old school

The most hits on my blog ever have been vintage porn images. People download them all the time. It’s like, people really love something that was, or is…’real’. I think. We need hair and dropped pants and smiling ladies with flesh.

porn kaleidoscopes by rebecca cooper

Rebecca Cooper makes sex collages. Kaleidoscopic arrangements of pornographic images, abstracted and spiraling in endless circles of lust, pleasure and skin. Her titty/willy hobby-craftworks are then arranged together on display, in massive wall installations, like groupings of sexual snowflakes from a sinful sky.
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jimmy de sana

01_largeThe enhanced colour and staged compositions of De Sana’s photographs highlight his photography as art, photographs that are made rather than taken. In the darkroom he enhanced colours and used solarisation to create his own particular photographic language. He played with the idea of the body as sculpture and the sometimes extreme sexual imagery was informed by the punk scene of downtown New York. The figures in the photographs were his friends. He also used his own body in some of the images, all of which were staged in his home and studio.

De Sana’s colour photographs exemplify the shift of photography into the art gallery that occurred during this period. De Sana pushes the limits of his medium, as well as his subject matter. Reminiscent of bondage and S&M imagery, De Sana utilises the body as prop to explore our notions of sexuality and uncover perversions of normal.

His photographs begin within a suburban setting, but one slowly infiltrated with the sexuality and absurdity that could only be found in a decaying lower Manhattan. De Sana was influenced from a young age by the writings of William Burroughs (with whom he collaborated on the earlier Submission series) an influence that dispatched the beatific, underground, punk sensibilities and the eccentric, perverse tone that came to define his photographs – the graphic exposure and leaking discovery of licentiousness, carried out within a suburban home. As Burroughs put it, “Look at these pictures in Submission…My dear, its all so Christian and medieval and gloomy.”

De Sana arrived in New York from the South in the 1970s, when he was still in his early 20s.  He involved himself in the underground art and music of 70s New York through taking portraits of the people he was meeting, photographing the likes of John Giorno, Jack Smith, Laurie Anderson, Debbie Harry, Billy Idol and the Talking Heads. His portraits became dominant throughout underground journals and newspapers, setting a style that came to define an era of punk.

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dolls by stacy leigh

Female sex dolls have been around for decades.

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But until now, the rubber women have taken on an extremely fake quality, with even the untrained eye able to spot one from a mile off.

But in this new photo shoot by New York fashion photographer Stacy Leigh, many of the toys appear very human-like.

Photographer Stacy Leigh from New York has 12 dolls of her own. She positioned the toys in fashionable clothing and life-like poses. Stacy wanted to prove that the mannequins can be very attractive.

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The collection of love dolls worth up to £4,000 each, have been carefully dressed and posed as if they are taking part in a glamour shoot.

Stacy, 43, decided to create her project, which she calls ‘Average Americans’ to prove how anyone could find themselves fancying mannequin-like dolls, taking the stigma away from those who use them.

She said: ‘Men and women both use the dolls as replacements for human companionship, whether by choice or necessity.’

‘I believe it’s perfectly fine if it makes one’s journey through life more bearable.’

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She continued: ‘My photos are about life and relationships and sexuality.

‘Some people are repulsed by the dolls, while others are empathetic towards them.

‘As the world becomes more digital and less personal, dolls and robots will become more commonplace as surrogates for relationships.

‘I can only hope that my photos spark an emotion or connection in the viewer.’

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A world away from blow-up sex dolls of the past, love dolls or real dolls as they are also known, have become increasingly popular as they have become more realistic looking.

Many collectors refer to their love dolls as their ‘girlfriends’ and have full sexual relationships with them.

When buying a love doll, customers can choose to customise everything from hair, eye and skin colour to boob size and even the shape and style of the vagina.

Stacy, who owns 12 real dolls, explained how she became involved in collecting and photographing her plastic subjects.

She said: ‘I watched a TV show called REAL SEX on HBO that featured Real dolls.’

‘I had always wanted a life size doll, as I have been collecting small fashion dolls since I was a child.

‘I perused the internet with the intention of using a love doll as my sitting model for photography.

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‘When my first doll arrived, I began to photograph her and the rest is history.

‘Over the last decade, my job has become far easier as manufacturers add more realism to their products.’

She continued: ‘These days, for my personal projects- I add make up to completely confuse the viewer.

‘I’ve added wrinkles and depth to the face, much in the same way I would a painting.

‘I received accolades for my ability to pose, and ‘breathe life’ into them.

‘Immediately, it became my goal to get better with each photo.’ 23BB456600000578-2860474-She_wanted_to_take_the_stigma_away_from_people_who_use_sex_dolls-a-8_1417702827128

Reblogged from here

iron maiden in heels

“The resulting hallucination materializes, for women, as something all too real. No longer just an idea, it becomes three-dimensional, incorporating within itself how women live and how they do not live: It becomes the Iron Maiden. The original Iron Maiden was a medieval German instrument of torture, a body-shaped casket painted with the limbs and features of a lovely, smiling young woman. The unlucky victim was slowly enclosed inside her; the lid fell shut to immobilize the victim, who died either of starvation or, less cruelly, of the metal spikes embedded in her interior. The modern hallucination in which women are trapped or trap themselves is similarly rigid, cruel, and euphemistically painted. Contemporary culture directs attention to imagery of the Iron Maiden, while censoring real women’s faces and bodies.” –The beauty myth, naomi wolf

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megan pickering

“I have created a series of beauty products with pubic hair, from nail varnish, fake nails to false eyelashes, all exploring the lines between beauty and disgust. My false eyelashes achieve the balance between disgust and beauty perfectly. When wearing them in public, or displaying the eyelash kit, I am engrossed with peoples reactions most find them attractive, until realising what they are made from, then they are repulsed. My work is mixed-media and confronts structural norms of class, gender and sexuality. “

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a giant waste of time

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image tracey emin

Unattainable objects of desire

All teenagers have crushes… but what if you’ve grown up and that infatuation has turned into a refusal to face facts? Craig Taylor asks the experts
Craig Taylor
The Guardian, Saturday 15 September 2001

Forget for a moment that it’s called a “crush”, a word associated with bubbly handwriting, giggly pre-teens and folded pieces of coloured paper. And forget that the term may define those heartbreaking moments in your early romantic life when you roamed school hallways, edging closer, with that silent mantra echoing in your head: “Please look over at me, please look over at me, please look over at me.”

They may be childish, or they may be dangerous, time-wasting exercises in futility, but the way we deal with our secret love of unattainable people starts early in life and, in most cases, never completely ends. Though the teenage version is usually the first type we encounter, the crush plays just as big a part in our adult life as it does in our youth.

For years, the teenage crush was thought to be relatively harmless, but a few months ago, an American study released by the sociology departments of Cornell University and the University of North Carolina announced that the more time a teen spends on romantic thoughts, the more he or she is at risk of depression. It was once referred to simply as “moping about”, using valuable homework hours to choose what you will wear when Ben Affleck finally calls. But the new research hints that the crush may be the start of a slippery slope towards locked bedroom doors, black clothes, goth music and an all-out depression which could carry on into adulthood.

That is not the only downside. Where a normal crush gives off the warm glow of affection, with infatuation upping the temperature, at the far end of the spectrum there is a delusional disorder called erotomania, which makes people believe that another person is in love with them, even if there is no reason for that person to be so. The object of affection is likely to be someone socially prominent – a doctor, say, or a celebrity – and mostly the crush is limited to the erotomaniac’s own perfect world. But if they begin to take action to gain the attention of the crushee, an entirely different category opens up, called pathological infatuation.

The crush that gradually drifts into infatuation – the one that leaves you in a haze of absolutely desperate love – has its own inherent dangers. For people already in relationships, it can act as an entrée to the world of infidelity, secret rendezvous and calls from payphones.

But for most of us, happily, the crush is a far more innocent affair, a small spark that adds interest to one’s life. “A crush brings a little texture, a little colour to the world,” says Ingrid Collins, a consultant psychologist based at the London Medical Centre. “It feeds fantasy.”

