You're shopping for a chair. As you browse the aisles, you note the variety — from backless computer chairs to high bar stools to plush loungers. Some nudge you to sit up straight; some have you poised leaning forward; others have you slunk down and cozy. This is in fact the main criterion for your chair purchase: how does it have you sit? How does it situate you? What posture does it demand of you?
So it is with all things — spaces, people, nature art. Everything stands towards us in such and such a way and, in so doing, inflects our posture. Nothing is neutral. Sure, some things stand towards us deadpan. And sometimes we stand towards others without interest or investment. But neither of these are neutral per se: they are the assumption of a posture, a very way of standing towards the world.
We know this, whether we know it or not, in social settings. Some people ask to be seen more or less ardently. You can hear their voice across the din of a bar; you can see it as they make the rounds, your eye drawn to them like a moon of Jupiter, perhaps despite yourself. But just as the moons of Jupiter are not uniform, each enjoying its own orbit, so it is with the posture of people. Which is to say, posture is not a just a matter of yes or no, visible or invisible, loud or quiet. The posture of things in the world is precisely the infinite variegation of life. We dwell in the nuance of postures, things leaning in and away, all asking for different things.
|"Big Mouth" by Marilyn Minter. Enamel on metal. 8x13'.|
Look at this painting by Marilyn Minter. Like most people, I assume, I have a strong visceral reaction to this — a guttural gasp. One might be inclined to say, Of course, you want to fuck it. But that's not it at all. The posture of this painting doesn't sit quiet, or even seductive, awaiting penetration. No, this painting is the very act of fucking. My reaction is not one of a subject wanting an object. On the contrary, my reaction is a participation in the sensuality: I am not taking it up, it's taking me up. And yet I'm not being taken per se. I am being taken up in its affect. I may be drawn to it but it's not grabbing me, forcing me, sullying me. Its posture is a frank invitation to its state of always already fucking.
I think of John Berger's distinction between the naked and the nude. The nude, Berger argues, is almost always a woman who is there to be taken. She is passive, an object for our eyes, desires, and more. The naked, on the other hand, is when the person — almost always a woman — happens to be without clothes. As we take her in with our eyes, she is not passive; she is not there to sate our desires. She is who she is, goes as she goes — she just happens not to have any clothes on: