There was a big Hokusai show in Berlin at (I think) Martin Gropius Bau a couple of years ago, I went to see with Dasniya. No Shunga. No pervy octopus tentacle porn. Not even a mention. But in Marbella, in the small but very nice MGEC Museo del Grabado Español Contemporáneo, in the very unexpected exhibition, Estampa japonesa — Imágenes del mundo flotante, amidst three rooms of Japanese Edo and Meiji era prints, a whole wall of Shunga. And this one, from Katsukawa Shunchō’s: series, Imayō irokumi no ito. One of my absolute favourites, just hanging on the wall in a small museum in Marbella.
On the afternoon of my hectic 36-hour round-trip to Marbella / Puerto Banùs, I had a couple of free hours in the afternoon. I could have slept, but I figured I’d be all perky at 10pm and needed some distractions. Museums, then. Yes, Marbella has one: MGEC Museo del Grabado Español Contemporáneo, in the old town, down an alley on the north-east corner of the big church (very tourist; much eye-watering Catholic art), in a former late-Renaissance hospital.
I hadn’t looked at the museum’s website properly, mainly because I was rather thrilled to have found any suitable distraction for the afternoon, and had no idea what to expect. Straight into Picasso and Miró. Straight out and up the stairs into 3 rooms of Japanese Edo and Meiji era prints. I really wasn’t expecting that. And I really, really wasn’t expecting to see Shunga in an exhibition like this. Saving on of those for its own post. That good. So here, without much elaboration, pretty much every piece in Estampa japonesa — Imágenes del mundo flotante. As usual, besides straightening, cropping, and a bit of colour-balancing, this is pretty much what my now rather old Panasonic LX7 saw. The lighting was awkward (the usual direct light glare on glass type nonsense), I am very out of practice in visiting museums and photographing art, they’re all on the underexposed side and tinted a bit blue … excuses. Fuck it. I’m not much for omens, but stumbling into this after the whole reason I was in Marbella in the first place was Pretty Bloody Significant, if you know what I mean.
Some rather nice art has fallen my way recently, falling around something that might become abjection. Of course it induces controversy, squeamishness and nervous laughter, the kind that says, ‘I don’t understand this and maybe I don’t want to.”
I wasn’t sure how to write about all this. At first I thought I’d make a separate post for each one, then thought the two exhibitions with trans* people in them should go together, though awkward because of the dogmatic and shrill noise from a couple of trans* blogs. One of the pieces – Buck and Allanah – I discovered on the blog of a trans porn star, which in a roundabout way comes over to alien tentacle rape. To avoid more confusion, I decided to throw it all here.
Emile and I sit somewhere in Berlin talking about art (well, mostly making noises, and sometimes talking about art). Tentacle porn comes up, thinking of Hokusai and my wondering where this might exist now. Emile sends me some links. Genki Genki. I wonder how nice this might be to do while suspended upside down.
I’m not sure when I started reading Danielle Foxx’s blog, but I enjoy rather a lot. A long time ago I wrote about Buck Angel and Allanah Starr making porn. A trans man and a trans woman, both quite huge in the porn world getting it on for the cameras. I thought it was beautiful at the time and still do. Reading Danielle, I find they have been cast in bronze.
Then I discover – same day even – an exhibition by artist Andrea Cano and photographer Manuel Antonio Velandia turning Barbie and Ken into trans* women and men. (The whole thing is more interesting in Spanish, because it got hijacked by a bunch of english-speaking, right-on trans-activists who started out by calling the work a product of straight, cis- fetishists until it turned out Andrea is a trans* woman, so then without missing a beat went on to loudly decry her for stereotyping trans*women as hookers whores and streetwalkers with a plastic surgery obsession. Blah. No wonder I prefer trans* porn to trans* (pseudo) academics.)
I like the statues of Buck and Allanah, part of an exhibition by Marc Quinn. I don’t find his attention to particular bodies so easy to reconcile though, and the gallery statement is a bit awful also. It smacks of sensationalism and gawping idiots, “Looka tha freeeks mama!!!”. But equally, the strident victim speech from some trans* blogs on the Andrea Cano exhibition, the current heavy obsession with trans* guys in the queer scene, along with a not unproblematic indulgence into femme play make it all a bit heavy and burdensome.
Aaahh… problems all around. So.
I think the Genki Genki porn is brilliant, bringing to the world of internet porn a lineage in Japanese and asian art that goes back at least to Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife. Buck and Allanah is poignant on its own, but a little empty in a post-Jeff Koons Cicciolina when seen in the milieu of exhibition and gallery. Barbie and Ken, part of Invisibles: Natures transgressive it likewise so. I smile, it makes me happy to see such things at all, but its worth comes more from the weight of theory loaded on to interpret it. And mostly that theory is decidedly lacking, asinine.
In and of itself, the latter two are not especially interesting. What causes such a work like Buck and Allanah to exist in the first place is the profile of their lives as both porn actors and trans*, and how these interact. I was thinking of Jenny Saville’s painting, Passage here. For me also, I find them more interesting as people, and what they publicly say about their identities. Perhaps then this work is something of a public service announcement, or political art in the vein of Jenny Holzer? Hmmm… no.
If they would do a film with Genki Genki, the universe would be perfect.
Oh if only I could make art as good as this. One of those “uuhhh… why didn’t I think of that?” moments, I mean as in what I was doing in hell, pestilence, thinking ideas for abjection… oh so obvious, Susan Norrie’s Havoc… mmm… perfect.
Dennis Cooper has been something of a personal influence these last couple of years, well since I discovered Sunn0))) and so on, or maybe to say his blog is, because despite wanting to, I’ve never read or seen his work or collaborations. He blogged on an artist called On, who makes Guro paper art, almost puppetry, almost performance, almost photography, deeply, wonderfully dark horror, enough to make me laugh with joy, so cruel and clever.