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The Foreskin Attached On Cupid’s Eye
—To Play with the Sexes of Dyeing

The outside of the foreskin is a continuation of the skin on the shaft of the penis, but the inner foreskin is a mucous membrane like the inside of the eyelid.1

Clothes encumber contact and movement.2 Clothes also enable warmth and comfort. Comfort and warmth in shifting from inside to outside and vice versa. Movement enables change, change in surroundings, change in air, change in a person’s being. In other words, clothes, like skin, provide the requisites for one to become. Almost two decades has passed since the turn of 21st century, yet the struggle is still apparent in being a man, or a woman. The complex, profit-based mood of production facilitates an environment that is difficult for one to enjoy and yet one desires to play. To play in one’s roles, to play at home, to play at office, to play as a child. To start a discussion on play, one has to first look at, the two different sexes in seeing— in being a woman and in being a man, more particularly, in being a naked woman and in being a naked man. The essential violence of seeing women has not changed, but if we look at the man in the nudes of European oil paintings perhaps we can discover an overlooked agency of play — the man child, Cupid. Take for example ‘the Allegory of Time and Love’ by Bronzino. Ignore the sight of Venus and the potential male spectator gazing upon it. Cupid, kissing and fondling Venus’s breasts, is the only agent allowed to play between both sexes of adults; He engages in activity for enjoyment without a serious or practical purpose. In this case, Cupid’s action is indirectly sexual, sexual because it allows three things to happen. First, to fulfill the male spectator’s desire to touch and own the image of the nude. Second, to allow the female body to be displayed in a way that she’s wanted by the male. And thirdly and most importantly, because the child is neither female nor male. The child is a being that is only becoming. It hasn’t grown. It is naked without shame therefore able to “play” in the world of man. It hasn’t become
the agent of God in man’s world or being made subservient to the man thereto it is liberated from judgement and the ways of seeing in two sexes.3 One might simplify this by saying: the child is invincible.4 “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.”5 Take a look at the tradition of painted Cupid, one might find that he is always looking away, either with eyes half closed as if he is elsewhere, half-awake, unseeing; Or in the instance of Psyché et l’amour by Simon Vouet, he is naked, dreaming in sleep. In lived sexual experience nakedness is a process rather than a state.6 The momentum of the “halfness” in being a child is important in a sense that it gives space for becoming. The child is unseeing therefore unseen. The essential quality of child, halfness, implies he is neither here nor there. The child’s purpose is ambiguous hence he is the quintessential example of play. We can also extend this to answer Bachelard’s question on being there, “Where is the main stress, for instance, in being-there (être-là): on being, or on there?”7 One can
simply answer that it is neither being or there, it is the in between, the becoming. There is another ancient yet exemplary line of thinking that discusses the intrinsic qualities of the two sexes and being. In the Far East, a person may be set the task of improvising a poem so as to break a “spell” or get out of a difficult situation.8 The tradition is called I-Ching, an ancient Chinese divination text aimed to provide guidance in
situations one may encounter in day to day life thus lead an individual toward inner peace and balance— to
transcend into a higher-self. Note that the mechanism of divination is similar to a throw of the dice, leaving the decision, often important ones and sometimes diplomatic ones, to chance. The sense of submission in one’s alienation9 towards a situation is not only presented here in the practice of I-Ching in ancient China but also in contemporary man or woman’s attitude to work and leisure. The constant swinging between home and office is the norm and so is the constant swinging between useless toil and useful work.10 What is work? What is leisure? One simply goes to work wearing a uniform, and comes home to wear another. The difference between the two are exactly like that of the seeing of the two sexes, neither is truly “naked” and neither is truly “at home” like the child is. Likewise, the work becomes the male spectator gazing and paying the other. Now, the question one might be triggered to ask might be, where is the Cupid if we continue the analogy? Or rather, what is the sexes of dyeing?

“Their tender petals, there in peace to fade
Dry are they now, and void of all their scent
And lovely color, yet what once was meant
By these dull stains, some men may yet descry
As dead upon the quivering leaves they lie
Behold them here, and mock me if you will,
But yet believe no scorn of men can kill
My love of that fair land wherefrom they came,
Where midst the grass their petals once did flame.”11

—The Earthly Paradise, William Morris, 1868

Judging from the dates, The Earthly Paradise was written prior to Morris’s enthusiasm on the art of dyeing. The Utopia hidden in the faded color of those petals once flamed was translated into numerous wonderful textile designs though now void of all their scent. A piece called Strawberry Thief12 was created during that time. If we compare it with the Hua-Shu Yuanyang Mattress Cover13 in Tang Dynasty, one can’t fail to find the incredible similarity not only in terms of pattern, colors but also the symmetry in mandala-liked spiritual balance both textiles visually achieved. The Hua-Shu Yuanyang Mattress Cover is one of the many examples of a traditional resist dyeing technique in China called Jia Xia (夾纈). The technique was thought to have vanished during Song Dynasty until in 1987 an article was published about Chinese art in Zhejiang.14 Jia Xia uses carved wood boards as stencils. The cloth, usually folded a number of times, is inserted and clamped between two boards. When unfolded, the pattern dyed in two halves become one and hence the symmetrical pattern.15 The importance of art and craft lies in the knowledge recorded within not only the product but also the process that has been overcome and left behind by “progress”. In the case of Jia Xia, it deviates directly from the two halves of the world—the Ying and Yang. It is the Sun and the Moon, the light and the darkness, the male and female. It is a picture of two fish playing
in the universe. Conceivably, on top of ‘the hope of rest, hope of product, and hope of pleasure’ in the work itself, we should add the hope to play, to have fun, and to be a child again.16

1.p.90 Human Sexuality:An Encyclopedia, Bullough Vern, Bullough Bonnie1994 ,Garland Publishing
2.P.58 Ways of Seeing, Berger, John, 1972, Penguin
3.P.48 Ways of Seeing, Berger, John, 1972, Penguin
4.P.105 The Science of Mythology, C. G. Jung and C. Kerényi , 2002, Routledge
5.I, I, 234- 235, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare, William, 1623
6.p.60 Ways of Seeing, Berger, John, 1972, Penguin
7.P.213 The Poetics of Space, Bachelard, Gaston, 1964, the Orion Press, Inc
8.p.125 Homo Ludens, Huizinga, J, 1949, Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd
9.Aloofness, see "Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat" by Georg Lukács
10.P.115 The Art of Work, Coleman, Roger, 1988, Pluto Press
11.P.102 The Earthly Paradise, Morris,William, 1868
12. Strawberry Thief, 1883, William Morris (1834-1896) V&A Museum no. T.586-1919
13. Mandarin Duck with Flower Petals Mattress Cover in Tang Dynasty, Currently Stored in Shoso-in, Japan
14. Jia Xia in Southern Zhejiang, Hu Ping and Zhao Fon, 1987, Nanjing Press
15. Jia Xia, Echo of Chinese Things Magazine, 1997, Echo Press
16. Useful Work versus Useless Toil, Morris, William, 2008, Penguin