Alongside Parker Ito’s PII, we have commissioned the following short text by Dean Kissick, offering a creative response to aspects of Ito’s new work.

The Bathhouse

Nuremberg’s rivers, the Goldbach and the Pegnitz, which leads to the Wöhrder See, are drawn out with wooden pipes and heated over fires. A trumpet sounds, the ritual commences. Their bodies are scoured, spanked with sheaves of dry branches, wood on flesh, bathed in steam and spanked once more with sopping rags, scratched at, whipped with bouquets of lavender followed by some light blood letting, just the right amount, and then more pleasures yet. Albrecht Dürer stands there in the centre of the room in his bandanna and a string of a thong, playing his flute, displaying his body, his twisted abdominals and bulging loins, for all to see; he’ll make a print of this men’s bathhouse (ca. 1496) and distribute it all around Europe, he thinks. Albrecht plays the sex symbol that he always likes to imagine himself as. Later he’ll sketch a portrait of his good friend the scholar Willibald Pirckheimer and scribble in the margin, in Greek, “With the cock in your arsehole.”

Now the year is 1500. “Oh, century!” exclaims the poet Ulrich von Hutten, “It is a joy to be alive!” Albrecht, aged 28, paints a self-portrait of himself as Christ, glowing gold from within, his long locks curling bright. He enjoys painting himself in the finest garments and newest fashions, as a glamorous, magnificent artist bringing the Italianate style north across the Alps. But does he really wear these clothes so beautifully, he wonders, can he really strike these poses, or is this fantasy world of his own artworks the only place where his body can attain his ideal physical form, which is a strange form, for Albrecht likes to draw things strangely, with sadomasochistic contortions and ripples and deathly curves. He feels love. To live and die in the Northern Renaissance, yearning for the beautiful, he thinks! Albrecht knows what he must do. He must acquire the greatest wealth of visual experiences possible so that he can imagine new kinds of beauty of his own, and in so doing, perhaps, become more beautiful himself. In 1493, he becomes the first Northern European artist to draw a naked whore; in 1517, he makes the most detailed illustration of a scrotum yet attempted.

Now the year is 1520. Albrecht is going to Antwerp to pay his respects to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V just as, at the same time, Hernán Cortés is sailing back across the Atlantic, his fleet low in the water, heavy with looted treasure; “I and my companions,” Cortés had told the Aztecs, “suffer from a disease of the heart that can be cured only with gold!” When they both arrive in Antwerp, Albrecht Dürer becomes the first significant European artist to encounter images from the New World. “I saw the things which have been brought to the King from the new land of gold,” he writes, “a sun all of gold a whole fathom broad, and a moon all of silver of the same size, also two rooms full of armour of the people there, and all manner of wondrous weapons of theirs, harness and darts, very strange clothing.”

“All the days of my life,” he writes, “I have seen nothing that rejoiced my heart so much as these things.” He goes to the bathhouse and closes his eyes. Before him, as they flog him, as they let out some more of his blood, Albrecht sees a vast constellation of images and ideas with which to play, and he feels wonderful, for he can always move forward, continue to reinvent himself, one step, another step; come closer to transcendence.

 - Dean Kissick

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