curated by Anthea Black for Stride Gallery
July – August 2006
That’s So Gay
curated by Zachari Logan, presented by the Saskatoon Diversity Network
All Things to All Men (and Women)
I once had a friend whose well-lubricated acquaintance suggested, in conversation at a bar one night, that the group of us 5 women around the table should form a band, as together we constituted “all things to all men…(and women.)” I found it peculiar that she could not concede that in fact, we were but a small fraction of what men (and some women) might find desirable. We had the ‘cute chick, the ethnic chick, the nerdy chick, the fat chick and, of course, the lesbo.’ It was her insistence that we really could fulfill all fantasies that got me thinking about the fact that trying to encompass everything merely points out our own glaring misconceptions, prejudices, biases and blind spots about the world around us.
All Things to All Men (and Women) is a tongue-in-cheek look at underwear as a metaphor for all possible objects of fantasy – all possible wearers – to highlight the broad spectrum of desire.
As in the original idea behind the girl band, it is impossible to anticipate all forms of desire. This show reveals much more about the desires of the creator of the work than about society.
Just as the exhibition comments more about the artist than society in terms of desire, it also reveals much about the artist’s views about the politics of desire, gender, social constructs of body image and what kinds of desire are socially acceptable. (The dark side being that it necessarily evokes some socially unacceptable imagery and there are bound to be facets of the project that disturb.)
As these panties are less for the wearer (who is merely a fantasy object and not a real person at all) than the gazer, they are not meant to reflect a broad spectrum of real women or wearers, but possible women; fictitious, impossible fantasy women. This assortment of possible women draws attention to the catch-22 inherent in the idea of ‘all things to all people’ – that something can only be all things that one person can imagine to all people that one person can imagine – thereby visually delineating the bias in the artist’s own desires.
I think that for this essay one good cliche deserves another. The other day I was standing outside smoking in a fuzzy fleece sweater. It was snowing and my sweater was catching the individual flakes. I was amazed to rediscover a truth: each flake is different! For the most part I do not find the world full of wonder; too cynical I suppose.
So Cindy Baker sets out to make panties that will be all things to all men and women. Where is the wonder in that? Remember when grade school teachers would tell that that you were as unique as a snowflake, there has never been or never will be anyone exactly like you. So how can an artist set out to represent the fantasies and desires of everyone; ever?
If each of us is unique, it is an impossibility to articulate (especially in the form of panties) the infinite particular desires of everyone. But this project is more about the attempt to do so, and its inevitable failure.
Cindy and her partner Megan have been hard at work attempting to do just that. As I watch this project develop and the pile of panties that they make grows I wonder, where are my fantasies? Can they be found in this pile? I am certain that each viewer will feel the same when contemplating the installation.
As they attempt to make a set of panties that are all things to everyone they are actually in a process of articulating what they miss, what their own limitations are. But these are not just the artist’s limitations, they are those of the viewer as well. We can see where our fantasies are not represented but we cannot see where others are or are not. Although the project is that of an anticipated failure, I still can’t help imagine a world filled with panties that do represent all fantasies and desires. I suppose that is where the wonder is.