Time for a lazy post.

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Bra Trainer is a fictional teaching aid designed by Noam Toran to instruct adolescent boys to overcome the intricacies of opening the brassiere. When initiated the machine mechanically demonstrates the basic principles of clasp disengagement. Following a short pause the machine then re-secures the bra ready for the next demonstration.

The piece is inspired from accounts of repressive post-war institutionalised sex education in the UK in which teachers were not allowed to touch any of the props (prophylactics, physical models of reproductive organs) unless using gloves or a stick. In collaboration with Nick Williamson.

See also: a bra-less Interview with Noam Toran.

Via sexblogs.

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0aconsubodiess.jpgConsuming Bodies: Sex and Contemporary Japanese Art, edited by Fran Lloyd (Amazon USA and UK)

Editor Reaktion Books says: Consuming Bodies explores the themes of sex and consumerism in contemporary Japanese art and how they connect with the wider historical, social and political conditions in Japanese culture. Essays by writers, historians, curators and artists, plus diary extracts of a sex worker, engage with a range of artistic practices, including performance, digital media, painting, sculpture and installation. Together the contributors examine the contradictions and ambivalences embedded in the Japanese experience of modernity, and the effects of commodification on the individual and the nation state.

The list of contributors features a nice mix of Japanese and Western authors, artists, journalists, researchers, curators and academics.

As the introduction points out, despite Japan prime presence on the global marketplace, Western audiences are still fairly unfamiliar with the Japanese contemporary art scene. The book has been written in 2002 and 5 years on, the statement is still true. Proof is that finding images online of some of the artists mentioned in the book has been hard work.

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Araki Nobuyoshi, Personal Sentimentalism in Photography

A precious characteristic of the essays is that its authors do not isolate art and analyse or comment on it for its own sake but they also take into account the historical and material circumstances which have conditioned the emergence of contemporary Japanese art. besides the account of the imaging of sex and consumerism moves beyond the glamour, exotic and amusing aspects of Japanese behaviours and explores with much finesse the balance between the private and public aspects of sexual activities as found in media, comics, departments stores, etc.

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Miwa Yanagi, Eternal City I

Of course the book provides you with that Japanese quirkiness we like so much. I learned about Soaplands (a type of brothel where "client" can be bathed with female "companion"), Pink Salons (a brothel which specialises in oral sex); Compensated dating (the euphemism that usually refers to the practice of high school-age girls being paid by older men to accompany them on dates enabling the girls to get the lifestyle they crave for) which doesn´t carry the same evil connotations as in Western countries, women´s attitude towards sex and prostitution is different in Japan as it is not necessarily regarded as degrading in itself.

I also discovered the inevitable dark sides of sex, consumption and art such as the strong gender division, illegal human trafficking and how different the art system in Japan is from ours, from school to art galleries.

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Makoto Aida, The member of the giant Ico Chan vs. King Gidora

Chapter 1 and 2 give an historical perspective on sex and consumerism from the Edo period until today. The three following chapters focus on the work of contemporary artists who reached their artistic maturity during the height of the bubble economy in the late '80s. Chapter 4 in particular is a montage of images performed by Bubu and Yoshiko Shimada; titled Made in Occupied Japan, the work recalls the experiences of US GIs in Japan, prostitution, and Japanese housewives. Chapter 5 is all about the cult of kawaii and how it came into being. Chapter 6 explores the work of Makoto Aida. Chapter 7 Tokyo´s Urban and Sexual Transformations: Performance Art and Digital Cultures is mostly about performances and theatre, not much about digital anything.

It is interesting to be reminded that when Japan opened its borders, art and craftmanship were so indistinguishable that the language had no word for "art", they had to invent Hijutsu which means "technique of beauty". This has several consequences on contemporary art in Japan, one of them being that there is absolutely no stigma attached to being an artist sponsored by commercial companies.

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Immunity to pleasure - Balloon, 1993 and For Pleasure! - Dogs, 1995

The representation of sex in Japanese art often comes with a high dosis of dissent. Nothing new except that the formula is now adopted by many women artists eager to trash the confucianist idea that they have to be demure and submissive creatures.

Sex in itself is actually not enough to shock, the Japanese do not carry the burden of Christian guilt. For the more austere Samurai rulers, licentiousness was more the stuff of self-indulgence and weakness but not necessarily more than other forms of entertainments. That might explain why today bars, pachinko parlours, discos, game centres and sexual entertainment all come under the Law for the Regulation of Business Affecting Public Morals (1947). Another noteworthy peculiarity of the nation´s laws is that showing pubic hair was forbidden until 1981 when the government officially allowed for the appearance of 5% amount of pubic hair in photographs.

0aimmunitywomen.jpgThe work of Takahiro Fujiwara embodies quite well the ambivalent attitude towards sex. Fujiwara specializes in kitschy sculptures that look like big sex toys. There´s this naked women lying on her back with open legs (which reminds Allen Jones´ furniture) which he presented in a kids´playground as a kind of hobby horse. No one found it particularly obscene. The artist believes that one could only do such thing in Japan, albeit under certain conditions. Fujiwara explains. "Sex is something everyone is interested in, but using real experience is too physical, so by using something like a sexual toy which does not refer to one´s life and body but which is cute, one can get away with dealing with a taboo..."

