Club SeventeenTitle unknown feat. Tamara F (2013)

Ever since this post when I consume porn, I remind myself to pay attention to how the staging of a scene in relationship to the camera makes me feel about what I’m viewing.

Interestingly, scenes like this where the proceedings are cheated toward the camera to provide a clear and unobstructed view for the audience appeal to me more than scenes created by either a montage of various heterosexual erogenous signifiers or scenes that pretend to take a fly on the wall approach to capturing the scene–by staging the action for a stationary camera that only faces in one direction, moves on one axis and switches between reframings of close-ups and medium shots. (And POV shots are usually a huge turn off.)

I think there’s something about the sense that this scene has been blocked in a theatrical fashion contributes something to both the notion that both participants want to be seen in flagrante delicito. That self-consciousness makes me feel as if–as a spectator–my participation is expected if not the point of the undertaking.

(FYI, I do think this same idea can be applied negatively given the surfeit of tales where the consent of femme performers on porn sets is not protected or respected.)

Source unknown – Title unknown (201X)

As much as there are performative heteronormative expectations when it comes to the FMM threesome, i.e. it’s perfectly upstanding, straight and good as long as penii don’t touch…

…it’s not something I’ve ever understood. But this makes me think about the mechanics of what porn instructs is the most common bodily configuration for two penis-havers engageing with a vagina-haver.

Like the owner of the lower cock is mostly passive. (If you’ve ever seen these scenes, it’s nearly impossible to get a workable rhythm going and the movement of the person in the middle is only really compatible with the person who is able to thrust and retract.

Second–while any sort of consensual sexual sensitivity is good in my book–there’s a way in which this configuration almost certainly amplifies the sensation of the person in the middle. Two of three orifices are full and there is skin to skin contact in both directions. That alone would be an emotional and intense feeling for me–even before you got down to whether it was pleasurable.

Then there’s also the way that in the heteronormative world there’s this proscription against penii touch. (For that reason I’m always interested in depictions of vaginal double penetration.)

But the rear wall of the vagina and the back wall of the anal cavity are not actually that thick, so there’s almost certainly a way that although penii aren’t touching they are engaged in conversation through a screen–like a supplicant confession to priest.

If any one of the the three orgasms, the body cavity they are inside would server as a resonating chamber of sorts.

And I think that’s why I end up looking at a lot of group sex porn–it’s not the fantasy of the explicit exchange that entices me, it’s the ease with which this sort of thing is depicted in pornography and the fact that that ease of trust and intimacy is nothing something I’ve ever known (or, unfortunately, am ever likely to know).

Nobuyoshi Araki Untitled (19XX)

After college, I moved to Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I’m not talking McGuinness & Nassau, either. We’re talking practically under the Kosciusko Bridge.

It was a 15 minute walk to the Nassau G and either 13 or 18 (depending on traffic) to the Graham L.

By New York standards, my room was enormous. But I shared a wall with a Dave Grohl wannabe sax player who constantly practiced atonal three note arpeggios at odd hours.

I was only working part time and after commutation expenses, it was a struggle to make rent each month.

At the time, my significant other was in a similar place. We spent a lot of time walking–which really and truly is the best way to get to know this city. We’d hang out at hip bars sipping a beer between us. Anything that was free and appealed to our mutual creative predispositions was a draw. But if you’ve spent any time in this city, you know it’s not a place you want to be poor.

It took us two months to discover the New York Public Library. Not the one with the Lion’s guarding the stairs but the one that’s caddy corner and a block down. Over the next few months, we spent hours there pouring over their photography section.

We scanned work the likes of Steiglitz, Friedlander and Goldin.

Thing was–and I swear I’m circling back to the image above, hang in there–the selection lacked any sort of breadth and instead focused on an obsessive depth. The number of fucking Araki’s books exceeded a plethora to the exponent of plethora.

I remember three things about the work:

  1. An image like this except with an orange and black flower with petals more like a daisy and Araki himself squatting beside the suspended model.
  2. It was the only thing besides Goldin where sexuality figured in any denotative fashion in the photos,
  3. I preferred Goldin even though I found her work exploitative.

My opinion w/r/t Goldin has evolved rather dramatically; my thinking w/r/t Araki has, yes, shifted but it’s less pronounced and far more complicated to explain.

See: on a purely formal level his work is on-point. His compositions are impeccably executed and his work is hugely influential: would Wolfgang Tillmans be a name anyone knew if Araki hadn’t shot highly styles hair and eyes? Probably not. (Also, the shit he shoots that subtly skewers skewers fake sets in high profile fashion shoots–looking at you, Tim Walker–are about as good as polemical provocations get.)

I can’t even really argue that Araki should pursue more aggressive edits. If he’s published it, it’s almost certainly publication worthy. My primary continued objection to his work (beyond the aggressive heteronormativity of it) has to do–synchronously enough–with an idea I encountered more or less concurrent with my first encounter with the work: William Ian Miller’s The Anatomy of Disgust. In it he attempts to analyze why humans experience feelings of disgust.

One of his points is that profusion is–almost counter-intuitively–a potential locus for disgust. I don’t completely recall the rational underlying this assertion but it absolutely serves in application to my queasiness regarding Araki: there’s too much that’s too good.

The thing that’s especially galling is the fact that almost seems to be the point of the exercise. And I’m no less sure how I feel about that now than I did eight years ago.

Misattributed source; proper attribution sought (The furthest I can trace it is TinEye’s entry–dated January 11, 2011 on a now defunct Tumblr.)

Sometime before the October Revolution, filmmaker Lem Kuleshov made a short film. The film consisted of the same shot of Ivan Mousjoukine wearing a blank look interspersed with footage of a bowl of soup, a child in a coffin and a woman splayed on a couch.

Despite there being no difference in the footage of Mousjoukine, the audience was extremely impressed with the depth of his craft–feeling that he was hungry when he saw the soup, grief stricken upon seeing the dead child and highly desirous of the reclining woman.

Today, film studies peeps refer to this projection of the audiences feelings in response to an image onto an actor/surrogate as the Kuleshov Effect.

(I argue this interpretation stops short: that which precedes informs with regard to the nature of the seeing, what follows contextualizes what has preceded.)

In other words: my experiences/prejudices not only color but dictate to a great extent what I see.

For example: one person may read the above as a trite riff on fashion photography voyeurism, giving the finger to prevailing tendencies for female-bodied folk to be openly arranged and displayed.

Someone else could claim it has D/s overtones.

Still another might be triggered due to similarities between the depiction and memories of past abuse.

What I see ties into the emerging trend of referring to physical intimacy as ‘sharing’ your body. To the extent that this phrase functions as sharing something neither party can own, I find it conceptually fulfilling. When it comes across as this is my toy and I am only letting you use out of my heart’s boundless kindness, I begin to have problems.

To me, this toes the line from the side I endorse.

What do you see?