Posts Tagged ‘sexualitat’

Marta Segarra: “We want to possess the other and end up dispossessing ourselves”

March 2nd, 2017 No Comments

To what extent is desire—which, at first sight, seems to be a phenomenon of the impulses connecting humans with animality—culturally conditioned? How do clichés about femininity affect a woman’s attitude to life and the decisions she makes? How much room have women had to discover their desire in a cultural and sexual history written by men? We speak with Marta Segarra, Professor of French Literature and Gender Studies at the University of Barcelona and director of the Women and Literature Centre.

Marta Segarra a la conferència Desig i subversió © CCCB, Miquel Taverna, 2017

Marta Segarra in the lecture Desire and Subversion © CCCB, Miquel Taverna, 2017

Desire in accordance with cultural patterns, and not only those which shape education and reading but everything we absorb on a daily basis, more or less unconsciously.

Anna Punsoda: Love is cultural and desire is natural.

Marta Segarra: Yes, love is a cultural construct. Of course it’s not understood the same way now as it was five hundred years ago, or in Barcelona as it is in Dakar. But desire isn’t natural either. We tend to think that it’s instinctive, impulse-driven, or natural, as you say. But we also desire in accordance with cultural patterns, and not only those which shape education and reading but everything we absorb on a daily basis, more or less unconsciously.

For me, the most obvious cultural pattern is that which pushes us towards heterosexuality. We think it’s natural for men to desire women, and for women to desire men when, in fact, things aren’t always like that. Obviously. Culture pushes us into a kind of heterosexuality which some theorists have called “obligatory heterosexuality”. Affections, but also sexuality, are marked by cultural patterns which nowadays are mainly conveyed by audiovisual stories, in films, television, advertising and the new social networks.

AP: Speaking of patterns, in your essay Políticas del deseo (Politics of Desire) you contrast two archetypical women, the biblical Mary and Eve. What do these archetypes represent and who do they serve?

MS: To begin with, they are a clear example of how, in the West, our thought has always been constructed in a binary fashion. Good and Evil. Body and Soul. Pure Love and Sexual Love. Hence, two models have been promoted in the gender of “woman”: the good woman—mother and, moreover, virgin or, in other words, bearer of life without ever having felt sexual desire—and Eve, who would be the first femme fatale in history, the woman who entices the man into materialism, who leads him to damnation through the power of her attraction. Eve is temptation and death because expulsion from paradise symbolises the introduction of mortality into the history of humankind. This pattern, which takes conceptual shape in the nineteenth century, is very old. And it has a very clear message: desire brings disaster. This is the legend of Carmen, the woman who doesn’t fall in love but is so attractive to a whole range of men that she ends up spreading death and pain.

AP: And this idea of the seductive, manipulative woman who is well aware of the effect of her charms, doesn’t it contradict the cliché that presents us with woman as a childish creature dominated by telluric forces?

MS: It certainly does. This latter idea is a commonplace which paradoxically gained ground in the eighteenth century, the Age of Enlightenment. We are told that, because of her body, her anatomy, woman is closer to what is natural and this is because femininity is bound to maternity. According to this idea, man is exempt from this and he can therefore sublimate the link with nature through reason and rise above material contingency. 

“The female artist has often been presented as the archetypical bad mother because she devotes herself to art—or her job, or whatever—going beyond the bounds of the role that nature has allegedly assigned her.”

AP: So woman has always been represented the eternal element, the basis of things and man the complement, namely progress.

MS: Yes, and precisely in this sense we have the classical conceptual opposition between procreation and creation. Maria Àngels Anglada deals with this in a poem called “Una resposta” (An Answer). These two activities have been seen as mutually exclusive for many centuries. A lot of women have internalised it and are convinced that their role in the world is first and foremost one of transmission, continuity and family care. The female artist has often been presented as the archetypical bad mother because she devotes herself to art—or her job, or whatever—going beyond the bounds of the role that nature has allegedly assigned her.

Marta Segarra i Merri Torras a la conferència Desig i subversió © CCCB, Miquel Taverna, 2017

Marta Segarra and Merri Torras in the lecture Desire and Subversion © CCCB, Miquel Taverna, 2017

AP: And aren’t there clichés, like the one that presents the woman as “she who receives (man, children, etc.)” based on biology?

MS: Well, that depends what you want to emphasise. The woman can also be “she who expels”. In fact, Marguerite Duras has a whole theory about giving birth (the first expulsion) as primordial movement. Think about how the social structure would be affected if, instead of having imposed the story of the “body that receives”, it had instituted the one of the “body that expels”.

AP: What space has woman had to discover her desire?

MS: For centuries the dominant discourse has claimed that man desires and woman is the object of desire. Freudian psychoanalysis reinforced this idea. The only role that women could have was passive. In Europe at the beginning of the twentieth century some women—still only a few—demonstrated, through the way they lived, the possibilities of breaking bounds, of living their desire according to their own parameters. But we begin to discover ourselves with the feminist movements of the 1970s. “Our body is ours” is a demand that has to be understood in this sense, as a possibility of shunning stereotypes of femininity with the aim of discovering our own desire.

