The Maurice Einhardt NEU Gallery
10/12/10 to 29/01/2011. Redchurch Street, Shoreditch
A crowd is gathered in Redchurch Street. This is not uncommon, nor is it rare for the crowd to be enjoying an art gallery’s hospitality at the opening of their new exhibition. What is different about this crowd is that each person is looking into the window of the gallery and swaying from side to side. No swaying isn’t the right verb, they are rather foppishly angling themselves along a horizontal plane. The reason for this hangs in the window, a twin art piece called ‘Gratification in Red’ and ‘Gratification in White’. These pieces depict a pole dancer performing an attitude heel spin (yes I know my pole moves) in two shades of light. It’s the medium which makes this not just a photography session in Amsterdam. Several images have been printed on a lenticular lens and mounted on a lightbox to produce a sequence of moving frames. Therefore the ‘Gratification’ dancer is actually dancing, all the audience has to do is move and she moves with you.
On the surface this is a display conveying concepts relating to voyeurism, seduction, sexuality and sin. As you enter the exhibit you begin to find other threads and meanings to the art works, however the principal content are women. These women are in various states of seductive play, burlesque routines or simple undress. There are also two portraits opposing each other called ‘I Want to Fuck You’ and ‘I Love You’. In these images a woman is mouthing these very statements and with feeling. The fact that they are placed opposite each other could reflect a considered opposition of the statements, that one is contrary to the other. Or that they are unanimous with each other, reflections in the same distorted mirror. The utilisation of holography means that a picture is speaking to the audience, as well as the picture facing it. The woman in ‘I Love You’ is saying this to herself in ‘I want to Fuck You’. And who hasn’t said these things in the mirror to themselves? Who wouldn’t love it if we could fuck our own reflection? Or is that just me…?
Moving on. We find that certain art works are more involved with the sexual side of seduction, whereas others are more symbolic of the delightful play involved. ‘Daisy Don’t Stop The Dance’ is sensual and sweet, viewers perceiving the pure joy on the female subject’s face. Yet here is where the defining level is realised. Viewing moving images of women gyrating, seducing and generally trying to lay the audience is interesting for a time, but the pieces that stood out do more than this. They portray a vulnerability within the women, the knowledge of the risk they take, the possible rejection and the awareness of being objectified. ‘Blue and Gold’ is one such piece, with the pose being unstructured, the light unflattering and a simplicity in the animation. This piece denotes a deeper uncertainty within the seduction. Whereas ‘Suki, Fill Me Up’ was relatively a shallow piece that reminded me of the tacky pens you could buy at Pleasure Beaches, which when inverted a 1980’s coiffed woman would lose her bathing suit.
Nevertheless by utilising lenticular photographic sequences, these subjects become personable and their actions construct different themes. The images can both aesthetically shock and engage the viewer. If her being naked in that pose doesn’t affect you, then just move your head to get a new pose which may do the trick. What’s more the audience has to directly participate with the art, moving to better the view and better understand the work. The pieces are performative within themselves and also without. The most fun I had when at the gallery was watching the audience jostle about, looking like they were attempting to do the twist whilst dodging missiles. Participants were viewing intimate and sometimes very private movements, ignoring the fact that they were performing what they may have considered quite private and ridiculous movements themselves.
Santini is a well known for his voyeur aesthetic and his ability to encourage dialogue and confrontation, especially with regards to intimacy and the taboo. Though I wouldn’t regard this exhibit to be as iconic as his previous works, the novel use of the medium and womanly sexuality was just as confrontational. The women in these pictures showed a acknowledgement of being sexually evaluated. Conveying a dramatic irony between the female subjects about the combined audience’s ignorance. Questions then arose to explain our need to examine sex and about how we view women. Can fucking be intimate? Can love be dirty and obscene?
An audience entered the gallery and moved as one in order to fully view a woman’s nakedness, to examine a nipple, to make out the dirty words she whispered, to assess her fuckability. And no one decided that this was inappropriate or gratuitous. If the art’s aim was to enable sexual discourse, what was the result of these discussions? In the end I felt that most had picked the woman they wouldn’t kick out of bed, the woman they would be afraid to meet in a dark alley and the picture they would most likely masturbate to. Scintillating discoveries I’m sure.