I loved BuBu´s Dairy, the final chapter of the book. BuBu is both an artist and a sex worker and she wrote about her daily life: who her clients are, which kind of present they offer her (from potatoes to pastries and lottery tickets), the way her 80 year old client makes love, nightmare, etc.

0aalovellll3.jpgI arrived last week at Documenta in Kassel pulling my suitcase along the bumpy pavement with one hand, while the other was busy crossing its fingers "Let's hope there is less video art than at the Venice Biennale!" Turns out that there is an acceptable proportion of videos at Documenta, some of which are worth mentioning:

In 1987, film director Hito Steyerl was 19 and agreed once to be a model for a bondage photo shooting in Tokyo. Lovely Andrea (dubbed "A La Recherche du Cul Perdu") narrates the search for that photography in the Tokyo bondage scene. Helped by self-suspension performer and guide Asagi Ageha, Steyerl and her team find the image in a sex archive and set out to meet the photographer. Along the way, people interviewed talk about freedom, shame (that "libido of the brain") and tell stories such as the habit at the time of tricking young girls to bondage photo studios under the pretense of offering them some other kind of job. Once there the girl was so frightened that she worked for free, the promise that the men would let her go was enough of a reward. The plot is intertwined with images of performances by Asagi Ageha. While watching images of the performance, i never thought of sex, perversion or pain, just elegance, lightness and sheer beauty.

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The lost photo shows the artist half naked and tied up, a bondage picture in the nawa-shibari style, characterised by women bound and suspended in the air. Today Japanese bondage has an unmissable sensual and erotic dimension. But it developed from the martial arts, Hojojutsu being the art of restraining a person using cord or rope.

It seems that a trailer (all i could find was this little interview with the artist) as kinky as befits the subject was available on the website of Documenta 12 before the opening of the exhibition, it was soon removed "due to terms of use violation.? The press and blogosphere immediately suspected that Documenta organizers were just looking for a cheap PR coup.

"But in a wider context, there is bondage all over the place", the video states at one point. In fact, the work entangles images of Japanese bondage girls with superheroes Spiderman and Spiderwoman (found those a bit easy cheesy) but also bound captives in the US-detainment camp at Guantanamo Bay. And pop music, there is a lot of pop music.

As i wrote there are videos all over the place, yet this room was one of the very few which was always packed. Sex has you sit for hours.

Images from Documenta presskit and HR online, more pictures of Asagi Ageha in TokyoBound.

Another project from the RCA Great Exhibition.

90% of children between the age of 8 to 16 years old, have accidentally viewed unwanted websites.
It is becoming popular for parents to set up internet filters (e-mail protection, pop-up blocking and chat room monitoring between others) which block unsuitable violent or adult websites. However, there are still a large number of websites which can easily pass through the filters and allow children to reach unsuitable material.

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Eriko Matsumura's WebFare is the dream tool for parents who want peek into their children's web surfing. The application and product looks like an electric torch that parents can shine onto the computer screen. A halo will unpeel one after the other the websites recently visited by their child. It gives parents a glimpse into their child's interests and surfing habits, rather than restricting their web access. Parents can then choose which topics they may want to discuss. As a result, WEBFARE can help parents to protect their children in their absence.

Images.

Among the Amazonian Desana, all members of a tribal group a believed to share a similar odour. Marriage is only allowed between persons of different odours, so spouses must be chosen from other tribal groups. This belief is expressed in rituals involving the exchanges of goods with different odours: one group will present the other with a gift of meat, for example, and receive fish in return. Some rituals involve the exchange of differently scented ants. The same goes with Batek Negrito of the Malay Peninsula who take the taboo a step further: not only is sexual intercourse between those of similar odour prohibited, but even sitting too close to one another for too long is believed to cause disease in the people involved and in any children they may conceive (via).

Research has demonstrated that humans use body odour to identify genetically appropriate mates.

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Designer James Auger is working on SMELL+, a project -supported by Philips Design- that will explores the human experiential potential of the sense of smell, applying contemporary scientific research in domestic and social contexts.

One of his proposals is a blind dating agency aimed at individuals wishing to meet a suitable partner for procreation. Olfactory communication is given precidence over visual stimuli.

Related: Susana Soares' exploration of Genetic sexual attraction.

Just back from the Galerie Caprice Horn. It's in Mitte, half a stone throw away from the increasingly Starbucks infested Checkpoint Charlie area. The gallery is showing several striking pieces in their Reality Bites exhibition.

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I had seen some of Erwin Olaf's work before but only the Hope and Royal Blood series. The gallery is now showing one of the photographies from Separation and i totally fell in love with it: never thought i'd ever associate the word "fetishism" with "cute".

The exhibition runs until 31 May 2007.

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