It was time for Reena’s first shoot. She was nervous. A sickly fluttering feeling surrounded her, penetrating every orifice of her body. Seeping out of her glands, a trail of unease followed her every movement.
Reena and Maris hadn’t spoken since their last encounter; Reena had tried to spot her at After Dark the previous night but to no avail. She was panic stricken that she had totally fucked it. What else could she do? She was just hoping that she would manage to catch her alone at some point during the shoot.
Reena had no idea what the structure of the day would be. She had never been to a model shoot before. It was a totally alien world.
Minute by minute the studio was morphing into a increasingly pathological idea of public apace. The noise-level thickens as more people enter. There are lots of young women and men, lots of their skin. It’s a big production. Temperatures rising. Flesh on the stove. People walk in-and-out. This seems disorderly, but it’s the noise of production producing good-looking confusion. The stylist puts on a Cat Power CD and, singing along, begins to steam a rack of bras and pants. Recently, on the radio she heard a replay of an old interview with Bob Dylan. When asked if he ever would do commercials, he said… short and semi-toxic … only for underwear. Then 2004, it came true, and the song was I’m Thru With Love.
The stylist’s steam is rising.
Maris appeared and kicked things off with one of her classic pep talks, saying this business still had a few sensations lurking in its sleeve if we could all, for once, accept its machine-like nature and not insist on bogging it down with our lazy ideas about art. She was speaking into a bin of underwear, holding up item after item for all to see. Then, while refolding the underwear into neat, little business-card-sized bundles, she confidentially issued encrypted commands to the photographer, “Two words, Bjarne: carcass, automatism. Love of course, would be a third.”
They had Reena run up and down some stairs and then asked her to lie on her stomach on the floor and smoke cigarettes. They massaged a few drops of oil into her hair, combed it out, blow-dried it from various distances, repeating the process several times before smoothing in something that smelled like apricots.
Reena Spaulings as a medieval Russian pilgrim, male. “We’ll teach you, you fake saint, not to seduce girls.” Two soldiers separating her from a girl who has come to her for help. Reena wearing only underwear.
Reena as Henry David Thoreau with his brother on their boat trip up the concord and Merrimack rivers. In their tent listening to dogs howling at night. 2nd scene: morning, Reena digging around in the boat for a melon. Brother visible in the tent.
They all seem to know each other. There are in jokes in the air. Also, many different clicking sounds: of computers, of cameras, of lights, speakers, digital impulses, of high heels and wooden slippers. Everybody is talking to somebody, incessantly. Everybody is doing a job. Reena is doing a job. The photographer is nervous. It is a big job. No, it’s not… it’s not a job, somehow everyone feels it is their own, and that it will move them wherever they might go, an aesthetic quantum empire.
Dressed, undressed, dressed again. New flesh, new mind, new people.
Her bottom looks like soft white cheese. Mascarpone, spread. A smooth fresh ball. It starts to perspire. She kneels on a wooden crate among scattered bales of hay. The set is rustic, with Italian peasants, goats and wheels of ripening cheese. Her feet are dirty as if dragged across a barn floor. She is posing like a bard, lazy, blank cat. In the sun. It makes sense. She laughs compulsively.
Reena, as pilgrim again, installed in an empty bathhouse. Legs paralyzed and weak as bits of straw. “With this liquid, I rubbed my legs five times a day. And what happened?”
Maris in the middle of the injunction zone called photo shoot. A look of outer-body detachment, yet she can feel the smells of fears, excitement, existence. She wears black cotton panties most of the time. Every day, though, the ritual requires some change. She looked at Reena. That’s not only a girl, that’s culture.
Maris keeps punching the photographer in the back and telling him Reena is not a bowl of fruit. He is like a cautious rabbit being lured out of his hole, starting to sniff around. He smokes a joint on the roof and comes back with ideas. They converse through nods, glances and improvised hand signals, sometimes breaking the silence with a word: “slumpy” “crass” “idiot” “rad.”
Reena stands in her museum guard pose, facing the camera and then the wall. They expose 50 rolls in three hours. They take Polaroids between set-ups and have excited conferences around each one, like generals around a battle plan, pushing on, like people who believe they are getting things done, pushing on. Maris is rigid with concentration and sometimes snaps at the studio hands. Maris is glowing with creative purpose and sometimes ecstatically squeezes Reena’s hand. In a movement of inspiration that nobody sees coming, she elbows the makeup artists out of the way and begins to draw on Reena’s face with a red ballpoint pen.
