While preparing this issue of Texte zur Kunst, we were confronted not only with the ongoing topicality of explicit or drastic depictions of sexuality in art and pop culture but also with a host of conferences, films and festivals on the theme of "pornography". In Berlin, the "Post Porn Politics" conference held at the Volksbühne aroused considerable attention in the art sections, while the first porn film festival took place accompanied by the CUM2CUT Indie-Porn-Short-Movies-Festival, during which the participants provided with digital cameras were asked to shoot heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or transsexual DIY porn movies on three consecutive days anywhere in the city ("Enjoy the pleasure of sharing pornography all over the city"). Obviously, pornography is booming - both in the mainstream and in so-called independent contexts and in theoretical debates revolving around subjectivity and the politics of identity, to say nothing of the porn industry flanked on the Internet by innumerable individual blogs pandering to all niches of sexual desire and fantasies.
At present, the range of approaches in theorizing pornography or criticizing it, is as diversified as the depictions of sexuality themselves which are subsumed under this term. For quite some time, the feminist debates concerned with pornography were characterized by the antagonism of anti-porn and anti-censorship positions, where on the one side the misogynous aspects of heterosexual pornography - at times also causalities between pornographic scenarios and rape statistics - were stressed, and on the other the right to freedom of speech and expression vis-à-vis attempts at censorship was brought to bear. At the beginning of the 1990s, with publications such as "Hard Core" by Linda Williams, who in 2004 followed up with an anthology programmatically titled "Porn Studies", a paradigm shift commenced under the influence of models of textuality all the way to questions pertaining to the historically variable conventions, mediums and aesthetics of pornography as a genre - through which porn tended to lose its status as an alleged transgression of social norms and became a subject of academic research. In Williams’ words, porn changed from a position of "ob/scene" to one of "on/scene". The term "postporn", coined by the American artist and former porn actress Annie Sprinkle and the French theoretician Marie-Hélène Bourcier totally contradicts the "PornNO" campaigns of the 1970s and 80s and ultimately stands for the attempt to develop alternative sexual economies by means of pornographic mises en scène that lie beyond normative ascriptions of identity. In this context, pornography is not understood as a specific genre. Instead - for example, in the works of the French theoretician Beatriz Preciado - references are made to the aesthetic practices of performance art via gestures of queer self-empowerment, thus positioning the lively presence of sexualized bodies against the pornographic logic of visual pleasure and consumption.
However, the majority of the artists who in the past years have dealt with pornography seem to follow the assumption that under the present economic and technological conditions an outside of pornography can no longer exist - a hypothesis which was recently discussed under the catchword of the "pornographization" or "pornoization" of society, for example, by Mark Terkessidis in the taz daily newspaper in which he made reference to the "regime of a permanent overtaxing" of female performers staged in the increasingly harder gonzo films in analogy to neo-liberal working conditions. Today, attempts at censorship, as in the case of Robert Mapplethorpe’s gay S/M stagings in the 1980s in the United States, are hardly encountered anymore in the field of art. One can instead discern that pornography in the "salons of high culture has become worthy of depiction" - as it was formulated in the current issue of the art magazine Kunstjahr for 2006. Even if the present "porn boom" in art and pop culture is not a provocative expansion of the bourgeois art canon by sexually-charged motifs, but instead a reflex to - and in some cases a reflection on - the desires of the art market, artists from Vanessa Beecroft, David LaChapelle and Jeff Koons, to Richard Philipps, Richard Prince and Thomas Ruff, all the way to Larry Clark, Tracey Emin and Andrea Fraser have for quite a while now discovered pornography as a field in which analytical-critical distance and the affective involvement on the sides of both the producers and recipients meet and can be utilized.
Against this background, the contributions of this issue, which we conceived together with Diedrich Diederichsen, attempt to approach the theme of pornography in art, pop, independent culture, digital media, and critical theory, and take stock of the current state of (identity) political debates on the explicit depictions of sexuality. Since the last three issues, we have been making all texts and conversations in the main section available in English for our non-German-speaking readers. All reviews that are not in German - as well as the original English versions of several statements in response to our survey - can again be found at our Web site www.textezurkunst.de.
Diedrich Diederichsen / André Rottmann / Mirjam Thomann
(Translation: Karl Hoffmann)