100 Ghost Stories
Hyakumonogatari is a traditional Asian game. During a moment of sharing between friends, dozens of candles are lit, each one tells a scary story and then blows out the flame. The legend goes that once the last candle is extinguished, a spirit appears.
Hokusai, known for his traditional Japanese landscapes, popularized this game when he began to summon monsters, vengeful ghosts, and cannibals in his paintings.
In choosing this title for her doubly inaugural exhibition–the opening of her first solo show and the new gallery space–Anastasia Bay declares why we are gathering at the outset.
We will tell stories to each other. Without words. With colors and bodies entangled to form a great cosmogony of buried knowledge and ancient secular practices.
Because the whole world has come together in 2020 to share one of the most horrifying stories of the 21st century. Someone must have blown out the last candle without us realizing, and the ghost has appeared. It’s a demiurge, creating the most spectacular apocalyptic narrative since the Black Plague and other disasters of which human beings are the cause.
In a spectral magic trick, a pangolin dancing on a crystal ball revealed our greatest fears, our greatest anxieties, our greatest doubts. But also great joys, dreams, and utopias. Like when we were children and we hid under the blanket at night, thinking that we would become invisible to the outside.
To face the paintings of Anastasia Bay is to slip under the blanket and experience, for a moment, this promise of protection and escape.
Androgynous sumo wrestlers, smoking opium or new synthetic drugs found on the darknet; teens squeezed in an Uber taking the wrong route; stage singers in costume or their pajamas; they offer themselves to us. Our voyeuristic gaze is no longer behind the glass of an icy-black screen offering the world, but in front of an apotheosis of colorful backgrounds as pop as they are Baroque, playing with transparency as a sex worker in a shop window would, either seducing or disturbing because it’s outside of the norm. They surround themselves with dogs for protection, to be reassured, to be pushed to go outside, their colorful fur hiding the tenderness and love they lack.
With these lascivious bodies of tired performers, seated or lying down, a pictorial tension is created between noble and popular figures. Jean Clair specifies this tension in Parade and Palingenesis when he speaks about the Foris, the showman. Originally a foreigner, the one outside of the community, he is the opposite of the bourgeois–a mimetic figure of the artist himself, the nomad, the wanderer, the unstable. He is the madman that Picasso showed us at the beginning of the twentieth century in his series The Circus in a “fictitious scene where acrobats and balancing acts play the roles of everyday life, expressing their personal problems, their loneliness, and the incomprehension that their emotions are up against.”
Times have changed, but we’re all still prey to the same vagaries of being.
These immense, languid bodies, neither man nor woman, half-man, half-woman, impose themselves with a solemnity suitable to the divinities venerated in non-western cultures. Big, powerful, assertive, naked. The pictorial and colorimetric gravity gives them an oracular dimension. They are major characters/major arcanas, outside the established normative codes. Both beautiful and deformed, Anastasia embodies them on surfaces/spaces absent of any architectural reference. They are not in the living room, at the beach, or in a café.
They are what they are.
From the moment they are.
Fragile, staggering, almost falling. But they always help each other, support each other. They go in pairs, in threes. When they are alone, they join an absent person who is waiting for them, higher, lower, on the floor, or in the unseen basement. A painting of the present moment. Tomorrow, after, later, we’ll know nothing of it.
For the inauguration of this new space, we proudly gather around the work of Anastasia Bay and her 100 ghost stories, hoping that when the last candle is blown out, new tales and new narratives will take shape in what we might call the world after.
EP – 2021
translated by Blurbs