Space: Edie Fake at Western Exhibitions
The blood is voltaic, salt and copper and life and death, flowing fast and high around the fever dream haemalducts of Edie Fake's The Blood Bank, imbued with a passionate glow which seems to radiate in juxtaposition with the cold, flat surfaces—marble? tile? stone?—which constitute its flowing surface, a room of stately and imposingly beautiful columns and arches, its facade shot through with sharp geometry, like a thousand black shark's teeth on pallid sand, the columns topped with ornate weeping bull's eyes; a dazzling array of colors—rococo patterns formed from tiles the color of salmon and toothpaste, bands of claret and powder blue, jade and bubblegum, lace of electric orange-red—is lost to the eye by the great flowing blood's final destination, a pool fit for a Bathory, its deep center a rich bordeaux, fed by the blood flowing through the veins around the room's ceiling, flowing hot—like lava around the edge of a caldera—hot in color and consequence, biologically and ethically, burning in memory with fear, anger, paranoia, colored the red of passion and hazard both, blood from them, blood begetting panic, the blood of the AIDS crisis, the dread invisible specter preying on the edges, closing the bath houses and haunting the blood banks, a nightmare, blood a commodity and curse, the mark of Cain and the gift of vigor, forever pouring into Fake's pool, which must be deep, deeper than the sea, to never jump its cold, slick sides, leaving not so much as a patina as its waves lap and stop with a clinical precision, and one stares into the sanguineous abyss, is presented—with disconcerting pulchritude—the horrors of a not-so-distant past, a spiritual kind of hemorrhagic shock. – B. David Zarley, Chicago Contributor
Fake's intricate architectural forms in Grey Area, a show of ink and gouache at Western Exhibitions, inspire anxiety and awe in their complexity, their ruthlessness, their ability to hypnotize and capture via reticular aesthetic and intricate content. The shattered and prismatic spaces Fake creates are emblematic—and symptomatic—of the amorphous spaces in which those who refuse to identify by the usual societal poles—male/female, gay/straight—must inhabit, places lacking in definition and foundation, strung like spider's fly wires across the vast and tortuous gaps which tear holes in society like the transient, nameless, non-conforming victim of a violent hate crime, and are often ignored by the powers-that-be just the same.
In taking the structure—with its inherent connotations of safety and stability, progress, the past, human triumph over nature—and twisting it into spaces which reflect none of those things, Fake makes manifest the difficulties faced in finding and defining queer space.
Few things are as unsettling or liberating as the sudden lack of strictures, and Fake's forms—floating about nightmarishly, bound together by the dot trail of phantom Family Circus children, ignoring—no, spitting on!, really—architectural and physical rules of place—have a way of inspiring a certain kind of healthy dread upon which one lingers, savors, like the final dregs of a powerful spirit, the last dusty lines of a drug, the final shredding burn of a physical exertion, moments of pain and anguish and beauty which we relish as they beget some kind of greater understanding, some kind of better us; that his forms dazzle and lure and hypnotize via color schemes intricate and screaming both—a grand cuttlefish on paper—allows the social message, one quite difficult to comprehend and relate to, not to mention express, the perfect vehicle for entry.
The Fitting Room, a melange of mirrors, splinters reflections and identity into a million different directions, taking the politically charged notion of fashion, particularly as it pertains to perceived sexual orientations and gender norms, and adding in not only the confusion of the funhouse Hall of Mirrors but also the terror; think the climactic pulp story in which the protagonist must chase both the villain and their ghosts, a silent army as illusory as the societal norms Fake's dread structures reflect. Just a Stage, ringed by glorious rainbows and tubes as if in possession of a mighty, million-throated pipe organ, sloughs off its dismissive title—a stage, a phase, a confusion, something to be pushed through, survived, grown out of, life and identity little more than chitinous cicada shells—with an explosive jonquil backdrop, impossible to deny or ignore.
Fake's facades seem tortured in their unrelenting pushing against boundaries and limitations, splaying themselves into impossible directions, becoming bisected by panes of glass, their exertions glittering on their faces and floors. Only Gender Changer, with its comparatively severe adherence to mimesis, seems something less of fantasy than reality, and its imposing form is truly the most chilling in the exhibition. Held high and tight by twin columns, constrained yet powerful, the stately manse of Gender Changer—which should evoke strength, familiarity, comfort—seems instead oppressive, a Brahminic structure of a fearful past, and one yearns, with exquisite pain, for Fake to gut the great house, splay it open, allow its colors to run, run like blood…
B. David Zarley is a freelance journalist, essayist, and book/music/art critic based in Chicago. You can find him on Twitter (@BDavidZarley) and at bdavidzarley.com.