Ophelia Bitz talks porn

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Ophelia Bitz hosts ArtWank! Ophelia Bitz hosts ArtWank! - © Guilherme Zühlke O'Connor
Posted: Mon Jan 23 2012

Cabaret performer and organiser of porn-debating party ArtWank! Ophelia Bitz surveys the best of the new wave of provocative culture

Sex and art have been feeding each other peeled grapes since flesh first met fancy but in the age of video art, internet porn and consumer culture, just how close are these bedfellows in the eyes of the public?

Already this year, Michael Peacock's acquittal on charges brought under the 1959 Obscene Publications Act and Bangladesh's new ten-year prison sentence for smut-peddlers makes porn a hot topic. And there are plenty of artists and activists stepping up to discuss this most contentious subject.

I began hosting ArtWank!, my pornography screening and debate party, in 2010 as a reaction to the lack of measured debate, market research and fun surrounding such topics, and my efforts to promote audience engagement and sexy comedy have since been recognised by Old Vic New Voices and the Erotic Awards. With a new run of ArtWank! now on at the RVT and preparations underway for a run at the Edinburgh Fringe, these are my tips on how you can get informed, get opinionated and get hot…

Pop-porn mash-ups
Prior to the VCR, to watch dirty movies you had to get yourself down to a touring skin-flick roadshow, brothel or adult cinema. Much vintage material is tamer and more approachable than modern internet fare because it was designed for sociable public screening; the more hardcore material was mainly commissioned by private collectors (aka rich pervs). You have to do a bit of legwork to get your public kicks these days - like going to ArtWank! Our performers include Ruby Blues, Myra Dubois, pornographer-turned-stand-up Yoshki Greenberg and the UK debut of foul-mouthed glam-rocker Damn Fluid. We've also heard from up-and-coming erotic artists and illustrators like Sarah Beetson.

Arty tarts
Fine artist and Correspondents front-dervish Ian Bruce - aka RubiCANE - is launching 'Souvenir', a silk-bound collection of his sketches inspired by dirty movies and magazines. The illustrations are framed by writings from contemporary theorists, porn stars and artists, and 10 per cent of all book sales goes to Outsiders, a pioneering charity working to recognize the sexual needs of people with physical disabilities.
Book launch at The Society Club, 12 Ingestre Place, Feb 14. Exhibition open to April. www.rubicane.com

Feminist fantasies
'The answer to bad porn isn't no porn… It's to try and make better porn!' says Annie Sprinkle. The Feminist Porn Awards were founded in the USA in 2006 and have been celebrating sex-positive, political and creative pornography ever since. Award winners include Anna Span, who was Gravesham's 2010 Liberal Democrat candidate, and Swedish academic Erika Lust, who will be speaking at Soho House about the feminist porn revolution on February 2. Pull every string to get a seat - it's guestlist only.

The award-winner
Starring cute-as-a-button porn star Ashley Rider and performance prophet David Hoyle, 'Uncle David' is an international-award-winning movie you really should have seen by now. Emotionally explicit, revealing and original, Ryder's emergence from adult to indie film achieves everything Sasha Grey attempted and stuffed up in 'The Girlfriend Experience'.
'Uncle David' available on Amazon

Having none of it, thanks
Opposing pornography and the culture of sexual objectification, Object is an organisation whose campaigns include lobbying councils to change licensing laws on lap-dancing clubs, ending Page 3 nudity and highlighting sexism in advertising and beauty pageants. Hosting regular meetings and 'Feminist Fridays', Object can be contacted at activist@object.org.uk.

ArtWank! is at the RVT every Thursday until Feb 9 2012. See our listings for more details.

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