In case you didn’t know (I didn’t) this month marks the 20th anniversary of The Decency Clause. As part of the program called How Obscene is This! The Decency Clause Turns 20 (so-called “obscene” language is the only form of expression not covered by the First Amendment) the National Coalition Against Censorship screened part of Destricted, a collection of short films by artists exploring the boundaries between porn and art. The moderator when introducing the film, consoled the audience by reminding them that these films have screened at The Tate and Cannes, so we can all be reassured that we aren’t just a bunch of pervs watching dirty movies.
Death Valley by Sam Taylor-Wood: A guy jacking off alone in the desert = porn. A guy jacking off alone in the desert with a soundtrack of spooky, ambient electronic music = art
House Call by Richard Prince: a porn movie = porn. A video of a porn movie on a t.v. with a soundtrack of spooky, ambient music = art.
I don’t mean to sound glib, both films were moving and engaging in their own way, but it’s interesting to see blatant, clear sex on screen and how different the experiences would be in a porn theater -vs- an art school auditorium. How long do we spend with our hands on our chins, nodding and critiquing before we admit that we’ve gotten wet or hard.
Maybe it’s because I’ve seen too much, but I find so much of porn (even the alternative, indie porn) is just kind of, well… boring. Penis in hole, tongue on clit, fist in ass; there are only so many ways to shoot it. I get it. People are having sexual intercourse for me to watch. To me, Green Pink Caviar by Marilyn Minteris so much dirtier. Maybe it’s because I’m not quite sure what I’m seeing and I don’t know exactly what is happening and why. Plus, it’s oddly beautiful. The same with Hoist by Matthew Barney. You’re watching very explicit sex, but in a form that’s totally foreign with a visual vocabulary that’s uniquely his.
I like a little porn in my art and a little art in my porn. I like my perceptions of sexuality twisted and my conceptions of art challenged. If you couldn’t make it to the screening, some of the films will be released on DVD some time this year.