Crushes are a “what if” game full of interesting but ultimately unattainable options, according to Karen DeMars, CEO and co-founder of the website e-crush.com, which has been charting the phenomenon for the past two years. “Say you’re in a grocery store,” DeMars explains. “You spot someone when you first come in, you keep passing each other, there’s something there. By the time you get to the frozen foods, you’ve had a crush for a while. These things just add a little decoration to life.”

The fast, minor crush usually evaporates by the time you’ve bagged your groceries. It has a built-in sense of honourable defeat – alas, fate has dictated that this was never meant to be. When crushes are lived out on this level, nothing can go wrong or disappoint; there is no time for faults to appear. These tiny, secret affairs don’t imply that you seek escape from an existing relationship; they’re just a way of acknowledging that attraction still exists out in the world, whether or not you’re involved with someone.

Some adults go on to become serial crushers, with one main object of affection following the next. Others begin a series of what DeMars calls “player-type crushes”, a wild polygamy of anonymous affection that could range from the grocery store shopper, to politicians, to the person in the cubicle next door. Both types of crush may at first appear to be time-wasters, but they can help you perform better in your everyday life. “If you’re visualising this perfect man,” DeMars says, “you can also visualise the sort of person you could become to get this guy.” On this path, crushes become catalysts, leading to bouts of self-improvement as a person with a crush tries their hardest to become noticeable. If handled the right way, the dream of being noticed by a crushee can force people to make changes in their lives that they would otherwise never have had a reason to make.

Then again, “There is always the possibility that the crush will just take over your life and you’ll become a big loser,” DeMars warns. For most, however, the risk of loserdom is small compared with the promise of that thin tremor of excitement, those extra palpitations, every time a certain someone rolls their cart down the frozen food aisle.

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Interview

Bill Henson

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Friday 5th October 2012
Reblogged from here

Bill Henson in his Melbourne studio.  Photo – Sean Fennessy

It’s not everyday you get the opportunity to interview Bill Henson.  So when this opportunity crossed my path just over a week ago, I couldn’t help but pounce.  I have long been a fan of Henson’s distinctive, haunting photographs.  It was quite an honour to interview him by phone this week – and a little daunting I must admit!

In fact, in conversation, Bill is less intimidating than you might think.  Chatty, even.  In a very intellectual and kind of measured way, of course.  He comes across as a bit of a philosopher, though also quite matter of fact.  Henson has old fashioned sensibilities – somewhat predictably, he prefers second hand bookshops to Google, and he rejects the modern idea of using assistants in his practice (‘the Hollywood management mentality’), preferring to work primarily in solitude.  But he wasn’t snooty or pompous in the way you might expect an artist of his notoriety to be.  And equally, he didn’t appear remotely jaded or withered by the controversy that seems to circle his exhibition calendar ominously every two years.  He was gracious and patient and generous with his responses to all my questions.  And he provided some genuine pearls of wisdom which I hope I have been able to pass on below…  Oh the pressure!

Bill Henson is one of Australia’s most acclaimed and widely known contemporary artists – his work has been exhibited extensively in the most high profile galleries both here and abroad, he represented Australia in the Venice Biennale in 1995, and was the subject of an incredible retrospective exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the National Gallery of Victoria in 2005.

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It must be said that Henson’s work does tend to polarise.  After the now infamous incident which resulted in a police raid of his 2008 Sydney exhibition, and the confiscation of various artworks, Henson briefly returned to slightly less inflammatory subject matter.  His following show in 2010 played it a little safer, focussing primarily on landscape and architectural forms. But his current exhibition, which opened two weeks ago at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, is back in familiar territory.  Depicting ghostly, ethereal, teenage bodies, the show is sure to prickle Henson’s usual detractors.  The selection of works – melancholy, brooding and mysterious as ever – seems quietly defiant.  I guess you could say, after a brief diversion, Henson is ‘back’.

The show runs until October 13th.

Immense thanks to Bill Henson, Kym Elphinstone and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery for facilitating this interview.

Bill Henson
Until October 13th
Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery
8 Soudan Lane
Paddington
NSW

Tell us a little about your career background – what drew you to photography originally, and which early influences contributed to the development of your distinctive style?

Well, I never really thought of what I did as a career, early on or even now.

Probably the best way to describe it, is simply that from the earliest age I just drew and painted and made things out of clay and whatever else. I’ve always obsessively made things, that’s all I was really interested in, and that’s what really absorbed all of my attention through childhood and adolescence, and nothing’s really changed.

I never really had that thought of ‘what will I do’. It never occurred to me that I would ever not be making something, and mostly that was pictures.

I got into Prahan College tertiary art school with a painting folio, which consisted of various things I’d done in the preceeding year, but by the time I was about 15 I had pretty much moved away from painting. The only way I can describe that transition from painting and drawing to photography I suppose, is that painting increasingly felt as if it was falling ‘short’ of something, that I wasn’t even able to identify. I started to muck around with photography and somehow photography started to seem as though it fell less ‘short’, if I can put it like that.

Initially I didn’t study phtography specifically. I went into a preliminary year at Prahran College, I would have been about 16 at the time. We studied all types of art, but really by then I was pretty much absorbed in making my own photographs. In fact, much to the frustration of my lecturers, I was there very infrequently, I was just making my own pictures.  Every few months I’d come in with a bundle under my arm and my lecturers Athol Shmith and John Cato would wring their hands and tell me that they loved the pictures I was showing them, but if I didn’t do the assignments there was no point in me being there!

But really as far back as I can remember it’s just been about making pictures, for better or worse, that’s what it’s always been for me.

Tell us about your current show at Roslyn Oxley9 in Sydney – what has inspired these works, and how long have you been developing this body of work?

Well I never work to an exhibition, and I have never worked to a particular date. It feels to me very much as though new work grows out of preceding pictures or preceding bodies of work, and so it’s a continuous evolution really – pictures gradually build up in the studio over months and years and at a certain point there seems to be a critical mass. The commercial view is always to sort of plan their calendar as it were, and I’m always saying ‘book me in if you like – we’ll see’ because I really can’t work to anyone else’s schedule.

Fortunately things tend to fall into place. The show that’s in Sydney has been accumulating over the past few years. It’s a continuous gradual process, that just feels as though each image is sort of a fragment from some larger thing in a way, that you can’t quite see the boundaries of.

In a recent statement you quoted poet Peter Schjeldahl, saying – ‘beauty presents a stone wall to the thinking mind. It makes a case for the sacredness of something and wins that case, suddenly, and irrationally.’ With this idea in mind – Do you strive for beauty in your work?

I think that what interests me in any art form, whether it’s music or literary or anything else, are the same things that interest all of us in life generally. Things that shape our lives – loss, longing, love, a sense of mortality – these are the things that have inspired various artists throughout time. Really beauty is the mechanism that animates those things. That sense of attraction, longing, fascination. It’s got more to do with love, really, but beauty is the agent of that, and it takes different forms.

Beauty is central to all art forms – from a Mozart piano concerto to a Cy Twombly painting. It doesn’t really matter what medium or what period in history. You could almost say that everything in the universe runs on attraction, whether it’s 2 molecules in a vacuum or an episode of Home and Away.

Can you give us a little insight into the inner workings of your practise? Do you employ others or outsource any specific tasks?

I’ve never worked with assistants, work is a solitary thing for me. Except of course when I’m working with my models, but 99% of my time is spent in a room looking at the pictures I make. I think the presence of anyone else would be a bit of a distraction for me.

But I think there’s another more important aspect to that, from a process point of view. Having a kind of intimate negotiation with the materials and the physcial manifestation of making work is very, very important.

Negotiating materials physically acts as an automatic editing or filtering device – in many cases this automatically kind of filters out the things that are not essential. It acts as a purifier and focusser of your ideas. For that reason assistants are something I don’t feel necessary in my work. I’d rather negotiate the drudgery and the difficulty of whatever physical processes are involved in my work, whether its cleaning out a photographic processing machine, or doing whatever else I do.

