Monday, August 01, 2005

A Chance to Really Explain My Work

It seems to me that there are two different explanations for my work in circulation. They are essentially the same, but simply a longer or shorter version of the other. Once and for all, I’ll explain everything here, the short version and the long version, and you can get what you’d like from it.

Short Version:
Porn doesn’t work for me. Don’t get me wrong, I strongly advocate the use of it if that’s what you like, and despite years of studying Art History and Gender Studies, I still think it’s dandy. However, aesthetically, I think it’s flat. So I wanted to create images that were still arousing, or at least aim to arouse, but completely reject all the photographic techniques seen in traditional porn magazines. As for my creative technique, my intent, etc., all I can say is this: it’s just sex. I’m just alone in a room with a person or a couple, we talk about my project, what turns them on, etc., they get off, I take the pictures. Honestly, that’s it. I want people to look at my pictures like they have sex. Don’t think too much about it. I’m not using my art to make some grandiose statement about social constructions of sexuality or women in a realm dominated by men. I’m not using my art to publicly define my identity as a female artist, or female erotic artist. I wanted to create erotic art that was actually erotic, that actually turned people on, that was more than just skinny models lounging on a beach. This is real sex. Why can’t reality be arousing? It all comes down to the simple idea that I spend too much time deconstructing art theory in my Art History classes, and I didn’t want to force people to do it with my own art. I just want people to look at these and get turned on. That’s it.

Long Version: It’s the short version, plus this:
At this point, I think the definition of “pornography” is almost as subjective and fluid as the definition of “art.” But for the purposes of this project, I’m concentrating on more traditional pornographic sources such as Playboy.
I’m an Art History major. I have seen hundreds of nudes, and over and over again they are depicted the same way. If they’re not in the Venus pudica (“modest Venus”) pose, they “caught” nude, unbeknownst to them. In any case, these women are innocent, and either unaware of their nudity, or aware and ashamed. Men could look at these works, lust after these women, sate their voyeuristic fantasies, and were never forced to acknowledge their perversion, or admit that they were somehow “uncivilized” and animalistic due to their sexual appetite. Then came Manet. Olympia (1863) and Dejeuner sur l’Herbe (Luncheon on the Grass) (1863). These two paintings feature women who are aware of their nudity, aware people are looking at them, and they don’t care. In fact, Olympia actually seems antagonistic and almost dares the audience to look at her. You can imagine how hostile public (male) opinion was towards these paintings. They had been violated! These women were not proper! A common prostitute had dared to stare down a gentleman! Men were embarrassed, and their embarrassment had manifested itself in anger. Needless to say, not a lot of people liked these works.
Fast forward a century, and we have magazines like Playboy and Hustler, but the models in the photographs look the same as in Manet’s aforementioned paintings. They make eye contact with the viewer, therefore they acknowledge the presence of the viewer. They are obviously aware and not ashamed of their nudity. And yet, these images are revered as erotic and valued as arousing. Same stuff, diametric responses. Something is amiss.
As for porn itself, it’s a fantasy. It’s staged. The women aren’t necessarily genuinely turned on (usually not, but I’m not about to speak for thousands of models). Many are physically fake. The are paid to look a certain way, act a certain way, and provide a [limited, one-dimensional] narrative. They are supposed to be perfect in every way because it is something many people cannot get in real life. Pornography is useful because it provides a fantasy, but it is only fantasy. Real sex isn’t perfect. Real sex is spontaneous, messy, and fun. I want to create images that are as close to polar opposites of traditional pornography. Nothing staged. No eye contact. No artificial studio sets. Me, a camera, a bed (or shower, or floor, or balcony, etc...), and a horny model. Hence the name “anti-porn,” as I have sometimes called it. I wanted to capture moments or shots in such a way that the audience either adopts or appropriates the physical intimacy I was awarded with the model, and thus they can be put in my shoes, or they look at a scene, and are forced to remember their own similar situations. A shot of a girl panting makes you want to pant, a photo of a blow job might rekindle fond memories of past blow jobs. It’s arousal through shared experience, not through a convenient fantasy.


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