The Opalescent Oracular Bubble

The silhouette of a beautiful young man—“More beautiful than Adonis”1—looks down onto a tortured Sebastianus in the desert. Wearing the hide of a leopard and with a laurel branch in hand, this amorphic figure fleetingly shields from harsh golden rays: his guardian angel.



He is as beautiful as the sun.
This sun which caresses me…2

Dion Smith-Dokkie’s painted textiles, drawings and video meet the eye like a prism, refracting iridescent glimmers, lush pastels, bulbous forms, sparkling gems, deep-sea life, and crinkled oil slicks. A cosmic birth, textures ripple across space and are inherently queer: the palette, an opalescent pansy—both the flower and the effeminate homosexual male—denotes acceptance of, confidence in, and gratitude for queerness, affirmed with each mark made, each star stitched. A healing robe, orb, or sun, emanating protection.

For the ancient Romans

there was no such thing as a single birthday, as humans are never born alone. Every birthday is a double birthday; on that day one not only commemorates the supposedly joyful event, but—even more so—the indissoluble link between the individual and its guardian spirit, […] which accompanies them as an outer soul in an unbreakable spheric alliance; it is immediately related only to the intimate god who will lead a parallel life in the closest and most intimate position for the full length of the individual’s existence.3

Smith-Dokkie’s opalescent environment expresses that language of autonomy, the “intimate god”: a form of healing conjured through an unbreakable spheric alliance with one’s double. A sun, perhaps an aura, or a bubble, this double is something innate to a queer experience. It is learned from birth, through turmoil, that preservation is often self-reflective, self-reliant. This aura is not easily traced by those who would seek to diminish it (thank you, Muñoz), and the cosmic relationship formed between Smith-Dokkie and his work evokes an embodiment within this healing universe of bubbles, orbs, microbes, anemones.

Derek Jarman’s 1976 film Sebastiane — a homoerotic reinterpretation of the Christian Saint Sebastian—portrays the martyr as an exiled Christian sent to a desert outpost exclusively populated by men. Succumbing to lust, these men resort to homosexual acts to fulfil their desires, all but Sebastianus, pious and true to his bitter end.

Except Sebastianus’ heart does long for someone. Not for Christ, but for the Sun, appearing to him as that beautiful man adorned with the hide of a leopard. Throughout the film, Sebastianus knows love only in the Sun’s presence, as it guides him through turmoil, a membrane-being extension of himself. That “intimate god” who radiates. The film grounds Smith-Dokkie’s sunbeams softer forever: dialogue excerpts are transmuted into text-based anagram poems that inform the works and provide titles. The presence of Sebastianus’ Sun-Leopard-Lover-Guardian-Angel is reflected in the deep layers of a pastel universe. Here in this dream the artist reveals his own guardian angel, or double, who might wrap itself around the viewer in a constellation of healing protection. Happily, Sebastianus’ Sun also satisfies the erotic desires of the viewer through beauty (a rare opportunity for us queers to be horny for god). 




His hair is like the sun’s rays.

His body is golden like

molten gold.4

In sunbeams softer forever, Smith-Dokkie invokes a haptic eroticism through material and (lack of) image, which invites the viewer to be both close and far, to take in the dapples and shimmers of colour in an oscillatory fashion, always requiring the body to shift here and there. Marks5 notes that this spatially intimate relationship between body and image calls “on the viewer to engage in its imaginative construction. Haptic images pull the viewer close, too close to see properly, and this itself is erotic” (16). It is this kind of intersubjective relationship that Smith-Dokkie’s work uses to caress and capture. The construction of an imaginary lover, a double, a revelation of Smith-Dokkie’s own guardian spirit, becomes a poultice to press into the wounds of isolation, of loneliness, so familiar to queer folks. There is potential here for endless aid and one might find it within these intimate spaces.

Sebastianus kneels, naked, perched on a singular rock. A solitary island surrounded by the calm waters of a small tide pool; he stares at his reflection—Narcissus—so generously provided by the light and rays of the sun. He sees his double, the intimate god of his spheric bubble. We catch these glimmers and glints in Smith-Dokkie’s works. A ripple here and a sparkle there, reflecting our own doubles back at us.

Text by Alex Gibson


1. Sebastiane. Derek Jarman, 1976
2. Adapted translation and transcription of Sebastiane, Derek Jarman, 1976. Dion Smith-Dokkie, 2020-2021.
3. Sloterdijk, Peter. “Chapter 6. Soul Partitions – Angels – Twins – Doubles.” Bubbles: Spheres -Microspherology, Semiotext, Los Angeles, 2011, pp. 417.
4. Adapted translation and transcription of Sebastiane, Derek Jarman, 1976. Dion Smith-Dokkie, 2020-2021.
5. Marks, Laura U. “Video Haptics and Erotics.” Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis / London, 2022.