Un_Real Desires – Group Exhibition

Technology, Desire and Erotica

22.10.2019 2pm  - 27.10.2019 8pm

October 2019 we presented one of SomoS’ more ambitious exhibitions: Un_Real Desires.

In times where the borders between the physical and the virtual are becoming increasingly blurred, the Un_Real Desires group exhibition explores the effects of the imbrication of technology, desire and erotica.

Un_Real Desires, taking place October 22nd-27th 2019 at SomoS Art House in Berlin, presents performative projects, ephemeral installations, painting, sculpture, video-art, interactive works, durational art pieces and other art forms. It is part of a recurring exhibition series, dedicated to exploring the mediatization of sexuality and its effects, coinciding with the Berlin Pornfilm Festival.

Does it matter if what you desire is real or not? Filters, Photoshop, animation, VR, sex robots, deepfakes, the representation of the eroticized body is moving further and further away from reality. Increasingly, the object of desire is not only obscure, but distorted and hidden by more and more layers of artifice: the disembodiment of the erotic seems immanent. Conversely, the constant barrage of societal and medial incentives and influences might render the impetus for desire itself questionable. Was this really what I wanted?

In society and politics, the influence of the internet, social media, and digitalization have increased a sense of fake-ness: False discourses, “alternative truths” are created and multiplied, confusing the individual and fragmenting society. The Un_Real Desires exhibition looks at the influence of digital life on people’s sexuality: The psychological, philosophical, societal, ethical, aesthetic effects of virtualization, idealization and instant gratification. Are we similarly unmoored by erotic fakeness? What happens to the portrayal of the quirky and in-between, if everything can be made to look perfect? And how do we view our imperfect self, confronted with so much synthetic perfection? “Un_Real Desires” traces the implications. Does it matter, and do we care?

Paul Piccione – Offload, durational installative performance.
7pm, daily, except Thursday at 6:30pm: Pei-Chi Wu – It’s a Long Story, live painting and performance.

Monday, October 21st, 6-9pm.
Ongoing: Miriam Poletti – We Should Fear Thirst, performative installation

Thursday October 24th, doors 6pm
7pm: Vaginal Arts Ensemble – Sexual Saint, installative performance.
8pm: Anastasia Manole – Les Femmes Romantique Part II, multimedia performance.

Participating artists:

Ana Brumat
Iria do Castelo & Ramses Salas
Amir Chasson
Francesca Fini
Anastasia Manole
Vaginal Arts Ensemble
Paul Piccione
Miriam Poletti
Rocha & Polse
Marcel Schwittlick
Janka Smetanina
Pei-Chi Wu
Mu Zhang

About the Works:

Ana Brumat (SL) – The Pursuit of Anomalous Mind Habitats (2018, HD video, 2″14!)

Multimedia artist Ana Brumat’s artistic research focuses on the analysis of micro and macro dimensions and their prime universal patterns. Through incorporating sound, video and image manipulation the artist aims to discover the underlying structural tension of our reality by reproducing subtle and invisible realms. By focusing on these seemingly imperceptible dimensions, Brumat is able to represent them in a language perceivable to human senses.

Shimmering with mysterious otherworldly sensuality, Brumat’s film The Pursuit of Anomalous Mind Habitats explores the human body and mind’s desire to transform in order to experience and sense differently. As the human body is not always able to perform the actions demanded by the intellect, the film focuses on the adaption of the mind to unexpected environments, and the attempt of our intelligence to expand, mutate and change its home. The viewer is invited to expand their own mind and contemplate their desire to cross the boundaries of the human body in order to extend the possibilities of sensing.
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Iria do Castelo (ES) & Ramses Salas (VE) – Juliette (2018, interactive installation; latex, hair, video projection, sound)

