I have a scar in the shape of a smile.
I’m not sure how I got it, but it’s there on my upper thigh, grinning at me anytime I’m not wearing pants. I used to think of it as a sort of self congratulatory communication, like; “great job! your pants are down”, but I’m not so sure about this now.
The longer I examined it, the more I began to question its history and significance.
My question became one of authenticity; was this crescent actually smiling at me? What would that mean? What were its intentions?
The easy way out of this is to say “of course this half moon is not smiling at me, it has no intentions, it’s only a mark.”
But the problem of this is I still look at it, and it still seems to smile at me. What I mean by this is that the scar’s smile is a reflective one. To clarify, the smile is an exteriorization of my own emotion. And as this dawns on me, I also understand that the smile is not smiling at me cheerfully, rather it is a grin full of teeth.
– About scars for a moment:
What is a scar? The first image that comes to mind is that of a mark on the skin, a buildup of tissue in place of a lack of it. As in you got a scrape and now you don’t.
Instead, you got a lighter thing in the shape of your scrape.
Who cares about your scars?
Well, you probably do, they’re the link through which you remember that time you fell down the stairs, or got bit by a dog, or your sister threw a rock at you. In a way they are information. They convey something like the angle at which the rock was thrown, the position you were standing in, the position your sister was standing in, the speed of her arm when she threw the rock, and at precisely what point she opened her hand to release the rock.
Of course, no one can really read all this information in your scar, yet, it’s still there, buried by time and perspective, existing quietly until it’s declassified and ready to be shared, if that ever happens.
– About smiles for a moment
There is a kind of smile that does not indicate happiness. Instead it is a shrewd and careful social device, a constructed expression that does one thing, but means other things. Reductively, we could call this the “fake smile”. Un-reductively, we could call it the knowing smile. General wisdom seems to suggest it is a lack of engagement in the eyes and muscles of the face that constitute this strange and opaque smile.
This smile, I realized, was like the smile of my inner thigh. The scar was a smile without eyes, or for that matter, without face muscles.
This was a scar whose smile dislocated it from its own face. Far from an empty smile, this was the smile of ulterior motives and machinations.
What then, was my smile scar machinating? What information was it storing?
Like a photograph, the scar’s past had been flattened and condensed into a singular presence, its original straightforwardness put into question by its dislocated face. My smiley scar was a junkyard machine part, dislodged from its history and reconfigured, staring at me without facial features. It was part of my skin, but somehow cropped and left to develop a thoughtful interiority. That knowing smile, I finally understood, was studying the stupid grin I was making back at it.
 Cady Noland refers to a dark and familiar game of social manipulation in her speech, Towards a Metalanguage of Evil “The game is a machine composed of interconnected mechanistic devices. These devices facilitate bad faith interaction… A con or snow job is the site at which X preys upon the hopes, fears, and anxieties of Y for ulterior motives and/or personal gain”
Cady Noland, Towards a Meta Language of Evil, BALCON No. 4, 1989, pp.72
Ian Markell is an artist based in Los Angeles, CA. He works primarily between Photography and Sculpture. His work addresses the lives of images and the role that representations and their support structures play in the production of contemporary life. Markell received his BFA from The Cooper Union in New York. His work has recently been exhibited at The Strongroom in Los Angeles, Galerie Arnaud Deschin in Marseilles, ForYourArt in Los Angeles and HPGRP Gallery in New York. This is the artist’s first exhibition in Chicago.