In the contemporary art world, what is and isn’t art is often called into question.
It’s certainly an important question that gives rise to debates that touch on different spheres of human knowledge.
Whether we’re looking at a painting, a photo, or any piece of art, we need to take the artist’s thought into account, and this isn’t always so intuitive.
The opportunity for a Sex Positivity Pop Up event dedicated to art in New York, organised by Bryony Cole and Future of Sex, is perfectly fitting—so much so, the editors along with myself thought it would be interesting to interview some contemporary artists working with themes related to the female world and sexuality.
In this booming (albeit hidden) world, we find Marcos Alberti, a young and eccentric photographer and the creator of a beautiful project called ‘OProject’, which consists of a series of photographs depicting women before, during, and after the act of masturbation. Simply left described in this way, it could seem like nothing more than the artist’s perversion, but in reality there’s so much more to it.
Through answering my questions, Marcos Alberti explained the importance of loving oneself and how necessary it is to look at self-love not as a taboo, but as the complete opposite: a normal part of sexuality and one’s general well-being. As you can see, the last frame of the exhibit shows women smiling to the camera; this is perhaps where the importance lies.
As a woman, I was curious to understand how I would have felt being naked and masturbating in front of a camera. Most likely, I would have felt extremely uncomfortable.
Marcos Alberti’s expertise and sensitivity went against all expectations. When it came to the women (who were recruited randomly), the artist felt obligated to get to know each and every one of them and made jokes to put them at ease. Once they were on set, he made them feel comfortable by creating a calm and judgment-free zone. Moreover, none of the women had to undress for the project; a desk covered with sheets was available in order to maintain privacy.
In a project such as this—one which has certainly received many critiques and also many acclaims—what remains clear is its goal to combat various stereotypes and deep-seated intolerances surrounding today’s society. Whether it’s liked or not, OProject is an exhibition leader in both Asia and the United States, and boasts around 300 publications in 40 different countries with over one and a half million views.
Further, in Lindsay Wynn’s photographs, we see multiple bodies (sometimes alone, other times in couples), each different from the other and positioned in the essential photo studio location.
Lindsay seeks to explain that when presented with a body that would usually be described as ‘imperfect’, there are various useful factors that pave the path of ‘non-judgment’. The artist tells us that people usually have complicated relationships with their bodies, often linked to extremely personal and difficult matters. These complicated relationships should urge us not to judge and simultaneously make us realise that advertising campaigns (slowly but surely) are changing, in that they are choosing to represent less categorised beauty ideals, something that should make us jump for joy (and free us from stereotypes).
Additionally, Bonnie Lane pragmatically offers us another aspect of the link between the body, sexuality, and society with her video productions. These videos show us the pros and cons of the coexistence between real and virtual worlds and how relationships created through social media and dating sites make our lives easier in many ways: don’t like someone? Not a problem—you’ll find someone else in no time at all without too much trouble.
The artist’s 2016 singular production is called The Act (is done). The video, like a large part of Bonnie’s production, looks at her personal experiences by showing an interaction between a woman (possibly her, in this case) and an average man. Through a witty exchange and a flow of images, we are asked about what the starting situation could be. In reality, however, it’s actually Bonnie who asks us these questions, not so much regarding the personalities of the two characters, but more so in that the two are perfect strangers.
The mere fact that videos like these can create a mix of sensations ranging from disgust, loneliness, excitement, and sadness, means that they can perhaps match up with real sensations that are only revealed once we find ourselves in these types of situations.
When faced with the production of artists such as these, I believe it’s natural to think about how many of these themes belong to us, and how many are present in our daily lives.
More than anything, it’s natural to think about how these themes can be the keys to reading a body, a dialogue, or an artist.
The lowest common denominator among artists who push themselves towards certain themes appears clear; this is why we must first educate ourselves before criticising, to respect before judging without having been asked, and to be less superficial when faced with things that we sometimes can’t understand—or quite simply, things in which we can’t share.