A student once glossed “the ungraspable phantom of life” Ishmael refers to in Loomings as “happiness.” She wasn’t wrong, but I’m much more convinced by MK’s rendering of this line: a gaping or gasping spermatozoon, pen-lined in black-blue ink with unibrow, asymmetrical eyes, and short carrot-crop atop its head. It’s encased in a spherical shape, a periphery shaded sky blue. The sphere recalls the delicate, floating, semi-translucent ovum we’re so accustomed to seeing in microscopically framed videos of human fertilization, where spermatozoa dart toward and chew their ways spasmodically and violently into the egg. MK puts the little boundary breaker in its place, an egg of its own from which to hatch, or not to hatch. MK’s wriggler isn’t confined serenely as an embryo or fetus in the womb but appears rather seized – entombed – the environment where it may freely drink or breathe seemingly outside not inside its bubble. And the possibility of the bubble’s own movement or imminent breakage is arrested, too, by faint sage painted triangles of various sizes extending at various angles toward the bubble’s periphery from the edges of the canvas.
Whereas in the framing of the fertilization vids the sperm vanish, loose themselves – utterly, seemingly – in reaching their destination, MK’s wriggler appears desperate, choking to be free, the same key that would open the prison to free it unlocking death. It’s life-death artificially arrested: the case of M. Valdemar reduced to a single, silenced whiplike sperm rather than a engorged, lolling tongue repeatedly avowing it’s dead.