Response to ‘Under Your Skin’

From Star of Venus

First, this is a fantastic site and anything which promotes thought and debate is a positive step.

However I think that Lucy Gollogly’s piece felt as if it was expressing the opinion of someone who was reactioary because she felt that she SHOULD be reactionary. While I have not been able to see the exhibition and therefore judge first hand (which always sheds a different light) I am concerned by the points which she raises.

I looked at Richard Kern’s site and, while his photos do provoke a yawn I am not convinced that they are as damaging as Gollogly implies. I would indeed question their true artistic nature and their “postmodernity” but, the gallery may be inclined to reply that porn in an art gallery is, in itself, post-modern and therefore all other expectations should be peeled away. Is it the photographs very lack of subjectiveness (as Gollogly sees it) which adds to their post-modern nature?

As I am unable to see Annie Sprinkle’s pictures I cannot properly comment but they did not sound as groundbreaking as all that. The comments made about them were brief and gave little real information. We could, through inference, suppose that Ms Sprinkle had: no nudes, no head and breast shots, no young models, and no pseudo-lesbian shot; as Gollogly does not mention them. I am, for some reason, relatively sure that this is not tirely the case.

Had the artists’ names been reversed on the labels could the “steak” picture have been seen as primitive, poignant, pointed and a witty comment on women’s place within the societal microcosom of the pornography industry? Would the women who had “character” in Sprnkle’s shots (had the label been preplaced with Kern’s name) suddenly have transformed themselves into women with attitude towards their oppressor, who defiently gazing out towards their masturbatory public?<

Gollgly described the women in Kern’s pictures as “less masters of their fate” than, one assumes, the subjects of Sprinkle’s pictures. WHY? Were the women who posed for Kern forced to remove their clothes, were they mentally feeble and trinked into these situations? Are women so frail when faced by a male presence that they no longer have control of their faculties?

The questions to be addressed are why are women forced into this situation; economics, pressures from society, oportunities which should not exist(?), stupidity, greed?

These are the questions which are important.

As women, what are we afraid of; is it misrepresentation, is it lack of independence? Why are we scared and complaining about photographs, do they hold such a sway over the public imagination that they will cause another woman to decide that porn is the answer for her “career”, will theu incite someone to rape, do they, as images, destroy our fragile footing so completely that we forget to ask for equal rights, equal pay and fair represetation as we fall from our pillars!

With respect to the author and delight in being incited to write.

Lucy Gollogly responds

First of all, I welcome any debate that my review might incite. Those aren’t empty words – I feel that women are often discouraged from discussing the issues raised by Kern’s work i.e. our sexuality as viewed through the eyes of the male. So it can only be healthy for us to confront these issues directly and honestly.

After having a good look at I feel even more strongly than before that Kern’s photopgraphy is ultimately rather dull, bland and colourless coffee table porn for people who would be too embarrassed to buy Hustler. It presents us with nothing new, so why is it of artistic merit? The suggestion that, because the material is displayed in an art gallery it is automatically post-modern, and apparently beyond critisism, is weak, and an abuse of the term.

Far from arriving at the gallery eager to have my sensibilities offended, I went in with an open mind, hoping that Kern would have something new to say about the way women and sexuality are represented, but I was disappointed. I was met with walls of relentless female passivity and nudity. If you doubt me check out Kern’s piece “Ass in Car” on his website – Kern has chosen to represent a woman wearing red stilettos bending forward into a car, her tights ripped to expose her shaven genitals. I would surmise that it’s not this woman’s character ( or even her face) that Kern is interested in representing.

Thanks, Lucy