We recently published Clio Velentza’s glorious Anatomical Venus Girl. Here, we ask her two questions about her story:
1) There is so much happening in this small moment; the piece is heavy with detail. Knowing you’ve been working in longer form recently, is it very hard to pack so much in to such a tiny space?
It’s an entirely different experience. While on longer form I try to keep my mind on several threads at a time, with flash I have the sensation of handling a single thread, which I’m struggling to spool as tightly and neatly as possible. It can be a tactile difference: sharp as opposed to smooth, narrow as opposed to wide. Flash always carries at least a hint of claustrophobia, the feeling of entering a small room, turning around and then seeing the door closing behind you. Perhaps it’s the simple mechanics of reading something short: it makes us hold our breath. And then you have long form which is a series of long dives, of learning to strengthen your lungs to make it a little bit further each time. But after all they’re both a kind of gasping for air.
2) At the end, the girl (consciously or unconsciously) tugs her hair down in imitation of the doll’s. This connection is deeply important to her — have you felt such a connection yourself?
(In October 2012, on an unexpected solo trip to London where I had no plans and no desire to spend any more time than necessary at my packed hostel, I found myself at Tate Britain which was hosting an exhibition on the Pre-Raphaelites. The following is an excerpt from my travel diary at the time.)
I had the chance to pause and take my time in front of many pieces of art I already loved, and discover some new ones. In particular The Stonebreaker, by which artist I can’t recall. [oil painting by Henry Wallis] I couldn’t tear myself away from it – and when I had seen everything else, I returned to it. It depicted a man seeming to rest against the rock, dressed in rags and sitting on a pile of stones. You only realize that he’s dead when you notice that a stoat, hard to make out right away, has climbed onto the man’s leg.
His hammer has slipped from his hands which still form a lax grip, and it evokes in you a deep shame the way he couldn’t escape laboring even in death. One of his legs is outstretched, the other bent, his head lolls forward gently and his dark, blurry profile is almost attractive, his mouth is half open as if in sleep. The entirety of him is swallowed by the darkness of the foreground, as the rock against which he leans obscures the evening light, which is brightly reflected in the background by a body of water. The piece radiates calm and pain at the same time, it draws you in, makes you want to lift the face of the unlucky man, to ease his body on soft soil, to cross his arms and straighten his legs and put something light over his head, it distresses you that you couldn’t be of help or offer some posthumous relief.
People passed by the painting quickly, since it didn’t offer the vivid colors and opulent shapes of the others surrounding it. Some paused by me, read the label and stared at it until they discovered the obscured stoat, then they smiled with satisfaction and walked away. I stayed in front of it until my eyes had filled up and I had to press my mouth to keep them from spilling. A lady glanced at me curiously. With effort I drew myself away and headed to the exit. I kept my eyes lowered, not wanting any other image to linger last in my memory.