Monday, 21 September 2009

Unexpected lunchtime penis

The unclothed body is nothing to be ashamed of or squeamish and should be celebrated.

But it was somewhat shocking to see a whacking great cock projected on a wall in the name of art today in Tate Modern.

A recent BBC London TV news report claimed the venerable South Bank institution was the world's most popular art musuem* and the former power station is certainly a great destination for weary screen addicts on a balmy September afternoon.

But US artist Paul McCarthy's Projection Room (1971 – 2006) is disconcerting if you weren't expecting it. Perhaps even accutely disturbing to the prudish.

The Tate themselves say the piece is:

An installation combining seventeen of McCarthy’s early videos produced between 1972 and 1978, as well as 170 slides documenting performances from the same period.

The selection is highly personal: most of the videos were made in the intimate settings of McCarthy’s homes and studios in Pasadena and Los Angeles. The participants are generally close friends, including Karen McCarthy, his wife of 40 years, and the artist Allan Kaprow.


Paul McCarthy’s intense video, performance and installation works are rooted in taboo subjects such as sexuality, violence and repression. Since the late 1960s, McCarthy has explored Abstract Expressionism, Pop and Conceptual art, Minimalism, Body Art, and experimental film.

He combines these diverse approaches with references to television, pornography, horror films, amusement parks and fairy tales to provoke reflection on the social and psychological impact of the media. Using bodily fluids, paint, and food, McCarthy creates elaborate and grotesque explorations of family, childhood and dysfunction. His body becomes a canvas and a stage to lay bare the dark, disquieting corners of society’s subconscious and the pervasive infantilism of American mass culture.
To relate this back via my own limited appreciation and knowledge of art, I can only justifiably compare the sinister nudity, entrails and viscous fluids of McCarthy's home movies to a brilliant, if twisted satirical horror movie.

Much time has passed since I saw Society but it's one of those films which never quite leaves you. There aren't any scenes as brazenly full frontal as what can currently be seen in Level 3, Room 9 but fans of body horror should make their own minds up and check out both.

*no link to reinforce this yet. The heads over at White City may or may not be willing to back up their reporter's claim with hard facts such as footfall etc but I will find out the truth and post it here.

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