PORNO

15.02.2018. - 12.04.2018.
Upper Gallery
PORNO
PORNO
PORNO
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Don't touch! – one of the most popular signs in exhibition spaces. Although for several decades there has been no shortage of exhibitions where there is nothing to see without making contact, PORNO is a tad old-fashioned. It comes from the time when professional studios shot films in the homes of the American middle-class, later distributing them over cable television and video-cassettes, while the technical specifications of the internet in most households were still not up to transferring video files.

In the context of art, pornography is most commonly brought up in border situations – usually, when moral or aesthetic sensibility of an individual or an entire society has been offended. It implies a kind of balancing act and having to deal with censors. The problem is aptly illustrated by Ivars Grāvlejs' 2007 video Mobile. The artist stalks visitors of an exhibition opening, showing pornographic videos on his mobile phone and claiming that these are more interesting than the exhibition being opened. It is clear he is operating within the traditional hierarchy where art – according to different criteria – is higher than pornography. Yet, what would Grāvlejs' reaction be if someone would stalk him with images of art while he watches porn?

The exhibition PORNO contains a row of porcelain figurines, and, inevitably, there is also an elephant (or, mammoth) in the room: there are only two depictions of the naked body. By discarding flesh and the cold, scientifically exact depiction of the mechanics of sexual intercourse, several other aspects of pornography come to the surface. For example, double-entendres. If the butterfly leaves Bambi's tail, the latter turn into a giraffe. Namely, cheap jokes during watercooler chat, the latest films or private affairs, the neighbour who has come for milk, the sweaty plumber, a wardrobe malfunction.

In the late 1990s, a fairly widespread format of online pornography were the Thumbnail Gallery Posts (TGP). These consisted of galleries made of 16-20 free, lower-quality images from pay sites, distributed with the aim of attracting subscribers. TGPs gathered such galleries, adding a banner or two to the layout and redirecting some of the clicks to the sponsor's website, instead of a larger version of the image. The scenarios of these galleries are completely superficial. The first few images show the model in a more or less believable setting – for example, a schoolgirl, who has just come home. With each following image there are less clothes and a simulation of a different nature.

Something that art shares with pornography is the act of looking – a fairly codified act of looking. To keep a distance or not, to observe silence or not, to make a specific kind of gestures and movements. Distance is also something they share. In the case or pornography, no matter how close one moves to the screen, one has to realise it is only an image, and gradually has to accept that perhaps looking is more exciting than the depicted activity. In the case of art, the distance is at minimum twofold. One – just like in porn – the impossibility to step into the picture. Another – if art is seen as movable property – there is the nagging possibility that what the exhibition goer is engaged in is strangely similar to window-shopping.

Over the centuries, many different machines for looking have been developed in the context of art – the Salon, the white cube, the black box, El Lissitzky's Abstract Cabinet (made in the 1920s in Hannover for the display of contemporary of his time), op and kinetic art, Swan Lake, music videos. Naturally, in the era of internet search engines nothing can stop everything being put together, one image being put on top of another, ignoring museum truths, good taste and blandest aspects of art history. Kitsch is another aspect of PORNO.

Authors:
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