The body knows how to succumb to destruction. The psyche of something that drives deeper than flesh will compel that vessel to survive. The pain inside the cells and molecules that give into disease can be wielded to the desire of an individual’s want. The stories we tell inform the histories we live. There cannot be silence in the face of deaths. Shouts and hollers in the throats of people like John Hanning strengthen the possibilities of survival.
Into the arms of lovers are strangers filled with whispers and commands. In the darkness things luminesce, the flow inside a body—coursing—the veins like dark tubes and tunnels infested with their ghosts. Pac-Man gobbles the pellets of cocktails, feeding the needy muscles of youth and entropy. The eyes of a chorus seem to be asleep, but not Hanning. In his exhibition Chase, at Art During the Occupation, there’s a profusion of parts floating and sitting, perched on wood tables, chairs, and hanging from the ceiling. Wandering around, viewers can confuse or consolidate a narrative of something bruised. Walls and clothes, parts of Hanning’s paintings, a folded hospital gown, and a ledger of diagnosis from his doctor’s notes all glow black and blue in sight near and far. Once inside, Hanning isn’t the one driving anymore, though there is a recurring self-portrait of the artist as a child, tethered to the phrase, “I Survived AIDS.” It’s up to each of us to feed our wonders and interest, and quench our personal connections to AIDS, HIV, and to how that informs our humanity.
Take me into the arms of the lovers.
Freed from insecurity, Hanning is deeply genuine. He uses language and personal anecdotes with frankness; sex, masturbation and vegetables in orifices feed young desires and curiosity. It begins. Men like him dream of planes and ways to escape the clutches of home. His Arkansas was never a place to do anything but surrender. The confusion of New York City seduced him. Warm and perfect. Take us away. Dreaming of the homes that will be ours. Possessed in forms of art, communication, and serendipity. He tells me, “Worry gets in the way of production.” Conversation and sharing are the things he covets most. Wide eyes sinking into the heat of the room, just like New York summers, bloated and scorched. The center of the room has moved on and everyone is free to bring Hanning’s ideas to the foreign lands we call home. “A portal is a body of work,” he explains. The forming of ideas draws us to other worlds; these planes will fill us with the floods of other places. We can all be vulnerable.
Finally. The lights in the room of the gallery take us. Oranges and greens, hallowed be thy name–trauma processes memory. Like a church, there is a place to listen. The blasphemy of hypocrisy echoes in the death of a kind of tyrant the night before the opening of his show on December first, the same day as World AIDS Day. The only way to face the challenges of men in power is to listen to what others have to say. Hanning is alive. Being chased by phantoms, while chasing after dreams is a cycle we face and a metaphor brought on by the maze he’s constructed. Together, everything mends, becoming one. Suddenly the room is a story, pages and chapters, allowing the reality of a syndrome to take hold. “AIDS taught me to love myself and be comfortable with what you do,” says Hanning. Things tie together.
Where will all this go? Yonder.