“In Australia, sex in art is not popular at all,” says artist and curator Linsey Gosper. “It’s daggy, in a sense.”
A few years ago, Gosper came across a handful of Polaroids by American porn performer turned sex educator, Annie Sprinkle. They were shots of various women, some with lovers, some solo. From that seed, Gosper has created a new show at Strange Neighbour. Simply called Sex, it’s a collection of diverse sexual imagery.
“The show is about engaging with that part of your psyche,” says co-curator Jack Sargeant. “There’s nothing wrong with sex; it’s a big part of our lives.”
Talking about sex still elicits little more than polite embarrassment from many. Even artists, says Gosper, are nervous about making their work overtly sexual. “I think people believe that their career trajectory might be damaged down the line by talking openly about sex,” she says. “We live in a culturally conservative era.”
The work in Sex isn’t just provocative for the sake of it. It’s diverse, taking in straight, queer, bisexual and pansexual artists, covering the explicit to the abstract, all working to a lo-fi, raw aesthetic.
“There’s a huge dishonesty to people who say they don’t think about sex,” says Sargeant. “They do. It’s a cultural hypocrisy we have.”
But do we like it being discussed so plainly in our art? Isn’t there a chance a show like this will be seen as a perv-fest?
“There are two responses to that,” says Sargeant. “Firstly, it’s not voyeuristic because these artists are engaging intellectually. Secondly, there’s nothing wrong with being a perv. It’s a very human thing.”
“Exactly,” says Gosper. “I’m a perv. Bring on the perverts. Whatever.”
“That said, I think a lot of perverts might be disappointed when they see the show,” says Sargeant. “There’s some work that’s explicit, but there’s a lot which isn’t explicit at all, and some that’s more romantic.”
“There’s a very high-low culture divide,” says Sargeant. “If we said it’s a show of erotica, it would be okay. If we say it’s a show of porn, then it’s not. So we called it Sex. It covers both bases, but both bases are the same thing anyway.”