A Life In Metrics
Are you there God? It’s me Andreas.
I don’t have a confession to make-I haven’t been to church in decades-it’s just an ugly cry for help.
Just wondering if you’re out there. I have thirty-something years of lived experience but I keep ending up here. I don’t know what I’m working towards. What is the “why” anyway?
I’m a lean, tall, gay, white Norwegian artist and flight attendant, though not exactly an exotic traveling artist. Thanks to my mother, I have immaculate fair skin, grey-blue eyes, and hair grows in all the places you would expect it to. I can hold my gaze like a very confident model. For several years I was working hand to mouth juggling freelance gigs and gallery admin, but I’m finally self-sufficient. The hours are long but a stable paycheck is extraordinary, and tourism is peppered lightly into my paid job.
My struggle is minimal. I am the norm, and the prototypical. I can reach for whatever I want. Your ceiling is my liberation. People warm up to me easily. My quiet existence unwittingly oppresses whomever doesn’t look like me. My sexuality can be taboo but it’s somewhat fashionable on TV. Homosexuality is tolerated in socialist Sweden.
I prefer hairy men with a belly; I like a man with a soft round body and a big smile. I like a man who likes to eat. I want to be like Ariana Grande with the strong arms of a construction worker. I can love another body; I can never love my own. I want a man who loves me for me, and not just my body. This is problematic. I am taller and smaller than my lover, and I eat less than him.
Dear God, I am afraid of being fat. I really love eating, but I am even more afraid of growing fat. I sound like one of those abhorrible meathead bodybuilders whose self worth is determined by their body fat ratio. But how does that compare to people who constantly check Instagram for likes and comments? We all like being loved and rewarded. 10 likes, 50 likes, no likes… the validation we don’t feel within gets filled by the distant approval of others. A nice little dopamine spike. Research shows Facebook use is addictive, and more conventionally beautiful people are likely to cheat due to attracting greater romantic prospects… I won’t be tempted by what’s attractive yet temporary.
Do not reward yourself with food, you’re not a dog.
Not all men, but most men are dogs. To most men, exercise fills a regular need for activity. It’s as if their testo-fuelled virility makes them lift themselves up and down, jerk off, bike to work, shake their legs at dinner, find sex, watch sports, jerk off, make fun of other men, and find more sex. Sex and attraction can become a sport for men. Their beards, bare chests, butts and bulging crotches crowd my phone screen. Grindr is peak masculinity. Grindr makes me hate myself and my body. But this is something else. I’m a beauty queen with guilty baggage. A beached whale. A recovered anorexic with the mind of a former fat kid. A reborn health hippie.
Sex is everywhere, but love is not.
I used to exercise late into the night. I used to eat clean, whatever that means. No one would be at the gym, except for the same men, lifting on the same machines. My life was a rigorous balance of calories in and calories out. Carrot and stick. I was a calculator on legs. A never ending workout between the studio and the gym. I had fine-tuned a ritual for perfection that was never going to arrive. There was more obsession than creation, more measurement than reflection. But we are more than our bodies, and we are not just what we eat. People grow opaque as they age, they only show as much as they want the world to know. I traced the moles and imperfections on the bodies of my mother and lover, the bodies that I have come in and out of.
How can I put this meaningfully into words and images? I actually like lifting, and it’s not a matter of pride. Working out brings me closer to physical goals I can control instead of worrying about things I can’t control.
When life gets complicated, I lift.
Originally written for Andreas Knag-Danielsen’s exhibition DATAFLESH
27–29/1 2017, Galleri CC, Malmo.