Untitled (Mario)
Untitled (Roses)
Untitled (TNT)
Untitled (Apennine Colossus)
Untitled (Inhale)
Untitled (Rupertia)
Untitled (Finis Terræ)
Untitled (Heaven is a Place on Earth)

     It’s 1998, and the writers Samuel Delany and Octavia Butler are talking about hypertext at MIT. Texts are not linear. Texts are multiple and for anybody who really reads and enjoys reading, it is an interactive process, says Delany. I generally have four or five books open around the house — I live alone; I can do this — and they are not books on the same subject, says Butler, They don’t relate to each other in any particular way, and the ideas they present bounce off one another. And I like this effect.
     A folders of images on my desktop — an attempt at taxonomy (or at least at understanding). They have names such as Alvin_Baltrop, Cadaver_monuments, Fascinus, Glitterbug, Happy_Together, Harmen_Steenwijk, Homo_Bulla, Maria_Sybella_Merian, Rupertia, Sacro_Bosco, Sebald_Beham, Star_Trek_TNG.
     Another folder: Boys_to_draw. 
     Images and information are rifled through. Printouts are made. Sheets of cheap office paper —damp with the heavy ink — are folded, cut, taped together. Scanned, printed, folded, and taped some more. Collage is so gay, Jem wrote in his book. 
     They become object-like: Still _life compositions, Vanitas, Memento_mori.
     Flattened again: pressed like botanical samples. Ink and gouache run like living stuff. Like seed.
     And yet: Et in Arcadia ego (a skull reminds some shepherds). La petite mort.
     FRUIT: queen in Polari.
     At the National Gallery last year I took pictures of Flowers in a Glass Bottle on a Marble Plinth, painted around 1670 by Jan Davidsz. de Heem. The bouquet is home to a menagerie: earwig, snail, spider and a bee — symbol of labour. 
     For Ambroise and Jean-Marie, the two young fishermen gazed upon in Jean Epstein’s 1929 film Finis_Terræ, the seaweed they harvest is the fruit of their labour. Their love (fraternal or otherwise) is tested when Ambroise breaks Jean-Marie’s only bottle of wine. Many displays of pent-up angst, anger and frustration follow. Ambroise clenches his fist around a shard of wine bottle and cuts his thumb. Jean-Marie exhausts himself, brawling with the ocean and the elements. Here, nature is raw and unadulterated. But also: seaweed is extracted and dried on the rocks and a crab is carried by one leg. Ambroise’s wound becomes infected. A doctor attends but it is Jean-Marie who holds vigil — sitting on the floor beside his friend’s sickbed. He is battling fatigue again, yet he holds Ambroise’s bandaged hand high, presumably to prevent the infection spreading.
     A French boy in grey trackies makes money masturbating on camera. He waves. His other arm is heavily inked.
     A handsome Saint_Francis painted in 1639 meditates on a skull. His hood is pulled back, his worn garments reflect his vow of poverty. He is the patron saint of (among other things) animals, ecology and stowaways.
     Evening botanist. Horticultural lad.
     FRUITCAKE: nutty, as in insane or mentally ill. Historically applied to LGBT people.
     Built by the artist Giambologna in the late 1580s, in the garden of a Tuscan villa, the Apennine_Colossus is an eleven-metre tall bearded mountain daddy regarded as a personification of nature, specifically the Apennine range. He holds his left hand in front of him, squeezing the head of a serpentine sea monster who spurts water into a lake.
     FRUIT MACHINE: a device built to aid in the detection of gay people in the Canadian Civil Service.
     On the Bonhams website: a copy of Caravaggio Studies, annotated by Derek_Jarman for his production designer (Dear Christopher here is an annotated Caravaggio buon viaggio derek. see you in Rome). Across the top of PLATE 1. Basket of Fruit. Milan, Ambrosiana, he’s written Surely C was just fed up with flowers. he painted all the decay.
     Remember Dexter Fletcher as young Caravaggio and as young Caravaggio as Mario Minniti? “In plain English mate, I’m an art object, and very, very EXPENSIVE.”
     SUCK A FRUIT FOR ANITA: a double entendre used by LGBT activists in response to orange juice spokesperson Anita Bryant’s campaign to overturn anti-discrimination laws.
     Skulls. Here’s one from the wreck of the Vasa that I took a photograph of in Stockholm. Stare death in the face, or perhaps the ass (is the rectum a grave?)
     An OF boy displays his wares like a costermonger. As Barthes said of Dutch_golden_age_still_life painting: “Other arts, other ages may have pursued, under the name of style, the essential core of things; here, nothing of the kind: each object is accompanied by its adjectives, substance is buried under its myriad qualities…”
     In many pictures men enjoy feet, armpits, ass_cracks — a sexuality involving senses other than the visual is depicted visually in pornography. The boys presenting socks, bare feet, etc. are known in the genre as masters. They are worshipped by slaves.
     “Master TNT gets into his stride.” Slap, huck, gob, slap. Face close enough for the tenderest kiss.
  They perform in domestic spaces amid still life arrangements of household objects and houseplants. Porn is utopian, suggests pornographer Paul Morris.
     FRUIT LOOPS: the loop on a man’s shirt collar which can be used to “hold a victim ready for buggery,” according to Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang.
     It’s 1938 and Keith_Vaughan is spending the heatwave summer photographing friends on Pagham Beach, West Sussex. Some of the images will end up in Dick’s Book of Photos — a handmade album dedicated to his deceased brother that has been described as a kind of photographic requiem or momento mori (Pierse, 2013).
     They say in heaven love comes first/We’ll make heaven a place on earth

     — Jamie Atherton, 2023

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