EXHIBITION 8 Sep - 16 Dec 2007

Witte de With
Center for Contemporary Art

"A censor is someone who knows more than he thinks you ought to."

Why does pornography have such a bad reputation? Everybody has an opinion about porn. Most profess not to like it and many claim to have never even seen any. Yet, beyond a simple or dictionary definition, the question "what is porn?" remains almost impossible to answer. Even a Supreme Court judge was stumped, saying of pornography: "I don't know what it is, but I recognize it when I see it".

This group exhibition does not seek to provide one simple response. Nor does it take sides in the for-or-against debate about pornography. Instead, BODYPOLITICX poses further questions: Does porn symbolize patriarchal structures and the oppression of women? Are porn films a reflection of existing socio-sexual relationships? What is taboo when everything around us is sexualized and yet sexual practices remain un-discussable? Is pornography to blame for the destruction of sexuality?

In Europe during the Middle Ages, sexuality was an unknown concept. Sexual intercourse and masturbation were not stigmatized with shame. Irrespective of gender, satisfying one's desires was seen as a way to remain healthy. Not until the 16th century -- with the beginnings of industrialization, the division of labor and hence a greater emphasis on social- and self-control -- was a lack of sexual discipline declared taboo, and sexuality banished to the private domain.

The concept of 'modern pornography' arose with the expansion of printing during the 18th century. Initially it was used by free-thinkers as a tool to criticize the religious and political authorities, and was not primarily intended as a means of sexual stimulation. Only with advancing industrialization and the invention of photography did pornography become a category in its own right.

With a focus upon the 20th and 21st centuries, this exhibition takes a contemporary look at an age-old fascination, seeing sex through the eyes of over 70 artists, filmmakers, activists, photo-journalists, musicians and magazine editors. By means of visual juxtaposition, the exhibition sets out to examine the demarcation of the sex industry, subculture, pop, performance and art.

BODYPOLITICX asks: If we have learnt from Shakespeare what love is, what can we learn from the cultural practice of pornography?

48, Louisa Achille, Nic Andrews, Joanna Angel, Kenneth Anger, Fernando Arias, Martin Arnold, James Avalon, Fiona Banner, Thomas Bayrle, Willem van Batenburg, Belladonna, Andrew Blake, Bruce LaBruce, Angela Bulloch, Tom Burr, Butt Magazine, Marc Bijl, Marilyn Chambers, Larry Clark, Gerard Damiano, Nathalie Djurberg, Rinse Dream, Marcel Duchamp, Elmgreen & Dragset, Andrea Fraser, General Idea, Jean Genet, Girls Like Us, Garry Gross, Guerrilla Girls, Sachiko Hanai, Roswitha Hecke, Hustler Magazine, Dorothy Iannone, Robert Indiana, Jenna Jameson, William E. Jones, Richard Kern, Edward & Nancy Kienholz, Terence Koh, Bernd Krauß, Stanley Kubrick, Yayoi Kusama, Michael Laub & Dean Proctor, Zoe Leonard, Joep van Lieshout, Tracy Lords, Joseph Maida, Robert Mapplethorpe, Dorit Margreiter, Dona Ann McAdams, Malcolm McLaren/Vivienne Westwood, Eon McKai, Olaf Metzel, John Miller, Jim & Artie Mitchell, Robert Mueller, Otto Mühl, Bruce Nauman, Henrik Olesen, Fritz Ostermayer, Panik Qulture, Haris Pellapaisiotis, Richard Prince, Iwata Roku, Martha Rosler, Doug Sakmann, Carolee Schneemann, Brooke Shields, Snoop Dogg, Valerie Solanas, Annie Sprinkle, SUPERM, Paul Thomas, Erik Visser, Lawrence Weiner, Octavio Winkytiki, Johannes Wohnseifer, Nick Zedd, Jack the Zipper.

Curated by
Florian Waldvogel
Thomas Edlinger

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