Heaven is a Prison by Mark McKnight, an exploration of intimacy with and within the austere terrain of Southern California’s high desert.
In Heaven is a Prison, McKnight describes a queer otherworld that is at once utopic and purgatorial – occupied by a solitary pair of copulating, Sisyphean protagonists that appear both liberated and bound by their intimacies and the severe expanse in which they are depicted.
Divided into chapters, the poetic sequences in this book oscillate between the literal and the figurative, between distance and communion, and between violence and affection. Claustrophobic, horizonless landscapes are coupled with images of ethereal clouds and tangled bodies that are simultaneously sculptural, shrewd, and tender.
Through his synonymous description of landscape and body, McKnight suggests metaphor, pointing at both as vehicles – towards transcendence, bondage, beauty, and abjection – while also revealing them as two sides of the same coin.
“I chose the title Heaven is a Prison with the intention of evoking Judeo-Christian notions of paradise, but it’s not exactly a re-imagining of the book of Genesis. I’ve always been fascinated by the way that the Bible, one of the most widely read religious books in history, begins with a creation myth that involves free will, intimacy, shame, desire, pleasure, punishment, paradise, access, devotion, and slavery – to God! – as a form of salvation. It’s reminiscent of BDSM. I think the subjects in my book are actually quite Sisyphean. I wanted a viewer to imagine these men and this landscape as being bound, for better or worse, by a kind of universal cycle.”
“I take solace in the timelessness of my experiences and emotions and I have an innate desire to produce timeless queer artworks because I grew up feeling like eternity was reserved for heterosexuals, a fear that has continuously been reaffirmed both by major world religions and the canon of art history.”
“Heaven is a Prison” di Mark McKnight, edito da Loose Joints & Light Work.