The Haptics of Devotion

for Living Artist Magazine.

Linder, Bower of Bliss: An Improper Architecture, 2020, featuring Lauren Fitzpatrick, Kirstin Halliday, Lilian Wang and Ashley Young. Photo: My Linh Le.

The tenets of the church—its points of connection, its cautionary tales, iconoclasm, communion and immersion—get redressed in the art of Tai Shani, Donna Huanca and Linder Sterling. And as a counterpoint to organised religion, each of them reimagines spirituality for women, in their distinctive aesthetic forms.

I am in a garden and it is raining cold thick rain and I am training the roses.

This garden within the city walls, is itself a deep depression enrobed in fern, palm, and lined with a patchwork of displaced matter fabricated as if the relics of Roman burial sites, churches, shrines.

The cold thick rain runs from my hood and makes tears on my cheeks. It runs the back of my ungloved hands, numbed by the cold, so that I don’t feel the thorn’s cruel hooks draw lesions along my fingers. Or perhaps I do and enjoy something of it; a glib repentance for my sins, for I am devoted to the idea of me, or their idea of me. I am devoted to this idea, for it is someone’s. And far better to be someone’s than no ones, I insist, to no one, in a sunken garden that is not my own.

I guide the messy outcrop of rose branches towards the stucco arch, and the canes—its framework. I weave; I tame them like hair. I pin down tendrils, as plumage, as wings, and knot them in place with wire.

Lately, I have been imagining devotion—its surfaces, its texture—those haptics that speak of reaching. For devotion is a kind of reaching and it is urgent and it is blind.

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