1x1 ON WOLFGANG TILLMANS: TO LOOK WITHOUT FEAR
I first saw Maus on the cover of Wolfgang Tillmans’s first edition of Burg at Powell’s bookstore in Portland, Oregon, in maybe 1999. I was in town from San Francisco with Linton and the Aislers Set and I bought it immediately. I’d already been very alert to Tillmans’s images in i-D and the beloved Index and was an immediate fan. Being queer and only a few years younger than him, his work whispered yes, this every time. But Maus, a tender still life of a small toy mouse, hit something far deeper. It is just such a sweet picture. It’s like a hug. It’s romantic somehow. It affirmed a particular type of grace in noticing life and in looking upon the world with a particular type of gentleness. I’d never seen Maus installed in all of the times I’ve seen Tillmans’s work in a gallery. Seeing it at the MoMA opening in September was a time travel to being twenty-seven and in love, being with my partner, being alone, feeling sentimental about treasures, and most importantly receiving the permission to make permanent this looking.
Truthfully, not long after finding the book, I was in a toy store in the UK and found a small brown mouse finger puppet that had the same face as his little gray one. I’ve had my own Maus for many years now. And many years is how long it took for me to share my own images with the world, the courage given to me by Tillmans and others, but also by Maus.