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Mal’s video begins with a ridge of soft bumps that form the letter M. The camera then backs up until it’s obvious there are teeth on both sides and the hot presence of a tongue. Retreating further, it passes lips and emerges into broad daylight to move up the greasy length of a nose. The lens tickles the tips of eyelashes and stares down an unflinching eyeball. Then Malchicken’s whole face appears, alongside its reflection in a mirror; chin-to-chin, there’s a tantalizing view up all four nostrils. His face goes through surprise, happiness, anger, confusion, frustration, and contemplation. Look—here’s his mother, a slanted doorway, and a hand goes up to block her face. Out in the living room, there’s a matchstick swizzled in candle wax and a partial fingerprint marring a photograph of a large crowd cheering a car race. The velvet backing the photograph is the darkest black there is. Suddenly there’s a hot flash of fluorescence, followed by an examination of the faceplate of the light switch, its screw heads perfectly vertical. Droplets of moisture define a half-destroyed spider’s web, shown with the light on and then off. On. Off. On. A painful minute focused on the spider’s leg, jerky, electric, disco.
A close-up of something sways like a worm, and when the camera pulls back it’s a loose thread from the elastic cuff of Mrs. Chicken’s shirt. The tulip pattern on the fabric. Suddenly the camera is jerked as if hit by something hard; it’s Mrs. Chicken’s rings as her hand wraps over the camera’s head. Mal’s hand peels hers away. The camera tumbles to the ground.
The latch of the bathroom door going in and out looks like a darting fish. The cheap gold molding still looks cheap in black and white. Inside the bathroom, there are mineral deposits clinging to the showerhead, the bleached corner of the bathtub where the soap lives and slowly decays, dark patches of grout between linoleum squares from spilled iodine or hair dye. There’s a tangled wad of hair near the corner of the tub where the caulking is riddled with spots of mold. Up near the lunar surface of the ceiling, there’s a vertiginous moment where the self-leveling camera wheels around violently, followed by a millisecond flash of Malchicken’s face, off balance.
A crack running along the bottom of a picture frame merges into the etched image of a perfume bottle and its pebbled aromatizer. Below is the scribble of the artist’s signature, and then a high-contrast shot of the angle between the back of the frame and the nail holding it to the wall. From there, the camera moves to the toilet paper cozy and peers through the veil of its lace waistband to the bathroom window and the stippled Tesuque sky framed inside. An image of the sink draining (stopper missing) precedes a stunningly abstract view of the raw, threaded end of the faucet and the good twenty seconds or so it takes to form a drop of water and release it. Form and release. Form. Release. Form. Release.
There’s a teasing of dust from the medicine cabinet’s hinges as it opens. A survey of the cabinet shelves ends in the corners where the vinyl shelf-liners bunch up and no longer stick to anything. The mercury in a thermometer reads well below 98. A quick zoom shows a tube of toothpaste called Numsalve, its lower half curled like a snail and its cap dinged with tooth marks. The paste, on camera, sparkles. A length of beaded chain leads to a bathtub plug and here, the camera stares up into the rush of oncoming water. The lens collides with pieces of grout before showing the hot water tap turned on its side. A puffy scrubbing sponge with its rope leash. A string of bubbles floating off screen. Long, tedious shots of skin, hairy and hairless, a forearm. An inventory of freckles near the navel, ten little toes refracted under water. A piece of sock lint escaping. The camera traverses hilly terrain, glides down a soft inner thigh, and exposes the poetry of pubic hairs roiling with the tide. Underwater, the self-leveling head spins, pushes against flesh, and dives bravely. There’s something overhead, like a blimp, casting a long shadow. Fingers, two of them, pointing up, pointing down. There’s several seconds of turbulence, a fractal burst of light, and then total darkness.