I’m writing in the dark, face lit by the moon and my laptop’s screen. I just woke up after dreaming of a calmed volcano; silent after a coughing blaze. Around them, all has been congealed. Embalmed in dust, all living creatures have now reached the status of simulacrum and fossil. In that process, everything gets united (although nothing can touch each other’s anymore). Cole Lu has been working with the four-winged demon Pazuzu, aka the Dust Enforcer, whose speciality is to “[scavenge] the stratified Earth and its biosphere in the form of Dust”1, by way of which they (the demon) are then able to disseminate plagues and other epidemics.
This characteristic collaboration (it is literally Lu making a pact with the devil), despite its necrotic tones, turned out to be very fruitful. Motivated by Lu’s deep investment in mythology and epidemiological studies (from a sociological point of view more than a scientific one); the group of sculptures and reliefs presented at Deli Gallery stem out of a desire to empathise with and take care of the monstrous, another word for “the infected”. It is worth noting that Lu’s interest in these fields of studies is deeply rooted in their own experience as a
queer migrant affected by tuberculosis.
As a result, Lu’s sculptures are at once the result of a violent process (the exposure to volcanic dust) and a desire to preserve and nurse them. For “The Dust Enforcer (All These Darlings Said It’s the End and Now Us)”, this dual treatment converges on Geryon and his two-headed dog: Orthros. As Hercules’s tenth labour opponent, Geryon has been classically labelled as the undesirable monster. The grandchild of Medusa and nephew of Pegasus, he is deemed undeserving of empathy. Or at least, that’s what we have been led to believe.
Christina Franze (Associate professor of Latin, Greek, and literature at Marshall University) wrote an essay in 2009 titled “Sympathizing with the Monster: Making Sense of Colonization in Stesichorus’ Geryoneis”. It is enlightening to read the comments of the author on the rewriting of the myth by supposedly Sicilian-born Stesichorus (the original myth acting as both excuse and metaphor for the colonisation of Sicily by the Greeks). The supreme act of empathy towards the monster, for Franze, is thus the literary embodiment of his perspective:
“What is so surprising about Stesichorus’ story is that we see through the eyes of the monster.”2
So what does a sculpture of the monster, listless, covered in ash, accompanied by his two-headed dog, seemingly battling for survival in an oxygen chamber, provoke? The rewriting of the myth through the sculptural act (and the reliefs) might as well be the ultimate manifestation of empathy: Lu operates an act of fabricated and fast-paced fossilisation to better take care of the weakened monster. They give it a presence beyond the literary, without the hero, to hug. And Jack Halberstam taught us what taking care of our monsters might mean, as
“The monster itself is an economic form in that it condenses various racial and sexual threats to nation, capitalism and the bourgeoisie in one body...”3
1 Reza Negarestani, Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials (Anomaly), 2008
2 Christina Franze, “Sympathizing with the Monster: Making Sense of Colonization in Stesichorus’ Geryoneis” in Quaderni Urbinati di Cultura Classica,New Series, Vol. 92, No. 2 (2009), pp. 55-72
3 Jack Halberstam, Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters, Duke, 2002