�Wow! What a debunking eye cast by a man of today at the sham glamour of our time!�
�A Cybernetic Romance�
�Art of The Future�
Going for Some Double Fantasy
Going for Some Double Fantasy
Clayton Spada, October, 2001
Sub-cultures exert an odd sort of push-pull attraction that is nearly impossible to resist and which leaves no quarter for amorphous responses. One is either fascinated or repulsed. There is no middle ground. Perhaps this is because, relative to "mainstream" society, sub-cultures are somewhat akin to the unconscious components of a personality. According to Jungian psychology, the subconscious is keyed to primal symbologies, or archetypes. One of the most powerful archetypes is maternal connection, or more essentially, fecundity. No matter how we try to define and justify our existence, we are left with the fundamental fact that every one of us arose from the synergy of sexual activity. Humanity's vaunted cerebral and spiritual nobility...all stoked by the flames of basic wet biology. It's difficult to imagine how anyone who realizes this can fail to be somewhat amused, or at least bemused.
Laurence Gartel effectively places this issue in perspective with his stunning Fetish series. Why is an attempt to achieve a more complete understanding of one's erotic nature any less compelling as a serious pursuit than, say, scientific scrutiny or philosophical inquiry? A detailed reading of the writings of the Marquis de Sade reveals that the physical ambivalence of sado-masochism plumbs the most essential psychic and intellectual aspects of what it is to be human. But Gartel also shows us that the profound isn't equivalent to the joyless. His images attend to deeply abstruse thought processes while concurrently projecting an untrammeled sense of play, reflecting the complex psychoneurotic internalization which spawns the wildly colorful fashion show that is an integral optical sensibility of fetish.
The contemporary sex fetish world seems at first glance to be more of a cultic social aberration that serves as a haven for bizarre misfits, thus warranting marginalization. However, unlike the exclusivity engendered by a great many sub-cultural phenomena, the salient trans-personal fabric of fetish is non-judgmental and inclusive. All proclivities are welcome. This is as it should be, for fetish is fantasy, a space for distancing oneself from a stressful or uneventful life through active role-playing. One may choose to be a super-hero or a villain, dominant or submissive, participant or voyeur. Corporeal aspects of sexual experience are subordinate to the psychology of erotic catharsis. Such libertine explorations are deemed shocking in doctrinal society and quickly swept under the rug, not so much because they are perceived as amoral, but more likely because they are so intoxicating. After all, life is supposed to be profound, serious. Right?
Despite the increasingly iron grip of the Cartesian paradigm on our collective psyche, sex still manages to captivate us as a mysterious power that is beyond our rational control, whether it is elevated to metaphysical levels of cosmic proportions or leveraged for more earthy purposes. We expend an extravagant amount of near-superstitious devotion over matters sexual, in reverence or in fear. Just as our forebears referenced their sexuality through the crafting of fetishistic objects that they believed to have magical properties to protect or aid their owners, so too has post-industrial humankind accessorized its quest for erotic gratification.
Using the virtual domain to make art can facilitate a degree of creative freedom that would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve with traditional processes. Iterations and reiterations can be explored at a breakneck pace, thereby permitting the artist to concurrently optimize previsualizations in a systematic fashion and engage in free-wheeling experimentation which more deliberative workflows might very well attenuate or suppress. Changes are easy to implement, and if things don't work out, the original electronic file stands ready as the ground-state from which to begin anew. Of course, if practiced merely as a button-pushing exercise, this same uncomplicated mutability can also inhibit creativity. Just because digital technology affords the ability to do something doesn't necessarily mean that it should be done. Knowing when to leave well enough alone is of paramount importance for making good art, and this sense of discipline is what elevates each Fetish image to an iconic status.
Those familiar with Gartel's signature style of extensive image manipulation accompanied by chromatic punch and rich textural effects will immediately appreciate that the core imagery in his Fetish works is represented as largely straightforward. This creative decision is significant at both conceptual and process-oriented levels. Fetish as idea and as conduct works because it is overtly artificial and a bit over the top; constructing a special effect from something that is in essence already a special effect would serve only to countermand the immediacy of the artist's direct experience with the source "material". With great insight, Gartel has resisted the urge to over-decorate compositions already bursting with vitality, choosing instead to let his subjects transcend the visual plane of the paper substrate as true encounters. Real experience is polymerized with the factitious to generate a supersensory reflex that Gartel has aptly dubbed as "novo-surrealist".
The Gartel Fetish works provide the viewer ample space to accommodate the fantastic, as engendered in the accentuated graphic qualities of the compositions, without discouraging untroubled acceptance of the veracity of the core images. What is depicted was...is...actual, but also interiorized to the point of seeming as if it is de novo fabrication, an imaginary figment. Shock value is subsumed by the playful presentation of the subject matter. We are given the opportunity to unwind and take a wild no-obligation, risk-free test drive through experiential territory that fetish practitioners regularly visit during their libertine forays away from the mundane. It's all great fun, but it's also great art. Gartel makes it okay to indulge in what he calls the "double fantasy" of Fetish.