Menacing sculpture out of latex and hair at the Un_Real Desires exhibition.
The Bataillian theme of eroticism and death features prominently in Spanish multimedia artist Iria do Castelo’s work, evolving around notions of mysticism, sacrifice, the erotic and the impermanence of the flesh.
For the from the Un_Real Desires exhibition, Iria do Castelo cooperates with Venezuelan multimedia artist Ramses Salas for the first time to create a new work, Juliette, an interactive installation incorporating a physical/sculptural part and a virtual/interactive part. The viewer will be able to modify the piece through their movement.
In Juliette, do Castelo and Salas imagine how humans could follow the impulse of the ecstatic, erotic and the sacred that are suppressed by the demands of society; work and mass consumption/production. They aim to show a way to access “the violence of excessive enjoyment, and ways to transgress the limits of a mediocre reality.” This is represented by an abstracted piece, delicate, frightening, and sensuous, rich in Gothic and spiritual references, based on a craving of the erotic feeling as a way to blur the limits of our bodies, aiming to awaken in us to a consciousness of death and sacrifice, directly connecting to the idea of the disembodiment of the erotic.
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Amir Chasson (IL/UK) – Hadadezer (2019, wood and acrylic glass, metal trestles, 71 x 50 x 125cm, 1min. video loop)

Touch-inviting smooth wooden sculpture on working table at the Un_Real Desires exhibition.
Multidisciplinary artist Amir Chasson works in sculpture and poetry. The artist’s work approaches the theme of the physical vs. the virtual and its relation to the erotic and touch. In the sculpture Hadadezer, the gap between the actual physicality of the object and its representation is closed, as a video-loop projection of the object in an animated 360 degrees rotation is projected onto it. Because Chasson’s sculptures are very tactile and somewhat inviting to the touch, the viewers are welcome to touch, hug and caress them if they want. In this way, Hadadezer can be experienced sensually, not just by sight, but by touch as well, and by its earthy wooden scent. Describing his art as the sublimated by-product of desire, Chasson states “I believe I make art because, like everybody else, I am constantly seeking the excitation that comes from touching.”
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Francesca Fini (IT) – Skinned (2019, HD video, 7”24’)

Francesca Fini is an interdisciplinary artist focusing on experimental cinema, new media, installation and performance art. Her single-channel video collage and cut-out animation film Skinned extrapolates and manipulates iconic female imagery from the history of male portrait painting, creating alternative stories for them. Beauty is only skin deep in Fini’s video, which explores the various associations of skin and skinning, both digital and traditional, their relation to beauty, power and violence. The artist weaves her animated vignettes involving desire, objectification and gender into a dazzling kaleidoscopic spectacle. Time and space bend, analog and digital morph in Skinned, with the patient and complacent female sitters of the classical painting tradition breaking free from their assigned roles, gaining agency within Fini’s speculative and imaginative narratives of empowerment and bondage. Not only gender roles, but also the connection between sexuality and virtuality are explored. With painting standing for patriarchal control, the digital screen that replaces it, may, in Fini’s view, rather than empower, stand for a whole new kind of debilitating bondage all its own. As the object of desire moves to a new matrix, from analog to digital, from privileged exclusivity to mass availability and instant gratification, the receding and inviting view of painting’s window makes way for the computer’s black mirror reflecting our impotent and unsatisfiable selves.
More information ->

Anastasia Manole (RO) – Les Femmes Romantique Pt. II (2019, two videos & live online performance)

Cam performance art by feminist artist Anastasia Manole at the Un_Real Desires exhibition.
Anastasia Manole is the avatar of Bucharest-based Gabriela Mateescu, a feminist artist who works with performance, video-performance, installation, and drawing. Inspired by the rise of “camming” as the new erotica, Manole takes the role of erotic webcammer in Les Femmes Romantique Part II, a performative installation that focuses on ideas of feminism and sex-work in the digital age. Manole employs mostly stock photography, Google-searched images or YouTube videos, relying on montage and editing that remain deliberately sketchy and unfinished. These works provide a subjective commentary on how art has become again a craft that imitates reality. Displaying a wide range of topics and themes rooted in self-referential exploration, Anastasia Manole shifts between spontaneous displays of feminism and remixable data.
More information ->

Paul Piccione (AU) – Offload (2019, installation/durational performance)