I think otherwise you tend to do yourself out of a journey. The unexpected thoughts and feelings that come from wrestling with the actual materials themselves are gone if you hand that over to assistants or technicians. After all, everything we know about the world comes to us through our body, not just through our eyes and ears. Having that total immersion going on in whatever you practise is invaluable.

Which other Australian artists or creative people do you think are making excellent work at the moment?

I’ll give you two very different people who work in very different ways.

Gerald Murnane is a great writer of fiction. His books are incredbly ambitious. Everything he writes is sort of a long shot. It’s a characteristic which I admire in all art forms.

A musician who I admire a great deal is Richard Tognetti who works with the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

What both these two have in common, is that their creative activity seems almost as though it is happening against the odds. That to me is the consistent quality of really impressive art – whether you are listening to a great concerto or standing in front of a late Rembrandt in a museum somewhere in Europe. There is  a gathering sense of disbelief when you experience really interesting artwork, because part of you is going ‘how is this possible?’.  That applies to literature, music and great work in visual arts as well. But it’s the thing that links them all for me.

Can you list for us a few favourite resources across any media (ie specific books, journals, magazines, websites or other media) you tune in to regularly or which inspire you creatively?

I’m very interested in unpopular culture. So what I tend to read are books which have been out of print for years. So I would nominate as one of my favourite resources second hand bookshops. I think second hand bookshops are the most interesting bookshops anywhere in the world now, whether you’re in New York or London, Paris or Melbourne or Sydney.

They’re interesting because they’re almost starting to accidentally fulfil the role that libraries used to play. Whereas libraries now are being emasculated – anything that hasn’t been borrowed for more than two years is taken out, which is an apalling state of affairs and will sadly keep libraries entirely superficial and fashion prone in future. But second hand bookshops are filled up to the rafters with all this stuff which is not necessarily in vogue, so they’re a real treasure trove.

Second hand music shops that sell vinyl and CDs I find really interesting too. I like to be able to browse physically in shops – record shops and book shops. It’s a totally different thing to browsing online – because you really don’t know what’s going to catch your eye, whereas online the path people use really does involve a line of thought beforehand, so the truly unexpected doesn’t occur in the same way as it does in a physcial shop.

Do you travel much for work?

I try to avoid travel wherever possible, but I suppose being in photography particularly, once an idea clarifies itself, it might happen to be that I just need to walk down the street, but it might equally happen to be that I need to go to Egypt to get the picture.

It really depends on what’s necessary to create the pictures. I had to do a bit of work off the coast of Sicily the year before last. I had the image in my head, I knew the sort of still active volcano I wanted to photograph, sticking out of the Mediterranean, and there was no way around going there and getting the pictures. So I had to, you know, get on a plane and go there and spend a week in a helicopter going round and round.

It’s all about the picture you’re trying to get, it’s the picture that dominates the mind’s eye. You’re trying to bring something from the world of the imagination into the physcial world.  So you know, you do whatever it takes, and it’s always exciting and absorbing, but it’s a long way to go for one photograph!

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

There’s not really a typical day. I mean I have a sort of a pattern, but really nothing structured. I suppose the only thing I would say about what I do is that it’s really up to me. You know there’s no one else here to sort of say what needs doing. You have total absolute freedom and total responsibility, let’s say! It’s a double edged sword in that respect. I tend to be working most of the time.

Melbourne Questions

Which suppliers do you frequent in Melbourne for the tools or materials of your trade?

Well I have a only couple of suppliers of materials I use on an ongoing basis, and they’re very accommmodating and very professional. Kayell is the photographic and digital suppliers that I use and they’re great.

Where do you love to eat a great meal in Melbourne?

I quite like the food at Coda.

Melbourne’s best kept secret?

No point in telling you. We don’t want to spoil it. I think that more secrecy in general would be a good thing! It keeps things interesting.

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antoine d’agata’s Ice

7273956894_75b10c168d_zWrites Chloe Athanasopoulou, 2012, reblogged from here

Antoine d’Agata’s latest publication ICE continues his ongoing fascination with sex, drugs, death and dissecting taboos, finds Chloe Athanasopoulou.

Perhaps it is too soon to judge whether Antoine D’Agata’s newest incarnation, ICE, is his swan song, but undoubtedly, it is the most contextualised and revealing book he has produced so far. Refreshingly amoral, excessive beyond reason, paradoxical and seductive, his journey through the prism of the drug, metamphetamine hydrochloride or so-called ICE, is unlocked here not just by way of photography but also through extensive writing.

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Alongside already familiar photographic work produced since 2005 in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, the injections of text throughout the book, such as his personal diary, emails to and from prostitutes portrayed in ICE, his editor, and his children back in France, offer a new dimension and level of complexity to his work that refrains from repetition. ICE is not an answer, but rather a multi-layered question, a circle of construction and destruction where the chronological distance between the photographs taken becomes spirally bigger together with the intensity of the pure experience. Antoine’s ambivalence between pain and pleasure, and instinctive gravitation towards the fugitive and circumstantial leaves no space for romantic notions of idealised beauty.

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The protagonists of ICE are contemporary nymphs; abyssal and suffering, humane but still hard to reach and to keep hold of. Ka, the most beloved and indeed photographed of all the girls, is a contemporary Olympia, a Baudelairean Red Hair Beggar Girl, a queen, a prostitute, a cannibal, an anorexic desire and still, as D’Agata describes her, “taller than a mountain”. The complex relationship between the prostitutes and the photographer is exposed through the extraordinary textual part of ICE; the shocking honesty and brutal rawness from both parts in regards to sensitive matters, such as the exploitation of the sitter, intimacy, sex and love, is far from pretentious and counteracts the judgemental and reassuring predisposition of our times. ice2

The oeuvre of Antoine d’Agata has never been easy to digest and ICE is unquestionably his toughest body of work yet. The rigour and sheer determination of his quest reveals much of himself but uniquely, and crucially, opens up to the experience of his subjects.

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marilyn minter’s porn images

Big Girls

By Jane Harris

From her 1969 series of black-and-white photographs showing her own drug-addled mother lying about the house in negligees and curlers, to her recent Times Square billboards of dirt-encrusted feet in fancy high heels, Marilyn Minter has evoked the beauty of imperfection, becoming, in the process, an art-world rock star. But success was a long time coming. In the late 1980s she created a group of paintings based on hard-core pornographic photos, including money shots. Titled “Porn Grids,” these works were slammed as sexist by politically-correct critics , who assumed they spoke for all women. More than two decades on, Minter’s once-soiled reputation has been rehabilitated, and her sumptuous large-scale canvases—of female mouths in lurid close-up, slathered in lipstick, dripping sweat and spitting up pearls—have propelled her to well-deserved fame. On the occasion of a show at Soho’s Team Gallery, featuring those controversial works from the ’80s, Minter looks back at the period and shares her feelings about it.

What was the genesis of the “Porn Grid” series?
The idea came to me after seeing a Mike Kelley show in 1988 at Metro Pictures, which I thought was brilliant. He’d made stuffed animal sculptures, felt banners and decoupaged furniture with magazine cutouts of eyes and lips. And I thought if a woman artist had made this work, it would’ve been dismissed as sentimentality, and not given much attention. It got me wondering, What subject had women artists never touched? And what came to me was porn, but it couldn’t be soft-core—that had been done. It had to be hard-core, complete with money shots. Would the fact that a woman had painted them change the meaning of such images? I was asking questions I didn’t have answers for, and that was my undoing in those politically correct times.

I can’t help thinking that if a male artist like Richard Prince had made similar images back then, they would have cemented his reputation. Why do you think the reception you got was so different? Was it sexism?
People simply weren’t used to prosex feminists or women owning sexual imagery, so the press was pretty bad. And it was a blanket rejection by male and female critics alike. I’d actually thought that those on the left would have been my ally, regardless of gender. I mean, nobody has politically correct fantasies, right? Anyway, I was inconsolable at the time, and decided that if they didn’t like my work I was going to make images that were even nastier—an immature reaction on my part, I guess, because I believe artists should try to communicate, not chase people out of the room.

