Mark I. Chester
Wounded Art

Untitled (Saranwrapped Spacemen) © 1996 by Mark I. Chester
from "Wounded Art" 1984
20 photographs - 3"x5" matted to 8"x10"

In the aftermath of the Folsom St. Fire in 1981 (the largest fire in SF since the 1906 earthquake) while my apartment was under the protection of the SF police and fire department, many of my personal belongings disappeared, or were vandalized and destroyed. Days after the fire, I found that photographs of friends, family and my sex scenes had survived the fire but they had been strewn all over the floor, walked on and vandalized. This wasn't an *act of god.* Like the fire, which turned out to be arson, this was an act of hatred by a anonymous cowards. It was meant to hurt me. Not me personally, just whomever the fucking faggot was that was living there. And it did.

I collected any of the photographs that had not been so damaged that they weren't worth saving. I saved them jumbled in a box without a thought as to why even though they smelled of the fire and wet wood.

I sued the city of San Francisco and the local media because of their actions after the Folsom St. Fire. In 1984, during the legal discovery process, I was forced to make copies of my photographs and give them to the very people I was suing for destroying/stealing them in the first place. At the same time, I had been unable to get copies of photographs and video that

had been shot inside my bedroom, because they had not been made public and were therefore considered private property.

I went into a rage. I took out the photographs that I had salvaged and began to alter them with a black marker and an x-acto knife. It was some kind of mad passionate act over which I seemed to have no control. For two weeks, I sat and inscribed my anger and pain into those images. It was a magical ritual act to reclaim my work and make it mine again. It declared that these images belonged to me. That if I wanted to, I could mark on them, or cut them or destroy them because they belonged to me.

But the end result of this rage is in retrospect surprising to me. What came out of it were often humorous or surreal sexual visions. Reality transformed into some new reality over which they had no power or control.  I created something new that once again belonged only to me.