About Body Farm
He has no face, seven breasts, and tubes for hands. She’s naked, missing parts, and has extra nipples sewed on. He’s a feathered friend, she’s a deep-sea invertebrate, and he’s a deer in the headlights. She’s sunbathing on a giant disembodied finger in the sky, he’s chilling with the fleshy fungi, and she’s spilling her sea anemone guts over her knees. These are just some of many monsters on the Body Farm, which reveals itself to us in a series of mixed media images. Valentin Brown shares this expression of what he calls “soft body horror”—a synthesis of the grotesque and the gentle—to describe the tension he experiences as a disabled transgender man, and to take back the narrative about his mind and body.
On the Body Farm, the human body could be melded with anything in the natural world, be it coral or tree bark, a crow or a jellyfish, resulting in monsters that are as familiar as they are alien. For instance, while one monster might have wings and an earthworm head, she has got all ten toes. Whether he’s an all-seeing cat’s eye or has no eyes at all, each monster is shown tenderness through careful rendering with form fitting hatching. Each image is squirming with activity—like an ant farm, where you can’t quite take in all the moving parts at once. In every scene, bright, poisonous hues grind against murky swamp water tones. The monsters beckon and repulse, shouting and whispering things like, “mayday, mayday!” and “finger me.”
The Body Farm has questions. For one, why do so many trans people identify with monsters? And why do so many queer folks find themselves attracted to monsters? If you feel that in some way you aren’t a whole person, is there comfort in the language of the monster, where scars and missing or extra parts are just what make one unique? And when history describes not only queer, but also disabled and neurodivergent people as aliens, spectacles, or tokens, can taking back the idea of the monster give those folks agency over their stories? How can we show compassion to our inner monsters in order to achieve personal growth? And in a world where every person is told their body is “other” in some way, do we all have the opportunity to take back a monster of our own?
Mixed media images