Public days: 3 - 5 November 2023
Abstract Sex > The exhibition

The exhibition

After World War II, an industrialist converted the machinery used previously for the production of bombs into instruments for the making of hair dryers for beauty salons. The sophisticated technologies of war were thus transformed into devices for the perfecting of the “body” as a socially and culturally determinate concept. It was the same historical moment in which the word gender began to be used in the political arena, to describe no longer a natural sexual identity, but instead one that was artificially constructed and therefore commodifiable.

In 1971 a group of lesbians armed with sausages attacked Professor Jérôme Lejeune during an anti-abortion lecture. The event marked the birth of the “Commando Saucisson” (Sausage Commando), around which the Front Homosexuel d’Action Révolutionnaire later gravitated. In the protest, sausages became a parody of the traditional instruments of politics at the time: police truncheons and patriarchal penises.

A few years ago, an artist produced the “Asstral traveler”, a butt plug in coprolite, made of fossilized faeces of dinosaurs dating back to 140 million years ago. The use of this item, a technology designed to produce pleasure through anal stimulation, permits the opening of a space-time gateway. Thus, the anus hosting the plug becomes a post-identitarian organ, transpassing not only the distinction between sexual identities, but also the division between human and non-human, organic and inorganic, present and future.



Abstract Sex: We don’t have any clothes, only equipment is an innovative off-site exhibition project of Artissima, extending into the city and occupying the spaces of Jana, the fashion boutique on Via Maria Vittoria that has always been a reference point for artists, writers and other cultural figures. The exhibition – conceived by Ilaria Bonacossa and curated by Lucrezia Calabrò Visconti and Guido Costa – focused on the theme of desire, in line with the fil rouge of this edition of the fair. Poised between an action of piracy and an exhibition, the project featured photographs, videos, works on canvas and paper, and objects on loan from galleries taking part in Artissima.
Abstract Sex: We don’t have any clothes, only equipment proposed unexpected alliances between bodies, bacteria, objects and machinery, and technologies to disarm the traditional representations of desire. Weaving minor historical and contemporary narratives, the show suggested a crosswise perspective between the virtual and the material, in which everything around us can be rethought as equipment, a weapon at the service of the definition of new mythologies. The exploration of the territories of desire might involve stumbling upon unexpected items, hybrid devices and weird machines. Objects of this type were scattered throughout the itinerary of the exhibition Abstract Sex: We don’t have any clothes, only equipment, embodying the convoluted agencies desire has had in recent history, starting from the example of the three anecdotes that introduced the project. 

Some of the works on view evoked the close relationship between contemporary forms of pleasure and globalised forms of consumption, coming to grips with the ambivalent consequences of the virtual. Others explored techniques of appropriation and cross-dressing as emancipating moments of production of subjectivities that elude the dominant cultural categories. Finally, the show focused on the body as a porous wrapper for the meeting of different organisms and interests, somatic and political machinery whose orifices become channels for collective experimentation with new mythologies.
In the words of the curators: “While the radical experiences of the 1970s invoked emancipating and revolutionary strategies of desire as a possibility of escape from the capitalist apparatus of control, the contemporary ‘libidinal society’ seems to have tamed desire, directing it towards objects for consumption and normalised lifestyles, suggested online by algorithmic structures. Terms such as pleasure, sex and love have been completely integrated into what has been defined by Paul B. Preciado as the ‘pharmacopornographic regime’. What type of strategies and allies exist in the reappropriation of desire, emancipating it from the dichotomies and values imposed by the techno-patriarchy?”

Borrowing the title of an essay by Luciana Parisi, the exhibition Abstract Sex operated in a context in which our subjectivity is only one of the forces that cross the body, which has become a porous platform of information exchange, where the microscopic politics of bacteria and viruses run up against the macro-politics of the socio-cultural and economic system in which we live. In a historical era in which the very definition of the “human being” is increasingly negotiable, Abstract Sex  has suggested themes such as dis-identification, post-pornography, opacity and hybridization as possible ambits of production of autonomy.
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