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Notes on a Masculine Image - Davide Meneghello

Davide Meneghello is an Italian artist and archivist based in London. His work uses photography, text, and installation to investigate historical representations of queerness, with a particular focus on the codification of queer desire and the construction of gay identity. In Notes on a Masculine Image, Meneghello utilises a variety of print formats to reflect upon the hidden past of homoerotic imagery in photographic archives, exploring the competing notions of display and concealment as found in a group of vintage Super 8 bodybuilding films.

Eschewing a traditional model for this project, the edition is comprised of three main elements: a screw-bound book block that animates a sequence of images printed by Meneghello from the original 8mm films, which the reader is welcome to dismantle, edit and reconstruct; a triptych of prints that describe tenderly a moment of ecstatic exertion; and a booklet curated by the artist (with contributions from Sean Burns, Alastair Curtis, and Lalu Delbracio) that orbits and examines perceived notions of masculinity.

Shot under the baking heat of the California sun, Meneghello’s leading men watch, and are watched. In the text Thinly Veiled Soft Porn, writer Sean Burns observes that “photographs and films from physical culture have been a conduit for homosexual desire forever. The men in Notes on a Masculine Image exhibit the profits of their labour – a sort of hyperbolic, old-fashioned and greasy muscle. The prints skirt the fine line between outright pornography and the impotent appreciation of physical prowess.” Burns continues, “these images for me offer a problematic depiction of a form of optic ‘masculinity’ that I will never reach. However, the collection isn’t a definitive proposition, and the idea of ‘notes’ indicates that the evidence isn’t towards a concrete outcome. Meneghello has collected multiple responses as a way of proposing that queerness can destabilise a conventional masculine ideal and transform it into a site of potential transgression.”

Taking Meneghello’s project as a point of departure, Alastair Curtis’ contribution to the accompanying booklet considers the impact of AIDS-related trauma, both on the male physique and on the wider cultural perception of queer bodies, through a prosaic analysis of the lives and work of David Wojnarowicz, Hugh Steers, and Hervé Guibert. Sobering, yet celebratory, the piece affirms that “to find beauty – and to be found beautiful – is an act of singular grace.”

5b Publications, 2020
Edition of 100 copies
Screw-bound flip-book, triptych print folio and booklet housed in a box with banderole
220 x 220 mm

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