What were some of the criticisms that hurt the most?
Being on the losing end of a comparison with Cindy Sherman, who is a hero of mine. That was probably the worst. Also, if you work with sexual imagery and it’s rejected, it just feels like an endless wave of shame.

Why is pornography is so taboo for female artists?
There’s just this glass ceiling when it comes to women working with sexual imagery. Look at Laurel Nakadate, a really great, interesting artist. She’s making a picture of a reality that exists, and it’s never been documented by anyone, male or female. Hers is a fresh vision, and her critics dismiss it as exploitation!

I think objectification occurs whether the body is idealized or denigrated. What makes the “Porn Grid” series so relevant today is the way it rides the line between the two, refusing to adhere to an either/or position.
Telling people what to think is not interesting to me. Art is supposed to transcend the binary terms of language.

Speaking of binaries, the Team Gallery show also includes another ’80s series of yours, “Big Girls/Little Girls,” which depicts young girls in the 1950s looking into fun-house mirrors. Those were actually well received as a commentary on the cultural prescriptions of beauty. Was that what you were aiming for?
Maybe. Intentions aren’t something I think about; it’s all subliminal for me. I did get an article in Arts Magazine about that work, but it was unreadable. I had no idea what the writer was saying, and I must have read it ten times!

Reblogged from Timeout

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foucault and s&m

foucault“…Michel Foucault, in an interview for Advocate, had this to say about SM:

The idea that S&M is related to a deep violence, that S&M practice is a way of liberating this violence, this aggression, is stupid. We know very well that what all those people are doing is not aggressive; they are inventing new possibilities of pleasure with strange parts of their body – through the eroticisation of the body. I think it’s a kind of creation, a creative enterprise, which has as one of its main features what I call the desexualisation of pleasure … The possibility of using our bodies as a possible source of very numerous pleasures is something that is important. For instance, if you look at the traditional constructions of pleasure, you see that bodily pleasure, or pleasures of the flesh, are always drinking, eating and fucking. And that seems to be the limit of our understanding of our body, our pleasures.
One can say that S&M is the eroticisation of power, the eroticisation of strategic relations … the S&M game is very interesting because it is a strategic relation, because it is always fluid. Of course there are roles, but everyone knows very well that those roles can be reversed. Sometimes the scene begins with the master and slave, and at the end the slave has become the master. Or, even when the roles are stabilised, you know very well that it is always a game; either the rules are transgressed, or there is an agreement, either explicit or tacit, that makes them aware of certain boundaries. This strategic game as a source of bodily pleasure is very interesting….”

Below: from The Passion of Michel Foucault book review…

“The problem with Foucault, simply put, was his profound perversity, a quality that characterized both his life and his work. In fact, it would be all too easy to explain away Foucault’s work as the predictable consequence of a tortured psychological make-up: in this case, homosexuality and sadomasochism with a strong suicidal component. Miller, to his credit, never sucumbs to the temptation. Without judging or sensationalizing, he sets forth the dark side of Foucault’s life, from incidents of self-mutilation in his university days to his pursuit of the S&M leather-bar life in San Francisco. Miller is in many ways more direct about Foucault’s private torments than was the French journalist Didier Eribon in his recently published biography, Michel Foucault. Miller suggests that Foucault’s indifference to self-preservation was never more dramatically apparent than in his refusal to practice “safe” sex even after he learned about AIDS, the disease from which he died, at age 54, in 1984. (The less pardonable sin, if the rumors that Miller reports are true, was Foucault’s refusal to curtail his promiscuity after he knew that he had the virus.)..”
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images from a French AIDS-awareness campaign inspired by Michel Foucault’s death.

early paintings by marcus harvey

Taking his images sources from home-brew porn magazine Reader’s Wives, Marcus Harvey’s early canvases use paint as a means to explore the concept of excess. Replicating smutty urgency, Harvey’s Julie from Hull is bathed in frenzied gushy pink, a dirty allurement promising fleshy debauchery. Using a heavy black line over a thick expressionist ground, Harvey’s graphic form becomes both container and barrier of over-indulgence, the promise of gratification monumentalised and ever distant.

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2Proud of His Wife, Harvey Marcus

Dudley, Like What You See

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technically intimate by evan baden

In 2008, I began a body of work that I would come to call Technically Intimate. The work looked at how technology, especially the Internet, was changing how youth culture viewed sex, intimacy, and privacy.

I had begun the project in an attempt to document how technology was interrupting personal relationships. While doing research for the project, I stumbled across a website titled http://www.sellyoursextape.com, where real couples were paid $1,000/person for a certain amount of video footage of the couple engaged in sexual acts. The suggestions for making the films (which are downloadable from the website) suggest that the couples making the video should also document ‘real moments’ in addition to the sexual acts. They say, “…give the viewer the experience of dating your girlfriend.”

This website was of immense interest to me because of the way that the couple acted in front of the camera. Everything seemed to be overplayed and acted out. The tapes did not come off as voyeuristic, like looking in on a couple that did not know they were being watched. The couple knew very well that the camera was there and actually played to it. The introduction of the camera to the relationship dramatically changed the way that the couple interacted with each other. This was exactly the type of interference that I had been searching for.

I had originally planned on having an image of a couple involved in the process of making a sex tape, and to have that image be a small part of a larger look at how technology was cutting into all types of youth relationships. However, as I began to investigate more, I began to find many sites that trafficked in sexually charged and explicit images / videos that had been taken by young women and sent to a second person, most presumably a boyfriend. These images then somehow ended up on the Internet for the world to see. And what’s more, the images / videos seemed to move from one site to the next, spreading like a virus across the web.

What interested me about this phenomenon was the public display of what was intended to be an intimate and private act shared between two people. Other things that struck me were both the age of the subjects in the images online (although the sites claimed that all ‘models’ were at least 18 years of age) and how much the poses mimicked those of professional pornography. I began to investigate the issue of youths sending sexually charged images and found that it was actually quite common. This began my interest in how youths were beginning to redefine intimacy through the technology that was available to them, mainly cell phones and the Internet.

For Technically Intimate, I used the images that I was finding online as source material. I began to categorize the images I was finding. I then found an image that I thought exemplified a specific category. Using online resources such as Craigslist, Facebook, and MySpace, I placed ads for people to voluntarily participate in the project. Together with someone that responded to the ad placed online, we recreated the moment that the original source image found online was created. I wanted to put the found image into context, to give the character in the image a personality separate from the sexual object that they had become.

In the images that I am creating, I want to contrast the sexually charged poses with the youth and innocence of the character and their environment. I want the viewer to be unsure of what to think of the character in the image, to be torn, to be unsure whether the character is a young girl in need of protection or a sexual object to be lusted after. These are the issues that the viewer is supposed to struggle with. These are the characteristics that make the images I have created for Technically Intimatedisturbing, and what separates them from the pornographic fantasy that the found image contained. 11232.story_x_large 18571.story_x_large 18572.story_x_large 18573.story_x_large 11215.story_x_large 11216.story_x_large 11218.story_x_large 11219.story_x_large 11220.story_x_large 11221.story_x_large 11222.story_x_large

photos by thomas ruff

Taken from porn sites, Thomas Ruff’s ongoing series Nudes thwarts the urge to see more and more – and by so doing brings us back to our senses. I mean that literally – to the blurry imprecision of the senses. Several contradictory things go on depending on which photographs you are looking at (or even while looking at the same picture). Porn takes the universal desire to have sex and delivers it and improves on it: perfect bodies, no disease or impotence (as suffered by the porn-addicted Michael Fassbender in Steve McQueen’s film Shame), no heartbreak, no regrets, no consequences. But by blurring these images Ruff improves them in the opposite direction. They acquire the uncertainty of memory, the imprecision of unenacted fantasy, the unfocusable swirl of the unconscious, of dreams. Or nightmares in which the idyll becomes either leeringly horrible or ludicrous and laughable. Though they are arranged with only one thing in mind, the original lighting is coaxed into gorgeous subtleties; colours become nuanced, delicate, or expressionistically garish. Acts and actors become more intimate than – and more remote from – the way they appeared on screen. The photographs impart a lyricism to the source material; or, particularly in the recent work, they lay bare the ghastliness and vulgarity of an industry that aims to service desire so thoroughly, so instantly. Hence the poignancy of the moment in Amis’s Money when John Self wonders why, with all the hookers and porn available, he still feels the compulsion to jerk off. It’s because, he concludes, he needs a human touch.

