A friend thinks there's too much artwork out there using redacted porno (see my earlier post discussing the work of Laura Carton, Istvan Szilasi, Jon Haddock, and Kathy Grove). She just forwarded a couple of e-announcements for exhibitions on this theme:
Michel Auder, opening Thursday, September 25, 2003, 7-9pm, at PARTICIPANT INC, 95 Rivington Street, NYC. "Auder will exhibit two bodies of recent photographic works, 'Orchard Street,' and his ongoing series, 'Details.' [...] 'Details' are conscientiously rendered minutiae, anthologized fragments from pornography websites. As if he has become indifferent toward the central action, Auder looks toward the peripheries, bringing into focus lush yet mundane details of décor and surface texture."

SMART Project Space, Amsterdam, September 26. "A multiple projection program of historical sex films from the dark vaults of Martha Colburn’s personal film collection. A special humorous addition to the program is a section of specially re-edited pornographic films whereby the many sex scenes have been deleted. These are mostly silent films and will be accompanied by 45’s dj-ed by Colburn and trombone/electronics by Hilary Jefferies and Felipe Waller. For the most part this is an ‘R’ rated show. XXX will be optional later in the evening."
Returning to my friend's criticism: certainly, in the late '80s/early '90s we learned what happened when you don't edit sexual content: artists lose funding and museum directors get hauled off to the hoosegow. The Republican Senator jerking off to 4-star hotel porn will freak out utterly if the same content appears in a museum. Is editing out the good stuff a way for artists to talk about a rival image-based, consciousness-shaping industry without getting in trouble? Or worse, do artists have an inherent bias towards good taste that makes them bypass the sweaty main attraction and concentrate on the decor? As mentioned earlier, Laura Carton does a good job of connecting porn to other aspects of Western life, showing the amusing range of locations where doin' the nasty takes place: rural mail drops, dentist's offices, miniature golf courses, whitewater rafts. Otherwise, I'm not sure how much can be learned from an endless succession of empty motel interiors. "Damn, there's a lot of pile carpet and fake wood paneling in the world!"

My own contribution to the genre was a piece called Web Cam Girl, 2000, which I displayed in an Open Studio Tour that year. I deleted the "hot" photos capped off a paysite and showed 25 pics of a very normal, vivacious Canadian girl mugging for the camera. Reactions from my walk-in visitors were interesting. Many had to be told what the pictures were. Men tended to look down at the floor, and one woman needled her husband with "Is that one of the sites you go to, honey?" Women were very curious about the logistics of camming for cash (the phenom being still relatively new) and I answered like I knew something--I was bullshitting, honest! My standard rap included a discussion of self-empowerment, removing the predatory male shutterbug from the loop, a discussion of the tropes of mugging and, yes, background decor and the capper: that these pics were just as significant as Cindy Sherman's. Erudite as the discussion was, most polite listeners had the same thought balloon over their heads: "Pornhound!"

- tom moody 9-24-2003 10:01 am

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