Five from 2005: XXX-rated collages

[Alas, not the collages themselves (which I cannot display here), but brief analytic notes on them, linked to collage essays like the ones in my previous posting.

Another posting in the Gayland category, with nothing on language.]

From e-mail to Linda Williams 11/18/05 about:

… a set of new collages … All except one are constructed from the raw materials I had on display a week ago [at the Stanford Humanities Center exhibition].  Here are some notes on the collages that I wanted to get written out while the composition process was still fresh in my mind…

These notes have been lightly edited and somewhat expanded in 2010.

1.  Exposure.  A riff on shirt lifting.  From the Collage Essays:

Shirt lifting displays go from the coyest (The Basic Tease), with a small patch of belly exposed by one hand lifting the shirt up this little bit, through the bolder Belly and Tit Display, with the shirt held (by hand, or occasionally, in the teeth), or pushed up, above the tits, to the Framed Full Frontal display, with the shirt rolled up and placed out of the way, hooked behind the neck – essentially a Full Torso display [of the body] framed on top with what is now a suggestion, or memory, of a shirt rather than an imaginably functional piece of clothing.

The shirtlifters in the collage are arranged in two sets.  From the lower left corner, going counter-clockwise around the outside of the piece, there’s a progression of  figures, more or less parallel to an edge of the collage, going from the merest of exposures up to the guy in the yellow tank top with about half of his torso exposed; only two of these guys are also displaying their dicks.  Cutting across this set, from the lower right to the upper left, is a series of guys doing more advanced shirt lifting displays, all of them exposing one or both tits, and all of them exposing their cocks as well — so moving towards maximum visibility*, which is almost achieved by Rollup Boy, whose balls aren’t visible though everything else is.

My favorite is the guy with the red muscle tee held up in his teeth.  I think he’s trying to look both feral and playful. His fully open, zipped-down, fly with his dick nevertheless tucked in (but no underwear to get in the way) is a rare variant of the teasing Peekaboo display of the cock.

On the other diagonal we have a large male torso in the background, with its one nipple ring serving as the focal point of the composition, and a slash of blue pieces of clothing.

And then colorful celebratory streamers run down the left side of the composition.

[*Linda Williams, Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the “Frenzy of the Visible” (1989: Berkeley Univ. Press), introduces on p. 48 the principle of maximum visibility in visual pornography, operating (p. 49)

to privilege close-ups of body parts over other shots; to overlight easily obscured genitals; to select sexual positions that show the most of bodies and organs; and … to create generic conventions, such as … the externally ejaculating penis.

I’ll post on “taking it to the max” in a later posting.]

2.  Red Clint.  The background (and central) figure is from a jeans ad, taken here from the NYT Magazine, though it’s appeared in several places.  Clint (as I’ll call him) is doing a Shirtless display on top and A Pubic Tease (fly open at top, apparently no underwear, but with actual pubic hair concealed by his really really butch belt buckle.  More coding of butch is done by some facial stubble and the cowboy hat.

Then there’s all that red, the s/m color in the handkerchief code.  The red roses: passionate love and the pain of thorns.  The lipsticked lips, on open mouths that look like they were meant to serve as sex toys — as mouths to receive cocks, and metaphorically as (rosebud) assholes, for the same purpose.  The dolls are female, literally open for penetration, and fussily ornamented.  Their feminine/receptive coding is opposed to Clint’s butch coding and so enhances it.  But, but… the dolls are also linked to Clint, through the intense redness of his hat and the redness of his lips.

This is all just stuff in the original ad (and not all the things we could comment on in the ad).  In the collage I’ve reinforced some of the elements in the ad (the roses and the red red lips).  I’ve added two young regular-guy (rather than aggressively butch) lovers — note the hearts and flowers and the notes of song –who are being mentored by Clint (caption: “Clint was always encouraging / Darrin and Danny  to / branch out”), and depicted them engaged in activities both oral (including a finger in the mouth and a foot to lick, both gratefully received) and anal, plus one butt display for each of them (a decidedly un-butch dance pose for the darker one and a side view of the blonder one serving as an object of desire at the baths).

Three figures close to Clint are counterweights to him: the absurd biker frog, parodying the butch presentation; the faggy artist (Andy Warhol); and the adorable smiling young man at the bottom in the comfy furry-lined jacket (but no shirt of any kind), who’s doing a nice-guy buddy presentation while displaying a torso that’s every bit as remarkable as Clint’s. Abs on parade.

3.  Prison Break.  A much simpler number.  The central/focal figures, who serve to orient the composition in space, illustrate eroticized masculinity in the mass media; they are actors in the tv show Prison Break, taken here from a cover of TV Guide.  High-masculinity is coded via stubble, super-short haircuts, and facial expressions.

Then there are four framing shots of one model from the Undergear catalogue (who I’ve called Anthony).  He mirrors the coding of the Prison Break actors/characters, and has in addition coded underwear: white cotton briefs in four different styles, and (in one shot) a white cotton “wifebeater” undershirt.  Colored underwear is faggy, as is underwear in fabrics other than cotton; white cotton is masculine.  (Note: Undergear sells a hell of a lot of faggy underwear.  But this model appears most often in white cotton.)  Meanwhile, boxer shorts are straight-guy things; briefs are better for gay guys, because they show off your package.  (Undergear sells virtually no boxer shorts.) [See my Language Log postings on the coding of men’s underwear.]

