The State of Pornography: Discussing (Post-) Porn with some of Germany’s leading minds in the field – now available in English

Akademische Mitteillungen 17 - incl. Post-Porn Roundtable

Photos: The cover of Akademische Mitteilungen #17 (above), opening spread of the Post-Porn Roundtable (below)

I’m thrilled to have work of mine included in The Obsession Issue of Akademische Mitteilungen (AM #17). A magazine published by designers at Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Stuttgart, AM #17 contains a partially updated English translation of the Post-Porn Roundtable fellow journalist/critic Anne Waak and I hosted for Spex in 2010. For this talk, we invited theorists and practitioners of porn – philosopher Svenja Flaßpöhler, theorist/activist Tim Stüttgen, and entrepreneur Jürgen Brüning – to discuss recent developments in the field.

In the 2000s, porn changed: While acclaimed directors such as Michael Winterbottom experimented with pornographic scenes in cinema (»9 Songs«, released in 2004), porn studios were appropriating themes of mainstream movies in their productions (e.g. Hustler’s »This Ain’t Avatar XXX«, relased in 2010). At the same time, the production, distribution and consumption of amateur porn was evolving dramatically thanks to declining prices of digital video equipment and video sharing sites such as YouPorn (launched in 2006).

Of course, the aesthetics and practices of amateur porn are most likely informed by mainstream porn, making it no more »authentic« than commercial products. And yet the marketable promise of authenticity (along with low production costs) motivates porn studios to exploit amateur porn commercially – or to produce faux-amateur porn themselves, along with so-called alternative porn.

Meanwhile, activists and artists produce porn with queer/subversive and feminist intent (i.e. Post-Porn, at the same time political and pornographic, a comment on porn and porn itself – though there are two distinct and potentially conflicting definitions of Post-Porn, one by artist/activist Annie Sprinkle and one by film critic Georg Seeßlen).

Today, it feels like there is porn geared towards every sexual niche and fetish (including those prohibited by law). And yet, few people seem truly satisfied with the pornographic supply, finding most of it either fake, demeaning, disimpassioned, cruel, discriminatory, exploitative, dull, didactic – or simply unsexy.

This is, roughly, what Anne and I had planned to talk about with our guests. Obviously, our roundtable was bound to be exciting and disappointing at the same time, being ripe with insight and inspiration thanks to our excellent panelists and yet incapable of resolving the messiness of our topic once and for all.

I’m glad that Natalie Neomi Isser and Pasqual Schillberg, editors of The Obsession Issue, rescued it from the archives and that thanks to translator Janina Haugg, the talk is available in English now.

Limited to 1,000 copies, A.M. #17 also includes an introduction to the work of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, an interview with Sissel Tolaas and visual work by many other obsessive minds. The magazine is beautifully designed albeit a little eccentric. It’s available at Do You Read Me?! in Berlin, Buchhandlung Walther König elsewhere in Germany and selected shops around Europe.

While Spex chose to illustrate our Post-Porn Roundtable with some of Timothy Archibald’s photos of homemade sex machines, A.M. #17’s editors run salaciously photographed flowers. This is a intriguing idea, as porn is forever torn between fantasy and reality, the technological and the natural. And Gosh, when did nature become so – obscene?

Photos: Various spreads of Akademische Mitteilungen’s The Obsession Issue, #17 (2012)

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