For More Glory Holes

Some words around what it meant when Cecilia Bjartmar Hylta abstracted the act of masturbation into a large vibrating dildo wall. Or, why we feel sick making art.

Cecilia Bjartmar Hylta, Untitled (No.03), 2017, New York

In 2018, Cecilia Bjartmar Hylta chose to drop a vibrator in a hollow drywall as a work presentation at Bard College. The sex toy was ditching around, making sounds of vibration while, I guess, faculty and students tried to discuss whether this penetrated drywall is sexy or tormenting. It is both. Oops, lost my dildo! But can somebody say something about it being done?

2018 is more than forty years after Vito Acconci’s Seedbed (1972). I wonder what to make of the differences between: masturbation as it requires a body and the dildo proxy as it replaces the body as giver and, in this case, also as receiver; the bed, the horizontal, which presupposes a condition and the wall, which is a vertical limbo.

Cecilia surely rehearsed this piece, selected the location and considered the moment precisely so everyone in the room would be uncomfortable. What the reasons for doing so are, we don’t know. What it means to abstract the act of masturbation to a large vibrating dildo wall, we don’t know. That’s why we feel sick making art. I can’t tell the reasons for Cecilia’s choices – those are coming from somewhere much deeper in her. But I know that to get to them requires making herself feel ill, fighting for a framework of her own suffering to not seem random or meaningless. Most important is that she puts us in a real situation, so we can, individually, make use of it. The sex toy is dropped inside the wall. Now we are (the audience is) to decide what its value is.

For the last show at Red Tracy in Copenhagen, Cecilia did it again (Untitled, 2018/2020). This time, the vibration came from the centre of the wall, where she made a glory-hole-like thing in which the vibrator was tightly stuck and covered up with toilet paper, wall filler, and white paint. The vibration dampened as the sex toy circled in the sound isolated walls of the former recording studio. Again not leaving the room, this piece weirdly exploits the moment of exposure (or the meeting with the sick) itself. 

Note: The picture is a concrete cast of Cecilia’s and my friend David Orta’s body while he had an erection (does that connect?).

– Gianna Surangkanjanajai is an artist living in Copenhagen. In 2020, she and her friends Line Ebert and Andreas Rønholdt Schmidt started organising shows under the name Red Tracy in a former music studio at Delta Lab Aps in Copenhagen.