Adult Landscapes was a StudioLab installation that ran in August 2015 at the original location in the Bridgeport Arts Center. Curated, organized, and assembled by Joe Wallace, this show explored some edgier themes than in times past at StudioLab. Here are some images and the artist statement from the show:
Images of the nude human form have existed since the human race started making art. The Venus of Willendorf, carved approximately 25 thousand years ago, is one of the earliest depictions of a nude body.
In print, one of the earliest examples of nudity dates as far back as 1150 B.C.–the Turin Erotic Papyrus has been described by some as the earliest example of an “erotic men’s magazine”. Since then, the recording and circulation of images featuring nudity and sexual situations has evolved along with the societies that consume these images.
One important development happened with the advent of photography; the creation of eroticism was not longer the monopoly of those skilled enough to describe sexual situations in print or to draw/paint/sculpt them.
The creation of erotic images moved out of the exclusive realm of the imagination; with film, photographers (and later, filmmakers) created sexual situations in order to capture them. Erotic art suddenly developed a documentary aesthetic. There are plenty of contemporary objections to sex-related imagery in art and cinema. One set of those objections comes from religious/moral concerns.
Since religious and moral codes are defined by society, they are quite fluid indeed and not the focus of this show. Objections to this material on moral grounds seem to go beyond “I don’t believe in it, so I won’t consume it”, and into the far more pointless “Nobody should see this” argument.
Adult Landscapes ignores these objections on the basis that erotic artwork has existed since practically the dawn of time, and people will see it. Attempts to “put the genie back in the bottle” are futile and not worth the time or consideration of intelligent people. Adult Landscapes is concerned with a different set of issues altogether, starting with the argument that people are exploited by the industry and culture that produces sexually-oriented publications, cinema, and websites.
The central idea behind Adult Landscapes is that “adults only” content IS exploitative, but that it’s only a microcosm of the same environment the rest of us (not just the performers in adult-oriented content) also must navigate in our daily lives. People who perform in pornography and other adults-only content are said to have been exploited–their bodies are put to use for degrading purposes, according to many. The arguments often include the notion that these performers only take their roles because they need money, and would choose some other way of life if they could find something better.
But is this not the plight of the typical American? Our bodies are put to work doing tasks we’d rather not do, for employers who exploit our bodies, our labor, and our results. The porn star is looked down upon for putting his or her body on display for all to see in order to make a paycheck. The factory worker does not get this level of scrutiny, but the results are the same–bodies and minds put to work until they are no longer useful, then discarded when they are no longer convenient. Someone profits from the labor, but the worker is underpaid and disposable. There is a demand for the labor, and there are products to sell as a result of the exploitation of this labor.
Adult Landscapes should not be misinterpreted as an anti-capitalist statement. To be against something implies–or SHOULD imply–that those in opposition have an alternative solution. To try to “end capitalism” is as futile as trying to “stamp out pornography”; an endeavor no intelligent person should waste their time doing. This show is not about providing answers. It is about asking questions. Who are the exploiters? Who is the exploited? Who profits? For how long?
How are the faces and situations depicted here representative of a greater reality that we all share? In a philosophical way, how is MY LIFE represented in these images? Can any of this change to make the entire process less exploitative and more equitable for all involved? Who wins, and who loses by maintaining the status quo? Adult Landscapes is a show about power, desire, need, and the exploitation of those things for profit.