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Breanne Subias, Visiting Artist Response

I'm not exactly sure this is the kind of "response" you were looking for, as the visiting artist response guidelines don't seem to be functioning (it could very well just be my junky computer, but the pdf opens and nothing is in it. I've tried several times). But anyway, the following is what resulted from simply following what is on the syllabus. I hope it is sufficient. If it isn't, I would appreciate it if you'd let me know (subi0007@umn.edu) so I can fix it.

Matt Ryle, April 10th, 2008

There were a multitude of things I could have picked to do on a Thursday night. A vast multitude in fact, aside from walking through flying ice shards to see some exposed tree-being with what looked to be an onion protruding from his rectum have sex with a mechanical part inside of a dead tree. I could have caught up on my reading, or cleaned, or cuddled in front of the long-anticipated first new episode of The Office since the writer’s strike (which I still have not watched). Imagine my delight when the esteemed Matt Ryle (who looks disturbingly like my uncle Todd) took the stage and told us to beware, what we were about to see was to be “fucked up.?

I guess out of all of the things that could have resulted from such an event, what did result wasn’t such a tragedy. Truth be told, I was actually pretty excited to find that my Thursday night, while remaining Office-less, would at least be entertaining. Before Ryle began talking, I knew nothing about the guy or any of his work. I had prepared myself to sit through something as horrendous as a lecture on cubism for several hours. But as humans would most likely all rather be exposed to glaring, phallic tree limbs and inebriated South American festivities than pictures of squares, I was elated to be in that room rather than the gallery next door.

The piece itself was interesting to me due to its management of a highly sexual content on a level that was not at all base or prurient. The sexualized elements were used less recreationally (or as gratuitous scandal) and more to get across the drive to create. The man who had sexual relations with the metal part carrying the tree, who was himself a very real part of the tree, took an interest in that metal part only when cotton fell from above and he realized he could use it to cover the metal. To me it seemed that he wanted badly to take this manmade intrusion and make it part of the tree. The seminal visual allusion near the end, where building tools appear from a dripping puddle of white liquid strengthens this hypothesis. I also got the feeling, throughout the piece, that the woman at the top of the tree and the man at the bottom were almost interacting sexually through the tree. The fact that she was pulling building materials to make her home in the tree from plastic phalluses atop the tree as the man was going about his business at the root, as well as the fact that the cotton with which the man builds comes from her, supports this.

Although I spent a good portion of the video itself confused, the round table discussion afterward helped me piece together some of the ideas I had about its meaning. One of the women at the round table discussion brought up a good point: what was up with the monkey? Ryle mentioned that the feces of monkeys may hold some special property in Brazilian myth, but what I gathered as I was watching was the fact that the tree-man was grasping at straws, reveling in anything organic and familiar in his bleak situation.