Source unknown – Title Unknown (201X)

Upon first seeing this I felt a mix of critical animus and–strangely: interest.

I’ve been consuming pornography fairly consistently since I was fourteen or fifteen–but I’ve always been put off by the ubiquity of the money shot facial.

I think I was nineteen when I found out about creampies. Like if there’s a video feature a creampie produced in the late 90s, I’ve probably masturbated to it.

Although it did alleviate my issue with facials, it was a little like that one horse sized duck vs 100 horses the size of a duck conundrum: one big thing you don’t want vs hundreds of small manageable things that you nevertheless don’t want either.

For example: while I think that a creampie video was the first place where I first witnessed a woman orgasm from sex (I can’t find the video now but it was one of Cytherea first appearances), even despite the absence of a facial finish–there is still a myopic focus on male sexual pleasure.

And although the way this is presented appeals to me–for reasons I’m getting to–there’s still a lot I can tell you about the scene this emerges from just by seeing these excerpts.

I have no idea where this is from originally–Google’s image search gets worse by the day and TinEye just proves what I already suspected: that this gif has been desaturated from the original presentation. However, given the relentlessly depilated genitals on both performers, it’s probably safe to say this features in a a heteronormative mainstream porn clip.

Yet, the way it has been decontextualized from its source material is at least interesting. In the first frame, the viewer can see a vulva penetrated by a phallus; the only motion is the puling contractions of the cock.

The second clip validates the impression suggested by the first–the cock slips out, spurting a jet of semen.

In the third sequence: there’s not only much more jizz, a mix of secretions also sluices from between the labia.

I’ve seen enough creampie clips to suspect that while the stud has clearly gotten off, that the director is most likely off camera cuing the actress to squeeze the semen out. (The implication being that once again everything about the exchange hinges on male pleasure.)

Still, this presentation–if you only consider what is presented in this gifset–makes it look like the boy experiences the paroxysms of orgasm and the edit for this presents her contractions to expel semen as mirror spasms; she gets off as a result of his getting off.

I don’t buy into that cishet wishful thinking paradigm.  But what I adore about the way this is presented has to do with the way it reminds me of one of those middle school science projects on photosythensis where the human breathes out carbon dioxide and the plant breathes in the C02 and in turn gives off oxygen that is then consumed by the human.

It’s suggestive of a more symbiotic interaction. Also, conceptually: the form suggests an intrinsic cycling–but in so far as the viewer interacts with this sequence there is a sense of being included in the proceedings in a way that most porn can’t be arsed with.

Arvids Strazds – [←] Untitled from Desires of My Wife series; [→] Untitled from Desires of My Wife series (2017)

Strazds is a Latvian photographer who pictures his wife with various paramours.

The work suffers from a cloying veneer of legitimacy–and by ‘veneer of legitimacy’, I mean to indicate creators who attempt to head off any repudiation of their content by pointing to the demand for technical expertise required by their preferred production medium as proof of intrinsic artistic merit, i.e. these appear to be tintypes (although I am not convinced they are/it appears they may depend upon some post-production digital intervention).

The clearest corollary is likely Jock Sturges, who uses his preference for 8×10 analog view cameras in the creation of his work as a means of dodging valid questions/concerns over the sexual/voyeuristic propriety of his work. (That this has flaccid proposition has succeeded in short-circuiting debate for decades represents an incontrovertible failing on the part of the critical establishment.)

Still, I think there’s more to it than that. The focus on square compositions–a format typically most readily applicable to portraiture, and therefore front loaded with a certain innate intimacy’ is definitely enhanced by use of tactful vignetting and reliance upon the same principle those of us with a ton of freckles have known for years–that any three non-linearly plotted dots will, when connected, form a triangle.

Strazds work works due to these reiterative triads. For example: in [←] the two erections and the the way the rim lighting accentuates her left eye’s acknowledgement of the lens (and implicitly both the photographer and the audience). This scalene imposition renders the composition easily parsed and effectively guides the eye over the scene.

[→] is a bit more complicated. Her downward gaze reinforces that the vertex of the triangle is the site of erotic penetration. This leads to questions over whether the other vertices are her breasts, their faces, or the solarized area under her left breast and the hallow between her armpit and his chest. (This is not necessarily something I would’ve picked up on had I not simultaneously been struggling with how to talk about this absurdist gif while also tentatively engaging with Lucinda Bunnen’s work.)

