> academic articles

"How Funny?: Spectacular Ani in Animated Television Cartoons" M/C: A Journal of Media and Culture 2.3 (May 1999).

"Newly Desiring and Desired: Queer Man-Fisting Women" M/C: A Journal of Media and Culture 2.5 (July 1999).

"A Poetic End: Allen Ginsberg's 'Sphincter'" M/C: A Journal of Media and Culture 2.8 (December 1999).

> visual arts review ,p> "Queer Pink Bits: International Sex Organ Art at the 2000 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival and Accompanying Exhibitions" M/C 19 June 2000.
return to c.v.
Queer Pink Bits
International Sex Organ Art at the 2000 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival and Accompanying Exhibitions

Review by Simon-Astley Scholfield, First Published 19 June 2000 in M/C Reviews

> For those who relish queer artistic views of erogenous body parts, the eclectic array of sex organ art included in the Visual Arts Programme at this year’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival provided plenty to muse over on a day's outing or two. Although not categorised as “sex organ art” in the Festival guide, these works encompassed a broad scope of visual representations of anal, genital, mammary, oral, and otic organs, and body products like blood and semen. The guide itself provided enticing reproductions of libidinous organs. From its pages, the pierced nipples of the busty female figure in Dora Nemeth's painting, Illuminant, and the ornate anus and scrotum exposed between the buttocks in Kurt Schranzer's drawing, Wanton Youth, lured the eye.

Considering the increased commodification and homogenisation of Mardi Gras over recent years, Festival Director, Jonathan Parsons, with the participation of both private and governmental art institutions, managed to oversee a sexually-provocative programme. Blatant fleshiness and bare vestiges of the sexual and visceral appeared at venues as diverse as the Australian Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art. The latter held a Dale Frank retrospective that included one quaintly irreverent work, the title of which was so typically long that all I remember were the words, “Dali Lama's anus,” if only because of the sheer mysterious beauty of the artist's slick and compelling rendition of that orifice.

The repertoire of pink bits on show may be classed as Queer not just because of its production by queer-identified artists or because of its gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender content. These subversive items also tended to re-configure key visual representations of sexual organs from the modern underground art canon. Sometimes courageously avoiding the ubiquitous imagery used to explore same sex desires, these depictions of (homo and trans)sexual organs and body products renegotiated public and private domains, streets and galleries, and real and cyber spaces. The artists engaged political, social and theoretical issues like post-colonial representations of Asian ethnicity, post-modern imagery of the Feminine and Masculine, and post-porn imagery associated with HIV/AIDS, in order to challenge monolithic meta-narratives like Freud's story about “infantile” anal and oral stages, vaginal “hysteria” and phallic “maturity.”

Of course, enormous, gorgeous, erogenous organs featured in the Mardi Gras parade, as usual. A charming “peno-saurus” wandered by, and several leather boys from a sex-on-premises venue again rode along on the giant hard-on with its smiley Thomas The Tank Engine face. The folks in the Queer Irish entry, Angela’s Lashes, flickered along under a mass of huge silver-lashed rainbow-coloured eyeballs. A flock of immense studded and ringed (and occasionally hairy) ears danced past in the Listen Up! float by the AIDS Council of NSW (ACON). During the telecast, Julie Macrossan related that ACON felt that the ear was the only part of the human anatomy that hadn’t been done properly in the parade. However, I hope that the glare of t.v. cameras and the demands of advertisers doesn’t mean that performance artists shy away from doing anuses and vulvas in the parade in future. The penis was the only privatised sexual organ so exposed this year. While appreciative of its shock effects on mums and dads watching the telecast, this queer dick art didn't quite hold the radical edge of high-calibre entries from earlier years such as the brilliant “Little Miss Butt-Fucked” or the enigmatic “Cuntmobile.”

The times when male strippers would jiggle away on awnings exposing their cocks and arseholes to the MG crowd below (like live versions of Ewan McGregor’s erotic stage performance in Velvet Goldmine) may well be over, even if toplessness for all sexes has become almost de rigueur. Therefore, the listing in the guide of the “Nude Salon” as the specified locus for “Privates on Parade” came as a bit of a disappointment. Still, lots of queer pink bits in galleries is better than hardly any pink bits on the streets. As the rather tongue-in-cheek blurb about the Nude Salon prompted us, “countless art works exalting the joy of our collective privates will be hung in the grand salon tradition, competing for prizes.” Despite the actual setting -- in a room with bare white concrete walls in a rather nondescript industrial building -- the Nude Salon (along with many other exhibitions) fulfilled this promise with a rich collection of fin de millénaire sex organ art.

