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Anthony GoicoleaReview - Anthony Goicolea
by Anthony Goicolea
Twin Palms Publishers, 2003
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Jul 13th 2004 (Volume 8, Issue 29)

Anthony Goicolea's collection of photographs for Twin Palms is bizarrely sexual and fetishistic while never being explicit.  It features younger teenage boys in uniform, acting perversely.  The very first picture of the book, "Last Supper," shows boys outside in a wood, wearing striking blue jackets with red trimming, crowded around a couple of loaves of sliced white bread scattered on some rocks, cramming the food into their mouths as if they were starving.  A closer look reveals that the boys are in fact all the same boy, and some trick of photography has multiplied him.  More amazing still, one commentary on Goicolea says that all the boys in these photographs are in fact the photographer himself.  There are no overt references to sex in the picture, and in fact it is on one level a gross-out image, with his mouth wide open and pieces of break poking out.  Nevertheless, there's the whiff of fevered self-indulgence here and sensory overload of a boy that brings masturbation to mind. 

"Spit or Swallow" from 1999 leaves even less room for doubt about the sexualized content.  In a wood cabin, one boy looks on holding a bowl to this chest and feeding himself some kind of dripping soup, stew or porridge while another boy kneels over a third, holding down his arms, and dribbles spit over the boy's face.  The boy's face is covered, and he closes his eyes tight.  The close-up of the boy covered in spit looks like a standard facial shot from pornography.  Yet there is no nudity here.  Once again, it looks like the three boys are in fact the same boy.  In the black and white "Whet," also from 1999, two boys are in a large swimming pool, fully clothed, sticking out their tongues at each other, just touching.  But one boy looks up and from their body language, it seems they are fighting or engaged in some kind of dare rather than kissing.  On the side of them is another boy, wearing a towel, peering back over his shoulder at the camera.  His tanned bare back shows the strap marks women often get when they have been sitting in the sun wearing bras or bikinis. 

One of the most blatantly sexual images is "Premature" from 1999.  Here boys sit or stand around a classroom with their pants and underwear pulled down, their hands clutching at their genitals.  One boy looks like his is masturbating into a book.  Another has white liquid over his hand, and another stands in front of a chair on which small quantities of milky liquid have been spilled.  They boys look at each other's crotches anxiously.  In "I'll Show You Yours, If You Show Me Mine," (2000), boys line up in front of a topless woman.  Those nearer the front of the line have started taking their clothes off.  It's not clear what the ultimate reward is for boys at the front of the line, but they seem to be eager to get there. 

The style of the photographs is highly artificial.  The stuffed animals in the background add a strong sense of kitsch and both the trick photography and the highly posed nature of the scenes heighten the sense that this is not meant to be naturalistic or insightful.  The self-conscious perversity brings to mind the art of the notorious Jeff Koons.  This style raises the question whether there is meant to be some underlying meaning or message, possibly related to psychoanalysis, or whether this is purely a postmodern game, a celebration of the impossibility of true representation of life and a playful toying with the viewer's assumptions about photography. 

If there is a message here, it is unlikely to be about youthful sexuality per se.  These pictures don't reveal anything powerful about the eroticism of boys, either straight or gay.  Goicolea's work seems more about the medium and the representation of young male sexuality rather than the thing itself.  There do seem to be some references to other works that are heavy with the erotics of youth: most obviously, William Golding's Lord of the Flies, and at least one image, "Before Dawn," brings to mind the angelic naked girls with penises that feature in many of the pictures of Henri Darger.  It's hard to say exactly what those references are attempting to accomplish.  But it's a reasonable guess that Goicolea is flirting with images of young male innocence and violence, and Darger and Golding have created prime examples of those qualities.  Goicolea also revels in comic book schoolboy exuberance and naughtiness, as in "Feastings" from 2000 where boys in a fancy dining room create havoc and throw food at each other.  This is followed by a series of images of schoolboys with barely suppressed erotic qualities: in the picture used for the cover, "Morning After," three stand in a row in white shirts and purple ties looking disheveled.  One has lipstick marks on his collar, and another has hickeys on his neck.  As with most of the book's pictures, it is both funny and weird.  Despite the overt heterosexual references, it's also homoerotic. 

The book comes with a CD-ROM with short films related to the pictures that emphasize the weirdness and creepiness of the style.  One of the several movies featured shows a boy biting his nails obsessively and creating a pile of bitten nails.  It's more disturbing than the photographs, and so, more effective.

The emotional tone of these photographs and films is powerfully constructed; repellant and self-consciously clever.  They are memorable images that for all their postmodern play with iconography manage to provoke strong feelings. While Goicolea does not make himself likeable, he does show that he has considerable talent.  

 

 

© 2004 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

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Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.


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