Makeshift wooden cubicle door with vacant sign at the Un_Real Desires exhibition.
Paul Piccone is an emerging multidisciplinary artist, largely influenced by psychology; whose work focuses on issues facing the Australian Queer community such as the body and gender politics, historical trauma, hegemonic masculinity and queer empowerment. Piccone’s work Offload, is reminiscent of a time when the quest to find sexual partners was conducted in real-life, and involved costume, dance and conversation. In stark contrast to current times where dating has been fast tracked and reduced to being solely about the body and conducted almost exclusively in online forums. Unfortunately this accessibility of sex and its move to online platforms has also led to closure of public Queer spaces. The interactive structure consists of a discreet wooden box that invites curious participants inside. It is a narrow space like a toilet cubicle, lockable from the inside and allows admission for one person at a time. Behind a woven grill at eye level, that alludes to another space on the other side of the booth, the artist waits. It is then up to the participant to decide what direction the interaction will take. Piccone’s work encourages the viewer to question intimacy and what is sexual, and to engage with and create a connection to the artist.
More Information ->

Miriam Poletti (IT) – We Should Fear Thirst (2019, multimedia installation and participatory performance)

A close up of sweaty soft skin in M.Poletti's installation at the Un_Real Desires exhibition.
Multimedia artist Miriam Poletti‘s multidisciplinary work is focused on the subjectivity of humans and their interactions in the digital age. Her art approaches humans as malleable and mutable subjects. In an increasingly digital age, it finds a way to reflect a human subjectivity that is vulnerable to a constant stream of interactions, both in virtual and physical realities. She views the body as key to understanding these complex relations, as is reflected in her installation and participatory performance We Should Fear Thirst, presented during the exhibition. It considers the vulgar associations to the multitude of bodily fluids and liquids. The video component of her work shows Poletti’s body in contact with different liquids, as the sounds of her own bodily fluids emanate through the gallery space. At the same time, the artist offers consumable drinks that resemble in some way many bodily liquids. With liquids breaking down the distinction between both the body and its environment, the natural phenomena of bodily fluids are also offered in an artificial way, asking the viewer if whether what they desire is an organic or unreal version of their own body.
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Rocha & Polse (BR) – Hábito (HD video, 2018, 5’05”)

Rocha & Pose (Mariana Rocha and Fernanda Branco Polse) are a multidisciplinary Brazilian artist duo who have been working together since 2010. Their short video Hábito explores the sensual embodiment of the Other. Its protagonist desires what she never sensed or experienced, but is able to feel within the space of another body. The Spanish “Hábito” means to dwell, to inhabit, to occupy, to live. It also means form, habitude and vestment of religious women, nuns. Within the framework of these associations, Hábito presents the other as drag in an assemblage of associations, as it formulates a bodily language based on signs which emerge through a subtle choreography of gestures and postures that occupy an introspective sensuous in-between state. Using image and sound, Rocha & Polse intend for the audience to experience a fusion; pleasurable, destructive, impossible, unreal and yet necessary.
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Marcel Schwittlick (DE) – Feeling Data (2018, laptops, ethernet cables)

A tower of discarded laptops crowned by whips made from ethernet cable as seen at the Un_Real Desires exhibition.
Berlin based German multimedia artist Marcel Schwittlick’s shrine-like sculpture, Feeling Data, incorporates old laptops and whips fashioned from outdated ethernet cables, suggestive of our enslavement to technology. His work is largely concerned with the agency of computers and digital systems, believing that the technological world and art world are intertwined and connected. In keeping with this belief, Schwittlick’s practice is very much at the intersection of art, technology and science; using functional technologies and materials normally hidden behind walls, for their aesthetic qualities. Through this connection of art and technology he aims to forge a relationship between physical and digital media as well as traditional and modern approaches to artmaking. In the current times of globalization, cultural exchange and psychological impact of the internet, his work is an ongoing commentary on digital culture and its influence on society.
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Janka Smetanina (RU) – No Fear. No Shame. Par Excellence. (painting installation)

Painting of a nude heavy female, content and at rest in domestic setting from the Un_Real Desires exhibition.
Berlin-based Russian multidisciplinary artist Janka Smetanina’s paintings series No Fear. No Shame. Par Excellence. celebrate the exposure of the female body, moving away from the historically stigmatized representations of the vagina and breasts. The representation of the female form in her work is part of an on-going project “Body” that began in 2017, dedicated to the acceptance of human bodies. It originated in questioning why exposing the female breast is a centuries-old taboo and progressed to examining how representations of the vagina are presented in art. The artist also examines how standards of feminine beauty has been changing and evolving, as well as the reaction of society to these changes. Her series of nude portraits glorifies the female form and creates associations with positive archetypes, as an act of destigmatizing the depiction of breasts and vagina. The works also provide a refreshingly truthful and naturalistic representation of the female form, in contrast to the oversaturation of overly photoshopped depictions of women in the media.
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Vaginal Arts Ensemble (GR/DE) – Sexual Saint (2019, performance/installation)

