
I walked out the gate in the middle of my bath
Black plastic bags flew higher than a flock of sparrows
The discarded sewing machine was like the head of a horse
The sound of Mother’s sewing machine
filled the holes in my body one by one
I tore off my swollen breasts and tossed them
beneath Mother’s foot on the pedal
A forest gave off a foul smell, carried contagious diseases
it burned of fever during the night
A busboy at brightly lit Motel Rose
threw out millions of sperm every night
From the forest, mosquitoes swarmed
and dug into my scrawny caved-in chest
Born in the 20th century, I was on my way
to die in the 21st century
Here we have media running the same way through bodies and the environment, with the key figure of the girl with the perforated body, through which art pours.
Johannes Göransson is a faculty of English at University of Notre Dame and is the author of titles including Dear Ra, Pilot, and A New Quarantine Will Take My Place. Born in Sweden, Göransson has lived in the United States for many years, and he currently serves as co-editor of Action Books and the online journal Action, Yes.