Genesis Breyer P-OrridgeTitle unknown (19XX)

As far as outsider art goes, it’s very difficult out outre P-Orridge.

I am hardly an expert on their (they identify as third gender and use them/their pronouns) life and work.

What I know is that if you haven’t you should absolutely know Throbbing Gristle’s 20 Jazz Funk Greats. (I can’t stomach much else TG did & Psychic TV totters on the brink of intolerable.)

All that being said: they were hugely influential to artists who have had a lasting impact on me.

I am not familiar enough with all the ins and outs of their life to really comment with any kind of definite hot take. They were impossibly controversial–in word, deed and thought.

At present they are being treated for Leukemia–it’s not looking good the last I heard. (Cancer fucking sucks.) If their work meant anything to you, you might want to consider support their GoFundMe for treatment. (How in the fuck did we get to this place in history where people have to crowd source their medical treatment…)

Duane Michals – Naked Nude (1982)

While the title is a riff on John Berger’s distinction between ‘naked’ (i.e. the natural state of the body) and ‘nude’ (i.e. the conventionally stylized art historical objectification of nakedness) in the seminal Ways of Seeing, I’m always suspicious when someone like Michals telegraphs that he’s aiming for the broadside of the barn.

Despite the simple elegance of the image, I feel like there’s an underlying middle finger being given to the notion that photography as an art is fundamentally more prone to essentialist objectification due the the inclusion/exclusion parameters of the frame edges.

Upon first seeing this I immediately flashed back to a college discussion on Piaget vs Vygotsky–specifically: the supposed necessity of object permanence in order for a child to learn language.

I never grasped the salient tenants of their disagreement but the general principle of object permanence applies here. At a certain point in our development–I believe Piaget would say it happened at one particular point, whereas Vygostsky insisted it was a recurring evolving process of increasingly sophisticated awareness–we learn that the toy our mom is hiding behind her back still exists even though we are unable to see it.

It seems Michals–who to my mind is a metaphysician first and a photographer second–is pointing out that we’ll allow that this woman’s legs continue below the table and even extend beyond the lower frame edge but politics insist we acknowledge that she is severed at the waist by the upper frame edge.

Using the table to create a frame-within-the-frame creates a tableau that it’s easy to dismiss as essentialist–reducing the female body to symbolic genitalia.

That this image doesn’t come off like that is a result of the clever composition, but I think contrary to Michals’ assertion–I’m pretty sure he’s a card carrying Cartesian–it’s the context of the image which dispels any trace of a sexist agenda. First, it is of an especially high quality, it’s self-consciously aware of the relationship between an out gay photographer, a nude model and an audience with the expectant male gaze default setting that will respond either salaciously, with disappointment or with critical censure.

The rightness or wrongness of thesis is irrelevant due to the masterful grasp of the totality of context.

I have never understood the ubiquity of facial cum shots.

Yes, I know:

“[E]jaculating into blank space is not much fun, [whereas] ejaculating over a person who responds with enjoyment sustains a lighthearted mood as a well as a degree of realism.”[i]

There is little better illustration of the first point than Andres Serrano exceedingly dull Ejaculate in Trajectory series

However, the veracity of the first point does not extend to the second automatically.

I suspect Faust wishes “degree of realism” to reference concern over what happens to ejaculate when intercourse involves at least one male bodied individual. But, realistically, this is a foregone conclusion in most scenarios involving participants practicing responsible sex. It only becomes when the participants becomes irresponsible—and the majority of porn falls in this latter category.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a prude by quite a stretch. I want my porn to be gloriously irresponsible. The issue I have is when porn is blatantly irresponsible and then points to the tradition of facial cum shots as evidence of its responsibility.

I don’t mind seeing come. In fact, I rather like it. But it has always been a turn off for me to watch a man squeezing seed from his shaft onto a smiling female face like someone trying to get the last of the toothpaste from an already empty tube onto a toothbrush. But that isn’t even what really bothers me, it’s the fact that the man gets off and the woman settles with having her pleasure merely encoded into her semen besotted Mona Lisa smile.

