These Pleasures A Wayward Distraction 

Monoprints on toiletpaper

‘Reality and its Disorders’, group show at Espacio Gallery, London, 2020

A project consisting of monoprints on toilet paper – abstract colour shapes alongside black and white self-portraits, each accompanied by a single word emphasising an emotional state, like ‘Lonely’ or ‘Claustrophobic’, words addressing my closeted and lonely gay adolescence, struggling to come terms with my sexuality. The work was evoked and produced at the start of the first 2020 lockdown during a shortage of toilet paper when I experienced feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Twenty prints were exhibited as a series on Instagram. Eight of these works were included in the group show ‘Reality and its Disorders’ curated by Ahmed Farooqui for the Degrees of Freedom artists’ group in September 2020.

The self-portraits respond to Raffaele Monti’s 1860s sculpture ‘The Veiled Lady (The Bride)’ and were photographed with my face and upper body covered in plastic sheeting. The title and a written statement use elements from the lyrics of Isolation by Joy Division (Factory Records, 1980). 

For the physical show, I reinterpreted ‘Lonely’ as a Xerox poster, the original print enlarged by 1000%, a size exposing the material qualities of toilet paper, while also emphasising the magnitude of loneliness in relation to queerness and the ongoing mental health impact of having been in the closet as a young man.

As Michael Hobbs writes in ‘Together Alone, the Epidemic of Gay Loneliness’, Huffington Post, 2 March 2017, ‘Whether we recognize it or not, our bodies bring the closet with us into adulthood’ and feelings of loneliness, isolation and insecurity continue to have an impact on my life.

During the show, I test-performed To Step Outside, a recital of a brief text expressing a desire to break out and see the world, developed during a self-assigned residency at The Queer Hut.

These Pleasures A Wayward Distraction, monoprints on toilet paper, 105mm x 125mm, acrylic sheeting. Xerox print, 1000mm x 760mm
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Roelof Bakker, all rights reserved, 2024