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mama und papa by kurt kren


During the mid-1960s, Austrian experimental filmmaker Kurt Kren became momentarily associated with the confrontational performance art of the Vienna Aktionists, primarily Otto Mühl (who would later contribute to Dušan Makavejev’s great Sweet Movie) and Günter Brus. Mühl and Brus specialized in bizarre “materialaktions” in which they would act upon the human body with paint and food products, creating messy, perverse spectacles in which sexuality, bodily functions and physicality were foregrounded and explored. In 1964, Kren began filming some of these aktions, though he was not interested in being a documentarian. Instead, he took the raw materials of Mühl and Brus’ aktions and acted upon them himself, creating new works through the formal exploration of the images he gathered at these events. The results often infuriated the two provocateurs, who had desired a more straightforward documentary record of their work — Mühl would eventually begin filming his performances himself instead — but Kren’s raw, ragged films nevertheless capture the intense spirit and unfettered physicality of this scene, while crafting these images into entirely new works of his own.

His first film in this vein was Mama und Papa, based on an aktion by Mühl. This first film sets the tone for Kren’s work with the Aktionists, and especially for the color films he made with Mühl. The editing is hyper-fast and fragmentary, and carefully cycles through the same shots in a rhythmic pattern, returning again and again to the same images. This pulsating repetition shatters the cause-and-effect chains of Mühl’s aktion, but preserves its subversive power. This aktion, as with most of Mühl’s performances, consists primarily of nude models being coated with paint or food, their bodies carefully arranged and posed as though molding inanimate objects. Mühl methodically lays out his arrangements of flesh and viscous materials, focusing on the interactions of colors and forms, as though he were a painter working with the human body as his canvas. Kren’s film limns the visceral qualities of Mühl’s work; the sense of disgust is palpable, as is a feeling of profound discomfort. One can’t help but see these films and imagine the sensations: the stickiness and sliminess of the liquids, dripping off the participants’ bodies, puddling on the floor around them.

the work of jacques-andré boiffard & idols/ordures: inter-repulsion in documents’ big toes, an essay by olivier chow

Jacques-André Boiffard (1902-1961) is a French photographer, born in Paris, lived in Roche-sur-Yon. He was a medical student until 1924 when he met André Breton through Pierre Naville, a Surrealist writer, and childhood friend.

In the mid-1920s, Boiffard decided to dedicate himself to research in the Bureau of Surrealist Research, writing the preface with Paul Éluard and Roger Vitrac to the first issue of La Révolution surréaliste. Preferring photography to literature, he became Man Ray’s assistant. During the 1920s, he took portraits of the English writer Nancy Cunard and photographs of Paris which Breton used to illustrate his novel Nadja. In 1928, Boiffard was abruptly expelled from the movement for taking photographs of Simone Breton.

From 1929, Boiffard was closely associated with Georges Bataille and Documents, in which his best-known work was published, illustrating articles such as Bataille’s “The Big Toe” (1929, issue 6), Robert Desnos’ “Pygmalion and the Sphinx” (1930, issue 1), and Georges Limbour’s “Eschyle, the carnival and the civilized” (1930, issue 2). In 1930, he contributed to Un Cadavre, a pamphlet that attacked Breton.

Boiffard then set out on a world tour with fellow photographer Eli Lotar. Although partly financed by museologist Georges Henri Rivière and the Vicomte de Noailles the trip came to an early end in Tangiers. During the political turmoil of the 1930s, Boiffard was a member of the Groupe Octobre led by Jacques Prévert, and he exhibited his work as part of the Association des Écrivains et Artistes Révolutionnaires.

Following his father’s death in 1935 Boiffard resumed his studies to earn a doctorate in medicine in 1940 specializing in radiology, once and for all putting an end to his career as a photographer.

In this paper we shall explore desire from the perspective of transgression and to be precise, desire generated by the transgressive space born from the oscillation between attraction and repulsion, or what the French surrealist Georges Bataille named ‘inter-repulsion’. We shall argue that the ultimate object of inter-repulsion is death itself and as such, inter-repulsion brings forth not only the subject and its discontents but also the social with its taboos and prohibitions. Inter-repulsion will be discussed in relation to the visual culture of Documents , a dissident and short-lived surrealist journal (1929-1930) that has recently come back to life at the Hayward in the exhibition “Undercover Surrealism.” [1] One of the pièces maîtresses in the main hall of the exhibition is a photograph by Jean-Jacques Boiffard, the most prominent photographer of the journal: a photograph of a magnified big toe around which our discussion will centre. This photograph has become an emblem for a surrealism that has done away with the ‘marvellous’ – which it literally shat on – and that has shamelessly promoted the ‘low’ ( bassesse ) and the ordure : the surrealism of Georges Bataille which opposed the impossible of the real to Breton’s possible of the imagination. The big toes had a task – for Bataille, words and images always had to do something: to bring forth through the sensations of visceral reactions and gut feelings what had remained hidden and repressed. The object of repression staged in Documents was a desire rooted in death. Thus we shall argue that inter-repulsion creates a pornography of death since it shows us our darkest and most obscene object of desire. Our discussion will be divided into two sections: first we shall explore the big toe as ‘idol’, second as ‘ ordure ‘.

Documents was initially intended as a scientific review, albeit one with a unique and innovative twist. It brought together high and popular art ( beaux arts and variétés ), archaeology and ethnographic art. Documents’ ambiguous mission statement already contained the seeds of its undoing: “the most provoking as yet unclassified works of art and certain unusual productions, neglected until now, will be the object of studies as rigorous and scientific as those of archaeologists”. As soon as issue four, the provocative, disturbing and frankly monstrous became the focus of the journal and it quickly became a war machine against surrealism: “Documents made clear what surrealism was not; what, under the aegis of Breton, it could not be.” [2] It would be “the abscess burst each month from surrealism.” [3] Documents elaborated a common theoretical front against positivism and idealism reducing all images and objects (dead animals, big toes, abattoirs, ancient coins, high and ‘primitive art’) to document status. It promoted a fragmenting, magnifying and anti-aesthetic gaze on the world, privileging the monstrous and corporeal. Facts from ethnography, faits divers and variétés , religion and culture, were artificially ‘planted’ in order to anchor images and discourse in a reality that was both familiar and yet complete fantasy and fabrication. This mock reality was largely one of distortion and pastiche; a distortion that was also applied to constituted forms (mainly the human body and its architecture). Here the positivism of factual documentation, like the body itself, was perversely subverted: reality was deformed and this was placed in the service of sensations such as vertigo and disgust. The ‘facts’ that were revealed were closer to what Francis Bacon understood as facts: a brutal revelation of a hidden truth about the human condition. These were inseparable from the brutal sensations they imposed on the viewer. These visceral facts, or ‘visual instincts’, fashioned a new and powerful reality where differences between a subject and object were brutally collapsed. This is the sensational reality that the big toes managed to bring about, or in the words of Bataille: “a return to reality…means that one is seduced in a base manner, without transpositions and to the point of screaming, opening his eyes wide: opening them wide, then, before a big toe.” [4] Inter-repulsion inaugurates a brutal return to sensation – not pleasant sensations, rather as we shall demonstrate, sensations of death.

