Detumescence by Bedel Tiscareño

KSU Downtown Gallery

Inspired by Aldous Huxley’s novel "Ape and Essence," Detumescence is an exhibition that satirizes and critiques recent and current events and foreshadows, as Huxley’s text does, the eventual degradation of humanity into a dystopian society where the state has ultimate authority over an individual’s body, and where books are burned to bake bread. The parallels between "Ape and Essence" and the challenges currently facing our world – the recent pandemic and the war in Ukraine, to name just two – are too obvious to ignore. If tumescence is the swelling or engorging in response to sexual arousal, a state of anticipation and action, then detumescence, as the characters in Huxley’s book wish for and sing paeans to, is the dissipation of that swollen, potent state.  Just as Huxley’s book is set in a world exhausted from the climax of a nuclear holocaust, the figures in Tiscareño’s work exist on the fine line between vigor and enervation. 

Much of the work in Detumescence builds on the educative tradition of public art works like the Mexican muralists, the stations of the cross in Catholic churches, or dioramas. These works are full of people and action, visually entertaining, a means of gathering, a vehicle for storytelling and communication of values, histories, and versions of the truth. Tiscareño’s work differs from these antecedents in that it simultaneously presents the anti-story, the loss of narrative cohesion, proposing a world where traditional inherited narratives have given way to inconsequential, distractionary vignettes. 

Tiscareño’s work is influenced by the essays on multiplicity and lightness in Italo Calvino’s "Six Memos for the Next Millennium." Using The concept of multiplicity, Tiscareño weaves numerous influences into novel compositions that both reference well-established narratives and posit anecdotal scenes that the viewer is invited to engage with in a playful exercise of the imagination.  Through the concept of lightness, his work takes an ephemeral quality whose playfulness is tempered only by an equally perspicacious violence. The whimsicality of the work and its puerile content are the very channels through which weightier subject matter such as conflict, illness, mendacity, nationalism, identity, and love can be addressed. 

This exhibit will be on display, April 7–May 13, 2023, at the KSU Downtown Gallery, 141 East Main Street, Kent Ohio, there will be a reception on Friday, April 7 from 5-7 p.m.

This exhibit is free to the public and has been brought to you in part through a partnership with the Massillon Museum’s NEA Big Read events which is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book For a complete list of Massillon Museum’s NEA Big Read programming visit