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Evolution Of Desire To The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction
Exhibition by Hobart Hughes

Does sexual desire have its origin in the old lizard brain, focused on reproduction? Perhaps. If it does then by the time the sexual urge re-forms itself in the curly complex front brain it may have changed the gender it is attracted to, changed its own gender, could be wrapped in leather, hung up on hooks, be thrilled to be threatened, terrified about being threatened, desperate to be dominated, wired to be excited by a squeaky costume or take any number of other forms. I can’t say I know why. Perhaps because we have a large plastic brain able to form itself into the shape it needs to be. If indeed the largest sexual organ is the brain it’s no wonder we are obsessed with sex. Maybe this brain just needs some satisfaction.

Sexual desire is a heat haze in the distance; the more we chase it the more it recedes. This is the disappearing horizon of desire. So in the end, most of us settle on some image, some sense, some mysterious relationship with desire that provides some satisfaction with that distance. Every now and then we try to thrill ourselves to close that gap, but distance usually returns. It’s a relationship with our imagination that consistently compels us to engage in a search for a consistent ardor.

We dance with our history and our body chemistry. We may just be hardwired from birth but to a greater or lesser extent we will do anything it takes to ignite the flame on whatever fuel we happen to run on.  But is sex just the psyche taking the ego out to dinner trying to get laid? I don’t think so. I think we seek something deep, a connection that combines who we just happen to be with who we might be able to be. That could be just about anything.

In this series of sculptures I have looked, in a rough order, from the ancient to the present and at some other possible future forms that desire might take.

The first sexual cultural phenomena were indeed the Venus figurines, best known of which is the Venus of Willendorf. The rough design spread all over the ancient central European world from Japan to the Pyrenees. Ancient historians disagree on why or what they mean but my point is simple: they are sexual and they travelled as an meme or an idea.

In 2008 I made a stop motion film of the entire contents of the Athens Museum. I was struck by sexual classicism. Did the Greeks indeed have the first sex industry? What better way to sell your culture than to come up with a powerful sexual meme. The one the Greeks invented was ‘the draped reveal’. The fabric hiding and simultaneously accentuating the body both enthralled and protected the viewer. The wet T-shirt works in very much the same way. Greek culture went everywhere, just as porn does on the internet. This is just a personal theory: the general formula for packaging desire but keeping it on the high culture dais was a winning combination.  That delicious sexual tension of half naked bodies became the very image of good neo classic governance for the Victorians.
There is a moment in Cat’s Cradle (Kurt Vonnegut) where the world’s water is on the brink of being turned into a solid called “Ice 9”. It’s the end of the future. The two lead characters look at each other at last wanting to consummate the romantic tension of the story. Yet all the ardor vanishes and the narrator resigns to the idea that his desire was far more connected to reproducing the future generation than he had ever suspected. If the two leads had been gay what would have happened? Do we want to fuck if there’s no future in it?
I’m not sure, maybe you’d just want to have one last truly connected moment. I really don’t think everyone needs the idea of producing the next generation to get off. But… We all have parents, even if we never meet them and we ponder their success or failure at both forming us and being parents. Our model for closeness is either formed or rejected. It doesn’t matter if it’s two men, two women, a woman and a chimp or a woman and a man provided they love and nurture us. If they shame us, damage us or cripple our confidence we will perhaps transfer this to whoever we encounter and that may mean something sexually dangerous and ugly. If we want to close the gap to this horizon of desire we need to connect somehow.

At present we find ourselves in an age of continual desire updates. Our technology, our food and our sexual self-image are likewise, updatable. On top of all this market-placed commodification of need is a tantalizing prospect of genetic manipulation of our core. This is what I refer to with ‘Mechanical Reproduction’ (my apologies to Walter Benjamin). Even though we can sit, very assured in our comfortable present sexual relationships with our partners and our mutual imaginations, this possibility of tinkering with our DNA does change the rules somewhat. I have no idea really how much this will change how we feel about ourselves, quite literally, but it does make me wonder. It’s the first time in our evolution that one of the absolute bases of sex has changed. As a thought experiment I made  “So What If I Cloned My Dead Twice ”. I try to predict what type of desire might form. The sculpture depicts two identical women caressing each other’s sex. The title does imply another unseen figure however.  We have to imagine a wealthy individual whose young wife might have died, now in old age gazing upon the cloned pair, pole dancing. They may indeed be some kind of genetically manufactured slaves. I tried to make them like someone you might meet, not too beautiful, so that they capture an individual more than an ideal. They are slightly different, just as twins can be altered by small differences in experiences. In this scenario it’s as if we are not cloning people but cloning sexual gratification and desire itself.

As a society we have come some way to accepting diversity as being an expression of both being and culture. This exhibition is merely a collection of the forms sexual desire can take, along with a few threads that seemed to spin off from that general pattern. My apologies with the license I take to Freud, Parvati, Greek Mythology and anybody that may be offended by my trivialization of their obsession. 

 

Thanks to COFA ceramics

The Athens Museum time-lapse can be found at
www.hobarthughes.com and click on the link Road Movie