Jacques-André Boiffard’s ‘Big Toes’ were published in Documents number 6, 1929, with a text by Bataille titled ‘ Le Gros Orteil ‘. The two male big toes that appeared here are actually part of a series. Altogether there are three (two male and one female), a sort of “friendly trinity.” [5] The chiaroscuro isolates the toe from the body, providing it with a fetishistic and almost godly aura. Whereas most of the other photographs published in the journal were usually juxtaposed together in a sort of montage that reminded the viewer of the random and haphazard juxtapositions of a newspaper, the big toes stand alone in the magazine, occupying a full page. The visual brutality of the big toes and the mocking tone of the text that accompany the image, are typical of Documents : the provocative and almost ethnographic enterprise on the big toes was not dissimilar to the exploration of eccentric artistic productions, exotic cultures, sacrificial rituals and dismissed historical periods that defined Documents’ anthropological realm.

In his “ Gros Orteil ”, Bataille describes how feet, for some individuals, are sexually charged. Here Bataille cites the example of the Count of Villamediana who burnt a house in order to carry the queen and stroke her feet or foreign cultures like China where the feet of women are both deformed and venerated. As a fetish, feet and toes are abstracted from the body and turned into independent wholes charged with desire: idols. We shall name these idolised fragments of the body, ‘part-objects’ – a term that designs parts of the body, real or fantasised (penis, breast, food, faeces, toes, et cetera) invested with desire. The destiny of part-objects or ‘ érotique combinatoire [6] to use Roland Barthes’ expression, was one of Bataille’s favourite anthropological and symbolic explorations. Part-objects are celebrated in Bataille’s pornographic novels from Histoire de l’Oeil to Madame Edwarda . In Bataille’s Histoire de l’Oeil , the eye is set within a symbolic matrix and a system of correspondences. Histoire de l’Oeil , as Roland Barthes noted, is really the history of an object, its migration and metamorphosis into its symbolic equivalents. Every metamorphosis is like a new station within the migration of the object/organ. The part-object is recited throughout the novel (eye, sun, egg, and their respective seminal liquids), revealing the humid substance of a round phallicism. In Madame Edwarda , Madame Edwarda asks the narrator if he wants to sees her ‘ vilaines guenilles ‘. She exposes her ‘old rags’, a source of anxious fascination. From within these revolting guenilles emanates a dirty gaze that stares at the narrator like a Medusean ‘ pieuvre répugnante’ . When the narrator asks her why she does this, she tells him: “Tu vois…je suis DIEU”. [7] In Madame Edwarda , God is a genital revelation. Madame Edwarda’s ‘gazing beast’ is god-like: totemic and sovereign. The big toe photographed by Boiffard is also staged like a genital, repugnant and sovereign creature.

Binet’s seminal essay on fetishism, Le Fétichisme dans l’Amour (1887) was well known to Bataille. It dedicated a few pages to the account of various forms of fetishism related to inanimate objects or fractions of the body, real or symbolic such as hand, feet, hair, eye, voice and smell. Binet combines his theory of fetishism as a sexual perversion with the aesthetics of fetishism. According to Binet, fetishism tends to detach and isolate the part-object from the person to which it belongs. The fetishist tends to transform this part-object into an independent whole. The part-object is thus an abstraction according to Binet. This tendency towards abstraction is also supplemented by a tendency towards generalisation: the cult of the fetishist is not oriented towards a part-object belonging to one specific person. On the contrary, the part-object stands for a sort of genre or ‘monotheism’ to use Binet’s expression that is not attached to one individual specifically but to one abstracted fragment. Finally, Binet observes that there is a tendency towards exaggeration: the volume or the importance of the part-object is enhanced.

The fetishistic photographic process confers the big toe with a new status as part-object ready to be mapped out by desire and sexualised. The big toe’s sexual persona is here evidently exposed as obscene. Boiffard has mimicked the fetishist gaze observed by Binet. The toes are isolated from their bodies, fragmented, enlarged, staged and dramatised. The magnified, blown-up toes seem impossibly real: ugly, hairy, genital-like. We are literally put face to face with their excessive and nauseous reality. The photographs are cropped, the angle imposes a violent deformation on the toe – they are upside down, brought down if such an operation were possible. It is a portrait that transgresses and subverts the very idea of what a portrait should be: the highest and most noble part of the body has been thrown away and transformed into a grotesque, absurd and scandalous ‘other face’.

The framing of the toe is an act of violence set against the human figure. Bataille’s text refers to material and visual operations of abuse and violence such as “deformation”, “infection”, “tortures”, “pain”, “brutal”. Those forces that deform the human figure are violent forces that Bataille equates with forces of entropy and decomposition, such as those that attack the corpse. The deformation or “alteration” of the human figure was an essential strategy in Bataillean aesthetics: “the word alteration provides the double advantage of expressing a partial decomposition similar to that of corpses and at the same time the expression of the passage to a perfectly heterogeneous state that the protestant professor Otto named the ‘wholly other’, that is the sacred.” [8]

In his classic study of the Holy, the German theologian, philosopher and historian of religions Rudolf Otto (1869-1937), situates the sacred in relation to an a priori emotional structure, the numinosum . In the experience of the numinous, the subject experiences a feeling of intimate dependence towards a higher and independent force. The experience of the “wholly other” [9]: is what Otto describes as “creature-consciousness”. This “creature-feeling” is “the emotion of a creature, abased and overwhelmed by its own nothingness in contrast to that which is supreme above all creatures.” [10] This experience is fundamentally ambivalent, a mélange of attraction and repulsion: this mysterium tremendum is an uncanny experience of awfulness, an awfulness that lies beyond the realm of knowledge, producing a feeling of peculiar dread, a “terror fraught with inward shuddering.” [11] The big toes reek of these creepy “creature feelings”.

Boiffard has also captured the fetish’s destiny as fixation. William Pietz, one of the leading commentators on fetishism, defines the fetish in the following terms: “The fetish is always a meaningful fixation of a singular event; it is above all a ‘historical’ object, the enduring material form and force of an unrepeatable event.” [12] This unrepeatable and traumatic event could be rooted in early childhood beliefs and complexes. Freud and psychoanalysis argue fetishism is linked to the experience of shock that comes about once the absence of a maternal penis is revealed. The fetish becomes a substitute for the penis and a disavowal of that lack. The captions for this big toe could be: “it is not really gone as long as I’m here”. The body as site of revelation of the phallus was a common surrealist visual strategy. One of its most famous expressions is Man Ray’s anatomies (1930). The idea behind that specific visual operation was to de-territorialise bodies, rendering them polymorphously perverse and ‘genital’ by liberating desire from the conventional and limiting mappings of the erogenous zones.

Read the rest here

reblogged from fleurmach

dangerous liaisons: the story of sartre and de beauvoir

He was one of the most brilliant minds. She was his lifelong companion who pioneered feminism.

Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir were perhaps the most influential couple of the 20th century.

Their legendary love pact – they never married but swore mutual devotion to each other with the freedom to have affairs – was an attempt to overthrow the stifling hypocrisy that, for so long, had dictated most people’s lives.

Serial seducers: Simone de Beauvoir and lover Jean-Paul Sartre, whose writing paved the way for our Godless permissive times, lived private lives of utter depravity

Always pushing new boundaries, they explored their thoughts in novels, plays and philosophical works.

It earned Sartre the world’s greatest literary accolade, the Nobel Prize.

Yet he refused to accept it because he thought it would make him an establishment figure and thus silence his inquiring mind.

Their private lives were wildly experimental. Simone de Beauvoir had affairs with both men and women, while Sartre, despite his stunted stature and ugly squint, was always surrounded by adoring muses happy to pamper his genius.

When he died in 1980, 50,000 people turned out on to the Paris streets.

But that was not the end of the story. For their influence continues to this day – often with disastrous consequences.

For this luminous pair, who were at the peak of their fame just after World War II, arguably legitimised the Godless and permissive society in which we now live.

On the other hand, de Beauvoir to her credit became an iconic figure for feminism and the battle for equality between the sexes.

Yet a fascinating new book paints this supposedly high-minded duo as serial seducers bent on their own gratification and as a couple who used their apparently lofty philosophy as a springboard to excuse their multiple liaisons, often with under-age teenagers who were broken by the experience.

