We don't have any clothes, only equipment
Curated by Lucrezia Calabrò Visconti and Guido Costa
for Artissima 2019
Opening: October 31, 2019 h.10pm
Via Maria Vittoria, 45 Torino
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Iván Argote, Josefin Arnell, Marcel Bascoulard,
Benni Bosetto, Candice Breitz, Simon Fujiwara,
Thomas Hämén, Barbara Hammer, Corrado Levi,
Sidsel Meineche Hansen, Jacopo Miliani,
Athena Papadopoulos, Joanna Piotrowska,
Agnieszka Polska, Karol Radziszewski,
Steve Reinke, Tom of Finland, Wu Tsang,
Anna Uddenberg, Andra Ursuta
We don't have any clothes, only equipment
After World War II, an industrialist converted the machinery used previously for the production of bombs into instruments for the making of hair dryers for beauty salons. The sophisticated technologies of war were thus transformed into devices for the perfecting of the “body” as a socially and culturally determinate concept. It was the same historical moment in which the word "gender" began to be used in the political arena, to describe no longer a natural sexual identity, but instead one that was artificially constructed – and, therefore, commodifiable.
In 1971 a group of lesbians armed with sausages attacked Professor Jérôme Lejeune during an anti-abortion lecture. The event marked the birth of the “Commando Saucisson” (Sausage Commando), around which the Front Homosexuel d’Action Révolutionnaire later gravitated. In the protest, sausages became a parody of the traditional instruments of politics at the time: police truncheons and patriarchal penises.
A few years ago, an artist produced the Asstral Traveler, a butt plug in coprolite: fossilised faeces of dinosaurs dating back to 140 million years ago. The use of this item, a technology designed to produce pleasure through anal stimulation, permits the opening of a space-time gateway. Thus, the anus hosting the plug becomes a post-identitarian organ, transpassing not only the distinction between sexual identities, but also the division between human and non-human, organic and inorganic, present and future.
Abstract Sex: We don’t have any clothes, only equipment is an innovative off-site exhibition project of Artissima conceived for the spaces that formerly hosted Jana, the cult avant-garde fashion boutique that has always been a reference point for artists, writers and other cultural figures in Turin. The exhibition – from an idea by Ilaria Bonacossa and curated by Lucrezia Calabrò Visconti and Guido Costa – focusses on the theme of desire, and features works and objects on loan from galleries taking part in Artissima 2019.
The exploration of the territories of desire might involve stumbling upon unexpected items, hybrid devices and deviant technologies such as the ones described above. These objects, like those scattered throughout the exhibition Abstract Sex: We don’t have any clothes, only equipment, embody the complex set of roles played by desire in recent history. While the radical experiences of the 1970s invoked the emancipating and revolutionary strategies of desire as a possibility of escape from capitalist apparatuses of control, contemporary libidinal society completely integrated terms such as pleasure, sex and love into what has been defined by Paul B. Preciado as a “pharmacopornographic regime”. Tamed by the political and financial infrastructures of neoliberalism 2.0, desire translates into a drive aimed towards normalised lifestyles and commodities, suggested online by algorithmic structures. These drives run up against a concept of "body" that has unstable boundaries, having become a sort of porous platform of information exchange at the level of biochemistry, data and media. Our subjectivity is only one of the forces that cross the body, where the microscopic politics of bacteria and virus meet the macro-politics of the socio-cultural and economic system in which we live.
Borrowing the title of the homonymous essay by Luciana Parisi, the exhibition Abstract Sex brings together strategies of representation of desire that dwell in these mutations, focusing on the abstraction of the definition of sex from biological and cultural preconceptions. The historical and contemporary narratives that unfold in Abstract Sex suggest a crosswise perspective between the virtual and the material, in which everything around us can be rethought as equipment, a weapon at the service of the definition of new mythologies. The set of bodies, objects, devices, and voices inhabiting the rooms of the exhibition reveals the systems of power that lie behind the production and management of desire, underlining architecture, design and the products we consume at a micro and macroscopic level as biopolitical technologies for the production of gender and sexuality. Some lines of research explore techniques of appropriation and cross-dressing as moments of production of subjectivities that escape from dominant cultural categories. Other works point to the close relationship between contemporary forms of pleasure and globalised forms of consumption, coming to terms with the ambivalent consequences of the virtual: on the one hand, the emancipating autonomisation of pleasure from biological functions of reproduction, and on the other hand the triumph of an immaterial economy of pleasure of a patriarchal type. Finally, the artworks on show shift their focus to the body as an enclosure for the encounter of different organisms and interests, imagining bodies as somatic and political machinery whose orifices can become channels for the collective experience of new mythologies. In a context in which the very definition of “human being” is increasingly negotiable, Abstract Sex suggests themes such as dis-identification, post-pornography, opacity and hybridisation to disarm the clichés connected with desire, proposing unexpected alliances between bodies, objects, machinery, organisms and concepts.