• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 12

Un coup de des jamais n’abolira le hazard

The polished concrete floor of the gallery gleams with post-industrial swagger and in the centre of the white-walled room sits 'Untitled, 2019'.

Watching the lighting technician test out the angles, the mid-career sculptor considers the work.

She is good at concealing true feelings behind an asymmetric hairstyle, loud jewellery, colour-block coats and distracting shoes. People make the assumptions they make. Untitled is her preferred mode of being.

'Untitled, 2019' is not her best piece. She knows that; her agent knows that. So, she suspects, does the gallery owner. But it has reached that point in her mid-career when she will always be shown in a Shoreditch space.

She will bear the private view, attended, as always, by a mix of family (proud but bemused), friends (intrigued), professional contacts (polite) and art critics (inscrutable, until the reveal, days later, in print). She will drink the wine, she will shake the hands, she will kiss the air. To allow herself to feel (to enjoy?) the fleeting glory of attention, a birthday child.

But what was it she been trying to say, with 'Untitled, 2019'? Stood there, with the light teasing at it, running over it like water, she is suddenly unsure.

The piece is witty. Yes, that’s it. Witty. Sex. Play. Sex play.

Looking again, though.

A child’s dining chair: squat, robust, bottom-heavy. The absence of self-consciousness. Sweet and small and white and innocent.


Un coup de des jamais n’abolira le hazard

Disrupted by: the outstretched woman’s fibre-glass legs, high-heeled feet splayed, suspender belt and tattoos on show.

Everything, on show.

The lack: the complete lack, of any visible head. The arrival: from somewhere in the depths, the scaled-up male hand, clasping, grasping, at the paddle. That hand is ready: to spank or stroke?

She pauses, the sculptor. Tucks the hair behind her ears, notices the noise her earrings (laser cut, political, feminist) make when her fingers adjust them. It’s witty. Or…

She remembers a long-ago night, a bar, a club, an unfamiliar bedroom. The sway of alcohol. The scent of cigarette smoke. The sense of a permission somehow given. The sudden lurch towards retraction.

The limbs that did not move when asked. The limbs that moved when told.

The sculptor wonders how she has not seen what she has been trying to say.

She wonders who else will understand.