Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Book Review:Anthony Goicolea

Anthony Goicolea
Twin Palms Publishers
160 pages $60 US

At the risk of being the uncoolest critic in town … I hate this book. There, I said it. I feel better now.

Here’s why I’m supposed to like Anthony Goicolea’s silly, overstated boys-on-boys erotica: it’s naughty, it’s art school dangerous, there’s a hint of chic performativity theory in his use of layers of digitalization of himself (all the “boys” in the book are the boyish, but adult, Goicolea), it is meant to shock with its play violence and play pubescent sexuality, and New York loves him, baby! And, arguably, Goicolea is exploring some taboo terrain, with his exploration of teen erotica (even if the teens are fake teens) – it’s small wonder that American critics have taken to his work, given the conservative, sex-panic atmosphere that clouds any discussion of teen sexuality in the United States. So, kudos to Goicolea for at least trying to stir the pot.

However, here’s why I actually dislike Goicolea’s laboured photoconstructions: I read Lord of the Flies in grade nine and even at that tender age figured out the society-as-wolf-pack metaphor – and, sadly, that’s as deep as the going gets in Goicolea’s cliché ridden spectacles.

To put it bluntly, there is about as much newness, revelation, or simple cleverness in Goicolea’s images of boyish aggression and sex as you might find in any mid-20th-century, post-Freudian pop culture analysis of the latent homoeroticism in male/male society. From Golding’s novel to Calvin Klein’s underwear ads, the territory has been thoroughly, and often more imaginatively, covered.

You’ve seen these images before, and, if memory serves me, even hack metal bands like AC/DC did the whole sexualized British schoolboy routine with far more gusto. Tarting up worn editorializing and spurious shock jockeying with expensive digital effects, as Goicolea does to the point of being trick-tired, does not make the content any more current or important. What next, a series of photos of Coicolea in black face? The work her is about that relevant and timely.

Perhaps part of the problem is that his work doesn’t shock or provoke viewers who live in less sex phobic cultures – but, then again, I wouldn’t want to hand this tome to my local constabulary (though even they would appreciate it’s gorgeous binding, expensive papers and the overall “keepsake” quality of its top notch production)

Call me old and jaded, but at least when Larry Clark made similar work twenty plus years ago, he didn’t pretend he was doing anything other than jerking off to his own juvenile, stunted sexual fantasies. Goicolea needs a new schtick.