A leisurely visit to a contemporary arts exhibition turns into an unexpected encounter.
The Businessman’s Bluetooth cut out just as he was passing the glass door. His study, adjacent to John Lewis, was a minute away, but objects and materials glinted behind the wall-as-window. The art took the Businessman’s gaze, suspended it, stopped the suit and him-in-the-suit, right there in the moment. A miracle, really.
Some collective called Möbius Melani had rented the space. In a few months it would be replaced with a chocolatier but for now it was unfurnished and two-storey. The current exhibition involved what seemed to be blue ceramic casts of prehistoric stone, the kind burns and streamlets run through until the water shrivels, as their marks are shrouded in grass.
The Businessman squinted, face on glass. He saw labia.
Fuck the business call, he thinks. His earpiece falls to the pavement. He stamps on it, hard, and enters the space.
Suddenly there is a girl. Art-school graduate, apparition off the wall. Her jumper is a knitted weave of pastel stripes which clash, tastefully.
“Hello.” The Businessman stared at the top half of her jumper. A work of art, he thought to himself. “Here is the research for the exhibition.”
The jumper-featuring-girl handed him a piece of paper.
“I can tell you more about the exhibition, if you would like?”
She nodded and bit her lip. “‘Her feet are talons; her hands are unclean’ takes its title from an ancient invocation to a chthonic shapeshifting goddess whose transformative bestial identities span across culture and mythology. Upstairs, Verity Birt creates an altar-like surface with offerings to this theriomorphic femme, and speaks an invocation to subvert the curse. In the video, zoomorphic artefacts are digitally shifting behind ritualised gestures of shadow animals.”
She gestured to the blue sculptures.
“‘Deformation Attends Her’ is an enquiry into the prehistoric sites and rock art features embedded in Aberdeen’s landscape. Birt seeks to summon their potential as places of ritual culture that predate a patriarchal and exploitative relationship with nature. By drawing upon practices that have been historically suppressed and encouraging reciprocal and non-hierarchical relations between bodies and landscape, the artist speculates on what knowledge these sites might transfer if addressed with more intuitive, playful and collective actions. This was all accomplished through a series of workshops taking place on carved prehistoric rock channel. Birt worked to draw upon the energy of the site using improvisation techniques. The work recalls the dissemination of women’s history, resonating communally through tradition. The ceramics in the exhibition embody a tactile recollection of the channel. Do you understand?”
The Businessman has been paying attention to her, but not her words. “Perfectly.”
“Enjoy your stay.”
Again, she seemed to disappear. The Businessman began to walk a delicate loop around the sculptures. They were gleaming, polished, plus smooth – irresistible, like the shell of candies. A thought of blueberry passed his mind. He wanted to bite them; he wanted to tear off each sculpted geo-hymen. Already the Businessman was impatient (and it had been less than a minute after wandering between the painstaking labour). He stamped on one of the moulded waterways. It smashed on the littlest impact of his soleless brogues. The girl came out of her white shadow. “What are you doing?” The Businessman grinned with most of his teeth, then desecrated another contemporary artefact. She screamed and fell to the ground as scattered microchip. The Bluetooth beeped to silence on the gallery floor.
The Businessman headed up the stairs. He had to pass through a fire exit. The defunct sign was a shade of EXIT but he got through as intended.
This portion of the room had pastel bean-bags and cushions, bright as a doll’s house, strewn on the floor, fluffy debris. The entire back wall was consumed with projection: a woman, the artist not here but in England, dancing on a prehistoric slab. Aberdeenshire, it looked like – like near the Businessman’s home village. Net-art symbols spun in columns to the side. Left, right, twin pillars of gold astrological signs. The artist was staggering her body in rhythm to nothing but herself (“goddess”, the Businessman mocked in his mind, which came of his mouth, slight but heard, in the air, the thick and clotted air, clotted with this summer heat), the rustle of trees, a vague breeze and a chorus of screaming women. He assumed that was post-diegetic. He did not know he knew that word. It seemed to be transmitted his way the second he passed the door, and entered the curation and pointing of womanly things.
The Businessman noticed she was dancing naked, and wondered what it meant.
Oh, and there was a figure in the left corner.
“Hullo”, Death said. “I’m Death.”
“Pleasure to meet you. I’m a big fan.”
Both figures guffawed.
“Shall we sit down?” said Death.
The Businessman complied.
As two, they collapsed on to the bright cushions. A line from Nabokov bulged over the screen, ironic, in gaudy internet-bronze bubble-text, but ballooned off screen, exit right, in no time. Otherwise they were uninterrupted, watching the naked dancing artist as her bare soles began to bleed under the might of her movement, her euphoria, her freedom, the press of stone, it was quite something. With the help of Death’s skeletal hand the Businessman began to masturbate until he, too, was ash, pleasured and content, expelling out the room via ventilation like the most dismal pollen. It was like the chorus was witness to his release, screaming with rawer volume.