“…this will never end… you will never forget this mental image of us together. It is a photograph without film or pixel and it will burn in your memory more than 10,000 Polaroids of your most cherished loved one”.
From where I sit in this nicotine-stained wooden paneled bar in the middle of some town, Slovakia, you would never estimate the indifference or maybe incoherent rage towards the general sport population from which I seethe watching the winter biathlon by looking at my hulking form slumped against the sturdy bar. Further, my position has delivered me into the void of obstinate concern for the Biathlon skiers, if not gross neglect or pathological misanthropy.
My environment is ‘geniale” and yet…and yet every time I catch one of the biathlon skiers doubled over in pain to catch their breath (by the looks of it, they are allowed to do so)…ribs crushed by their healthy lungs and pounding hearts…I can only dreamily fantasize about being a spectator on the side of the slope that they have just pummeled their strong limbs up. They are doubled over on all fours…asses panned to the sky and every once in awhile a clever cameraman assesses the situation from the right angle and pans so far up their back that I can imagine seeing some sort of spaghetti, doping residue or some other protein laden nodule of oratory ingestion that has travelled south only to be viewed by the masses…only if I believed these ”champions” ate anything of substance at all.
”I would be the guy that would have the good-hearted bravado to light up on the side of the track, inhale deeply from a menthol cigarette before jumping the barricade to blow its fetid smoke from my lungs directly into those of some muscled champion desperately sucking in the fresh air from the snowy hills and the beautiful pines of Slovakia”.
The biathlon is a mixture of intense cross-country skiing mixed with rifle marksmanship. Skiers? Shooters? Whatever they half-pretend to be, they seem to have to ski up a steep hill for a long distance only catch their breath at the top of the hill on all fours, then re-calibrate their windpipes before racing forward to delicately pull the hair pin trigger on the rifle moments later shooting these little black target that looks like the paddle of a bidding auction house warrior. If you have been to Christies or Sothebys while hairless apes try to outspend each other at the evening contemporary sales with such graceless ardor and tacky innuendos that it would make Andrew Dice Clay shudder (also a consistent smoker) and where charm size clearly doesn’t match economic social engineering, you will know what I mean. Anyways, that is the problem of the art world and the position of which seems like a fucking far bit of grass between me and where they congregate at present from my perch on a warn red bar stool in a former Soviet country.
My conclusion is that every time my good eye drifts lazily towards the biathlon skiers doubled over and panting on T.V. is that…if I could enter this world of snow, blue sky and sweat… I would be the guy that would have the good-hearted bravado to light up on the side of the track, inhale deeply from a menthol cigarette before jumping the barricade to blow its fetid smoke from my lungs directly into those of some muscled champion desperately sucking in the fresh air from the snowy hills and the beautiful pines of Slovakia. I would raise his or her head up to meet my lips knowing full well that they could not fight back, no matter how trained they are to shoot that rifle, weak with fatigue…I can almost imagine small tears cascading down their rosy cheeks, if not begin to taste them on my tongue…I would look lovingly into their crystal blue eyes before exhaling my garlic-infused stale menthol smoke down their windpipes into their choking lungs imagining that to do so would be the one kiss in their life, that one passionate moment that they would never ever be able to forget and I would know that in doing so they would be Alive with pleasure, MY PLEASURE. I would caress them to my chest and whisper into their tiny cold ears…”this will never end…you will never forget this mental image of us together. It is a photograph without film or pixel and it will burn in your memory more than 10,000 polaroids of your most cherished loved one”.
A few things here…Chase England is a great fucking name. When I received the book, I thought…man…there is smoking gun of a 70’s porn film out there with the name Chase England attached to it. Perhaps he is Chase Jr. It’s officially smoking porn in my mind…that is to say…pornography where those involved chain smoke their way through dissociated sexual trysts while ashing all over each others backs, faces and whatever crevices they can find to extinguish their ciggies in.
“If you have been to Christies or Sothebys while hairless apes try to outspend each other at the evening contemporary sales with such graceless ardor and tacky innuendos that it would make Andrew Dice Clay shudder (also a consistent smoker) and where charm size clearly doesn’t match economic social engineering, you will know what I mean.”
Chase is the author of “Alive With Pleasure”. There are maybe 4 copies of this book in this world at present. I came to the gift of this opus via Ron Jude as Chase is one of his students. Ron posted the book on some social media site and I was hooked. I am a smoker in real life, so I am familiar with the notion. That being said, menthols are fucking gross. Chase has put together an incredibly clever little book about the photographic cigarette advertisement campaigns of the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and possibly the 90’s by the looks of some of the pricks (models) in the ads. The ads have the schlock “happy” smoker cameos that so pervaded every T.V. Guide ever published in America and potentially every general magazine that Phillip Morris could get access to. I wouldn’t be surprised if Catholic Digest had run a “Alive With Pleasure” advertisement with nuns smoking while being chased by handsome priests only to fall in the holy water basin so long as there was a coffin nail hanging out their imagined bespectacled faces. Everything is sacred. Nothing is Sacred. These possibilities are probably why I am a smoker. In any event, the book is a killer and reminds me of some of the ideas found in Luc Sante’s “No Smoking” or most recently Thomas Sauvin’s “Until Death Do Us Part”. The re-examination of cultural debris such as the “Alive With Pleasure” campaign is one of the reasons that I do not give up on the ridiculous hordes of failed photographer’s pandering towards “the archive” or “the vernacular image”. People are still mining interesting images and it is about pathos, it is about cultural practice, it is also kitsch without being shit and the gravity with which the book has been edited points to brighter futures for Chase. I would like to see if Chase might appropriate the aesthetics of this type of imagery for other works. I think there is something in the advertisements that if re-imagined now, might give him some more fodder for making images. Think Charlie White, young Chase. You are not too far from Roe Etheridge or Torbjørn Rødland, either.
My childhood friend and neighbor Steve Novak (Czech or Slovakian connection) used to code sneaking a cigarette away from his parents verbally as “sacrificing a goat”. You see kids… smoking and ingenuity continue to cross paths and it is our duty to consider not only the goat but also the legend of Chase England’s “Alive with Pleasure”.
Alive With Pleasure
(All rights reserved. Text @ Brad Feuerhelm. Images @ Chase England.)