And while Simone de Beauvoir preached her ideal of feminist independence and equality, eschewing such ‘bourgeois’ concepts as marriage and children, and claiming women should behave just like men, the truth is such a lifestyle made her bitterly unhappy and she became obsessively jealous over Sartre’s countless conquests.

Despite her high-flown rhetoric, it was only for revenge and out of frustration that she embarked on affairs, always secretly hoping they would provoke Sartre to return to her.

And, astonishingly, it was her craven desire to please him that led de Beauvoir to groom young female lovers for Sartre, commonly girls she had bedded herself.

In this sordid relationship of supposed equals, he was always one step ahead of her – though it didn’t start that way.

Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir bonded as soon as they met as students in Paris in 1929.

Simone had decided to qualify as a secondary school teacher, a calling only just available to women. She was one of the first women to take the exams at Paris’s Sorbonne university.

Sartre, three years older and driven by a hatred of his provincial stepfather, was a thief and a teenage tearaway, until he realised his brilliant school results made him a magnet to women.

At the Sorbonne, Sartre liked to shock his fellow students. At one dance, he turned up naked; at a university ball he paraded a hooker in a red dress.

But when he met the beautiful, young Simone he was entranced. She was as intelligent as any man, and, similarly disenchanted with her bourgeois family, she shared his fascination with the Paris underworld.

After their finals, in which he passed top, and she second, Sartre proposed marriage.

Simone refused – not for any philosophical reason but because she was sleeping with one of his best friends.

And so on October 1, 1929, Sartre suggested their famous pact: they would have a permanent ‘essential’ love.

They would sleep together and have affairs on the side which they must describe to each other in every intimate detail.

During the first years, Sartre embarked on the arrangement with gusto. He liked to sleep with virgins, after which he rapidly lost interest.

This left the highly sexed Simone, now teaching philosophy, constantly frustrated, despite the lovers she took.

It was when she developed a relationship with one of her young female pupils that the first of her love triangles with Sartre came about.

When Sartre had a breakdown after experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs, Simone asked her new lover to nurse him.

But she was not prepared for the crippling jealousy she felt when Sartre tried to seduce not only the girl but her younger sister as well.

Simone’s reaction to Sartre’s faithlessness was to sleep with another of her pupils, and when Sartre retaliated by deflowering another virgin, Simone pinched her lover’s 21-year-old boyfriend.

If this couple expected their arrangement would spare them the trials and heartache of a conventional marriage, they were wrong.

Their multiple affairs went on until World War II when Sartre was called up and their sex games had to be conducted through letters.

Left behind in Paris, Simone continued to seduce both men and women, writing titillating descriptions of her activities to Sartre behind the Maginot Line, which reveal her heartlessness and the vulnerability of her conquests.

Today, she would be behind bars for her sexual activities with her young pupils, but in those days she got away with it.

Tragically, the lives of these girls, who were pathologically jealous of each other over their teacher’s attentions, were permanently blighted.

One took to self-harming, another committed suicide. Most remained pathetically unfulfilled and dependent on the childless Simone, who perversely referred to them as her ‘family’.

Yet Simone had no maternal feelings for them at all. She showed no empathy even when one of them, a Jewish girl whom she seduced when she was 16, nearly lost her life at the hands of the Nazis who were advancing on Paris.

Simone’s lack of scruples extended to her war record.

She took no part in the Resistance, like other writers of the time, concentrating on her sex life.

Indeed, the only thing that aroused her to action was the pregnancy of one of her entourage.

She found the condition of pregnancy ‘insulting’ because it was an impediment to woman’s self-fulfilment in the wider world, and Simone arranged an illegal backstreet abortion which nearly ended the girl’s life.

Sartre’s war record was equally dubious. Captured by the Germans, he got on so well with his guards that he managed to engineer his release in 1941.

But he did not rush straight into Simone’s arms. He had been in Paris with another woman for two weeks before he told her he was free.

In 1940, when the Germans occupied Paris, Sartre’s first reaction was to preach resistance, yet he soon lost interest and, instead, accepted the teaching post a Jewish professor had been forced to leave by the Nazis.

Sartre even fraternised with the German censor when he wanted his work published.

Since the couple were free to come and go as they pleased, the war proved one of the most exciting periods of their lives and the one which has gone down in history.

Writing in the pavement cafes of St Germain, with Picasso and his mistress at the next table, and going to nightclubs with the black-clad singer Juliette Greco, they enjoyed themselves to the hilt, fully expecting the Germans would remain in Paris for at least 20 years.

They now had at least five lovers between them – men and girls – all sleeping with each other.

It was too much for the mother of one pupil who brought an official complaint in 1943 against de Beauvoir, accusing her of corrupting a minor and acting as procurer in handing her daughter over to Sartre.

The charges failed to stick because de Beauvoir’s little ‘family’ closed ranks and lied.

And though Simone lost her teaching job, she compensated for it by publishing her first novel.

Born from her real life experiences, it was about a menage a trois. Sartre’s weighty philosophical tome Being And Nothingness was also published that year.

This was the rallying cry of existentialism, the creed that preaches there is no God and that man and woman are, therefore, free to do as they will.

It would become the bible of our licentious times, taken up by liberals everywhere in the West, and yet it was practically ignored at first.

Sartre drowned his sorrows at its lack of success with rampant womanising, this time in the company of the writer of the moment – the handsome, tall, dark Algerian Albert Camus, who joined in most of the couple’s sex games.

Camus slept with all their impressionable young girls, but he could not bring himself to sleep with Simone herself whom he found ‘a chatterbox, a blue stocking, unbearable’.

As an Allied victory became inevitable, Sartre began to paint himself once again as a Resistance fighter and, as such, was lionised when he visited America in 1945.

Sartre had always said the best way to learn about a country was to sleep with its women.

In New York he chose Dolores Vanetti, a radio journalist. Within two days he was in her bed and was soon proposing marriage.

Left behind in Europe, de Beauvoir fought back by sleeping with a succession of married men and telling Sartre all about it. Yet when he finally returned to Paris, he ignored her completely and moved in with his mother.

Simone threw herself into her work and, after a visit of her own to America in 1947, she wrote her most important book, The Second Sex.

The Americans did not take to Simone as they had to Sartre. They disliked her drinking, they mocked her clothes and they noticed her faint whiff of body odour.

She, in turn, disliked the bland faces of American women who did everything they could to please their men. The American woman she really did not care for was, of course, her love rival Dolores Vanetti.

And it was to take revenge on Dolores and Sartre that she fell into bed with the Chicago writer Nelson Algren.

The two had much in common, as she couldn’t wait to tell Sartre. Algren was a Bohemian, a rebel, a Leftwinger – and he could match her drink for drink.

As she committed such details to paper, she longed for Sartre to insist on her immediate return to Paris. But he told her not to come back – Dolores had joined him.

Stunned by his rejection, Simone abandoned herself to Algren. She was 39, she hadn’t had a lover for many months, and now, for the first time in her life, she experienced a ‘complete orgasm’ and fell in love.

Before she left America, Algren bought her a cheap silver ring which she would wear for the rest of her life.

But he was not prepared for Simone’s fidelity to Sartre. Though she professed in many letters that she loved Algren passionately, she would not leave Jean-Paul.

‘I am awfully greedy,’ she wrote. ‘I want everything from life, I want to be a woman and to be a man.’

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nobuyoshi araki in conversation with kohei yoshiyuki (1979)

NOBUYOSHI ARAKI: I don’t know you that well. I know who you are, but readers don’t know much about you. Why don’t you tell them about yourself? I’m sure they would like to know when you were born, for instance. How old are you? What interests you? What kind of work are you doing? I’ll bet you’re not in your twenties.

KOHEI YOSHIYUKI: I was born in 1946.

