Issue 10 | February 2013
Click to read the full issue | Introduction to the issue below:
Pornography Exposed: An introduction to this special issue of One+One: Filmmakers Journal
Pornography, as Édouard Levé’s 2002 photographic series of the same name appears to demonstrate, is about exposure. An obvious point, one might think, given the panoply of soft and hard core moving-image pornography which offers its viewer human bodies naked and exposed in innumerable graphic and gymnastic ways. However, the participants in Levé’s reproductions of various clichéd pornographic arrangements (female body bent forward over a table, ass pressed against a male crotch; three male bodies surrounding a female head at waist height; male kneeling, head between two high-heeled legs) are all entirely clothed. Concealing, with rough grey wools and pink cottons, that which the viewer expects to find exposed (and, finding it hidden, mentally unveils), Levé’s photographs suggest that the aesthetic of modern pornography is an admixture of truth and deception, exposure and concealment. Thus while pornography may light darkened nooks of psycho-sexual subjectivity through brashly bared naked bodies and bodily fluids, it can simultaneously cloud and contort unique constellations of personal desire with prescriptive cliché and prefabricated fantasy. “Porn,” as poet Rob Halpern succinctly puts it in his Music for Porn, “brings to light, permits, and publicizes, just as it darkens, prohibits, and privatizes.”
The writing in this issue inverts pornography’s circulation of exposure and concealment: rolling interpretive sheaths over their subjects and wrapping them in language, these pieces aim to illuminate heretofore-imperceptible features of the pornographic landscape. In “Lower Your Trousers: An introduction to the films of Curt Mc Dowell,” for instance, Dan Fawcett and Clara Pais excavate and align biographical fragments of the elusive filmmaker Curt McDowell, sketching a florescent portrait of a long-neglected artist whose brazen and irreverent perspective remains powerfully relevant to contemporary discussions of pornography and underground cinema. Bradley Tuck and James Marcus Tucker’s interview with pornographer Buck Angel, meanwhile, addresses in particular pornography’s capacity to unveil and even augment the erogenous selfhoods of both viewer and performer. Angel’s trans-porn also boldly confounds socially and discursively constituted ideas of the gendered body by exposing and affirming transsexual bodies in various fluid forms. Helen Hester’s contribution, “No New Pleasures: Notes on Larry Clark’s Impaled,” echoes the themes of Levé’s work in its exploration of controversial filmmaker Clark’s art-porn short from 2006. Drawing upon Michel Foucault and her forthcoming book Beyond Explicit: Pornography and the Displacement of Sex, she finds that Clark’s sustained focus on his performers’ confessional exposure, though apparently at odds with a pornographic aesthetic is in fact contiguous with its basic trajectory: “the epistemophilic desire to know.”
The desire to know more about contemporary understandings of the pornographic led One+One to organise a screening and panel discussion on the subject in December 2012, as part of the London Underground Film Festival. Theorists Dominic Fox, Alex Dymock, Sarah Harman and Frances Hatherley joined us to debate issues such as pornographic “addiction,” pornography, sex-work and affective labour, and transgression as the sine qua non of porn’s social status. In this issue you will find a transcript of their discussion, chaired by editor James Marcus Tucker. Less reasoned discussion, more vitriolic dispute, the Scandanavian society portrayed in Jack Stevenson’s “Hardcore Circus: Deep Throat on Thin Ice in Norway” is one fissured by irreconcilable differences, battle-lines drawn across a no-man’s land of pornographic film production. A fascinating social critique, Stevenson’s piece traces the fate, in particular, of Cinemateket Bergen’s screening of Deep Throat and the consequent surfacing in 1990s Norway of a nexus of controversy, taboo and consternation which attended the film on its release. Stevenson’s article is followed by James Marcus Tucker’s report on Pornfilmfestival Berlin, which has offered filmgoers from around the world a smörgåsbord (to continue a Scandanavian theme) of commercial and off-beat pornographic films and documentaries since 2005. James’ discussion of some of the festival’s screenings confirms the impression of an apparently infinitely varied programme catering to all tastes, intellectual and otherwise. In interview with James, Festival curator Claus Matthes also offers some convincing suggestions for the success of the festival – in particular the experience of sexual arousal en masse – and presents a compelling and pornographically literate insider account of the porn business and its possible futures.
James’ piece on Pornfilmfestival Berlin is followed by three complimentary pieces that position pornography – and its analysis – at the vanguard of a drive toward sexual equality. Anne Sabo’s contribution, featuring condensed sections of her work, After Pornified, is a forthright criticism of sexist moving-image porn from an avowedly, if not unproblematically, feminist perspective, her polemic driven by a resistance to the intrusions of patriarchy into the psycho-sexual life of the modern subject. The criteria Sabo offers for the production of a radically feminist pornography offer an extensive taxonomy by which feminist porn producers’ attempts to subvert or critique mainstream ideology might be identified and affirmed. Sabo’s article is followed by an exclusive interview with feminist pornographer, Erika Lust. Speaking to filmmaker Kay Hayward, Lust outlines her development as a filmmaker and her commitment to making moving-image pornography that refuses to conform to bland stereotypes and can both excite and educate. She also gives a rare insight into the porn business, its pressures and prejudices, and reflects on pornography’s capacity to offer positive attitudes towards women’s bodies, desires and needs. Bradley Tuck’s “Pornodialectics: From Coming to Becoming” closes our special issue with an incendiary attack on contemporary pornography – not for its presumed desecration of family values, or for a supposed structural misogyny, but for its status as a symptom of neoliberal hegemony of choice, which incapacitates humanity’s potential for becoming. Drawing upon the work of Alain Badiou, Mark Fisher and Slavoj Žižek, Bradley elides pro/anti positions by offering a path through porn which conducts a kind of queering or Debordian détournement of porn. His pornodialectics nails 16 controversial theses to the final pages of this issue, offering potential solutions for contesting “the means of production and the normative curtailment of man’s potential to re-open the process of man’s continual becoming.”
The pieces assembled in this very special issue of One+One Filmmakers Journal offer various incursions through porn’s conceptual glory holes, and allow their reader to glimpse, through political, aesthetic and experiential filters, the fascinating play of light and shadow across pornography’s undulating, corporeal fabric.