Not faking it: artist's 'orgasm box' goes up at Tate Modern

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Her ecstasy was recorded 30 years ago when Dorothy Iannone was in her prime. In a video box, entitled I was Thinking of You, which was created in 1975, the viewer saw Iannone's face while she was masturbating.

And now, at the age of 72, Iannone has created a new work based on the original video footage, framed in a new "orgasm box" decorated with highly colourful and detailed patterns which act as a background to two central figures of a naked man and woman.

It will be the inaugural work in The Wrong Gallery, a tiny exhibition space conceived and directed by Maurizio Cattelan, the Italian artist who first came to British public attention when he hung a stuffed horse from the roof of Tate Britain.

The Wrong Gallery has a locked single glass door through which the viewer looks into an exhibition space of roughly half a metre to a brick back wall. For the past three years, it was sandwiched between two doors on 20th St, Chelsea, New York. But it was recently evicted from this site and the original door is being sent to Tate Modern.

The orgasm box by Iannone, an American artist now based in Berlin, will be the first of six displays a year in the new gallery sandwiched in a similarly nondescript place on the Tate's third floor.

Vicente Todoli, the Tate Modern's director, said they would probably put a small warning sign to alert people to the subject matter although he thought this would be "unnecessary".

He suggested there was nothing shocking about the Iannone work which had predecessors in the history of art such as Salvador Dali's Freudian photo collageThe Phenomenon of Ecstasy in 1933.

It was also of a piece with work Iannone has produced since the 1960s, celebrating erotic love. Much of her work is autobiographical, influenced by her travels in India, Japan and South-east Asia, and her relationship with the artist Dieter Roth.

The original version of this piece was first shown in France in 1976. But Iannone has sometimes had difficulty exhibiting her work. At various times, she has been censored, and at other times neglected.

"There are other forms of censorship besides confiscation," she has said. "To ignore work is a subtle and very effective form of censorship."

She is unlikely to be ignored for the next few months. The orgasm box will go on display on Wednesday until the end of February.

In New York, The Wrong Gallery hosted more than 40 projects by artists including Martin Creed, the Turner Prize winner, Paul McCarthy and Shirana Shahbazi.

At Tate Modern, Cattelan will be given freedom to curate the gallery, which he owns, unless he plans anything that threatened the safety of the gallery and its visitors. He will work on the project with two of his own curators, Massimiliano Gioni and Ali Subotnick, and the Tate's curator, Ann Coxon.

"For some years we've been trying to do something with Maurizio," Mr Todoli said. "Then he said, 'We're being evicted' so we invited him here."

Displays by artists of Cattelan's choice will alternate with exhibits using works from the Tate's own collection.

"But they will have the freedom to run the programme. We're the landlords. The Wrong Gallery will be embedded in our collection. It's good for us to disrupt the collection with something which is a kind of Dadaist art, a bridge of fresh air, like a window opening into the outside."

A newspaper also called The Wrong Times is published once a year and carries interviews with the artists presented in the gallery which has been described by one of those involved thus: "The Wrong Gallery is the back door to contemporary art and it's always locked."

Cinematic sex machines

Orgasm machines are not new. The first "orgasm box", known as "the Exsexive machine", appeared in the cult sci-fi film, Barbarella, in 1968. Devised by Dr Durand Durand, Barbarella's evil adversary, the machine pleasurably massaged victims to death. In 1973, Woody Allen introduced cinema-goers to the orgasmatron, in Sleeper. The orgasmatron was a cylinder big enough to contain two people. Once entered, orgasms were instantly induced in otherwise impotent males.

Comments