Arandjel Bojanovic

DE-LIBERATING SEXUALITY

'Manifest of flaw' exhibition and publication / Sabot, 2009


There has been a time when people from pre-transitional Romania tried to reach the television signal from across the borders of their country, i.e. from Yugoslavia who happened to be the most consumerist, Western-like society of the so called Communist Bloc. For the people this underground access to the broadcasting space was the only window to a mediascape radically different from the one they used to enjoy. According to a story, the content many people tended to consume the most had been of pornographic provenience. It is a kind of oral history report that has been in circulation ever since. Usually this was taken to be an anecdote, a simple straightforward yet heroic story of the unfulfilled desire finding its ways to the satisfaction. Alex Mirutziu, however, is aware of the fact that sexuality and its popular elaboration in pornography has traditionally been the entrance to consumer society. He is working within that consumer society that presented itself at the time as a renaissance of Romanian society. The question constantly being asked by the author is: what does it mean to be a consumer of sexuality? What is being offered as an answer goes from political readings to relentless physicality. 

This question at its basic is concerned with anthropology of consumption. The author threats it in respect to the analysis of sexual discourses in general. Discourse is understood in Foucauldian terms as any language, text, spoken word, theory or practice that structures some domain of human life. The author goes about doing the inquiry through the medium of photography. Haven knows I feel miserable now and  Self portrait with a hood on are openly reminiscent of the works of Robert Mapplethorpe who is known for his engagement in the so-called cultural war during the 70's and 80's that was fought for sexual emancipation, gay and black liberation as well as other progressive causes. His ultra-aestheticized photography of BD/SM subculture found the way to galleries and became, as it were, the manifesto of the movement. Alex Mirutziu is aiming at the cultural effects by performing this sexualized identities in his local context where, he believes, they still have a local logic. The move undertaken can be seen as a remake, the practice conscious of presence of historic and cultural amnesia. However, photography he uses is more of a document of appropriation of information about performance conducted in theatricality of private space, than an object made for aesthetic contemplation, and as such is being installed before the viewer. Most of the time the 'art' is invisible, hidden behind more urgent need to explore the role sexual discourses play in our lives. What is underscored is the rhetorical space of the bedroom which is out of the reach of biopolitical technology of the polls. This works are presentation of site-specific performance art, the exploration of space of sexuality consumption in solitude. 

At the same time, the author's pop-cultural erudition comes to the fore in the practice of  designation of his experiments within the phenomenon of art. Everyday objects, utilitarian objects such as chairs, spoons, cars, etc. don't have proper names. Art objects necessarily do, even when they are of the same kind as former. Haven knows I feel miserable now alludes to the similar title of the song of the The Smiths whose author came out as an asexual. Now both the paradoxical slave identity deprived from its relation to the master ironically solitarily performed in the bedroom and possibility of being asexual stand up in opposition to genitally-dominated, penetration-oriented sexual protocol delivered by mainstream pornography. Yet there is a tension between sado-masochism and asexuality. SM subculture has become the subject of transactions within the mainstream culture whereas asexuality is still underdeveloped/unrecognized politically identity.  

Alex Mirutziu in the series of his earlier works deals with the issue of sexuality in such a way questioning/complicating/displacing presuppositions that are (sub)textually present in any sexual discourse whether its being scientific or of some other kind. The artist does it by the way of cultural experiments aiming at production of local-ized excesses. The striking instance of this practice would be the 24 hours donation of sperm performance held at the University of Fine Arts, Cuenca, Spain. Semen has been used with the plethora of metaphoric and narratological meanings. Mainstream pornography represents it as the quintessential feature of sexual intercourse, as the ultimate pleasure. The spill over effect onto the culture is overwhelming. The grand narrative - foreplay, intercourse, cumshot - is unavoidable. Pleasure embodied in sperm tends to present itself as genderless. It allegedly escapes every ideological codification; it does not matter whether a person being the male or female, an anarchist or fascist, a wealthy or poor – when it comes to the sperm as an element of sexual intercourse every identity is irrelevant and therefore redundant. Its ontological hegemony is indisputable. Everything is measured by semen. It is the self-contained absolute telos of the activity in question. It is good in itself. The author decides to conduct the crucial experiment, that is, to test the myth repetitiously masturbating. By means of experiment one is able to reveal only things that are socially constructed yet regulated by some scientific regime and offered as a natural necessities. Therefore, no one is supposed to use the bodily liquids without its natural sphere, that is, private and/or scientific discourses which are heavily protocoled. 

The Atrocity exhibition and Boys first time present a viewer with one more tactics of signifying. Striking aesthetic resemblance between saliva and sperm is evident. The very recognition of the matter determines politically different readings. Cumface became a standard of mainstream heterosexual pornography. As yet it is not equally distributed. Male is rarely to never subjected to ejaculate. Sperm on male face is tabooed event in dominant homophobic culture. Its shock value is intensive. This maneuver of producing the indecisive readings is in some respects similar to Duchamp's logic of ready-made manipulation. Duchamp's works not only fly in the face of the institution of art itself, but also show that two aesthetically even physically equivalent object can be of different metaphysical orders at the same time underscoring artworld's aura-giving powers. At the time, Fountain, the urinal, still had the signature that supposed to distinguish it from other products. 

When it is disclosed that any matter can instantiate various auratic features it is possible to go a step further. Namely, not only things that surround us and interact with our skin causing sensations in us, but the things that are under the skin, within our body, can also be (re)auraticized. Sensations and meanings of our inner body are not self evident, private and primitive in contrast to our believes in other entities such as money, marriage, university, state, bathtubs... which social subject-dependent nature is demonstrative. Corollary of this way of reasoning is possibility of (re)connection of sexual pleasures to juices other than sperm, sensations other than orgasm - scatology, pissing, fisting, etc. Not in a way of checking off some already existing objectified patterns of perverted identity from the given cultural stock but by hinting toward a possibility of redrawing ontological lines of bodily inside/out. 

The author's ongoing effort to understand commodity culture, to see how what we consume defines us, leads him toward the queer paradigm, into such a mode of being which is ultimately resistant to biopolitics, to the processes of comodification/objectification, to the identitarian mode of thinking that revealed itself to be dangerously in tune with the logic of Capital, too claustrophobic and parochial.

Today when transitional Romania lives the extension of the mass media - television, color-magazines, billboards, cinema, newspapers, radio and Internet - the artist grounded in this material and political realities bodily reflects on his ideas of sexuality by assessing the possibility of articulating a view of the sexual beingness which can be translated into effective political strategies. Alex Mirutziu treats the artworld as a terrain of political, anthropological, sexual... experimentation disconnected from any utilitarian considerations imposed by the society. His works are not pleasant and one would feel even threatened by them if not necessarily on the sentient level as an organism, than certainly metaphysically as a self.