by Joel Wool
The video feedback artist does not require a Brazilian, but his subjects must be clean-shaven and nude. The light catches better that way: the cameras train brilliantly on naked illusions. The woman under the hot lights sweats, the many colors collect in pools and droplets, coat her, and—thanks to the projector-camera rig, the image fed into itself over and over, ad infinitum—her skin becomes strangely clear, a crystalline ether. Viewers can see the woman, yes; they can also see through her.
In Mike Hall’s studio the hirsute are forbidden: one has to be unbound, airy, immaterial, without dark skin, or any sort of clothing. Without this the effect cannot be produced. The light balls up in a tuft of hair, an earring, a skirt, a necklace. The feedback is lost; the image devolves to an ugly blob, steaming the expectant, anticipatory model, in meaningless heat and light. Mike Hall uses a variety of subjects, but thus far only women have volunteered.
“Volunteered”—he compensates them well; they are paid by the session or by the hour, according to the contract he strikes up with each one at the beginning of her services. Only women have volunteered, perhaps because they are more secure with their naked selves, perhaps because they are slower than men to assume that nudity equals lust or its satiation. Mike Hall despises the obscene, the indulgent, he even despises sex—at least, as it comes in contact with his art, about which, by the way, he is very modest.
Her breasts emerge into the light, merge with the light, become part of the luminescent room. It’s hardly pornographic, although the image is so beautiful and celestial that the natural and mundane human body cannot help being stirred, and some component of this is sexual, and some component of this is a channeling of desire. She channels the light: her ribcage, curvaceous, creates in the warp and weft of her every millimeter its own shadow, a detailed umbra echoed by seemingly infinite series of penumbra, the same rib-image reflected in varied colors and densities up her chest—mobile, flexible, though never quite passing beyond her chin. She is at once see-through, apparently emaciated, and also shelled, gifted with an exoskeleton. Her ribs appear a hundred times on her own body: she is fulgurations, she is a dying woman, she is a dancing skeleton born out of the Day of the Dead.
She is not herself, in addition to being her self: she is on the wall; behind where she is, she is diaphanous, projected. This ghostly face flickers amidst the hotspots and parhelia, the paraselenae, the globules and colored light beams. She is a feral and elemental being. She can live inside you, destroy you with a touch.
She can copulate with gods.
She gains everything and loses definition. She loses everything, and when the lights turn off, the projectors fail, the cameras’ lenses are covered, she is again a human woman. She is lost in the real world. She has touched the solar system, flown through wormholes into a parallel universe, plugged into a hundred disparate selves: she has been the impossible and now she longs for it, this is why Mike Hall’s art is sometimes about Desire.
Joel Wool is a video editor, sound designer, beat-boxer, and writer. He went to Emerson College for a few of these things. He speaks Spanish. He wants to learn Chinese.