Yung Cheng Lin (aka 3cm) – [↑] 4.420 (2013); [←] 2401 (2013); [→] 9197 (2014); [↓] 6381 (2013).

When people distinguish between porn and not-porn, the difference is usually framed in terms of what is shown and what remains unseen.

A better question might: what does the manner of presentation tell us about how we are supposed to see what we are being shown?

There’s honestly too many things I could go on and on about with 3cm: his mindfuck mastery of color; precocious Photoshop manipulations, clever visual puns, recurrent images/themes, my guess that his process is highly improvisational and a repudiation of all the lazy ass characterizations of his work as ‘surreal’.

That’s all lagniappe.

Positioned as it is in the no man’s land between capital-A art and small-a art, I think there’s an instinct to round up. I’m not opposed to that. Not all of 3cm’s work is good, but almost none of it is crap outright.

What I think people have talked themselves out of is the implication of the sexual subtext in the work. The sexual subtext is not only the raison d’etre it’s much, much more than a subtext, it’s shockingly pornographic.

There aren’t even three nipples in roughly a thousand images. But that doesn’t matter, read the space between what you see explicitly in the images with the huggable elephant in the room of what the image is ultimately fixated upon. It’s a little like reading Shakespeare: read the first scene and then start over again and this time you’ll pretty much have it.

But here you aren’t searching for the rhythm as much as the correct tone. The space between what is explicit and what is implicit has a confessions of depravity feel to it. If you can stay in that space long enough, you’re initial response will probably be to blush. If you are like me though, you’ll be extremely turned on.


robert mapplethorpe / bush

For me, the cloud of controversy surrounding Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs becomes a filter through which I see them.

Mapplethorpe’s focus on taboo/pornographic content courts outrage. But it is an outrage unlike the allegations of child pornography leveled against Sally Mann for Immediate Family or claims of exploitation dogging Nan Goldin since The Ballad of Sexual Dependency; it is intended. Mapplethorpe invites a visceral reaction, even if that means pissing someone right the fuck right off.

Were that all he were about he’d be no more relevant than any other shock-solely-for-shock’s-sake artist. What makes Mapplethorpe matter is his realization that for good, bad or ill: even being pissed off at it necessitates at least some degree of visceral engagement with the work.

A dangerous thing when the work possesses a deep wonderment and the  taboo/pornographic content is carefully underscored with an uncommon intimacy. Even more upsetting when technical craft is so stunningly refined—and not for its own sake, as a testament to a belief in the labor owed as a result of being allowed to bear witness to profound beauty.

This is may be why Mapplethorpe’s work remains controversial—one either sees and embraces its beauty or the dissonance between authorial intent & audience reaction creates a deafening feedback loop.

(Then again, I could just be floored by finally finding a depiction of fisting that despite being a bit too much of a close-up is masterfully executed and resonates with my experiences of feeling my hand encircled tightly with wetness and warmth.)