Eroticized feminist performance by the Vaginal Arts Ensemble from the Un_Real Desires exhibition.
The Vaginal Arts Ensemble is a feminist arts collective comprised of Athens and Berlin-based artists that formed in 2015, that thematizes sexism, gender and patriarchy. The Vaginal Arts Ensemble present their performance and video installation Sexual Saint in which a figure poses as the Passion of Mary, on a pursuit of emancipation within contemporary society. The ritually worshiped Mary moves through the challenges and inconsistencies of sexual emancipation in a neoliberal, capitalist environment, experiencing pleasure and pain and even buying sex toys. Sexual Saint therefore questions the authenticity of gendered liberation in capitalism, whether the consumerist market can produce a real form of emancipation, or whether it is always packaged for the masses.
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Pei-Chi Wu (TW) – It’s a Long Story (2019, durational performance, human hair, book, dimensions variable)

Female Asian figure in long white coat, viewed from the back, in front of white erased mural at the Un_Real Desires exhibition.
Pei-Chi Wu‘s durational live painting performance It’s a Long Story takes us into a more philosophical and poetic consideration of subjectivity, temporality and alternative narratives. In her performance, the artist quotes a text from the German novel The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, often mentioned when discussing the genealogy of “alternative truths,” in which a baron tells his alluring adventures to people, always balancing on a tightrope between unreality and reality. It’s a Long Story suggests that, however improbable, most people would still choose to believe unreal narratives over real ones, speculation over fact, as the overload of media has destroyed a sense of a shared public reality. While Postmodernism’s relativism is often blamed for creating this condition, it may be more correct to say that it predicted and enables us to understand it, as Jeet Heer noted. “Our culture of meaning is collapsing beneath our excess of meaning, the culture of reality collapsing beneath the excess of reality, the information culture collapsing beneath the excess of information—the sign and reality sharing a single shroud,” Baudrillard wrote in The Perfect Crime (1995). If we accept this, the subjectiveness of Pei-Chi Wui’s story is as valid as anyone’s then, and artist‘s narratives are always very valuable, regardless of their veracity.
Pei-Chi Wu paints a mural that after reaching completion over the course of several days, is slowly deconstructed again, leaving only traces on a blank wall and video as proof of an artwork that momentarily existed. Incorporating her own hair in her installation, one of the more persistent proofs of a humans existence, the Taiwanese artist interweaves notions of obscured identity under threat of being homogenized.
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Mu Zhang (CN) – Spring Palace (lenticular prints, 2019, PETG, APET, and acrylic resins, 30 x 36cm)

Lenticular prints by Mu Zhang from the Un_Real Desires exhibition using historic Chinese Spring Palace imagery of a group of persons having sex to discuss online censorship.
Chicago-based Chinese Artist Mu Zhang’s lenticular print series Spring Palace takes a historical look at erotic censorship across East Asian history. Before the creation of the Spring Palace series, Zhang predominantly worked with Polaroids, disposable cameras and VHS, featuring soft core erotic photography and posted them on social media. After her works were deleted and banned several times, the artist began to explore internet censorship and how AI was made to recognize inappropriate content. The series appropriates found imagery from ancient Chinese Spring Palace paintings by placing emojis over the same areas that she would her soft core erotica on social media. The unique medium allows the viewer to see the censoring emoji being placed and removed on the prints, as it likewise flickers between the digital age and an ancient Chinese era. Thus her irreverent prints enable a humorous way to discuss and engage with the issue of censorship.
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Un_Real Desires
Opening: October 21st 2019, 6-9pm
Duration: 22–27.10.2019, 2-8pm, and by appointment
Free/donation-based entry (Strictly 18+)
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Kottbusser Damm 95, 1.OG
10967 Berlin

Exhibition views courtesy Kimiya Nik Photography.