sex as art as sex
some, her body is a wonderland; for the artist, it’s both
canvas and palette. Her accomplishment is not without precedent.
When art was in its infancy, man's first canvas was his body
onto which he applied colour and piercings. Jesika Joy goes
back to the roots of this original impulse in order to find
herself, and pay homage to the dictum that art is the site that
truth and beauty invent so they can exist. She makes her feelings
towards her sexuality the focus of her production. Does she
deserve serious consideration as an artist? Peter
Goddard reviews her work,
some of which was shown for the occasion of the 2007 Montreal
Underground Film Festival.[ed.]
just over 40 years since the last great erotic-art shock in
town, when the "Eros '65" group show at the Dorothy
Cameron Gallery was busted by the police for its sexually charged
content. The gallery closed. Cameron's heart was broken. The
artists were made famous.
rarely do that sort of thing any more. But their absence shouldn't
lessen the sexual sizzle or challenge of tonight's exhibition
of new video work by Jesika Joy at the Trinity Square Video
the show's wordy title, "(Mis)recognizing Desire —
Desiring (Mis)recognition." This is a watershed exhibition,
raw, ranting, lubricious and too clever by half. It may or may
not make Joy's career — now 28, she's also a PhD candidate
at York University in social and political thought — but
it should go some way to shake off the complacent stupor now
found in a lot of Toronto galleries.
simply, Joy is upping the ante on how artists must deal with
sex. "Most of my work," she says, "is an aggravated
sexual encounter with the viewer." It begins with her revealing
her body as the sexual object of desire. She's all mouth and
luscious red lips in the 2006 video Untitled (Camera Blow).
In Water (2006) she's a cool seductive face found floating
just beneath the surface of water in a bathtub. In Subject
to Subject (2006) she's a body in a black jacket writhing
as a bare foot pushes down on her face and her chest. In Dear
God (2006), she's a disembodied voice.
there's I Don't Even F-----g Love You (2006), where's
she's entirely naked, holding a plucked dead chicken in front
her genitals, while she gyrates like a stripper with the last
pastie chucked away. The dangling chicken head represents Joy's
incursion into the kind of action more likely found in all-male
strip clubs. Needless to say, the whole thing is one enormous
one sense, Joy is merely the latest in a long line of artists
whose body becomes the palette for sexually informed art. Recognizing
this, she's framing her work with video pieces from two other
women video-makers. One is I'm Not the Girl Who Misses Much
(1986), Pipilotti Rist's deftly funny riff on The Beatles' White
Album tune, "Happiness Is A Warm Gun." And Quenched,
(2003) is Emelie Chhangur's multi-levelled portrait of a young
woman shown crouching in some shadows, as her lips are drenched
by a geyser of water, its drops soaking her clothes.
the veteran Swiss-born video artist, and Chhangur, a savvy local
curator and artist, shaped their work within the context of
art history. (Rist evokes modernist sculpture, Chhangur recalls
Renaissance religious iconography.) Not Joy. She's all the history
she needs. As she reveals herself as the object of sexual desire,
she seeks to control how the viewer gets to enjoy her goodies.
impossible to engage with something that's sexual without involving
an interpretation that's also political," she says. "People
can desire me and see what I do as pornography. But there are
other ways to see me as well.
I do think that my work depends of my desirability. That's why
I'm feeling a great urgency to produce work for as long as I
have the viewer's gaze. I have to do this kind of work now because
I'm not going to be as (physically) fit later on. I used to
be very sexual. I'd have group sex, or go to clubs and pick
up men. Now I'm pretty close to being celibate and that's because
of the work. I treat my body as my most important tool. I exercise
daily. I try to watch what I eat.
work is an extension of how I experience myself in the world.
I always carry a video camera around. Subject to Subject
occurred to me as I was going over to my friend's house one
night. It's very much about a lived experience, based on how
I felt at the moment. That's really me moaning in the video.
I was sexually excited and afraid at the same time. Much of
what I feel in my lived life is very intense in terms of politics
and my sexuality.
happens in my work happens with control. I lost control of myself
in Subject to Subject but not in Camera Blow.
I got the idea for it after going to the Metro, the porn theatre
on Bloor St. I'd go to distract the men looking at the screen,
by getting them to look at me instead."
the three-minute looped video, the artist's parted lips rhythmically
move closer and closer to the camera, gradually envelope the
viewer's gaze, while her gaze remains steadfast on your eyes.
am servicing you, but I am not just servicing you," she
explains. "It also seems I am watching how all of this
review is reproduced with permission - Torstar Syndication Services.