Masking is an investigation of the visual creation and identification of archetypal and racially motivated images in pornography.
In this last year, I have been researching the act of ‘masking’. Masking is a form of dehumanisation of the self. It’s primary concern in the context of pornography is to disguise and conceal ones’ identity and personality. It allows the ‘masker’ to create and manipulate multiple personas, forms and racial and gender identities. Masking is different from transvestism or transgenderism as it can only be accepted and engaged with privately or in specialist clubs or indeed with other maskers. One could compare these creations to sex dolls, which is where the practice of masking derives from.
I am currently engaged in researching pornographic images of the ‘exotic’ through my current persona Johnny Shekontai. As Johnny, I am particularly making work that concerns classified images of black and Asian men in gay porn.
This short film of ‘The Blonde’ and ‘The Black Diva’ is a study of some of the reoccurring stereotypes in pornography.
There are many, many examples of literary and visual artists who have adopted alternative personae to apprehend particular experiences, enabling them to physically and intellectually engage with specific discourses or critically interface with a public. The first few examples that come to mind are Clarence Sanders aka Vaginal Davis, Marcel Duchamp as Rrose Selavy. Adrian Piper as The Mythic Being, writer Fernando Pessoa and his seventy-two ‘heteronyms’, writer and artist Brian O’Doherty as Patrick Ireland (and several others); all characters functioning for time-limited or long term strategic purposes.
George Chakravarthi has similarly utilized this mode of inquiry and presentation to ‘de’ and ‘re’ construct definitions of gender, racial identity and sexuality within his live, photographic and video performances, sometimes ‘hybridising’ culturally specific iconographic figures in works such as the durational video pieces Shakti, 2003 where an axial character is formed from the Hindu deity Kali and Leonardo Di Vinci’s Mona Lisa. In Olympia, 2003 Chakravarthi again reprises the position of the central female figure this time Edouard Manet’s 1863 Olympia and enacts a queering of this modernist painting in video.
The video installation Barflies, 2004 is a performative exploration of trans-genderism; surveying the perceptions, interactions, excitement and doubts played out in the public environments that three protagonists are singularly situated in.
Chakravarthi’s very recent works follow a literary trajectory formed from relationships with specific groups and later with the wider public. To The Man in My Dreams, 2006 based itself around the elusive character of ‘daddy’ to explore real and projected imaginings collapsed around the relational and sexual overtones of the term, ‘daddy’. Johnny Shekontai, Chakravarthi’s latest persona, gestated from this previous work with male and transgendered sex workers, to explore the parameters of gay pornography, in particular the penchant for the ‘straight guy’ genre, which Chakravarthi endeavors to inhabit across all visual and communicative realms including the web, which will invite and mobilize a multidisciplinary and interactive relationship with the public.
The area of identities has been my ongoing visual and intellectual research and The Live Art Development Agency has been imperative in supporting my practice and have always embraced and encouraged innovative and often risky ideas and projects within my field of interests. As Thinker In Residence ‘Maxx Shurley’, amongst issues of art practices, I experimented with the ideas of racial and gender identities and the relationships between given, adopted and inherited personas.
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A special series of projects including ten short film commissions for the Agency’s tenth anniversary.
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