Jason Benson, TK TK. All images courtesy of Queer Thoughts Gallery.

Jason Benson, installation shot from “PH://Dungeon_Mix_[vol.1]://The_Human_Cafe_[vol.1]_[2013]_Clone.Ed.x2013” (all images courtesy of Queer Thoughts Gallery)

CHICAGO — If Jean Genet shit out the text from his book The Thief’s Journal, which he wrote on toilet paper while in prison, and cheerleaders barfed up blood and guts in high school, they might combined look like the conceptual results of Oakland-based Jason Benson’s PH://Dungeon_Mix_[vol.1]://The_Human_Cafe_[vol.1]_[2013]_Clone.Ed.x2013 at Queer Thoughts Gallery. Located both in the trenches of the internet and inside a white cube of this third-floor walk-up, Benson’s transparent tubes, snail shells, fake blood, stickers of bullets shot through walls, and accompanying mood-shattering slow-motion soundtrack set the scene for the mantra that’s repeated throughout the show: The body is a fucking toilet. Repeat after me: The body is a fucking toilet. Translation: You’ll never get flushed. Embrace the sewage within.


In the main room of this apartment gallery, variously arranged transparent and black tubes are affixed to the wall. Slips of white paper inside hold messages, like ships in bottles — except these tubes aren’t sailing anywhere, and neither are the notes. On one piece of paper wrapped inside the tube, we see the text “Anyone who has ever sucked my dick” and “Meditate inward,” and “A clownish.” Much of the text is cut off mid-sentence. In another tube, we see “Planet Human” in Olde English text. A yogi teabag wraps around the inside of another tube. A black cord attached to a tube in one room slithers out the door, sneaking into the corner of the hallway space, where a plastic container loaded with fake blood-covered shells, two speakers, and clear saran wrap reside. Meandering back into the tube-filled room, it becomes easier to notice the snail shell that sits in the corner, with a pool of blood inside it. Stickers of bullet shots appear on walls and doors. The drip-drop on the echoing soundtrack runs on a loop with textual mutterings like “your feelings of like … http://www.youtube.com/ … ” measured against the intermittent barking of a that dog trails off, fades in, and pulses out, creating an ambiance of disembodiment through internet URLs and synthetic feelings.


The use of snail shells brings a momentary life-likeness to this exhibition. Snails, a part of the molluscs family, have a shell that is large enough for the animal to completely retreat into, and they can reproduce sexually or asexually. The National Science Foundation recently awarded a grant for nearly $1 million dollars to the University of Iowa, where a study on snails’ reproductive habits is currently underway. It seeks to understand “whether there is any benefit to sex among New Zealand mud snails and whether that explains why any organism has sex,” according to a report on CNS News.


There is a catch to these asexually inclined snails, however; female asexual snails can only reproduce daughters through duplication, and those girl snails can duplicate themselves in turn. To produce a male snail, the female snail must mate. Or, if nothing else, the snails just retreat into their shells. The snail eventually dies, its shell is removed from its gooey body, and the shell itself is filled with blood and set in a corner. The snail body is not a fucking toilet — it is an absence, a congealing of fluids.


PH://Dungeon_Mix_[vol.1]://The_Human_Cafe_[vol.1]_[2013]_Clone.Ed.x2013 runs through December 8, 2013, at Queer Thoughts Gallery (1640 W. 18th St #3, Chicago). 

Alicia Eler is a cultural critic and arts reporter. She is the author of the book The Selfie Generation (Skyhorse Publishing), which has been reviewed in the New York Times, WIRED Magazine and the Chicago...