Chad States: Night Sweats Curatorial Statement by Jordan Rockford

Chad States: Night Sweats

Curatorial Statement by Jordan Rockford

In Night Sweats, Chad States invites us to explore the dark recesses of human desire, those spaces where the pursuit of pleasure overrides restraint, leading us to act with irrational – at times ecstatic – abandon.

Photography, States’ customary medium, is no less present in this, his first sculptural installation. An image rises out of the dark, seemingly projected by the form suspended over it. The image presents a mêlée of bodies, limbs at every angle – the fiery glow suggests a scene from the Inferno, though many will recognize a pit not of hell but of unruly enjoyment. Anonymous figures ride the crowd, legs astride the void as they get carried away. The mosh pit is a mainstay of punk music culture, a crash-bang-boom of bodily contact, a dance sometimes described as a controlled violence.

Red, equally the color of caution as it is of illicit offerings, is in photographic terms a safelight: allowing one to see in the dark without fear of exposure. Yet desire and anxiety go hand in hand in the dark, where things loom up to greet you – the yearning body a sensitized medium, awash in chemicals, awaiting a development. Exposure, in this sense, is opening oneself to chance, and to consequences, in the search for pleasure.  Here, however, the photographer’s domain also echoes another kind of darkroom: the covert corridors of leather bars, enclaves of prurient purpose. A place where bodies meet in a wholly different context, a different kind of dance.

From a certain perspective, it is easy to read into this work the pendulous anxiety of sexual awakening in the shadow of a plague, the Damoclean sword hung over an entire generation’s coming of age. However the night sweats of the title could as easily be a symptom of arousal, of steamy sex in a back room, or the aggressive press of bodies at a hardcore show. There is danger inherent in any of these things, and although this work suggests a warning, it is as much a reminder: fear is inherent in the ways we are made vulnerable by both passion and pain, yet meeting that anxiety head-on is our only hope for transcendence. Night Sweats entices us to join the dance, however dangerous it might be, forewarned as always but no longer at the mercy of our fears.  

About the Author:

Jordan Rockford is a Senior Lecturer at the University of the Arts, where he teaches seminar courses in critical studies.  He holds an M. Litt. in Art History from the University of St Andrews, with a research focus in the History of Photography. Previous curatorial projects include David Adika: Equator at the Open Lens Gallery; Vuth Lyno: Thoamada at the William Way LGBT Community Center; Personal Renaissance: Portraits by Mustafah Abdulaziz for the City of Philadelphia Mural ArtsProgram; and Ryan Wilson Kelly: The Sleep of Reason at NAPOLEON.

To download a .pdf version of this essay, click Night Sweats_Rockford_February 2014

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