The exhibition Tender Debauchery accompanies and inaugurates the second edition of the Post Pxrn Film Festival Warsaw (12–18 June 2023). It is our response to the radical care, responsibility and passion we experienced last year from the festival’s curators and organisers: Aga Szreder, Rafał Żwirek, and Roman Gutek.
The term “post-porn” is said to have been coined by photographer Wink van Kempen. In 1980s, a group of people, including Veronica Vera, Frank Moores, Candida Royale and Leigh Gates, as well as Annie Sprinkle, who worked in mainstream porn industry during that decade, realised the need to create an alternative that would embrace the needs of women and sexual minorities, do away with treating actors like objects, and make the aesthetics of the genre less violent. In the 1990s, the pro-sex feminist movement gained significance, and their rights in that sphere began to be claimed by trans individuals, people with disabilities, and the elderly. With time, feminist porn also became queer porn.
Tender Debauchery seeks to convey our subjective statement on contemporary art’s links with pornography that represents anti-capitalist and anti-patriarchal views, calls for the dignity and rights of individuals who are humiliated, experience violence and unfair treatment. We became seduced by the idea to look for such energy in works by artists active in the 1960s and 1970s, when the term “post-porn” was not yet known. But the emancipatory potential of liberated, female, and queer sexuality needs no labels and has no expiration date. These works – photographs, films, drawings – continue to affect our imagination, existing as a sign of their times, but remaining universal.
The exhibition also features work by representatives of the critical art of the 1990s and early 2000s, an era when post-porn became an important strategy for artists working in the fields of video art, photography, object, performance, and many other areas. We remember well that their presentations in institutions and galleries frequently stirred up the audience’s emotions and caused radical steps taken by defenders of morality committing acts of moral censorship. We wish to examine what these works meant nearly a quarter of a century ago and how they affect viewers today. Last but not least, we present work by artists active now, observing with excitement the relations between eras, statements, and objects. We are interested in this dialogue, and we hope we can also draw our audience to it, since we believe that the essence of post-porn is to offer intellectual stimulation and spiritual sensations.
Works in the Tender Debauchery show address numerous topics associated with postpornography. We present objects that launch a critical reflection on mainstream porn industry and soft porn, tapping into its iconography and challenging the replication of unrealistic canons of sexual attractiveness. We share testimonies from sex workers and queer activists. We examine various paths that sexual pleasure follows and we peep at voyeurs. We observe fetishes, flick through zines, follow the activities of ecosexual individuals with our eyes and hearts. Finally, we join all those who overcome limitations imposed by the system in their fight for liberty and basic civil rights.