A pair of stiffly starched socks – phallic and fragile – hang pressed together in near-perfect symmetry on a wall in Galerie Sultana in Paris. Their close embrace cups into a form that recalls a stretched and sagging jock strap: the result, perhaps, of a formal process or, more suggestively, a found object defiled by over-use. Sans Titre (Untitled, 1980s) reads the accompanying caption, which signals the anonymous exchanges prevalent in the exhibition.
These ambiguous accoutrements were crafted by Brazilian artist Hudinilson Jr., a queer compatriot to artists of the Latin neo-baroque and an active participant in the conceptual avant-garde of the 1980s. Unfolding out of Brazil’s military dictatorship, Hudinilson’s practice played on a latent promiscuity that, following the end of the regime in 1985, queered certain tropes of the previously totalitarian state. Bureaucracy, machines and surveillance became accessories to the artist’s sexual pleasure, partly through an employment of everyday items, which were defiled by his explorations of them. A pair of crumpled, soiled underpants, for example, are accompanied by an adjacent metal plaque, inscribed Hudinilson Jr. Posição Amorosa (Amorous Position, 1980s), which provides a guideline for the reading
of the artist’s work – as both manifesto and erotica.
Hudinilson – seemingly oblivious to, or blasé about, anyone who might have been watching – got off on a search for self through a series of Xerox prints of his zoomed-in and off-set body pressed against the glass plate of a copier. Others are part of the series, ‘Exercício de Me Ver’ (Exercise to See Myself, 1981) for which the artist engaged in sexual relations with a Xerox machine. Whether performance or office romance taken to a literal extreme, Hudinilson constructed it bit by bit, copying a knee, a shoulder blade, his chest. Devoid of intimacy – the artist carefully avoids eye contact – the act remained strictly between man and machine, or perhaps man and his modern-day reflection, like some post-industrial Narcissus. In one example, Exercício de Me Ver III (undated), framed in rosy pine, an image of tangled hair is pressed against the copy machine, enlarged to lewd detail. For glossy reference, an artist’s book of cut-and-pasted porn, Caderno de Referências XX (Reference Book XX, 1980s) is on display, offering an insight to Hudinilson’s erotic inspiration.
The book also makes apparent Hudinilson’s interest in the desires of certain minorities, particularly those concerned with sexual identity. This is true again in pieces like Untitled (notebook) (1979) and the two works titled Narcisse (Narcissus, 1980s). Both exploring self-portraiture, in one Hudinilson collages a felon-like mugshot beside a fingerprint (presumably his own), a somewhat sacral close-up of his eye and a column of text – each line simply bearing the word ‘Narcissus’ in variable languages and orientations. The second work takes a simpler approach: photocopies of the mugshot repeated in a tiled pattern. Untitled (notebook), on the other hand, comprises eight photocopied prints; the first is an envelope-like white sheet before a series of over-toned dark pages progressively lightening to reveal a handprint. These are experiments in erotic self-identification that makes the body inextricable from its machinic entanglement.
Two untitled collages are rendered out of a mixture of found objects and cut-outs from gay porn magazines. By mixing domestic elements (a wooden spoon, what looks like a metal waffle) with crops of unconventionally arousing body parts (armpits, abdomens) Hudinilson not only redirects the visual vocabulary of eroticism, but reinvents it. His is a queered language that is inextricable from conceit – one as obscure, ambiguous and unfinished as the self. Through this vocabulary, he reclaimed the uniqueness of his sexuality through its equivocation. His unsuspecting erotic of the everyday indicates a promiscuity based less on compulsion than unadulterated curiosity.
First published in Issue 177