We get three torso displays from Anthony, plus a very small shirt lifting and one armpit display.  What we don’t get is any smiles from him. In fact, in the catalogues he is almost never shown smiling; he is scowling, or glancing sideways, or has his gaze cast down. Butch indifference, the cat who walks alone.

Then there are some wonderful quotes on prisons from a 1923 encyclopedia, and a bunch of dalmatian dogs and awards, adding a red/black/white/gold color scheme to the whole business.

The conceit is that Anthony is so closely identified with the Prison Break guys that he wants to get into the prison world. Caption (on the same yellow-green background as the composition as a whole): “It was obvious to everyone / that Anthony would soon / abandon his life as a underwear model / to take up a career in penology.”

4.  Victor’s Buddies.  The central figure comes from an ad for men’s jewelry in Details magazine, which is aimed at metrosexuals and gay men.  (The adorable smiling guy in Red Clint is from Details too.)  In the original, Victor (as I’m calling him) has his arms around a young woman, who has her back to us.  All that remains of her image in the collage is a small patch of her pinky-purple bra and a bit of her hair (her head is resting on his shoulder).

The photo has a double focus — on Victor’s face (which is certainly erotically masculine) and on his hands (which is where the jewelry — a bracelet and a matching wedding ring — is displayed).  So in the original, Victor is coded as straight; he has his arms around a hot woman, who is presumably the wife indicated by the wedding ring.  That presumably means he can get away with wearing an elegant (and very expensive) bracelet, which in other contexts might scream “fag!”, especially in combination with that face and facial expression.

I decided to go with the fag reading.  So I populated Victor’s world with erotic images of men — four different porn stars from an ad for a gay porn film, in four different presentations of the male body (full frontal, dick in hand; side shot, massive thigh obscuring dick; side shot with hard dick jutting out proudly; and a rear shot, with two firm muscular buttocks framed by lowered tighty whities), plus two different shots of an Undergear model in nothing but a red thong (two different styles), eyes cast down in both shots, so that the model is apparently thoughtfully contemplating his crotch, or at least his underwear.

Victor’s face is the focal point of the composition. Above him, the legend in large type, white on black: “Be Noticed”. Below, the caption, black on red: “Victor’s buddies are / always there for him”.

Then we have a red rose, and that caption on the same red background.  And a fag-lavender background for the whole business.  And of course lots of penguins; you can never have too many penguins. So overall it’s a study in red, black, and white.

The conceit is that Victor is a married man in the grip of desire for other men.  His “buddies” fill his mental life just as their images fill our visual space.

I’m pretty pleased with this one as a composition.

5.  Corporate Transgressions.  These materials weren’t on display last week.  The original image is the guy in the business suit pissing on the table in a board room (from an article about quitting jobs).

Then there are seven clips from a piece in [2] magazine [2010 note: no longer published] depicting a sexual encounter between a boss and a candidate for a job in his office.  There’s one shot of them kissing in mid-action (down to their skivvies) and a truly goofy post-sex photo of the two of them holding hands at the boss’s desk and staring meaningfully into each other’s eyes — wearing nothing but their (almost matching) ties!  (Suit-and-tie sex is a minor subgenre of gay porn.  More often, guys in suits get it on with blue-collar types — with “real men”.)

The guy on the left is wearing a heavy metal cockring, which can be seen in closeup in another clip, and has a tattoo that’s visible in two other clips.  (Not exactly business gear, but then we’re in Gayland.) There’s a clip of crotch nuzzling (the nuzzler keeps his watch on throughout the encounter), a butt display, and an armpit display, and one open-mouthed clip (in the original, the man is about to take the other guy’s cock, but as arranged here he appears to be begging for piss).

For students of underwear: nothing but white cotton, briefs for one and boxer briefs for the other, and wifebeaters for both of them.

These guys are mature men (with nice but realistic bodies, facial and neck wrinkles, a receding hairline on one, and significant body hair), so I added two contrasting elements: two shots of an Undergear fantasy boy in Aussiebum black-and-red jock briefs, one of these shots (with the boy’s eyes cast down) acting as the focal point for the composition, and a set of three mostly smooth cute gay boys hangin’ out together affectionately.  (Ok, mostly I just thought it was a sweet shot.)

The texts are from the encyclopedia (about corporations) and from on-line porn (one on cocksucking in a corporate men’s  room, the other describing intense gay piss scenes).

Finally, the stickers: mostly high-masculine coding, cars and planes.  (I could have gone for office supplies.) It’s a man’s man’s man’s world.

This collage is especially hard to pick a viewing angle for: what’s bottom, what’s top? Many of my collages are “of uncertain orientation”, as I sometimes say.

3 Responses to “Five from 2005: XXX-rated collages”

  1. Arnold Zwicky’s Blog X « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] first posting is a replay of my essays here on some XXX-rated collages from 2005, but this time with the collages, all five of them: 8/2/10: […]

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    The five collages can now be viewed, along with the text above, on my “adult content” blog (Arnold Zwicky’s Blog X), here.

  3. But is it art? « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] for instance the two academic collages here and the five XXX-rated collages described and linked to here. But I don’t draw (or paint or engrave or whatever) […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: