Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Yet Another Shade of Grey

Artists like to get attention and what better way to get it than to drop their drawers. Confessional works which reveal demons hidden in the closet say like Susan Cheever’s memoir, Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction about her sexuality are, of course, attention getters. Marina Abramovic the performance artist has done many works where she has either been naked or invited audience members to attack her body. In one piece the actual performance art was to become a prostitute and accept money for sex. Hannah Wilke used both her naked body and her death as the subject of her art. Annie Sprinkle and the Italian porn star La Cicciolina both started in the world of pornography and went on to have careers respectively in performance art and politics. Sasha Grey is the latest example of a porn actress who went on to build a career as a serious artist. Grey is not a fly-by-night porn actress. She took her porn seriously. The scenes she performed were extreme and alternately acrobatic, aerobic and always punishing, with gagging and anal penetration being two specialities de la maison. She then retired from pornography and has appeared in Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience, HBO’s Entourage and other independent films. She’s also played in the band Telecine. In her book Neu Sex she made herself the auteur of her own filmic experience, using her camera to record herself becoming the object of her audience’s fantasies. Grey has always been interested in French New Wave cinema (she'd toyed with adopting the name of one of Godard's early actresses Anna Karina, according to Wikipedia, and could easily have been a character in Vivre Sa Vie--Godard's film about a prostitute). Watching Sasha Grey's pornography can be harrowing, as she invites suffocation and abuse, and yet she ironically falls into that category of artist whose life threatening brushes with reality become the substance of their life’s work. Despite her fascination with film, can we look at her as a female Hemingway, egging on her male counterparts, the way Hemingway incited his readers to run with the bulls at Pamplona?

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