As Featured on Fantom 02 / Winter 2010
For some people, their only sexual release is through pornography and good luck to them. I find it interesting to see what turns other people on. Yesterday’s smut is today’s erotica… it was like that with Bettie Page. At first glance all of these photos by Paul Kooiker look like some fatty fetish porn collection from the Fifties. Like old vintage trading photos for some secret men’s club, something that you could find today on e-bay or in a thrift shop – the image sources that are often repurposed as art. I like a lot of the images. I don’t know what it means that a young, Dutch artist in his forties made these today. For me that changes the meaning… but I can’t quite say to exactly what. My favorites are the ones shot in a library. To recreate this nostalgic scenario, it totally changes the meaning. It does seem somehow out of character that a young photographer desires and records these unconventional beauties.
It seems too authentic to be merely nostalgic and at the same time there is absolutely no irony. These look like straitforward amateur abandon. Nonetheless, the usual hierarchical relation, of viewer and viewed, of spectator and specimen, remains absent. What also seems odd is the fact that an artist has been making this work in an age when the internet offers viewers access to pornographic situations with total anonymity, yet he stages live scenarios. Only one decade ago, someone seeking satisfaction through porn could go into a video or sex shop. The privacy of his home or hotel room afforded more anonymity than the earlier days when men gawked at ladies from the front row of a theater. In those earlier days (before pay per view and internet) pornographic pleasure meant not only seeing – and sometimes touching – his object of sexual desire in the flesh, the man himself was also exposed. Kooiker’s fantasies are conceived without the protected space of a proscenium or a monitor. For some reason he prefers the old fashion scenario for his contemporary art (or should I say rather his timeless art?). I am not really sure if this is at all significant. I once read an article in the Sunday Times about the correlation between Penthouse body types and economic conditions. A study of centerfolds from 1960-2000 found that during booms models tended to be young, short and wasp-waisted, with wide hips and ample breasts. When times were hard, models were older and taller, with bigger waist-to-hip ratios, shallower curves and less body fat. Busts, if you like, are bad for busts. If Penthouse was true to the times, then men prefer WAG-like figures when food is plentiful, and go for stronger, more experienced, more athletic women when it is time for hunting and gathering. What sociological survey would explain Kooiker’s choices? As far as I know, that subject remains unstudied or perhaps only out of print.