The SX+ Collective

Art and Sex. What else is there?

Laura Hill, Fantasea, 2016, digital video still.

Sx+: A Sex Positive Art Show
Prestige Night Club
Anywhere Festival, Brisbane

Curated by The SX+ Collective
Francisca Vanderwoude and Amanda Wolf

  • Prestige Bar
    198 Wickham StreetFortitude Valley, QLD, 4006 Australia 

Anastasia Booth, Kristian Fracchia,  Marisa Georgiou and Chloe Waters, Laura Hill, Aishla Manning, Naomi O'Reilly and Ally McKay, Dr Bill Platz, Parallel Park, Zoe Porter, Tyza, Francisca Vanderwoude and Clare Cowley, Amanda Wolf, X in O, and Dr Holly Zwalf.

Spoken word performance by Admas Tewodros
Roaming perfromance by Saara Roppola
Acrobatic performance by Indie Berlin featuring soundtrack by SCRAPS.

Parallel Park 'Pussy Presence' 2016, installation view SX+: The Sex Positive Art Show, Prestige Night Club. Photography:Parallel Park 

Parallel Park, 'Bone Yard', installation view SX+: TheSex Positive Art Show, Prestige Night Club
Photography: Parallel Park

Parallel Park, Pussy Presence, 2016, video still.

SX+ is a collective of artists who aim to question contemporary definitions of sex-positivity and promote open discourse surrounding sex and sexuality through individual and community arts projects. We deal with themes as diverse as pornography, desire, queer identity, fetish, objectification, reproduction, and sex work through a range of traditional and contemporary forms.
We approach sex-positivity as being defined by the presence of sexual discourse rather than the absence, with a focus on informed consent, agency within one’s sexuality, and acceptance of others’ sexual practices (provided those practices are legal and consensual) without moral judgement.

Anastasia Booth, Medusa, 2014, synthetic hair, glass, sequins, plastic sheet and steel,
 installation view at SX+: The Sex Positive Art Show, Prestige Night Club.

Chloe Waters and Marisa Georgiou, Busty Blonde and Athletic Brunette Squirt Each Other Repeatitively, installation view SX+: The Sex Positive Art Show, Prestige Night Club

Tyza, Self Portrait, 2016, installation view SX+: The Sex Positive Art Show, Prestige Night Club 

Saara Roppola, Baba Yaga, 2016, live performance, SX+: The Sex Positive Art Show, Prestige Night Club.

Saara Roppola, Baba Yaga, 2016, live performance, Sx+: The Sex Positive Art Show, Prestige Night Club

Indie Berlin, live performance, 2016, SX+: The Sex Positive Art Show, Prestige Night Club 

Indie Berlin, live performance, 2016, SX+:The Sex Positive Art Show, Prestige Night Club.
Photography: Clare Cowley

Sx+: A Sex Positive Art Show
Catalogue Essay

Let’s Talk about Sex, baby
Sophie Kubler

The phrase, “Sex-Positive Art Show” will elucidate, nine times out of ten, one of the following two reactions. The first is outrage, as the alleged indecency of such an exhibition is angrily branded “dirty,” “rude,” or “wicked,” denigrating those involved to be marked as predatory, repulsive and uncanny. However, I find this reaction to be increasingly uncommon as the wider public comes to strip itself of its noxious, conservative attitudes. What instead permeates attitudes towards sex-positive art, and the topics of sex & sexuality more generally, is an ubiquitous sense of embarrassment. If there were a Venn diagram comparing the realm of sex and our private lives, it would equate to a circle, thus begging the question- why are we so uncomfortable discussing and representing sex in public?

High school is perhaps foundational in promoting the myth that sex is by nature an uncomfortable topic of discussion. For those who attended Catholic schools, the statement Abstinence is key! Masturbation is corrupting! may as well have been a sacred mantra. However, the broader high school experience points towards a universal awkwardness surrounding the topics of sex and sexuality. Whilst these are of course immensely personal, the privatisation of sex- that being the dissuasion of discussion surrounding personal sexual experiences given communal embarrassment- closed the door on what should be an open discourse.

