Dutes Miller’s installation The Ecstasyist is filled with penises – and other images related to the male body and its accoutrements – but mostly just penises. Sculptures of condoms, hanging and drooping in an Eva Hesse-style, hover mid-air while messy collages and drawings, sometimes framed, sometimes not, fill the walls. Although not cluttered, the word “full” is probably the most apt way to describe the use of space where every corner of the gallery has been used to exhibit a different aspect of Miller’s working practice in a different exhibition style, from the presentation of his untitled series of amorphic bodies in a never-ending circle, to the rigorous seriality of his framed untitled collages of cut-up nude male models.
I am reminded of a quotation, one loosely rememberd, by the blogger/curator of I Heart Photograph, that there were times when she would post images to her website that she really liked, but once she saw them in person at an exhibition, her reaction completely changed – a problem of online curating once you reach out to the challenges of “real” life spaces. Miller’s work seems more DIY in person than online, but the Ecstasyist, whomever he is, cannot make up his mind. His influences are numerous, from dabbling in Surrealist collage to Mapplethorpe’s renditions of the male body (however, Miller’s are rendered far less classic and glamorous than the late artist). The Ecstasyist is schizophrenic about the treatment of his images – should he let the original text of the his cut up magazines show through in his collages and let dried glue ripple the paper, should he frame his works?
This frenzy of sources and styles confused and dissatisfied my friend who attended the opening with me, however I don’t care whether or not an artist is original. The works in this exhibition that contained the most prescient understanding of the installation as a whole are those small, circular collages of bodies that, without eyes or faces, still contain the source of desire, the sexual organs and the soft skin that contains it, yet the shape of desire is difficult to define, existing in various intensities without a constant goal. Unfulfilled desire is what drives the Ecstasyist, but the source of Miller’s uneven treatment of desire, materials, and source, was not identified in the exhibition, left dubious and unfulfilled, like the exhibition’s imagined creator.