Another point of convergence with Strazds work is Chloe des Lysses’ erotic self-portraiture. I’ve always had reservations about Lysses’ work–I wouldn’t label it narcissistic but there is an element of narcissism to it. Strazds, on the other hand, seems more collaborative. And although it’s entirely possible that there is a narcissistic cuckold adjacent motivation for the work–he does allow his wife a meditative joy of expression in many of his frames that I find entirely appealing.

Lastly, although I generally frown on watermarking your visual art, I absolutely understand the impetus for doing so. My rule is that if you’re going to do it, keep in mind that one is a visual artist and therefore the water mark should be more than just typeset. (Scott Worldwide is the exception that proves the rule–but again, his logo involves solid graphic design.) Strazds has a superb watermark–riffing off of Albrecht Dürer’s signature and mixing in a bit of the sensibilities from the Japanese tradition of Zen paintings.

Ryan McGinleyOliver (2005)

With how much I take the piss out of him, it would be easy for someone to conclude that I hold McGinley’s work in contempt.

It’s altogether more complicated than that–and the above image has shifted my opinion some.

He works primarily in color–and has a damn solid eye for it. For all that appears to be going on above and all that those appearance suggest and elide w/r/t what happened prior to this/after this moment, the more I look at it the more I’m convinced that the instinct behind this is the orange polish on her toe nails outset against the tiles.

McGinley is not just associated with color work–he work is entirely preoccupied with youth–which leads to a potent and frequent criticism of his work as an uncritical, inherently ageist and cliche celebration/commodification of younger being better if not at least more attractive.

It’s a critical tact with which I agree. However, I think my mixed feelings on his work up to this juncture, have more to do with the fact that I don’t think I’ve ever really felt the criticism is necessarily supported by the work and more that the work seemingly goes out of its way not to acknowledge that such a reading is possible.

It’s something that has always bugged the fuck out of me. I mean: I’ve always read it as McGinley’s work being about immediacy; photography is a medium heavily steeped in immediacy so what would you put in front of your camera if you wanted to focus laser-like on immediacy? What’s more immediate than being young?

However knee-jerk, it makes sense conceptually. But it feels to my as if an artist can grasp that, then he ought to also be able to preempt an obvious criticism by varying the work in such a way so as to complicate facile criticisms. And that just isn’t the case.

My reaction has always been–we’ll that’s lazy/sloppy. Except neither of those words really fit the work.

I also struggle with his editing. Once you’re attuned to his obsession with immediacy, his work clearly turns a very tight orbit around that fixed point. Beyond being in color, his photos/images almost always feature motion–which can run a gamut from 2011′s phenom Parakeets to pieces that seem haphazardly composed, poorly focused and motivated by capturing an unrepeatable moment.

That’s the other thing that I’ve had trouble working out–there are scads of photographers doing more groundbreaking things with color. I can’t think of anyone working with a body of work as thoroughly singular as McGinley. (And by that I was brought up that one of the things that makes a work of art such is a nearly impossible degree of difficulty in recreating it by a similarly able technician–for as much as I loathe the unrefined aspects of his work–I would not want to be tasked with recreating it.)

Back to the orange toenails for a minute: if you buy that the work hinges on immediacy then perhaps color is largely the impetus for the work–since working via photography and putting young people in front of your lens pretty much ensures the result will suggest something about immediacy of experience. (It also reconciles a lot more of the otherwise questionable editing choices.)

I recently encountered 2005′s Kiss Explosion for the first time. It’s almost certainly that prank where you take a swig of soda and then kiss someone while spitting the liquid out. The image definitely evokes that but it also evokes, well, snowballing. (It’s most likely not snowballing as that would be rather a lot of semen, methinks.)

And it occurred to me that perhaps the criticism about deification of youth is camouflage.. or perhaps, stated a better: a red herring?

It feels to me as if sex is always hovering just beyond the periphery of the work. Yet, when it does enter the work head on, it’s presented as interesting but no more privileged than anything else presented as interesting in the work. Further, sex as presented as sex regardless of the gender presentation/identification of the participants.

In other words: it’s all queer af.

