It’s late at night, and very dark. The street lamps around you are half-broken. You could be anywhere in Eastern Europe. Let’s say it’s Warsaw.
The rain comes down, cold and painful. It’s half-frozen; not quite snow. The worst. You feel the wet chill deep in your bones, and the slick cobblestones beneath your feet. The tread on your boots is worn, so you have to walk less quickly than you might like. Is this neighborhood dangerous?
Up ahead, a shadow takes form. Just a person, walking in your direction. Nothing to worry about. Two blocks becomes one, and suddenly you can make out some details. It’s a white dude with a nose that’s been broken. He’s big. 6’2″? His jangly leather jacket is tight, so you can see that his muscles are enormous.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Do you feel threatened? Are you afraid of getting mugged? Or is your blood flowing for another reason? Is he cute? Does he look like he wants to hook up? Wait, what’s going on here?
Exactly what I was wondering when I looked at “Fifteen Minutes With You,” a new small hard-cover book by Itai Doron, from Omoplata in Japan. The jacket image, of a muscly white guy taking off his wife-beater while staring threatening daggers at the camera…that’s the gist of it. (Honest to god, I just wrote Ass instead of All as the first word of the next sentence I was about to write. Freudian slip.)
The whole book is a series of thuggish, Eastern European-looking white men, mostly half-naked. They’re taking off items of clothes, holding weapons, or punching, while wearing boxing gloves. What? There’s little overt nudity, just one butt at the end of the book.
But what the f-ck is going on here? The guys look like they want to beat the shit out of the photographer most of the time, but sometimes like they want to make out. As the eroticism is not meant for me, I find it ironic and campy and intelligent. Like images from some 1981 KGB-Christmas-calender-gone-wrong that got its maker dropped in the gulag. Forever.
The pictures are ambiguous and strange. There is no text, no explanation of who these guys are, or where, or why this whole book was published, for starters. Just these weird, thug-porn-meets-MMA-fighter-pseudo-documentary photographs. Only at the end do we get a title sheet, with the names, locations and dates. (Of course it’s Eastern Europe.)
Meager context, but that’s what makes the thing fascinating for me. From the minute I opened the cover, I was constantly trying to figure out the puzzle, while also thinking about all the weird ways that masculinity can be symbologized in 2012. So next time you bump into Miroslav from Bulgaria, keep an open mind.
Bottom Line: Weird, compelling, homo-erotic Polaroids
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