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pleasurehome: desiring queer space

four months—four new works—one by one—here; welcome to the pleasurehome. an exhibition inspired by Catherine Opie, featuring John Greyson, Evan Sproat, Kaeten Bonli, and Shawné Michaelain Holloway, curated by Logan Williams, in collaboration with The Art Museum at The University of Toronto and The Jackman Humanities Institute. we’re happy you’re here—in this queer home. this month: Kaeten Bonli’s Reclining Burnout. On view until April 7, 2022.

Photograph of person with scratches on back in front of green background.

Catherine Opie

Self-Portrait / Cutting
40 x 30 inches (101.6 x 76.2 cm) Edition of 8, 2 AP
© Catherine Opie, Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles and
Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, London, and Seoul

 you  catch a glimpse of your body as you strip off your sweat-soaked  clothes, naked in the mirror. breathing, moving. if only you could  explode out of the container. 
two women carved 
 rendered in childish forms  
 a house the sun some gulls 
 the “household” upended 
 incisions made in Opie’s back 
 drip and ooze palpable 
 the transference of the pain on my body 
 reaching out and touching me 
 carnal hermeneutics 
 the lesbian home  
 corporeal ten commandments 
 and the abject stains of blood and gore 
 immediate refusal for some even vomit 
 the scene is one of hope and violence 
 audience oscillation  
 desiring her pain  
 a new story told 
 the lesbians are me 
 they are you too 
 the scar will surely stay 
 sprawled on supple skin 
 reminders of otherwise 
 horizons exploding like dormant volcanoes 
 this body suffering for us                                    
  opie’s drawing her skin too 
 becoming life-size taking form 
 making real communities 
 desires pulsing unencumbered 
 this new home  
 what does that place look like? 
 where do you come home to your queer desires? 
 and when? 
 imagining spaces 
 arriving in your body 
 carrying with you the crass and dull weights 
 of expectation and survival  
 shedding them now 
 building new trusses  
 a roof for us  
 our desire our real real bodies  
 exploding out of the container 
 how did you get home?  

3 – Reclining Burnout

Reclining Burnout 3

18 x 24″
Acrylic on wood

Reclining Burnout was presented in March 2022 as the third installment of this project.

An invitation to holographic space/time; Kaeten Bonli’s Reclining Burnout is proudly featured this month as part of pleasurehome: desiring queer space.  

In the act of looking, the lenticular hologram never offers quite the same image: a subtle shift in perspective reveals an altered meaning, a glitch in a previous glance, an opportunity to see what wasn’t there before. The striated surface coerces the eye to search for hidden symbols, nestled in the layers of what appears to be a moving image. Embedded in this type of viewership are glimmers of hope for an alternate appearance, a desire for the image to warp and reveal what lies beneath, satiating a consumptive impulse to be moved, both emotionally and kinetically, by what is presented for viewing. In a compelling balance between abstract painting and the optic motif of holograms, Kaeten Bonli’s Reclining Burnout investigates the need to look again, inserting bodies into familial spaces through a meticulous practice of painting line after line until the image is finally revealed. From an investigation of his own body within the nostalgic framework of his Nanima’s home, Bonli’s work begins in shadowy hues evocative of his displacement from childhood fantasies made manifest in pervasive heteronormative identity constructions. Through the triptych’s development, coupled with the artist’s accrual of his own queer family, Reclining Burnout morphs from brooding abstraction into colourful phantasmagoria with bodies, objects, and colours becoming more legible, embedding collected ephemera from friends into the artwork as a celebration for the shifting visual perception of home. Once positioned as a methodology for working through feelings of emptiness and loss, a queer grappling with childhood come and gone, now erupts into a chaotic scene of joy and abundance, strewn with gay iconography, proffering Reclining Burnout as a space that expands the potential for queer identity and welcomes the reconfiguration of home through the desire for pleasure.  

The paintings are welcomed to the digital space through a careful deliberation in the documentation process, but also as prompts to reconsider embodied viewing in the gallery or museum. While cropping and zooming have become vital tools in the contemporary vernacular, Bonli’s work beckons deeper considerations: how does painting, not unlike queer home, shift its shape to accommodate the needs of its viewer? Through both formal and conceptual qualities, Reclining Burnout subverts what exists for what could be, asking for movement from spaces of comfort to panoramas of bustling imagination. 


An immense thank you to Barbara Fischer for her belief and guidance in the unfurling of this project; to Marianne, Maureen, and Esther at the Art Museum whom have made this project possible; to Kaitlyn Simpson for her genius; to Cathy Opie who helped sow the seeds of the exhibition; to Alison and Kim at the JHI for their unwavering support; to Cosita, SKP, and Z for their love and listening; to John, Evan, Kaeten and Shawné for their brilliance and versatility, to whom I dedicate this queer home. And to you, for being here. Thank you.