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Censor This!Umělec magazine 2010/2
Tony Ozuna | erotica | en cs de ru
Talking about narcissism, I was once in a pseudo soft-porn movie, but just as an extra. It’s called Blue Movie and of course it’s not Warhol’s film of the same name. It was a B-Movie that was never released: it didn’t even go straight to video—instead it went straight to oblivion. It was a seminal attempt to make a movie like Zack and Miri Make a Porno, but instead it had two college-aged male dolts instead of one (i.e. Zack), who, in a financial fix, try to make a killing by doing a sex film. My cameo has me standing in a ‘dirty’ alley in line with other guys (including my friends Chris from the punk rock band Claw Hammer, and Mike from Action Now), fully-clothed but eager to be extras in the filming of a porno film. We all look seedy and kind of mean, but even more than that; totally ridiculous or just lame, which is probably why the film was never released to the public.This was in the 1980s...in Hollywood.
While the real action was back in 1969, in Europe, when VALIE EXPORT, born in Linz, then an artist from Vienna’s actionists’ circle stormed into an art-house theatre in Munich with pants that were crotchless, and according to some accounts (or more accurately myth), she was gripping a machine gun. With or without a gun in her hands, she marched up and down in front of the mostly male audience and challenged them to engage with her, a “real woman,” not one that is just an image for them (those voyeurs!) to essentially only look at and then masturbate to in the dark. This Viennese-style guerilla performance by EXPORT was titled Action Pants: Genital Panic (Aktionshose: Genitalpanik).
Art and porn have been at each others throats ever since and to prove the point, The Porn Identity exhibit at Kunsthalle Wien in 2009 was only ‘kind of’ subversive, since in its context at MuseumsQuartier it had a provocative allure but also that stain of reproach that EXPORT set in place.
The main rooms of Kunsthalle Wien were like a peep-show, meaning video monitors were placed at eye-level with lots of sex as well as Louisa Achilles’s Naked Feminist with its selected/related interviews with actresses, including the performance artist and ex-porn actress Annie Sprinkle and the ‘bonafide’ superstar of porn, Marilyn Chambers for her roles in films like Insatiable, and Behind the Green Door; there were also more arty-experimental films (especially in gay porn), including scenes by Kenneth Anger and Jean Genet, and pioneering contemporary sex-scenes by dirty rascals like Ron Jeremy, Sachiko Hanai, Snoop Dogg, Bruce LaBruce, and Jack the Zipper. In all, the maze of videos was ultimately smut of both the highest and the lowest order, from the 1940s to the present.
At its peak (not referring here to the countless erect penises), there were instances when the viewer was caught in traps of habit or expectation, and foiled at the hand of the artist. For instance, Johannes Wohnseifer’s tricky installation was right at the entrance. His In Front of the Green Door (1996), was a green door, ajar, and inside the room there was a porno movie playing: people, or at least men, visiting the gallery naturally tried to open the door to go into the dark room (as if it were a video booth), but the door was stuck in place, so you could only peep through the partially opened door, but it was forbidden to enter. The video playing was Possessions by the ‘erotic artist’ and film-maker Andrew Blake, with Marilyn Chambers in a night-time lesbian scene beside a pool—in the hills of Hollywood, where else?
Eventually the scenes of rampant copulation in close-up views, especially scenes of penetration in all their glorious and colorful variation and some in utter outrageousness became monotonous even boring, as is porn in general. Just as porn has its creative limitations to keep viewers attention, only a few of the works can break out of the ghetto that they are either a product of, inspired by, or succumb to by their incorporation in this exhibit. A recreation of Marcel Duchamp’s ready-made Bicycle Wheel (1951) is seemingly a part of the exhibit, as something else to look at, besides all the dirty pictures.
There was also one of the icy nude female sculptures from Stanley Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange, used in the Korova milk-bar scenes, though scenes from his last film, Eyes Wide Shut, would have been equally fitting in Vienna. Overall, exploring the full scope of pornography’s impact on art, media and pop culture was the primary goal of the curators Thomas Edlinger, Angela Stief, and Florian Waldvogel. After all, consider Madonna, who has become nothing more than an overblown burlesque sex-show for the mainstream. Madonna’s flesh would have been too tame for this exhibit.
Only a few video works, like Ellen Cantor’s The Dictator and his Maid (2005), were able to transcend the porn-ghetto, by appearing to be a stereotypical master and servant affair then turning it into a hypnotic ritual of charged mutual seduction. Beyond this, The Rainbow Wall was a collective effort by the curators, and essentially it was a wall of twenty five video screens—five high and five across, with identical scenes shown in a colorful choreography, meaning it showed five scenes at a time, but the scene appeared in a vertical row. Side-by-side, the scenes were like a porn mash-up, placing shots of Betty Page beside hard-core homo and hetero-banging, in chic interiors both cheesy and bizarre.
