Karol Jachymek " In seach of pleasure"
”We are constantly surrounded by images of sexual bodies” – these words mark the beginning of the official synopsis of the performance titled ”To come (extended)”, made by a Danish choreographer and dancer Mette Ingvartsen in 2017.
In this piece, which is a creative variation on her earlier work titled ”To come” (2005) rather than its mere continuation, Ingvartsen investigates the issue of how body and sexuality function in contemporary world and carefully explores the ambiguous relations between private and public space in regard to sexual representation. ”Naked flesh, fluids, skin, tits and asses no longer belong to late hours in a dark joint somewhere around the corner, but to our daily life impressions”, one continues to read in the press materials. Indeed, nudity and sex permeate (not only) media coverage every single day. Brian McNair would probably even say that we live in the striptease culture. This culture, however, was not born together with the commercials, cinema, Internet, social media or today’s press, although they all have undoubtedly contributed to its expansion. For this phenomenon has had a relatively long tradition. Let us look, for example, at the history of art, especially painting and sculpture, in which the issue of nudity has been present almost from its very beginnings. When looking at nude figures, we usually view them through the prism of beauty, fertility or some other lofty symbolism, but in reality they only represent naked, stylized and usually sexualized bodies. Nudity is engraved on our visual codes to such an extent, that we most often do not even perceive it nor look for some additional meanings in it.
As a result, all of the representations that surround us influence (in)directly also our behavior and perception. This can be proved by the mere choreography of our sexual practices themselves. The sex positions we take, even if they seem to be unique and spontaneous, are often rooted in the wide repertoire of erotic scenes, pornography or sex guides which, as the years passed, have shaped not only our desires but also, in a way, the prevailing norms. The public has therefore founded the private. In this sense, the sexuality has become another area of control, as Michel Foucault would probably say.
This media landscape which has been clearly codified so far is now fortunately dispersing more and more. There are some messages about positive sexuality, ethical pornography, e.g. by Erika Lust, body positive movement or practices of breaking away from the discourse of the male gaze that Laura Mulvey wrote about which reach us more and more often. Mette Ingvartsen’s performance undoubtedly fits this narrative. ”Pleasure has become a must” – we read in the press materials. For this precise reason we should search for it only when we really feel like it and when we are able to gain it on our own terms.
Karol Jachymek – a cultural anthropologist, film expert, Doctor of Philosophy, assistant professor at the Department of Cultural Studies of the SWPS University in Warsaw. He is the coordinator , lecturer and co-founder of the School of Ideas. He explores the social and cultural history of cinema (especially Polish one) and everyday reality, the issues related with body, gender and sexuality as well as all the manifestations of pop culture. He is the author of a book titled ”Film – Body – History. Polish Cinema of the 1960s”.