The Pulsing Body Wants of Jasmine Reimer

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Like teeth crowding a dark mouth, Jasmine Reimer’s Small Obstructions pushes crude objects up through a dusky space – and then pocks them with food. It’s wet in here; no, it’s arid and brown. There are piles of crumbling rock around columns that make corners go soft. There are flashlights for looking down holes, through orifices, around the edges of glazed berries and puckered figs. It’s dusty purple in here. It’s the color of the desert; I keep expecting to smell bone.

I think it’s a cave in reverse

If I put a finger inside its perfect circle

Dark secretive and infinite

I could pull out its interior

Inside out insides in

[…]

I am a cave in reverse

Reimer is a recent transplant to the Toronto art community after graduating from Guelph University; before that, she worked under Liz Magor, in Vancouver. For Reimer’s second exhibition at Georgia Scherman Projects, she writes poetry as a complement to the pitted pillars that people the galleries. And while some of it errs on the side of bathetic eroticism, her discharge of language from the soles of granules (“satiated cavities level with brim”) does a nice job of lowering us to our base. And that’s where we want to be, with this show; moving on all fours, sniffing at trunks, licking at decaying leaves. It’s work made for the body – of the body. I’m reminded of something Magor said in a recent interview: “Reading is for the head. I wanted a life that included my body and, by extension, the things that I found around me, that co-existed with my body in the same time and place.”

Within Reimer’s forest of forms, her mentor Liz Magor’s influence looms unquietly. Reimer employs banal things to unlikely ends (in this case, Diaper Genies sheathed in homemade casting – made of sand and dye, or papier mâché – and turned unknowable by interruptions and explosions to their shape. The gallery positions this material legerdemain rather coolly, perhaps cheekily, as, “Reimer makes a new natural out of extant material.” Extant indeed). There is, too, her harnessing of attraction – achieved here through cast blueberries, cherry tomatoes, avocados, chocolates, and figs – such that small objects, knowable objects, appear lit from within.

Beyond aligning herself to the uncanny simulacra and alluring stillness of Magor, I see the emerging career of Jasmine Reimer speaking more directly to “body art.” It might be a strange connection to make, given her largely abstracted forms. (When figuration occurs, here, it’s like an aberration, a come-on, or a tiny joke.) However, like Kiki Smith, who moves across media and epochal references with something like a distracted, bigger-picture intent, Reimer mines form for the feeling it makes. These forms aren’t about themselves, then, but about the rumble rooted in our bellies, our throats, our groins. As Smith said of her larger motivation, “I think I chose the body as a subject, not consciously, but because it is the form we all share; which we all know from our own experience.” And while, in the 1990s, she would become associated with the abject, the suppression (and eruption) of bodily function and want and catholic desire, what continues to sing through Smith’s work is what curator Carsten Ahrens calls the “vulnerability of the body, its wounds, scars, and lacerations.” And, much like Reimer’s inverted caves, “over and over again Smith played with the delicate balances between the inside and outside. She tattooed the soul’s injuries of our time on the figures’ bodies and presented them as the embodiment of spiritual processes.”

***

What beauty is I do not know, although it is attached to many things.

– Albrecht Dürer

In preparing for this review, I scanned (somewhat errantly, but with round and rapt attention) a couple books on the history of food in art. The one I loved the most is an art historian who appears, at every turn, to be staging a resistance to assigned meaning. She writes of a Caravaggio painting: “figs in battered majolica dishes oozed juice, surrounded by insects, unencumbered by symbolism.” I too can celebrate the quilting of a rabbit’s pelt, or the simple glory of a plum, for those qualities alone. But in Reimer’s case, the sign the food seems to carry is a reminder of our corporeality – maybe even our carnality. And in this sense, her use of berries and pits is that of a finger pointing elsewhere.

Given their structural starch, why do her sculptures continue to slip? What makes this room feel wet when everywhere, all I see is dust? In the dark mouth of Small Obstructions, vision slides. In rushes the hot breath of pulsing desire. It blows past all those glistening, cast berries; all those cavernous tunnels and finger-shaped holes. No, the orb of our ardor pulses beneath the trunks of this show – the amorphous, crude monuments that house Reimer’s more sensuous details. It’s the ill-defined bodies in this room that best identify our own elastic, rough-hewn, dark-bellied want. There is, here, a beauty I cannot know, except to say “I feel you.”

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