In a film review of Zack and Miri Make a Porno, by Steffen Silvis, the former (and legendary) Prague Post reviewer likened porn to a “merely carnal wallpaper for ill-lit rooms and lurid digs.” And this describes The Rainbow Wall specifically and the The Porn Identity in general, most succinctly: it was all essentially carnal wallpaper for a prestigious Viennese art museum trying to pose as a lurid dig.
Meanwhile, back on the Prague scene, Annie Sprinkle’s, Her-Story of Porn (1973-1998), was recently retold (screened on video) at Prague’s 5th Floor Gallery alongside other genitally-focused videos by Sprinkle and her exotic-erotic photos done in collaboration with Charles Greenwood. As Sprinkle the sexologist defines the two, “erotica is sex just using a feather, whereas in porn, you use the whole chicken.” This was part of the show, Virtual Libido, Real Ecstasy, which also included Nadine Blandiche, Josef Bolf, Veronika Bromová, Martin Gerboc, H.R. Giger, Vlastimil Kula, Jiří Petrbok, and Irina Polin, and some of which was previously exhibited in Banská Bystrica in Slovakia in 2008.
Sprinkle’s Her-Story recalls the greatest scenes of her porno-past alongside her performance art-porn ongoing sexual experimentation spanning two and a half decades. The extreme close-ups of genitals fucking are like blooming flowers for Sprinkles, or so she acts, even when she is fucking a frog prince or midgets. Of course, she gets herself into fetish, kinky sex films including leather whips and chains, bondage and even some censored scenes from the earliest and most decadent 1970s period of her escapades.
Unfortunately, there are also sex scenes with an invalid’s body parts—for instance, an amputees’ half arm and something she calls ‘rainbow scenes’ which are vomiting parties while having sex. She submits herself to spanking and practices penis torture, she is then part of a gruesome devil cult orgy rape scene, and since Sprinkles later gets into tantric-sex and sexual spirituality, the overall message is narcissistic when Annie shifts to her positive “sex is love” new age mantra. Recalling VALIE EXPORT’s guerilla theatre/ feminist assault on the porno house, Annie Sprinkle does the same but takes on the seedy-looking men inside in a different way. She ends up giving numerous blow jobs and getting fucked in the seats with a mic to her vagina—basically, everyone gets inside Annie in Her-Story.
Such exhibits with flagrant and even outrageous sex scenes are not common in Prague, and even pornography is a relatively new phenomena. Prague may have become a sex-tourist and porn capital, overcoming its rival Budapest, but the art scene does not reflect this very often.
Enter the Czech artist Lenka Klodová (born 1969 in Opava) who teaches the course Porno Studies in Brno at FAVU’s Department of Theater & Design, atelier of Body Design under Jana Preková.
Klodová goes back to the roots of pornography starting from Pompei and the ‘obscene’ or sexually explicit sculptures and paintings/drawings found on walls, which were preserved under volcanic dust for centuries and recovered only in the 18th century. However, such works were immediately confined to hidden or secret pornography museums in Naples. These were works not to be displayed to the public, but kept in ‘obscene rooms’ with strict rules and restrictions to limit access—keeping such art back-stage.
Klodová’s course lasts two semesters and by the second term, she is examining the classic porn film from 1972, Deep Throat, paying special attention to Linda Lovelace’s orgasms, or rather, how the director Gerard Rocco Damiano’s depicts her orgasm in blasts of fireworks and assorted explosions. Before this Czech porn/ erotica had its place in the collages and photographs of Jindřich Štýrský and the paintings and drawings of Toyen in the interwar period and for our contemporary times, porn magazines and videos especially the “amateur” works with their specialized publications are examined at the end.
On the last day of her class, at the end of her lecture, Klodová unclothes herself and exits the room. The show is over. She points out, however, that she does not do a striptease for her students, inspired by the words of Roland Barthes from his famous essay Striptease. “Woman is desexualized at the very moment when she is stripped naked,” says Barthes or, as he himself would describe it, Klodová undresses without any mystifying spectacle or exoticism—and moreover, without any Frenchness!
Klodová’s lectures are not as popular as one would expect, just eight to twelve students on average, which is almost scandalous since after all, the porno studies class is intimately linked with the history of art and for those who would bother to research both, some of the most degenerate and yet aesthetically captivating scenes from porn classics like Behind the Green Door, Deep Throat, etc. have been a sacred cove of inspiration for successful artists ever since, but it would appear even more so in the 1990s and the present from art stars like Jeff Koons and Mathew Barney to Vanessa Beecroft (who seems to get her special inspiration from the Italian soft-core porn maestro Tinto Brass). After all, porn (whether hard or soft core) is a phenomenally successful business, and for the art superstars of today, so is their art.