Destricted is a collection of seven films by well-known artists and film-makers including Sam Taylor-Wood, Gaspar Noe and that old provocateur, Larry Clark. ‘It aims to bring together sex and art; a platform for all forms of uncensored artistic expression; manipulating and embracing the expression of sex through art.’ I have no idea what this means. What I do believe though is that Destricted is much less about sex and much more about pornography; in this aspect it’s quite revealing.
So. Seven films. Number one is called Hoist; directed by Matthew Barney, it features a naked, erect black man, strapped to the underbelly of a fifty ton truck. He wears a lots of greenery in his hair and has a gourd stuck up his bum, and rubs himself repeatedly against the throbbing driveshaft of the vehicle, which is thickly coated with white lubricant. I am not making this up. Anyone with a smidgeon of understanding of semiotics will read this as primitive man versus technology. What’s sad is that it’s so absolutely literal as to be totally undemanding, mildly racist, and at fourteen minutes is far too long.
I cheered up at Balkan Erotic Epic, directed by Marina Abramovic, which features a number of Balkan peasants taking part in various sexual rituals. It’s all explained to us by a severe-looking woman, delivering an anthropological lecture, and its contextualised, its charming and funny, and feels meaningful; seeing a lineup of men in traditional Balkan dress singing with their penises hanging out of their flies is odd but kind of sweet.
Next up was Housecall, by Richard Prince, where he has taken an old porn film and re-recorded it, distressing and distorting the visual. Sadly, this just makes it look like a badly made old porn film, though it was quite exciting to see a porn star with real breasts. The sex was also quite old fashioned, the woman very passive. The colourisation made the male actor’s cock look like a bright pink slug.
Impaled is Larry Clark’s contribution. Clark interviewed a selection of young men between the age of 19 and 23, the generation who have grown up with porn, whose sexuality has been informed and shaped by it. This was probably the most interesting film, though of course quite a self-selecting group, as someone who wasn’t particularly interested in porn probably wouldn’t respond to Clark’s ad. But that most of these boys shave their pubes, that they’re all into rough sex and anal sex – what is porn doing to the imaginations of young people?
Clark then goes on to cast one of the boys in a film. Five or six actresses come in for casting; one, 40-year old Nancy, is all over our hero, and she gets the part. Watching her give him a blow job while still wearing her huge white trainers is oddly poignant.
Sync is a breath of fresh air at less than two minutes long, a slew of images of couples fucking, which really reminds you of the banality, the formulaic nature of porn.
Sam Taylor-Wood’s contribution to the project is Death Valley, probably the biggest disappointment of the seven. A young man wanders into frame, pulls down his trousers, and proceeds to masturbate, on screen, in real time. That’s it. It takes about eight minutes and is a good seven minutes too long.
I don’t have a problem with people masturbating, just that you can have too much of a good thing. At this point I began to wish the filmmakers had cast a few premature ejaculators…
But not as much as after the horror that was We Fuck Alone, Gaspar Noe’s ode to wanking. I mean, sorry, dark odyssey into violent masturbatory fantasy. Or twenty three minutes of watching a man play with his penis, like a porn version of Groundhog Day. It culminates with him reaching for a gun and thrusting it into the mouth of his inflatable sex toy as he nears his orgasm.
Like Nine Songs, Destricted proves to me is that the best sex is in the mind. Whatever most of the filmmakers here were trying to achieve, it sheds no light on porn, simply reproducing it at its most trite, stale and unimaginative.
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