Jane Shadholt's dual assemblages, One Hundred Cunts and Xmas Office Party (110%), easily took the prize for “The Rudest.” In the first work, many messily coloured-in photocopies of an outline drawing of a vulva were pinned together side-by-side and top-to-bottom. While One Hundred Cunts may have been a dyke homage to Dale Frank’s millefleur One Hundred Little Arseholes All Paying Homage To A True Master (1991), sources of inspiration might more readily be drawn from the pages of Tee Corinne’s landmark vag-and-clit monograph, Cunt Book (1975). Xmas Office Party presented photocopies of breasts, buttocks and scrotums pressed like fleshy flowers against the glass of a xerox machine. In her Ooh Er Mrs (love the name), Jessie Deane challenged the hegemonic phallic (dis)order with her miniature pictures of dildo-wielding femme dykes. Award for “The Nudest” went to Monika Tichacek’s fabulous soft sculpture, Once Mother Read Me Rapunzel. And why wouldn’t it? In a clever appropriation of vagina-dentata myths and heterosexist fairytales she had woven together a vulviform con-fusion of stockings and stuffing - letting down strands of white hosery which descended like pubes from a pale-pink, eye-like, in-your-face vulva.

Of course, plenty of male members were displayed from a variety of angles. In Jim Anderson’s Our Fabulous Holiday, a stereotypical 50s family perched excitedly agog on lounge seats as an enormous penis protruded through a picture frame. (I wondered delightedly about what John Howard would have thought of this, “The Lewdest” work in the show). For his blatant Male Nude, Nick Baldas cropped a male body so that only the shaft and head of an erect cock filled a small standard picture frame. Craig Phillips' Waterboys , a lustrous photo of three underwater genital-exposing entwined male torsos, suggested a gay cover version of the naked submarine baby on the sleeve of Nirvana's Nevermind .

Herb Robertson’s clever mobile assemblage,Meat Market, consisted of a simple ensemble of tailor’s cut-around templates for parts of a men’s suit that dangled daintily on meat hooks to make out the body of a man with his back to the wall. While the title prompted mental images of mingling male sexual organs, the artist had deftly and coyly parodied the stereotypical gay hunt for “hung meat” through analogies linking the “scene” with an abattoir. Brett Monaghan’s montage, Ken (Make Me A Man), provided another perspective, by assembling a multitude of different small images of penises on a black background to form a giant pair of butt cheeks. So many cocks in one arse. Way to go!

Hosted by the friendly folks at Emu Café, the funky “4 Weeks in Queer Cyberia” ["http://www.emucafe.com.au/4weeks/gallery/index.html"] web-gallery offered an on-line “queer explosion of digital based art, thought and musings by queer identified people” that included some sexy body organ art. Still works included Jellignite's Toiletboy which depicted a semen-dribbling, dick-licking punk with a pert boner. Such re(de)fined post-Tom cartoons of ubiquitous gay beat sex and masturbation are always welcome. Resembling sculptural works by both Jean-Paul Gaultier and Louise Bourgeois, one of Sarah Harvie’s gorgeous Inflatables hovered in cyberspace like a 3D star-cluster of pointy, black, pink-nippled, (i)conic breasts. I imagined that the dazzling effect of watching Harvie's still life on the web was not unlike that produced by Warhol's helium-filled balloons, Silver Clouds, when they were floated in the real space of The Factory in the mid-sixties.

In his own words, the works in Eugene Hoh’s Images From Yellow Peril Noodle Bar 2000 “regurgitate…mass-produced images of Asian ethnicity . . . mostly from cheesecake gay porn and Sydney noodle bars . . . where Asian cultures are dished up and served for the bodily pleasure of the consumer.” Importantly, the key work in Hoh's short series also addressed the sexual void identified by film theorist Richard Fung in his influential essay, “Looking For My Penis.” Fung there identified the near total absence of Asian cocks (and top-men) in the visual culture of gay video porn. Looking like a montage of video stills, Hoh's image of an Asian man was constructed so that his large foreskin-straining erection demanded attention. This textless image of eyes-closed ecstasy and phallicised Asian cock spoke a loud “Suck Me” or “Sit On This…”

Genital gems also appeared in two short digital animations by more local Sydney artists. In Craig Boreham’s fantastic Blow, a man -- while receiving a headjob from another guy -- imagines himself morphing into his own penis, then a tulip; his sperm becoming a fountain, from which (like one of Keith Haring's homunculi) he’s taken aboard a Spaceship... This inter-male and inter-planetary journey elaborates upon visual narratives about male orgasm (like Warhol’s Blowjob) by adding a moving lyrical inner vision to the experience. Thus, Boreham’s spermatic dreamscape comprises a truly “seminal” work that positivizes queer ejaculations while marking a filmic counterpoint to the typical male-raped-by-aliens scene established over a decade ago in Whitley Streiber’s asinine Communion (and re-configured so negatively in recent popular productions such as the “Cartman Gets An Anal Probe” episode of South Park).