AP: Unlike love, which has been seen as a means of transcendence, desire tends to be presented as a state of anxiety and yearning to possess.

MS: Yes, but it’s not so simple. Sometimes desire becomes the desire to possess but, then again, since it pushes us into a state of crisis as subjects, it shakes us up profoundly and it is our “undoing”. We want to possess the other and end up dispossessing ourselves. In this regard, the effects of desire are interesting because they lead to a crisis in the autonomy and self-sufficiency of the subject whose limits become problematic.

AP: There is ethical desire.

MS: That’s one way of putting it. For example, in Undoing Gender Judith Butler presents sexuality as one of the ways or one of the human domains in which it is easier to “undo oneself”, to break through the limits that isolate us as individuals. We open up to the other, to our difference from the other, which is to say difference in the broad sense.

AP: And the sexualisation of everything, the constant presence of stimuli, how does that affect desire?

MSHypersexualisation is a way of channelling desire within very specific constraints. Yes, we emerged from centuries of repression as European society was very puritan in centuries of the past. But present-day “sexualisation” doesn’t necessarily means that the possibilities of desire are opened up. The 1970s feminist discourse on liberation has been reabsorbed by power and the logic of capitalism in order to boost consumption. Liberation per se is not subversive. Desire per se is not subversive. In fact, it’s possible, too, as we are seeing in many cases, that “liberation” and desire are not causing any crisis in the structures of power but, rather, are reinforcing them.

Marta Segarra collaborates in several debates and CCCB programmes about the role of women in society. You can consult all the contents related to the author on the CCCB website.

A Journey through the Architecture of Desire

January 26th, 2017 No Comments

1,000 m2 of Desire: Architecture and Sexuality explores how architecture has defined our spaces for sex. With its backdrop of two revolutions, the French revolution of 1789 and that of May 1968, the exhibition traces a historical route through literature, art, architecture, design and mobile apps. In order to make sure that you don’t get lost among the 250 pieces in the 1,000 m2referred to in the title, we have made a selection of essential works which, in themselves, deserve to be seen for their historical importance, and because they are unique, curious or especially constructed for the exhibition. We offer an assortment of books, models, plans and drawings, engravings and reproductions of spaces in real scale so that you can immerse yourself in a different world and, at the same time, make a journey through time in the architecture of desire.

Playboy, a Magazine for Lovers of Architecture?

“The playboy and his magazine are all about architecture,” writes the architect Beatriz Colomina in a text of the exhibition catalogue. The fact is that, although this publication was (and still is) a reference of eroticism, one of the aims of its editor Hugh Hefner was that it should also be a reference of style, architecture and design. The Playboy man had to live in an apartment designed for seduction, in a loft without doors or rooms so as to keep the woman constantly on view. Accordingly, some of the best architects and designers of the day, from Charles Eames to Eero Saarinen, occupied page after page of the magazine, together with naked girls, articles by Truman Capote and interviews with Michael Caine. In #expodesig you will find a space devoted exclusively to Playboy magazine and curated by Beatriz Colomina and her team. Here you can explore models of the Playboy mansion and Hefner’s private plane, stretch out on his round bed, read articles on the architects in vogue, and look at plans of the most amazing houses of the day, some of which were used as film locations, as for example in the James Bond series.

Llit de Hugh Hefner, editor revista PlayBoy © CCCB, 2016

Hugh Hefner’s bed, editor PlayBoy © CCCB, 2016

Pornography According to Nicolas Restif de la Bretonne

Did you know that the word “pornography” made its first appearance in 1769? To be more specific, it made its debut in a treatise by Nicolas Restif de la Bretonne, a writer who, in his work Le Pornographe (a neologism he coined to designate someone who writes about prostitution), describes in lavish detail what an establishment devoted to prostitution should be like, or estimates the worth of each girl according to her age and beauty. For Restif de la Bretonne, pornography was an affair of state and his proposal was innovative and audacious when you consider that he was writing in pre-revolutionary France. These establishments, called Parthénions (houses for young virgins) had considerable influence in the theories of Charles Nicolas Ledoux, whose work is represented by numerous items in the exhibition, including the famous Oikema. The original of Le Pornographe is exhibited here.

The Polaroids of Carlo Mollino

Carlo Mollino was a prestigious Italian architect who was also active in other disciplines including literature, automobilism, aeronautics and furniture design. But, most of all, he was interested in photography. After his death in 1973, his heirs discovered a hitherto unknown collection of photographs: elegantly naked women in a collection of portraits Mollino had been working on throughout his life. The Polaroids were taken in his own apartment, where he had a set which he readied for each occasion. The women were chosen in the street or the brothels of Turin, the city where he lived. There is not a single repeated portrait and every staging is different in a total of more than 1,000 fetishist poses recorded in 8 x 10 cm. which you can discover in a semi-darkened chamber.