In shying away from questions, which challenge the deficient, dominant narrative of sexual education, there is much of importance that is forgotten. The experience of sex education for many adults has been one that omits discussion of valuable questions. What about gay and lesbian sexuality? The importance of consent? The effect of sex on relationships? Over and over we were told that the decision to engage in sex was our choice, and that no one could make it for us and yet the dominant narrative laid out before us seemingly strips the integrity of that decision. 

This heteronormative, cisgendered narrative of sex, which is most commonly portrayed to us, occurs between a white man and woman engaged in the missionary position, and is a narrative with which it is not difficult to take fault with. The preservation of this narrow narrative in turn promotes the preservation of sexual mythologies and discomfort in not being represented in this broader sexual history.  

Through the restricted story of sexual identity we are presented with, embarrassment and uneasiness fester and grow parasitically in ourselves, causing us to de-value and question our own experiences, values and beliefs. For many, this uncertainty is manifest in their personal relationship to the body. Our nakedness is not something about ourselves that is readily embraced, particularly in relation to its sexual functioning and aesthetic appearance that is quintessential for forming a sexual identity.  

Perhaps this is the foundation for many viewers discomfort in viewing sex-positive art, as our outlook is founded in the uneasiness with which we consider our own bodies. Whilst the naked body is not something newly represented in art historically, it is perhaps that across history that we have been unable to see ourselves in these representations and so have not been confronted by the gravity of our own societal crises in sexual identity. Whilst grandiose portraits of nude, reclining women of the upper class once spoke of the exquisite beauty and luxury that surrounded them, it is difficult for many conscious viewers to consider these works beyond their purposeful objectification of the feminine body.   

Throughout art’s long history of examining the human form, both the male and female body have been mythologised, with the strength and power of a perfect masculine form being glorified over the passivity of the feminine body, valued only in its relation to the male gaze. Whilst the representation of the masculine is problematic in its idealised perfection, the depiction of women in art is perhaps more degrading, through the way in which it perpetuates patriarchal culture and thus, limits the sexual identities of feminine people. Represented as submissive objects of phallocentric desire, they appear without a sexual identity of their own, often powerless against the dominant desires of their intended misogynistic audience. 

On the rare occasion that women are represented as agents of power, they are bound to personify the monstrous feminine- man-eaters or Medusas whose “nefarious actions” must still be overcome and dominated by man. These mythologies reinforce phallocentric contentions that a woman’s sexual identity exists only as a reflection of the desire which is projected on her body, and that to form her own sexual identity is deviant, the wicked opposition of man’s sexuality. The internalisation of these mythologies perhaps holds back, particularly feminine-identifying viewers from embracing an open dialogue surrounding sexuality. However, across SX+ collective’s opening, each artist welcomes the viewer into conversation, promoting a safe space for the discussion of these ideas.

Standing in front of such raw and confronting works, we are forced to bring our own personal relationship with our body and our sexuality to the experience of the artwork. In challenging the dominant narrative, Sex-positive art is a valuable way to create an open dialogue and provides a platform that supports broad and inclusive sexual education. Through engaging with art that brings sex out of the darkness of our private lives and into the light of public discussion, we may begin to tear down the mythologies and ignorance that has founded misconceptions, and rebuild a healthy and informed discourse. 

Aishla Manning, Untitled (poking raspberry) 2016, mixed media and HD video.
Image courtesy of the artist.

Amanda Wolf, 2BCUM1 (detail) 2014.

Caity Reynolds, Shity Poem 1, 2015, watercolour on paper.
Image courtesy of the artist.

Francisca Vanderwoude, 2016, video still.

Kristian Fracchia Untitled (Self portrait #6) 2014 Charcoal on Arches paper.
Image courtesy of the artist.

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Artist information