October 19, 2003

The Last Time Backstory

tableau.jpg

[more photos here.]

by Catherine King

The Last Time tableau (installed in the storefront window of the Artery at 623 East Indian School Road) was created by King and du Bois for The Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence to spotlight Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It provides a voyeurís view of the wreckage of a relationship in a Ground Zero of a living room.

From the street, the viewer can see a small, dim room through two large eye-level apertures. The room is a black and white explosion of polarized insanity. It looks like Anger and Chaos have broken every surface of some Giantís home into jagged shards of opposition.

Itís a psychedelic scene, but one of overwhelming irrationality, instead of dazzling clarity. A jumble of garish black and white fabrics have cut each other down and are now competing for every square inch. The furnishings in this home threaten, rather than comfort -- a hanging crazy quilt pieced together from sci-fi sex workers and cartoon misogyny, a calendar crowned with a two-headed snake of a pinup girl, a table quaintly embellished with stenciled skeletons. On the table sits a framed family photo which is illuminated by the warm glow of a lampís inferno.

For this living room is pure hell. The family photo is a snapshot of the demonic Columbine Idiots, stalking out the final moments of their earthly hunt. Our voyeur understands intuitively that Mr. Giant is the interior decorator here and that Kleibold and Harris are related from his side of the family, not Mr. Giantís domestic partnerís. This is a masculine style Giantís Castle, no doubt about it.

Mr. Giant sprawls over half of the room, dwarfing his Lazy Boy and the table topped with the portraits from his Demon Idiot family tree. Here the voyeur witnesses his presentation as Bellowing Giant.

Bellowing rules his corner of hell, or thinks he does, from his tiny psychotic- looking throne. His sceptre and orb are a baseball bat and a TV remote. Permanently green with rage, he stares blankly ahead, seeing nothing really, and rolls out a predictable loop of demands, remonstrations and threats, all of this directed at his domestic partner.

The incredible volume of Bellowing Giant is formidable, but the voyeur can see that there is a wearing weakness inside. The guy can hardly hold his head up. His mighty limbs sag. His blindness, his unresponsive insistence, his limpness give him away -- Mr. Giant is not a Real Man. Lacking all integrity, heís unable to stand up.

The Last Time uses symbolic doubling to emphasize importance and to show change through time. And so our voyeur also sees before them another aspect of Mr. Giant, from a later time -- The Last Time.

This twin aspect is Begging Giant. Virtually identical to Bellowing, now he cowers on the floor, approximately turned toward his domestic partner, though he appears not to really see her. He is on his knees with his hands raised in supplication, still grasping the ever present extensions of the bat and remote.He could be making a contrite gesture but he might also be coiled and ready to strike. The voyeur can see that his raging expression is exactly the same as before. It is clear that Begging Giant is not sorry or sincere about anything.

As plain as it is, Disappearing Woman, standing there before her domestic partner, has just realized it for the first time. A moment of truth has been captured in this living room. In the midst of clamoring chaos, Disappearing Woman has managed to find unequivocal clarity. Something inside of her suddenly sees everything differently. Sheís finally done with the lying and trying.

She no longer needs to see his pathetic posturing or hear his lying promises -- so she is turning her back to him now. The voyeur can see that sheís bruised purple from head to foot. Her lumpy legs are a mass of old scars and fresh injuries. With her bumpy reality, Disappearing Woman could never meet her domestic partnerís idea of perfection -- as measured by the Two-Headed Pinup Sci-Fi Sex Workers with which Mr. Giant has chosen to decorate his castle. So he has made her pay for it with her hide.

Disappearing Woman has taken a lot of blows -- the Giant made his mark many times. Her left arm hangs broken in a sling. Her right arm is raised as she has just finished circling a red-letter day on the giant calendar which hangs in front of her -- Friday, October 3, 2003 -- The Last Time.

September, August, July, June . . . month on top of month, other calendar pages are spread out over the wall. The voyeur sees the whole story in notes on top of days -- day after day, all year long, reminders of relationship counseling appointments, self-defense classes and bills for X-rays that must be paid. Many of the squares are also overlaid with inspirational messages that the formerly codependent Disappearing Woman wrote to herself -- ďBe more romantic,Ē followed by ďTry harder to ACT more romantic.Ē

A mirror on either side of her face allows the voyeur to see her expression as she finishes writing this final note to herself. Frigidity has never been so lovely. Huge closed eyelids are emphasized with long gold eyelashes. The delicate purple face is bandaged here and there, but still, the way she is holding her chin up now looks like Sheer Beauty. She is proud of herself for doing right by herself for once, and it shows.

Disappearing Woman no longer hears all the Bellowing and Begging. This Last Time was the straw that broke the camelís back. The voyeur can see from the increasingly desperate notes on the calendar that things have been getting worse around this home. The violence has been escalating. The infernal lamp and that cursed family photo lay shattered on the floor. It must have been a hell of a display, Mr. Giantís Last Time. But Disappearing Woman didnít fall for it for the first time. And now sheíll never be intimidated by his tantrums again.

Disappearing Woman is leaving, is gone. Sheís trailing right through the sky blue doorway of her former hellish home into the Unknown. Whateverís waiting for her out there, it could only be an improvement.

Posted by Jerome at October 19, 2003 07:20 AM | TrackBack