Bettina Hubby with Dave Cull Everything Irreversible, Anything Diaphanous Introduction by Jon Leaver
Fall 2015, Volume 18, Number 1

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“You should pray for a sound mind in a healthy body,” the Roman poet Juvenal advised, but which of us is lucky enough to have those prayers answered? The conflicting comforts and fears that accompany the reality most of us face, that is, of a fallible mind and body, are the central themes of Bettina Hubby’s project “Everything Irreversible, Anything Diaphanous.” In it she tackles the age-old specter of illness in the contemporary context of material comfort and positive thinking.

Hubby often deals with the seemingly mundane or unpleasant aspects of life—ranging from the inconvenience of having a construction site outside her house, to the earthshattering effects of being diagnosed with cancer. A kind of catharsis is one of the aims of Hubby’s work, which sometimes take the form of events in which her audience take part. In these works, though, catharsis is not simply a matter of purging negativity, but a more dialectical, unresolved, and humorous process that integrates the contributions of participants and collaborators, often to subversive effect.

“Everything Irreversible, Anything Diaphanous” comprises collaged images of household objects—mostly soft furnishings in bizarre and anthropomorphic arrangements—combined with speech bubbles or dialog boxes, alternately expressing deep-seated fears and palliating reassurances. These textual elements, written by Hubby’s collaborator, Dave Cull, take the form of couplets whose timeless, even pastoral, quality counterpoints the magazine glossiness of the images, undercutting their rakish optimism with suggestions of the inevitability of death. This anxiety creeps in from the margins of the pictures and places the work in the long tradition of the memento mori, especially vanitas paintings designed to remind the viewer of their own mortality. In spite of this morbidity, however, the series suggests the ways in which we come to terms with adversity, finding comfort in the sublime experience that inhabits the everyday world around us.

Dave Cull was born in in Bangkok, grew up in Germany, and received a rough finish in the U.S. He studied philosophy in Baltimore and creative writing at Columbia University in New York. His stories have been published in Fence, Milan Review and elsewhere. He has collaborated frequently with visual artists including Iva Gueorguieva, Michelle O'Marah, and Bettina Hubby. He currently lives, writes, and works odd jobs in Los Angeles.