Meanwhile, Phoenix Leonard’s endearing short cartoon animation, 01101, literally and graphically glosses over Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of “desiring machines.” Two male robots are inspired to perform intercourse after watching some explicit inter-male dick-in-arsehole copulations. Making do with their suction and claw bits, the hotbots’ “plugged-in” pleasure erupts into psychedelic (fart?) clouds. A heart-breaking tale ensues - all to an engaging, scratchy and clangy theme track. (If South Park wasn’t so eroto-phobic it could perhaps aspire to be like these mini movies!) Utterly brilliant!

The other major show featuring cunt, cock and arsehole art (this time of the kosmic variety) by artists of various genders was “Hymn to Pan: An International Radical Faerie Art Exhibition” at Alpha House Art Space. Jocah Trecoul’s Absolutely Fallases -- a decoupage collage rimmed by pink sequins to make a six-phallus star -- highlighted some of the sexual morphologies within common ritual symbols. A Philadelphia-based artist named River exhibited several photographs of a RF gathering. The central and most engaging of these captured a man nonchalantly presenting his delicious mud-caked crack, butthole and scrotal sac to the universe. The pose conjured up anal-erotic and homo-erotic images by Haring and Warhol, while the nerve of the piece evinced Robert Mapplethorpe’s Self Portrait (1978) -- in which the artist snapped himself with a bullwhip coming out of his rectum. In a startlingly original ensemble of “earth, Smith Family blanket, fabric, jewels, and fuckable sheep” called Home Planet (by Martin Moore, aka Moom7), the inflatable black sheep beckoned me with its big plastic eyes, red bow, and puckered orifices at either end…

I quickly moved on to Ken Villa’s “Just Say When” at Astro. For his Atomik Arrse, Villa had spelt out the title of the work in toggled blue and cream letters across one of the clinically-white walls, while his Homosexual Panic Defense No. 1 looked like a bulls-eye seen in a cracked mirror. While the first piece defiantly delineated an almost onomatopoeic declaration of erotic and other anal fun, the latter incorporated graphic references to Jasper Johns’ series of anus-like Target paintings to reflect on a society in which a man might kill another just for looking at, or touching, his arse. Moreover, in Villa’s Privatize Morality the two words in the title appeared (shaped in waves of ground glass specks) upside down and back-to-back on a square background, thus forcing one to address and explore the implications of the inverted rhetoric in his slogan. Like his other works, this queer Op-Artesque ideogram cut to the quick, beautifully and incisively- like sandpaper.

At the rear of First Draft gallery, Scott Redford had assembled Kurt Cobain - Lyric for All Apologies. On the wall above a puzzling collection of sliced white bread and bottled kerosene hung a series of his large blue-on-white, crayon-on-paper sketches forging links between textual and graphic representations of the polymorphously perverse. Among these puzzling images that garbled standard (deep arse-fucking, cock-sucking and tongue-kissing) gay porn poses, one typical gender-fluid work contained the words "Courtney HOLE Love" scrawled quaintly above a heart-shaped open pair of thighs split by an erect dick, curve of balls and big-dotted anus.

Three shows at Artspace also teased with their representations of body parts and products. Dani Marti’s sculptural installation, Thin Wall PB/I-S, involved a hanging clear plastic curtain studded with hundreds of hard round red plastic bumper bar reflectors and a mass of even more bright red soft plastic pan scourers which were (dis)organised on the floor. While the sea of stitched-together red scourers presumably signified five large clots of blood cells, the curtains set off mental flashes about HIV/AIDS and safer sex. Antithetical textures and colours abounded: soft and hard, rough and smooth, red and white. The table in Pope Alice’s millennial installation, Ecco Homo: These are our bodies, this is our blood, was covered with 2000 glasses of fermenting dark red wine and as many pieces of light white bread, thus re-presenting the words of Christ, “This is my body, this is my blood.” The aroma of this queer ‘blood’ was as intoxicating as the colours of his miniature gaily-dressed Mexican same and different sex kissing skeleton couples that adorned a wall. Next door, in his repeating enigmatic video, Reading Matter, Swedish artist Per Hüttner bounced away, struggling magnificently and noisily to balance Hegel’s book, The Philosophy of History, on his large semi-tumescent penis. I still hear echoes of his command performance (as the blood continued to drain from his head): “Uh! Uh! Uh!”