NA: As the genius of photography, I’d like to introduce Yoshiyuki Kohei to our readers. You created a huge sensation by taking voyeuristic photographs of people having sex, and of voyeurs – peepers – watching people having sex, with infrared film. A lot of people made a lot of noise about them, but my critique consisted of exactly one line: “These are what I call photographs” (laughter). After that we met and chatted now and then, but I haven’t seen you for quite a while. Recently I received an invitation to your solo show. I couldn’t go because I was busy, but I mentioned it to the editor of Weekend Super, and heard later that he went to see it. When I asked him about it, he said he liked the way the photographs were exhibited.

KY: I turned out all the lights in the space, and gave each visitor a flashlight. That way I was reconstructing the original settings. I also blew the photos up to life size.

NA: You recreated the original settings. I didn’t get to the exhibition, so I don’t know exactly what you mean. Viewers went into a dark room with a flashlight and looked at the photographs? But that way, you can only see part of them.

KY: Yes, that’s how I wanted them to be viewed. I wanted people to look at the bodies in the photographs an inch at a time. But this is an uneasy situation. When it’s completely dark, the whole photograph is illuminated, but the viewer looks at it section by section. My original concept involved a corridor where points of light would be focused on the photographs. Viewers would look at them slowly … carefully.

NA: I see what you mean.

KY: They might even touch the photos. That’s how I wanted to exhibit them. But then I realized that viewers would suffer if I forced them to look at the photographs in that way. So, that time I just used a board as a partition in the middle of the space.

NA: I didn’t see the photographs, but that sounds interesting. And I think people could see what you were aiming for. But you’re focusing too much on how you show them. Five years ago, you wanted to exhibit them in a certain way, and the idea implanted itself in your brain until it became sort of an obsession. It’s like coming into some money and deciding to buy a nice gift for a girl you had a crush on long ago.

KY: Yeah, I guess you could say that.

NA: And it’s how you’d feel when the girl said, “Oh no, nobody does that anymore,” isn’t it?

KY: In a way.

NA: The photographs are definitely good, so maybe you should have exhibited them more straightforwardly. They are powerful enough to thrill anyone who comes to see them. The type of exhibition you’re talking about reminds me of a woman trapped in a bad relationship.

KY: I really enjoyed watching people looking at the photographs. Since the points of light were also their lines of sight, I saw things that were totally unexpected.

NA: That kind of thing was the mainstream in contemporary art not too long ago. If you asked me, I’d say go back to simple ways of exhibiting photographs. I’d tell fine artists to return to oil paintings and photographers to return to photographs.

KY: But your activities have a conceptual aspect to them.

NA: Yes, but when you exhibit photographs, you have to do it with conviction. And I heard you didn’t issue many invitations. That was a bad idea. It’s a shame you didn’t make a really spectacular gesture.

KY: I’m a coward.

NA: Cowards don’t go around spying on people and photographing them having sex. What was your motivation?

KY: It had never occurred to me to take that kind of photograph. I knew about peeping, though, and then one day I stumbled onto a scene – an incredible scene (laughter). That was when I was still an amateur. At that time, there weren’t many skyscrapers in front of Chuo Park in Shinjuku. There was a model apartment in one of them. I was walking behind it with a friend (we had just finished a shoot), when we saw something amazing!

NA: “Something.” I like your choice of words.

KY: Yes! I was shocked. They were actually fucking.

NA: They were?

KY: Yes. When I saw them, I knew this was something I had to photograph.

NA: You didn’t right then?

KY: I had my camera, but it was dark. After that I did some research. I found out that Toshiba made flashbulbs – infrared flashbulbs. Before I had a chance to use more than a few of them, they were discontinued. Then I looked around for filters, and ended up using two tricolor separation filters. After a while I heard that Kodak had some flashbulbs, so I used them. At that time, infrared flash units didn’t exist. Sunpak came out with them after I took these photos.
NA: So they’re making them now?

KY: Yes. Anybody can take photographs like these.

NA: Wow! Guess I won’t be able to have sex in dark places anymore. Are the people you photograph totally unaware of what’s going on? I’ve never used equipment like that, so I have no idea.

KY: The light flashes – a red light. I’d better not say any more (laughter).

NA: Like the lights on a passing car, from the subjects’ point of view?

KY: That’s right. Anyway, they’re so engrossed in what they’re doing that even a lot of light shouldn’t faze them.

NA: Let’s have a look at the photos. Yeah, these are amazing! Because they’re really fucking. Look at him giving it to her! You need a lot of nerve to take photographs like these. Mine are so pseudo-documentaries, so everything is staged (laughter). These days it’s the women who are aggressive. At Shinjuku Gyoen, for instance, the women are on top.

KY: I saw that sometimes, too. But I can’t photograph that. If the guy’s on the bottom, he’ll notice the camera.

NA: Look at this one!

KY: This is the real thing, too. But the guy was hopeless. He couldn’t get it up. The ambience made him self-conscious, I guess. I was right near them, listening and thinking he’d get it together. But then he said, “It’s no good” (laughter).

NA: The wonderful thing about this photograph is that it shows the peeper. It’s a self-portrait. It shows your shadow. I really like that. It’s probably strange to talk about photography theory in a context like this, but this is what a photograph is supposed to be. Oh, look, the peeper is touching her. He’s assisting. Wasn’t it hard to shoot these photographs?

KY: Well, it’s harder to photograph the peepers. But at that time, nobody ever dreamed they’d be photographed. I had a tiny camera with a flash attachment. I think it would be almost impossible to do that now.

NA: But you could do it openly, couldn’t you? Just grab one shot with your flash, and then run.

KY: I guess so. Maybe that’s the way to do it.

NA: Then you get different reactions. Maybe the peepers would be more upset at you than the couples for spoiling their fun, and start chasing you. Then you’d photograph their reaction.

KY: Maybe if I took sequential photographs. Wonder what would happen if I yelled out to them while they’re doing it, then took a flash photo.

NA: That’s an excellent idea. What I’ve been doing is taking photographs at night with a small flash, declaring, “These lightscapes are obscene!” It’s fun when you have only seconds to get a shot, and the reaction is very clear.

KY: Yes, it is fun.

NA: Maybe everybody will be doing it this summer, once word about the Sunpak flash-unit spreads.

KY: I heard the company got a lot of inquiries after my show.

NA: Uh, oh!

KY: Yeah. I won’t be able to do my work (laughter).

NA: You mean nobody has ever come after you when you took photos like this?

KY: Never.

NA: Wow! Maybe you’re a Ninja.

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pleasure and pain

 

“Eribon (French journalist Didier Eribon, who wrote an earlier biography ) notes that at school, where Goya’s horrific etchings of the victims of war decorated his walls, Foucault was “almost universally detested.” Schoolmates remember him as brilliant, but also aloof, sarcastic, and cruel. He several times attempted—and more often threatened—suicide. Self-destruction, in fact, was another of Foucault’s obsessions, and Miller is right to underscore Foucault’s fascination with death. In this, as in so much else, he followed the lead of the Marquis de Sade, who had long been one of his prime intellectual and moral heroes. (Though, as Miller notes, Foucault felt that Sade “had not gone far enough,” since, unaccountably, he continued to see the body as “strongly organic.”) Foucault came to enjoy imagining “suicide festivals” or “orgies” in which sex and death would mingle in the ultimate anonymous encounter. Those planning suicide, he mused, could look “for partners without names, for occasions to die liberated from every identity.”…

“Foucault joined again in the orgies of torture, trembling with “the most exquisite agonies,” voluntarily effacing himself, exploding the limits of consciousness, letting real, corporeal pain insensibly melt into pleasure through the alchemy of eroticism… . Through intoxication, reverie, the Dionysian abandon of the artist, the most punishing of ascetic practices, and an uninhibited exploration of sadomasochistic eroticism, it seemed possible to breach, however briefly, the boundaries separating the conscious and unconscious, reason and unreason, pleasure and pain—and, at the ultimate limit, life and death—thus starkly revealing how distinctions central to the play of true and false are pliable, uncertain, contingent.”

From The Passion of Michel Foucault by James Miller

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Image

birds

Photography by wildlife photographer C. A. S. Hubbard and Nobuyoshi Araki´s polaroids