“Where the light is brightest, is where the fecal secretly rules.”1
Viscous, violent—“filth” doesn’t just stick, it constructs. In the second volume of Jordan/Martin Hell’s novel, CONSTANT VIOLINS I & II (2022), Hell describes its pages of science fiction, parafiction, autofiction, and experimental memoir aptly as a “sort of smut porn Lord of the Rings-esque monstrosity.”2 Hell notes the process of writing this“Bible for artists”3 as being “chained to the plot [. . .] as so much of my subconscious life was tied to its outcomes & its logic.”4 This psychosomatic endurance illustrates the embodied tonalities of Hell’s process. Worlds rip into worlds in hedonistic groundswell narratively simulating the act of world-making itself; selves are body-portals dissevered and skinned in cannibalistic entropy; phenomena of parasocial encounter become fiercely elastic, celebrity a sophist deathorama expelling blasphemy and obscenity.5 This porno-vortex is a protean spelunking of so-called perversion, manipulating fictionalized time to contend with collective forms of circulation and perception that classify queer subjects. In this decadence of contexture there persists an incommensurable physicality of presence, whose brutality and pleasure spatializes a particular truth claim: sanctum in a “lawless place.”6
Countercultural semantics institutes punkish animation to the qualifiers of deviance. In this assimilative violence, numerous embodiments, specifically across Black-queer-transness, suffer outside such a calculation. Hell’s writing is a reparative and speculative inquiry into how histories are produced, and for whom such histories and their counternarratives become a vehicle. Who is obscured in the process of their telling or imagining? Who is at stake in such fantasy? In this reckoning, Hell delves into subconscious somatics, libidinal economies, and ancestral Black feminist epistemologies to reacquaint the mind and the body as a generative methodology. The resulting style brims with the impassioned alchemy of embodied poetics, writing with and beyond one’s reality.
“I want to be a better pervert today than I was yesterday & to do that I have to let the world flip on its axis while I try once more to tell the only story that exists & the one least admired; the truth.”7
Constellating lodestars, Hell hoards relations in psycho-associational clusterfucks, on apocalyptic proportions. Deviance pivots on deviations as an intentional maneuvering through irregularities. Scandal is narrative-ruin lust; rumoured happenings catalyze a spasmodic hivemind; realities reel on exhaustion. Everything sheds in nihilist knowledge that the social and psychological are always plastic. Plasticity with philosophy involves destruction and deconstruction to handle presence and its withdrawal, signifying achievement and deflagration: emergence and explosion. Plasticity betokens “the excess of the future over the future”8 by contracting the receiving and destruction of form in the same temporal movement. It’s a potent reminder that nothing is truly safe, and everything is impressionable: welcome to Hell.
Writing through this “psycho-corporal essence of perversion,”9 Hell creates sculptures and paintings that are a speciation of objects incarnating narrative splinters.10
Poriferous motifs and stenciled profiles, foremost on laser-cut plexiglass, mimic slide projector sheets where icons and fictions can be overlaid and brainstormed at will.11 Parapsychological objects are essays of compacted physicality that reserve a facility to unlatch, unspool, and recount. Velvet ribbons are woven into abstract compositions, tightly knotted like personalized pigtails; horsehair plaits dangle while clusters of hair beads spell names and codes.12 These brace the cutting exuberance of Hell’s writing in a warm resilience: kiss, kiss. Machetes are suspended from snap hooks on chains, the object mollified to utilitarian oblivion, embellished with rainbow-threaded hair beads. Sickles hang invitingly like mythic saccharine weaponry. As the busted bike and car tires of INTERCOURSE (2022)imply, it is a fucking-as-praxis that alloys selves.13 Chain-mail portraits, too, formally hinge on such dense referentiality, creating a matrix of interlinked porosity with soft-focus airbrushing.
A chain-mail purse dangles from chains strung between doorways, beribboned as a tantalizing prize. Armament or accessory, the purse is a state: “it’s the apocalypse and it might be sort of the future and it might be sort of the past and we might be in a river and we’re just trying to make as many different Swiss army knives as possible.”14 In this effervescent, chthonic maelstrom at turns sweet and savage is an urgency to exercise what it is to live and be in multiplicity, by any means necessary.
Jordan/Martin Hell (b. 1993, USA) is a Black trans(2s) writer, artist, & scholar who attended Städelschule & Cooper Union School of Art. He is currently a PhD candidate in English & Drama at Queen Mary University of London. Hell’s work is interdisciplinary & interlaced with his writing as the seedbed for his various explorations across painting, sculpture, pedagogy, music, dance, etc. In all of his work Hell is invested in the embedded associations which proliferate in the global collective subconscious & how that frames intimate (& often violent) realities in the lives of individuals whether historical, celebrity, or obscure. Closely linked with his work is a spiritualist psychoanalytic practice which spans hypnosis, theology, philosophy, Black fugitivity, & indigenous somatics. His book CONSTANT VIOLINS is out now from Arcadia Missa Publishing (as well as several other smaller novellas featured on his website). His album PSYCHOSOCIALITE is streaming on all platforms with cassettes available from Black owned indie label Insecurity Hits. @MartinHellExists on Instagram.
Alex Bennett is a writer and critic based in London. He was coeditor of the independent journal Tinted Window, and has been published in magazines such as Flash Art, Art Monthly, and the White Review.