It’s a brave curator these days who invites artists to “push the boundaries” using sexuality as their theme.
Ever since that fateful day in 2008 when Roslyn Oxley gallery in Sydney emailed clients an invitation to a Bill Henson show featuring a moody photograph of a naked girl known as “N”, art and sexuality have been an accident prone mix. It has embroiled a “disgusted” prime minister, outraged shlock jocks and parents’ groups, naive artists and curators, and dazed and confused arts bureaucrats in an unholy mix.
The latest art/sex case — Melbourne artist Paul Yore‘s collage featuring the faces of anonymous children pasted over anonymous adults in sex acts — is still before the Victorian courts.
But the image (above) sent out by a group known as Feck Art on an invitation to a show next week “featuring beautiful obscenity from Melbourne’s emerging artists” is definitely not of a minor, said its spokesperson Hannah Miller.
“We don’t want anything that depicts children in a sexual context,” Miller said of call out to artists to submit “beautiful filth” for the Melbourne Fringe Festival event.
“We are looking to push the boundaries. We want to engage the erotic imagination and think about what turns us on,” she said of the show Feck Art hopes will remove the sleazy reputation that “erotic art” often attracts.
“I really like the central ethos of the Feck competition that art can succeed where porn fails. It has been a good opportunity to create something surreal that explores a deeper side of fantasy and imagination,” she said.
The Melbourne show has received about 200 entries from artists who responded to the call for “uninhibited artistic expression and the diversity and nuance of eroticism”.
Entries were whittled down to about 50 which includes 19 photographic works, three sculptures, seven videos, 14 drawings and paintings, and six including collage, mixed media, screen printing and even a needlepoint.
Miller is a spokesperson for Feck Art’s creator Richard Lawrence who prefers not to speak to the media, though in an emailed statement he said: “With the exponential proliferation of porn over the past 10 years or so, I think now more than ever it’s important to restore a depth and dignity to depictions of sexual desire in media. As producers of socially responsible erotica, we thought it would be interesting to fund a competition to see how Melbourne artists make us think and feel about sex, and whether art can make porn obsolete.”
Lawrence owns two subscription based erotic art websites that employ 12 full-time staff.
Beautiful Agony allows subscribers to upload images of their faces mid-orgasm and I Shot Myself allows subscribers to submit self-portraits in a sexual context. About 55 % of its subscribers are in America, 5% in Australia and the rest from mostly Europe and Asia.
Miller said the main image (above) is not an artwork in the show, but a promotional image, which she believed was taken from one of the websites. She said subscribers have to submit ID declaring their age before they are allowed to upload images.
The works in the Feck Art exhibition — which will be an over 18 event held in a converted Brunswick warehouse — were chosen by the websites’ staff including its administrative and videographic staff.
One participant, Clara Bradley of Cargo Collective said “art succeeds where porn fails”.
“Porn is porn, art is art. Porn fails because it has nothing below the surface. You are not left wondering about the moments, you are not left wanting to know more about the people involved or the situation because it is all there, all explained, all obvious. Humans need more than fleeting visuals, they need images which make them continue on their thoughts and desires in their own heads,” she said in a submitted artist statement.
A $3000 first prize and two runner-up prizes of $1000 each will be selected by a team of judges that include Dr Edward Colless, head of critical and theoretical studies at the Victorian College of the Arts and respected artists Lyndal Walker and Jane Burton.