There is this “I want whatever happens” body and a “nothing ever happens” face and the camera keeps clicking at that face and that face clicks back. It is a brand new camera with an extremely fast motor to capture the moments between the clicks. But there are only voids between the clicks. Deepening the voids, that’s what this odd model is doing. The spiritual and the popular are having a meeting, to stretch some horizon? “You will be like the bum on the subway if you don’t obey.” Where is the soundtrack for that? A couple of girls with clipboards and pencils are arguing in front of the new boom box. It seems the CD player is giving up with nasty gasps of noise. Suddenly everybody is pulling pills or gum or cigarettes or cell phones out of their pockets and handbags. Reena by now looks like a piece of scrap paper with a drawing of red ballpoint tattoo. Suddenly everyone needs a break and a gallon of water.
Maris says we are all geniuses. She massages Reena’s rubbery shoulders with long, cool fingers, the inches the waistband of the pants down a couple of centimeters. Reena cannot breathe. The photographer exposes his final roll.
Afterwards John thanked reena for having integrity, and said he hoped she would be able to continue with it, but Reena said it wasn’t integrity because she wasn’t whole, she was in pieces. And John said well perhaps you’ll be able to remain in pieces, and not become whole. Reena said if I cared about it, I would be whole and not in pieces.
Reena looked around, Maris had already disappeared. Reena left, feeling like she had just spent the day being violated. She felt dejected. It was time to get fucked.
The next day.
Reena thinks to herself, “Get up idiot!”
She thinks about the red numbers spelled on the alarm clock.
She thinks about getting up.
She thinks about having a look at her face, did anything horrific take place in the night, like in a science fiction film, which she always secretly expected?
She thinks let me relieve myself. I think about the dust that gathers so quickly on the white tiled floor, and the shower hairs left high and dry by receding waters. A cult had arisen. Without proper arguments or any established philosophy, but with an aesthetic as tough as weeds, which is significant to kitsch.
This was the weirdest time of Reena’s life. It feels like being showered with 100 roses. Or just sniffing life. Even not giving a dam about flowers, Reena thinks this happened all too fast and came as a surprise. She thinks about the pee-toilet bowl acoustics and about the cotton rectangle on the inside of her underwear. Perhaps it will make her strong. She gives all, and will not receive anything. She thinks, taking three squares of toilet paper, folding first along the perforations and then folded the whole thing in half. Everything three seconds she is fine. Every second second she gives up. Every five seconds she rises up. Feeling perpetually x-ed.
She thinks, standing naked before the mirror. She thinks about how she looks from the front, with shoulders proper and back, and then with shoulders slouched, like normal. Shr thinks about her body – is it sexy? Or better, is it touching? Could someone be moved by it? She thinks so. She thinks about her shoulder muscles, which all on their own decide from day to day if they will appear masculine or somewhat feminine, the different shades of her body, the relative white of her thighs, her ass, her stomach, the darker shades of her shins, arms and back, the splotchier bothered skin of her face, hands and feet. This is a banality but it should be better understood.
She thinks about the crack in the 11 inch all-in-one TV/VCR and about the throw rug from Bed, Bath & Beyond. She thinks about the nook of bad spirits, the crevice between her dresser and some stackable plastic storage units, which she had unconsciously made into a bad energy ghetto, the bad part of town of her room where she put soiled rags, liquor bottles (both empty and full) her cigarettes and ashtrays (when she was trying to quit), plastic bags, and whatever else she preferred to hide from herself. She thinks about her nails. She thinks about the dust on her CD player, the week-old flowers, the faux wood paneling of her desk top, as she cracked her back to the left and then the right and do some neck rolls. She thinks, without inspecting her feet, with so much city around us our bodies are all we have to become dazzled by nature’s unmanufactured forms, growths, cracks, fractures, fissures, deformities and transformations. She thinks about her black plastic wastepaper basket to her left, which she had pissed in one night when she was too lazy to make it to the bathroom. She thinks, she likes the floor a lot, as she goes to lie on a piece of it and looked up out of the window, thinking of how the sky is shoved to the periphery of the stage by our monuments and monumental buildings.
She thinks as she taps on her computer,
Everything’s fine with me. Now that it’s almost spring, each day around 4 o’clock, I speed down to the water to read for an hour or two. It’s almost time to take out those sunglasses I brought last autumn. Yesterday, as I approached the water, I discovered a movie was being shot. The scene was about a man drowning in the river. It was great fun for us onlookers to watch a man dramatically drowning and in grave danger.
Lots of Love,
She thinks some more, with her chin in the hole of my coffee mug.
She thinks, dear artists (even those whom she liked) that they can’t escape it, they are making art that approximates life and she’d prefer, at the very least, life that approximates life. She thinks about how her body is her brains and how her brain doesn’t have a brain.