Over at “Out Art” at Tin Sheds, Margaret Mayhew provided some lovely examples of vulva art. To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before comprised twenty-five colourful fabric and leather fannies mounted on a large purple satin heart. Mayhew mentioned in her blurb that “Each Minon (French for Pussy) is unique and hand sewn by myself, mounted individually or in groups.” And yes, she does do commissions! Get your personalised Mignonne art now! Also, in the “Hymn To Pan” exhibition (under her pseudonym, “Mayhem”) she'd sewn together some gorgeous cloth butterfly-like pudenda and mounted them in a rectangle to make her Fairy Pussy.

Sarah Cottier Gallery featured works by San Francisco-based photographer and performance artist, Patty Chang. Her Slit comprised a close-up photo of a tiny hairless vaginal shape scarified exquisitely somewhere in her skin and shown gently prised apart between two fingers. A four-part video of some of Chang's performances continued to subvert hegemonic symbols associatied with female corporeal zones, but with attention to analogies between sex and food. In Shaved (At a Loss) she enters the frame blindfolded with a walking stick, hitches up her skirts, soaps and shaves her upper pubes, puts the razor between her breasts, then exits. In Melons (At a Loss) she cuts open one of her bra/breast cups to expose half a rockmelon, digs out its flesh with her fingers, puts the fruity pulp on a plate balanced on her head, then feeds the mash greedily into her mouth -- all the while holding eye-contact with the viewer. Come With Me, Swim With You has her rollicking in a swimming pool with a pinky-white plastic blow-up she-doll, while she kisses and slurps the watery reflection of her own face in the gorgeously symmetrical and sensual Fountain.

At the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Scandinavian gay couple, Michael Elmgreen (Denmark) and Ingar Dragset (Norway) installed Powerless Structures Fig, 99, the latest in their recent series of site-specific projects. This work transformed the main exhibition space into a gay porno film studio. I walked around the three toilet cubicles (with standard glory hole between two), then viewed them through the camera and from the director’s chair. I checked out the rack draped in clothes (including fetishistic dirty jox and sox) and the table covered with gay porno accoutrements: fake tattoos, condoms, wax, and two mind-bogglingly enormous cockrings. Without any other people to dispel the ghostly atmosphere, I felt like a strangely disconnected voyeur, until I found the detailed storyboards behind me -- which graphically filled me in with details of the plot, actors and close-up gay action (between their pink bits).

Photographic enlargements of pierced sexual organs poked out from the displays at Body Art, a courageous showing at the Australian Museum. Artist Aña Wojak remarked that these performances “explore the spirituality of pain where the body is the medium in a ritualised setting. It’s about transcendence, releasing pain, embracing fears, embracing pain, balancing control and surrender to focus on the energy spiralling out from a still inner place.” From the shaven inner place of dominatrix “Mistress *IOLA” two conjoined “captives” (or sealed metal rings) suspended gracefully from her vaginal lips. Amanda James’s gyno-cam photo of “a female genital piercing being done” went where Orlan never dared. Paul's scrotum provided a cushion for countless captives. Harry exhibited a careful design of three studs across his penile glans: “I’ve only one regret…that I didn’t do it sooner.” Touché. Gay lovers, Brett and Sean, proffered their pierced nipples through a coating of cracked mud. If these cutting-edge photographs weren’t moving enough, a short film screened live action piercings of other erogenous organs like a female nipple and tongue.

Although seemingly bland at first, Che' Ritz's sculptural installation, Broadmeadows, evoked eroticised bodies through the invisible medium of air. With 3865 paper bags -- each encapsulating three of her breaths-- neatly and tightly packed together in rows across the floor of a quiet room at The Performance Space, she had collated about one fifth of what the average person breathes in one minute. Broadmeadows worked with an ancient Chinese tradition that one is born with a certain number of breaths (or Qi) which runs out at death when the soul travels on. I found this exquisite re-working intensely erotic - changes in the volume and tempo of breathing being such an integral part of most sexual acts. Dare I say that at this climactic point on my gallery trek, after pleasantly having had quite enough of intently eyeing off artistic representations of fleshy bits, I was seeking closure. So not surprisingly, while graciously and silently sharing in Che' Ritz's universal “happening,” I breathed in deeply and figured that the phenomenal amount of air she had gathered would probably equal the quantity gasped during just about any body's orgasmic relief.