Just as an unfortunate wave of Puritanism has arrived in France, the exhibition « Le Quatrième sexe » at Le Coeur in Paris aims to offer a visual and artistic interpretation of gender confusion and a reaffirmation of pleasure. Science and culture have constantly investigated human sexology and the notion of carnal pleasure: from research by William Master and Virginia Johnson to Simone de Beauvoir’s classic « Le deuxième sexe, » or Lars von Trier’s masterpiece « Nymphomaniac, » sexual pleasure has stood as an object of fantasy and taboo.
The name of the exhibition comes – unintentionally – from a film project started in 1961 by director and producer José Bénazéraf. Telling the story of an American billionaire in Paris, among equivocal girls, a love trio, homosexuality, and dubious manners, the film evokes the blurring of gender and identity without taboo – and thus fits perfectly with the aim of exhibition. That aim is an open-ended brand of sexuality that is free from all social conventions. The analogy may also have come from Jeffrey Eugenides in his novel “Middlesex,” published in 2002: « I had two births (he tells her hero / heroine as a preamble). First as a little girl in Detroit, on an exceptionally clear day in January 1960, and then as a teenager, in the emergency department of a hospital near Petoskey, Michigan, in August 1974. »
Le Cœur has invited journalist and art critic Marie Maertens to curate its anniversary exhibition, which brings together nearly thirty artists including Frank Perrin, Apolonia Sokol, Jean-Luc Verna, We are the painters and Loup Sarion. Each artist was given the space to offer an artistic or visual definition of erotic pleasure, the relationship to the naked body, the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden, and gender confusion.
Photographer Frank Perrin exhibits the « Cameltoes » series from his « Postcapitalism » project, through which he continues to explore the most contemporary obsessions of capitalism. With « Cameltoes, » Frank Perrin produces a fetishistic repetition of the female body’s genital erogenous zone, as molded into unique shape by a tight-fitting pair of jeans. While sex plays a central role in the « Cameltoes » series, it is also very literally restrained by the tight pants, which nevertheless serves to highlight it in a blend of fantasy and frustration, sexualization and desexualization, « The Origin of the World », post-human.
Beyond « Gender Studies », this new sex, the fourth, appears to be more hedonistic than ever, inaugurating a new postulate of emancipation. And faced with the wave of Trumpism and Puritanism, the exhibition reaffirms the kind of sexual freedom that first appeared in the 1970s, and which continues to fight against the sexual cloistering that certain extremists would gladly impose.
« LE QUATRIEME SEXE » / LE COEUR / RUE DE TURENNE, PARIS / Until February, 25th, 2017
Photos: © Frank Perrin
Written by Lisa Tomasi