Bodies Not At Home - Pleasure Dome Archival Programme - An Essay



Shelter - Roberto Ariganello, Double - Riccardo Iacona, Aberrant Motion # 1 - Cathy Sisler, My Personal Virus - Steve Reinke, What's On? - Martha Colburn, German Song - Sadie Benning, Dangerous When Wet - Diane Bonder, When I Was a Monster - Anne McGuire, Knocturne - George Kuchar



Well, Pleasure Dome is now twenty, and by this point of life most former teenagers have at least contemplated leaving home. But then, Pleasure Dome has always problematized "home". I mean, they have one and then they don't. Pleasure Dome doesn't mind having a roof over its heads, but the organization is wary of restricting itself to any consistent roof. Keep those overheads low, and thus keep those standards high.


So I have responded to Pleasure Dome's generous invitation to assemble or "curate" a programme for their twentieth birthday by thinking about "home". As in, one can be simultaneously home and then not home. The home can indeed be a sanctuary but also a prison. The home may or may not have anything to do with family, or community, or any other of those words that can seem both comforting and confining. Home can be shelter, refuge, madness, and so many other definitions. It can be inside or outside and simultaneously familiar and very strange indeed. Home can of course be an alternative location to what the census-takers consider to be one's residence. It can and should refer to where one is "at home", whether alone or in a group or whatever.


An antonym of "home" is of course "homeless". During prime tourist-influx events (including the upcoming G-20 summit and the annual Toronto International Film Festival among others), it is imperative that the mega-city appear spic and span and therefore visible homelessness is not tolerated. Mess is not tolerated by either politicians or the stars — this despite their own chronic messiness. But Pleasure Dome has always tolerated mess. Images that refuse to stabilize, images that must be immediately contradicted by a sequential or parallel image, viruses that spread delirium instead of disease — these are all embedded in Pleasure Dome's mandate. Absolute abstractionism and hilarious (mis)representation can co-exist within the same work and in the same programmes. These bodies can take it, they can hold it. They can spin with dignity and drive while being invalid.


I search and google through Pleasure Dome's twenty years of exhibition and I see bodies appearing, disappearing, and reconfiguring. Bodies have home bases but refresh themselves by going AWOL from those bases or foundations. I comb through the titles that I have personally selected for this exhibition or programme and I see some wild oscillations between comfort and danger zones. I observe contagious bodies — viruses capable of both infecting and transforming. I see bodies which are supposed to be recuperating but are instead engaged with forms of psychic driving beyond the comprehension of shrinks and other control-agents. I see bodies that can't stop spinning.


In much of Pleasure Dome's programming and their archives bodies and performativity are displaced — into the actions of editing and also the processes of realising inventories. Bodies are not always present in the frames. However, throughout this programme which is titled Bodies Not at Home the alternately hesitant and assertive bodies tend to be visible. Perhaps this is an echo of my essay for the Pleasure Dome/YYZ anthology LUX, published in 2000 in tandem with the tenth anniversary. Perhaps this is a residue of my own performative tendencies which never quite disappear despite intentional displacements. Perhaps this emphasis on bodily presence has to do with my own observations regarding bodies throughout experimental film and video, which of course must remain distinct from Hollywood and the theatre and the whatever. After twenty years, I'm not sure that I myself really know. But that itself can comprise a pleasure zone, deliriously akin to parallel nomadism and shelter.


Homes are also, of course, institutions. Pleasure Dome have played a clever cat-and- mouse game with institutionalism over their duration. After twenty years, even the most anarchist Fluxist Situationist shit-disturber will have become an institution. But Pleasure Dome is lean and even mean. Institutions can be a good thing — reliable presence has its merits. Institutions of course often also imply impenetrable bureaucracy and stupid rules and Official Redundancy. However, Pleasure Dome has, I strongly believe, managed to avoid its own obsolescence by being at home and never really at home. A relatively consistent group of hosts will be the persons answering the doorbell, but the guests tend to be in flux and therefore the house is able to remain pleasantly and naggingly undefined.


This programme also salutes twenty years of Pleasure Dome's collaboration with Martin Heath's fabulous anti-institution institution — CineCycle, a home which is not a home.



Andrew James Paterson 31/5/10