Wednesday, 10 February 2010


***This is Part I of a collaborative art project between Laurie Penny and Katie West. For the next installment, Katie has challenged Laurie to take some self-portraits, whilst she provides the words. Watch this space!***

In case of emergency, break glass. I am becoming a silvered image of beauty; I repeat myself, endlessly. Mirrors can't show me blood and shit and snot and bone. Cameras can't show you gut and gristle and tongue and teeth and lips and language. Take my picture: I'm such a pretty girl.

So strip my sainted flesh and call me holy. Burn me a new face, something smooth and curving and perfect; I am searching for the outlines of myself. I am an infinite ratio of surface to soul. I repeat myself, endlessly.

Headline. Heartline. Outline. Angle. Flash I'm trying to find the contours of my sex in black and white. Behind these pale and sacred lines, my heart is a wet and screaming piece of meat. My guts are full of dirt. My brain is thick with ideas. Take my picture: I'm such a pretty girl.

Look at me when I'm talking to you. I don't want your love. I don't want your forgiveness. I do not forgive you. I do not love you. Down the dark cable of keys screen harddrive screen camera light skin I can feel your breath on my lens. My flesh in your dreams. I'm such a pretty girl.

Your screen is misted with tiny flecks of dirt and skin. Look closely; the dust is backlit by my cold crystal glare. In case of emergency, break glass. You're almost close enough to kiss me. Try. Push your stickydamp fingers through my screen. It's so bright and lonely in here.


Words: Laurie Penny
Pictures: Katie West


  1. That's amazing. So very powerful.

  2. I found this mixture of words and images more than a little disturbing. Was that the idea?

  3. *grin*

    I like it when people can disagree about shit and then make something beautiful out of it.

  4. Interesting. Do you have a theme in mind for your self-portraits, Penny?

  5. And I've no idea why I've just called you Penny instead of Laurie. Maybe it's because it's early in the morning, or perhaps it's because I've been reading The Encyclopaedia of Decency a lot lately.

  6. A NSFW tag might have been nice. Some sysadmins might not see this as okay...

  7. When I saw this post I was dreading the comments section, but they're surprisingly civilised. On the other hand, there aren't many of them.

    I'd be interested to know the ratio of published comments/submitted comments.

    On a (perhaps peripherally) related note, "the rules of the game have changed" - Charlotte Allen on what appears to be a trend in mating patterns back to those of our very distant forebears.

  8. Dear Penny,

    Why don`t my comments appear anymore?

    If you`re refusing to approve them, can I suggest that you amend your comments policy to reflect the arbitrary reality of which comments are actually allowed through.

    This work is weird, it disturbed me. I`m not sure how it could be described as "beautifull".

  9. Out there, not from a voyuers perspective.Its great to see you search for not only the superficial but your soul and political being.Go for it strong being.

  10. What the heck is this all about? My daddy is a surgeon who spends his days paddling about inside human bodies and yet still sees people as human beings rather than assemblies of organs full of shit and piss. Why the self-contempt? Surely if a man had written this every feminist reading it would be offended?

    *I bet this critical comment gets filtered*

  11. Naomi; adult women do not call their fathers' 'daddy' in public unless they cannot get past the apparent protection of littlegirlhood. Which echos the cry of the pretty girl .

    I love the first image and the self embracement of the ribs, not breasts. I can't exactly articulate why, except it subverrts the usual coy-cupped breast, and suggests the relationship woman have with their bones; endlessly trying to make them more visible whilst having their real insides denied. Photographs-in-the mirror on the whole irritate me, but this may well be the point.

  12. Still, nice post. Cold images and disturbing words, nicely meshed.

  13. @Anonymous: What's the big deal about whether Naomi calls her father Dad or Daddy? I know an American who says she calls her father Faither because it sounds more Scottish. I think Paw sounds Scottish. I am Scottish and I say Dad. Whatever works for them, I say.


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