Wednesday, 21 January 2009

In which I talk a lot of shit about men and women

Warning for male nudity, NSFW. Serious discussion of rude bits will follow.

Oh god, Mikel Marton is awesome. This article [not work-safe!] made me happy. I'm so glad his work is getting more gallery exposure, especially after all of his cameras and computers were stolen a year or so ago. It’s funny, after about 4 years of browsing the site DeviantArt, there were only a handful of people whose work made me think something else other than ‘that’s cool’ [but maybe I’m just a bit shit at appreciating art sometimes], especially in the photography section; which is mostly just macro pictures of flowers and underage tits. In Sixth Form, me and a friend of mine became pretty obsessed with Sarah Lucas’ work, in that period when I was only beginning to understand what fine art was, to realise that the things she makes are all about bawdy sex and vulgarity, and those things are cool. Or rather, challenging the idea of a woman [‘Eating a Banana’, 1990] and gender roles really got me into reading about feminism and a lot of the ideas struck a chord with me and made me really passionate [I won’t go into detail, some guys are following this blog and I wouldn’t want to bore them to tears].

While keeping this contemporary art journal for foundation course, I realised I actually liked photography quite a bit. I’ll have to dig out the journals to remember the names I was into [the sheer amount you had to talk about was intimidating, so you become forgetful], but I do remember feeling vaguely uncomfortable about the overwhelming number of female subjects in nude portraits/erotica. At first I put it down to immature, prudish heterosexualness, but I don’t think I’m all that prudish. It’s mainly the fact that pretty much all of this genre is pictures of tied-up women, and I don't see the irony to these kind of photos. Women are physically vulnerable compared to men, and have been/are oppressed, and I don't see any reason to celebrate those terrible things. This kind of imagery is never morally questioned and I was quite frustrated about that as I could never think of anything to say that didn’t sound like I had double standards, as you can easily reply with ‘you’re no better just because you’d rather look at cocks’.

But I so completely agree with what Mikel is saying. Male art is taboo because we are still scared of showing the strong white man as a sexual object, because that is something completely associated with femininity or homosexuality, and of course, neither of those are any good for what we demand a man to be.
I’ll be very happy to see change, really, so I was extremely happy to find Mikel's work as the photographs are beautiful and the ideas behind it I think are important things.

In before 'lol, that guy has a huge penis'

On the topic of naked people, life drawing yesterday was great fun! It was my first time doing it properly, as I’d only drawn clothed models before...Not entirely happy with what I produced, I was trying to get the drawings as accurate to the three dimensional person as possible, and I didn’t really put any boldness into it. I think it’s a matter of confidence. I now know I can draw the human body reasonably accurately, so that gives me more room to experiment technically. Sometimes I think my stuff has zero visual impact, so I’ll try harder.
Also on the subject of female bodies, I’ll link to one of my favourite painters, Jenny Saville. I love her work.
So that the next entry isn’t entirely worthless, I’ll post the drawings we did with Chris for the laugh.


jengou said...

Uwah, that Mikel Marton photograph and article is awesome. Agree that male form needs to be glorified more in a way that is not feminine or gay. This is good for men's ego too - too many men I know dislike the look of their bodies, it's such a shame.

I really like Jenny Saville's works! I used to own this artbook of hers which featured her typical fat women, but with brown withered penis where the vagina would be. You had to recoil slightly at first sight, but it was kinda empowering ^^;

Blair said...

Mm, same here...There is a lot of outside pressure for a guy to be fit though, not as bad as it is for women but still.

Yeah! Wow, I'd love an artbook, I've never seen any of her paintings irl either, not quite sure where they're exhibited. Oh yeah, that one was quite shocking! Like the ones with the women pressed against sheets of glass. They look more like meat than flesh, it's interesting. Apparently she did a lot of studies of medical procedures like lipo suction and sex changes too, I don't think I could bear it!

jengou said...

Yeah, and if a guy is too fit he's speculated to be gay... it's quite tough for guys! I def prefer being a girl~

Yepyep, those were the Jenny Saville paintings I saw in the Saatchi gallery, they were humongous! Some of them had blue circles/lines drawn on the tummy/thighs to indicate where the knife would go to remove the fat, quite horrifying!

Michael Powell said...

Interesting debate. I remember on my photography degree we had to cover pornography at one point. There are no easy answers as so much depends on the clash between individual taste and societal norms, and where the boundaries overlap and there are legal issues.

I find it interesting, and somewhat depressing, that 'eroticism' in most art contexts consists of cliched photos of pretty naked people in lingerie of stock gay poses. To me, that's too easy. Real eroticism is the where the imagination and the body take you into places you've never been - the brain being the most important erogenous zone, rather than the eyes. Part of the problem is that we have what i would call an 'industrialised' approach to imagery which renders it ineffective. By that I mean, over exposure to certain kinds of imagery have two effects - one, you become immune to them, they no longer shock or surprise so the artist must raise the ante next time to register an effect, two, over exposure actually kills the individual's personal identity. There is some great research about this is in feminist literature, I can't possibly describe it here in detail, but it identified the normalising of certain sexual practices in direct relation to young women's exposure to hardcore pornography... in other word's, peoples expectation and desires were being directly shaped by their exposure to media. Scary stuff.

I don't know, but maybe this is something that we could debate at some point if peope are interested?

Blair said...

@Mike: I imagine that was difficult...I suppose you have to consider the boundaries between the artistic and the pornographic? They merge so often though.

Mm, I agree, a lot of that kind of imagery shouldn't even have the title 'erotic' as you can see that kind of thing on an advertising billboard, only difference possibly being the showing of nipples, etc. I feel the same way about how fetish photography is limited to either a tied up woman or a dominatrix, the latter being a complete misrepresentation of how that kink works in real life, or it's gay men, so I feel all of it is catered for the male eye and anyone else is just a voyeur.
Agree about how we become resistant to shock tactics, its still quite a powerful thing though, so I suppose artists have to use it effectively?
The research you mentioned sounds really interesting, do you have any recommendation for particular writers or essays?

I know I would be curious as to what other people thought about it, as I've never really talked about it much in real life before. Thank you for such a long response!

Michael Powell said...

Hey, no problem - it was fun. My first degree is photography and my next research or maybe even PhD will be back to photography.

I'll see if I can dig out some of the research for you - might take a while, as I'm a magpie for that kind of thing. I find it and stow it away, but can never find it again!

Blair said...

Oh, thank you! If you do find anything, please pass it my way on here or irl!