Polaroids de Carlo Mollino © CCCB, 2016

Polaroids of Carlo Mollino © CCCB, 2016

The Original Plans of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon

Universal suffrage, the separation of church and state, abolition of slavery, animal rights, sexual freedom, women’s lib, and decriminalisation of homosexuality: Jeremy Bentham was a trailblazer championing ideas which are nowadays on everyone’s lips. Among his great contributions is the idea of the Panopticon, the architectural figure of power in modern society, an “inspection house” applicable to any institution—for example, prisons, hospitals or schools—which enabled constant monitoring of inmates. The structure of the Model Prison in Barcelona is based on the Panopticon as defined by Bentham in 1791. However, Jeremy Bentham was not an architect but a philosopher, so the original plans of the Panopticon shown in the exhibition are by Willey Reveley. By the way, if you care to know what Bentham (literally) looked like, you can go and visit his fully-dressed mummified corpse at University College, London.

The Sketch of Charles Fourier’s Phalanstery

The utopian philosopher Charles Fourier was a contemporary of Jeremy Bentham’s and, like him, was a revolutionary, though he was also a utopian who believed in human goodness and that it was possible to create a sexual paradise in which every passion could be recognised and satisfied. This blissful place was called Harmony and the phalanstery was the setting for the gratification of all passions. Occupying five square kilometres of cultivable land near a forest and a big city, it was designed with three floors and three wings, each one for fulfilling sexual desires. The idea was adopted by hippy movements of the 1960s, but there are further examples in architecture such as the Walden 7 building by Ricardo Bofill (the form of which, by the way, is reminiscent of a vagina), geodesic domes (like the one at the creation centre of the theatre group Els Comediants in Canet de Mar), and also the utopian cities designed by the Archigram architectural group. In “1,000 m2 of Desire: Architecture and Sexualityyou will find the original drawings of the phalanstery and also the original model of Bofill’s building.

Maqueta de l’edifici Walden 7 de Ricardo Bofill © CCCB, 2016

Original model of Walden 7 of Ricardo Bofill © CCCB, 2016

Engraving of the Sacrifice of an Ass in Honour of Priapus from The Dream of Poliphilus

This is every bibliophile’s dream. An enigmatic book, of uncertain authorship, bringing together all kinds of medieval knowledge from mythology to chess, astronomy, liturgy, epigraphy, archaeology and the art of pruning brambles, The Dream of Poliphilus (https Hypnerotomachia Poliphili), published in 1499, tells the story of Poliphilus, who dreams of recovering his beloved Polia as he crosses imaginary landscapes of fabulous architecture. This is one of the first examples of a work combining architecture with eroticism. It contains 171 of the author’s woodcuts, among them “Sacrifice of an Ass in Honour of Priapus”, which is shown in the exhibition. The book, dedicated to the Duke of Urbino, was financed by the aristocrat Leonardo Grassi, Apostolic Protonotary, an architecture enthusiast and the man responsible for the fortifications of Padua, and printed in Venice by Aldo Manuzio, one of the most renowned printers of the day. It is almost as if Planeta had published a book dedicated to Count of Godó and financed by the Güell family!

 Nicolas Schöffer’s Centre for Sexual Leisure

 Imagine a space devoted solely to pleasure, pampering all five senses. A space where light, smells, and colours are intended to stimulate your senses and prepare them for sexual intercourse. This is the Centre for Sexual Leisure which the plastic artist and sculptor Nicolas Schöffer designed for his cybernetic city (1955 – 1969), a utopian city project inspired by Fourier. Like other utopian ideas, it never materialised but in the exhibition you can see a real-scale reproduction of this space: a closed room in which light, textures, geometric metal sculptures and music appear as the lead players so that the visitor can experiment with all the senses. This is an experience which requires an open mind.

 Nicolas Schöffer’s Centre for Sexual Leisure reproduction

Nicolas Schöffer’s Centre for Sexual Leisure reproduction

A Second (Virtual) Life

 Imagine a space where you can live life as you wish. Where you can give free rein to all your most perverse desires. Where you can imagine your penis taking on impossible shapes, or that you yourself have an impossible form allowing enjoyment of unknown pleasures… Second Life started out as a virtual world in which, by means of an avatar, users can interact with other avatars and construct their own world but this has become a territory without norms and without taboos where users can organise sexual encounters in settings that reproduce the architecture of their sexual fantasies right down to the finest detail. Well, this all happens in a virtual space. In the exhibition you can see a video showing one of these digital spaces designed for sex.

Captura del vídeo de Second Life

Second Life video sceenshot

Rem Koolhaas’s Baths

 Centre of London. Spreading out from the wall that delimits it, a level space is divided into eleven zones, among them a ceremonial square, the Park of the Four Elements, with temples for sensuous experiences, the Square of the Muses (where only the British Museum survives), and the baths. Inspired by Ledoux’s Oikema, these baths have zones of observation, exhibition, seduction and meeting (the pools) as well as cells for consummation in which photograms from a pornographic film The White Slave are projected. This utopian dream of the architect Rem Koolhaas, Pritzker Prize winner and designer of the iconic China Central Television tower, dates back to the early period of radical architecture in the 1970s. The exhibition shows the original drawings and plans of Koolhaas’s idea.

(Català) Més enllà del cos

February 25th, 2016 No Comments
1