But go back to the photo above: I’m arguing that it’s about the color of her toenails. The title is Oliver, though… and you sort of have to believe Oliver is holding the shower head against his abs. Is he getting ready to join in the action behind him? And if so, how? Or has he already participated? And if so, how has he participated? Or, is this all staged for the camera?

Either way it is interesting how often in his work, McGinley seems to be hiding queer coded sex positivity right there in plain sight.

Source unknown – Title unknown (201X)

I think this video may be the porn clip that I have watched the most in my entire life.

Technically, it’s flawed. But the technical doesn’t matter so much when the sex is so thoroughly and legitimately haute.

From their seemingly coordinated ink: his Judge me, her Justice; to the inversion of the porn trope where the starlet furious rubs her clit while a muscle-bound stud uses his erect cock more like a gas powered chisel than a tool meant (among other things) for providing sexual pleasure; and–my personal favorite, the way she licks his semen off his tummy and then gives him a sample of the mess he’s made.

Unffff. (Also, this clip gave me a thought for a performance piece I’d like to enact at some point. I think it could be positively scandalous…)

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[↑] neverlaandssstart somewhere (2015); [+] Source unknown – Title unknown (201X); [-] Source unknown – Title unknown (201X); [←] Boris DemurPoem Flag of Spiral Deterministic Chaos in Spiral Yin Yang from Spiral Poems of a Flag series (20XX); [→] Carlos Cruz DiezTitle unknown (20XX); [_] theworldwithinthewords – for more than this is mind #12 (2017); [↖] Michael StorytellerStuck in the middle again (2015); [↗] Le Cam Romainaida & jordan, paris (2015); [↙] Source unknown – Title unknown (201X) [↘] X-Art – In the Blind feat. Little Caprice (2014) … [↑] Source unknown – Title unknown feat. yhivi (201X); [+] Source unknown – Title unknown (201X); [↓] Jonas Mekas –  As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty (2000)

The way I use Tumblr is that I follow the blogs I follow and once every day I scan my dash until I get to the point where I start repeating stuff from the previous day. I like what I like as I go.

On weekends, I treat my Likes page as if it were a smaller version of my daily dash and I pull from that into Drafts.

What governs the decision to save something to drafts is almost always more of a feeling of “I need to showcase this post” more than any notion of having something structured to say about it, as it were laying there ready made in my brain.

Frequently, things make it into Drafts and I just can’t figure out what to say about them or where exactly they fit.

The above started as an effort to clear out my drafts–which is beginning to become downright cumbersome to manage. It was strictly a counting exercise. One person. Two people. Three people. Then it morphed and became not exactly storyboards but sort of a loose thumbnail index of some sort of artsy porn video.

(A digression on process. I am not in a good place right now–mental health-wise. It’s actually really bad. I feel like I have nothing really to say about anything. It’s partly that my head is a mess. And partly that it’s becoming more and more clear that my ability to express myself sexually with another human is no longer something I have recourse to in this life. Whatever. Sucks to be me, I know–but what this exercise has demonstrated to me is that there is some merit to the creative advice that you just have to force yourself to sit down and do the work. I do think there’s some truth to the idea that sitting down and staring at a blank page for eight hours day in and day out is actually very detrimental. But I think it takes a while before you get to that point–like maybe three days. The problem is we frequently won’t sit down because we expect the outcome will be negative. You gotta make time to do the work.)

Anyway, I won’t argue that what I’ve stitched together here is good or even interesting but it did suggest several thoughts.

I wonder what the ratio is of production of pornographic vs Hollywood features  in any given year? Probably at least 10-1 (porn to features), right? That’s a lot of content. I wonder why more artists don’t use it.

I mean I know some do. There’s those memes where you take porn scenes and photoshop over them so it looks like a starlet is eating an ice cream cone instead of fellating some stud. (Or, if you prefer things more arty….check out Brian Steinhoff’s Porn for the Whole Family series.)

It’s no secret that a veritable litany of art legends hired sex workers as models. So there’s even a precedent for this sort of thinking. But what I’m interested in–and another essay I’m unlikely to ever actually get around to writing: pornography as taxonomy.

Source unknown – Colorado cunnilingus (1980)

There is a language
older by far and deeper than words. It is the language of bodies, of
body on body, wind on snow, rain on trees, wave on stone. It is the
language of dream, gesture, symbol, memory. We have forgotten this
language. We do not even remember that it exists.
                   —

Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words