As Wikipedia’s blurb on Cindy Patton’s criticism of the cum shot summarizes nicely:

“[I]n western culture male sexual fulfillment is synonymous with orgasm and that male orgasm is an essential punctuation of the sexual narrative. No orgasm, no sexual pleasure. No cum shot, no narrative closure. In other words, the cum shot is the period at the end of the sentence.”[ii]

Pornographers most certainly do view the male orgasm as “the period at the end of the sentence.” But just because I think that is bullshit—the male orgasm should be a comma in a fucking German paragraph running for fifteen pages.

Still, my own bias aside, there are absolutely more aesthetically interesting means of displaying the requisite thick, milk white discharge while also facilitating mutual pleasure.

Take the above picture as an example:

First, note that in keeping with the usual the pornographic modus operandi the camera is a foot too close to the action. Although, to the image makers credit it does not rely on the usual visually bankrupt knee-jerk overuse of extreme close-up to titillate. As such, excepting her amputated shin/ankles, the woman’s entire body is within the frame.

Taken perhaps a full minute after orgasm, we see the aftermath of the stud pulling out after filling the woman with his seed; it slowly seeps from her, pooling on his abdomen.

Look at the expression on their faces—if it is not exactly pleasure it is still both intense and compellingly arousing.

Though for me this is moment the scene begins, not where it ends.

In his The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche—bear with me—suggests Athenian drama as the highest form of human art due to its seamless fusion of the two most basic human tendencies; he termed these: the Apollonian (critical) and the Dionysian (libidinal).

Perhaps, this is not a bad way of beginning to analyze whether and to what extent a work of intended as pornography can transcend the intention of its creation and be seen as art.

This image suggests an approach to me because I have two very equal and opposite responses to it that can more-or-less be mapped along axes of critical and sensual responses.

Looking at this image with a critical eye I appreciate that, excepting for her knees and feet extending beyond the edge of the frame, this young woman is presented intact within the frame. If she were to feel so inclined she could get up and walk away.

She is aware of herself being seen at the same time she refuses to engage the spectator by closing her eyes and positioning her feet in a way which ensures the focal point remains her body as a whole not just her vulva.

On the other hand, the kitchen backdrop is hell of problematic. Whether intended or not, it portends an unchallenged allegiance to prevalent patriarchal attitudes.

Technically, the image is over-exposed and would have benefited immeasurably from the photographer taking a half step back before clicking the shutter. Also, the bright light falling on both the subject and the wall behind her flattens the image.

My libidinal response to this image is less conflicted. This woman is my decidedly my type: petite brunette with Eastern European features and barely-there breasts; and wonder of wonders, she has pubic hair—a hairless pubis can be breath-taking when it is the exception not the rule but I prefer hair down there.

But I cannot read this either as an Apollonian or Dionysian. My gaze drifts until it locks in on the slight glimpse of the hollow held by her labial folds. Then her set against the (cold?) wood floor reintroduce the angle at which her porcelain legs. My eyes scan upward and I find myself faced again and again with another human who desires (and is desired), dreams(is dreamed of) and needs (and is needed).


Kennedy Kressler

I had no idea who Kennedy Kressler was two days ago; now, I can’t get her out of my head.

Most images of her are garbage, portraying her as receptive, wide eyed and winsome, performing for the pleasure of a stereotypical straight male spectator.

This makes me EXTREMELY uncomfortable. I do not know Ms. Kressler; and while I certainly wouldn’t piss and moan at the prospect of an introduction, chances are she wouldn’t give me the time of day. Yet, there she is in almost every picture staring out at me with feigned intimacy and come hither eyes.

I am not faulting her—she is good at what she does.

I prefer her in the above image. Despite the typical pornographic trappings—her positioning toward the camera to provide an unobstructed view of her bald vulva, the lack of imagistic context (is she curled up, masturbating in a lawn chair for any reason other than to provide a photogenic backdrop?)—her gesture is interesting. By spreading her outer labia with both hands she offers a more intimate view. This is, however, not her primary motivation; instead, she wants to be better able to tease her clitoris with her fingertip.

In so doing, her self-conscious eye contact with the spectator is broken and she focuses on her own sensations instead.