Turning Orgasm into Art – Interview of photographer Clayton Cubitt by Tracy Clark-Flory for Salon. Excerpt of interview below sample video of Session Two: Alicia
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Excerpt from Salon.com – The black-and-white video begins with a woman sitting at a table with a book in front of her. She looks into the camera and states her name, the name of the book, and begins to read. It seems she’s overwhelmed by the words — there’s a slight twitch, a smirk, a straightening of the back, a desperate breath in — and she struggles to continue reading.
Eventually you realize there is more to this scene than it at first seems — maybe when you notice the ever-so-slight buzzing sound in the background, or maybe not until the moans begin. Either way, before the end of the video there is the unmistakable appearance of an orgasm. But you never see just what has produced it: Is there someone or something under that table? Was it just the words that produced those paroxysms of pleasure?
This is the setup of art photographer Clayton Cubitt’s new video series, “Hysterical Literature.” So far, there have been two installments: one starring porn performer Stoya reading “Necrophilia Variations” by Supervert, the other featuring a woman identified simply as Alicia reading Walt Whitman’s sensual “Leaves of Grass.” But frankly, they could read their grocery lists and I’d still hang on their every word, every breath, every squirming movement during their vulnerable, resistant build to orgasm.
I talked to Cubitt, also known as Siege, by email about his fascinating new project, the line between high and low art, and authentic portraiture in the age of self-branding.
OK, what exactly is going on under that table?
I won’t divulge explicit technique, but the assistant is equipped with a back massager and instructed to distract the reader.
What instructions did you give the readers?
Readers are told to state their name and the name of what they’ll be reading, and then to read it out loud for as long as they can. When they have to stop, they’re asked to again state their name and what they’ve just read. Some of them aren’t able to do the last part.
And did they give any instructions to the person under the table? Or is the person under the table just incredibly adept? (And, if so, what are they doing tomorrow night?)
No instructions are given between reader and distracter. Part of the intrigue comes from that tension.
How do you go about selecting the book and the particular passage?
Readers are given full control over what they choose to read. I simply ask them to choose something personally meaningful to them, and something long enough to read from. We’ve had everything from Walt Whitman to a science book on fungus.
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