David Choe’s 2.15 minute video Conjugal Visits is a hybrid mix of the grotesque, the perverse and the symbolic. The film is a self-portrait that shows the artist lying on his back ingesting and then releasing several butterflies, all the while fixating the camera with his stare. The scene is shot in slow motion and triggers fascination and repulsion simultaneously due to the juxtaposition of the naked human body with the insect. Most prominently, however, the content of the film is contrasted by the title Conjugal Visits. If taken literally, the question arises who is prisoner and who is visitor: Choe or the butterfly?
Butterflies have long been symbols for the human soul: the ancient Greek word for ‘butterfly’ is ψυχή (psȳchē), meaning ‘soul’ or ‘mind’; whereas in Japanese culture, a butterfly entering a house is considered a deceased loved one visiting. Conjugal Visits takes on the form of a highly reflexive self-portrait if one contextualises the title with traditional symbolism.
David Choe lives and works in Los Angeles, California.