"Erotic Art is all art... well, almost."
Written by Jeff Hengst.
"Erotic" does not have anything necessarily to do with sex and so it follows that "erotic art" does not necessarily have anything to do with sex. To see "erotic" as synonymous with sex and to set oneself up to emphasize this aspect of "erotic" in the spirit of reclaiming an open honest awareness of sex in the face of a sexually oppressive society, is to still be caught up in the oppression.
Another way of defining "erotic" is to think of it as a god/dess form, a kind of energy that animates the human spirit through bodily means. It is the energy which calls us to spirit which is a “body” or plane of being where-in there is a rich tapestry of connection and meaning-fullness. Seen in this light, nearly all art is erotic. Why else would the human animal make art? Surely art has its uses, but we consider it “art” precisely to the degree that it has no practical use. Its real use, if it is art, is its ability to help us experience the spiritual, to get us to a place where we can remember and experience these connections and sensations of meaning. As modern people we have come to see "utility" as antithetical, or an encumbrance, to art's ability to steward us to spirit.
The ancients made tons of art, and they had no sense of "utility" encumbering them. What is amazing to me is that they made any art at all. Life was very difficult for them. The simple basics of life required enormous amounts of time and energy. And yet they still found time to carve, dance, write poetry, draw and paint as well as ornament their everyday objects with an artfulness which is utterly lacking today. Nevertheless, we live in a modern world where these distinctions have become the fabric of our life and culture. And so we must find ways to overcome this distinction which has for so many of us become a barrier to ever reaching spirit which is so essential for rejuvenating our bodies and souls.
As an antidote for this malaise, we have, at the Little Red Studio, set forth a definition of art which states that all art that is done in this view is "erotic." That aspect of art whose subject is “sex” is the "Sex Art" subset of erotic art.
There is another kind of art that is made which is not erotic art. All art made for the sole purpose of profit is not erotic art. The world today has many art assembly lines which simply crank out art as a commodity to be sold for profit. Much art that is made is done in part for profit, even my art is for sale after all. The degree to which it is done for profit is precisely the degree that it is not erotic. And this is neither good, nor bad, just different. The difference that makes this worth pointing out is that "profit" is "even" or "balanced." For example, if I sell something money is given back to me in the amount that is determined to be equal in value to the thing I am selling. Moreover, the money is exchanged more or less at the same time as the “art” is completed and delivered. The transaction is complete….done. An erotic exchange is not "done." It is open ended and full of uncertain possibility. The exchange is not equal and fairness is irrelevant. In fact, what seems to happen is that by some unknown mechanism things seem to increase. The openness and “un-done-ness” of the transaction seems to play an important role in this increase.
I don't believe that until the modern era anybody would have even thought of the classification of "erotic art." It is one of the great challenges of the industrial/technological age that we live in to find a way to re-integrate the spiritual back into our lives and find a way to have "erotic exchanges" in addition to the many "profit" or "done" exchanges that make up most of our lives. It is this very lack of spirit or integration of self which is cultivated in "erotic exchanges" that would lead us to even think of classifying art this way and reveals our yearning as a culture.
Re-kindling an understanding of the erotic as an energy form that can embrace and accept our bodies, all of our bodies, even our sexual bodies, could be just the breath of fresh air and honesty that we need. This is the "worm hole" away from the whole Judeo-Christian paradigm that views access to the spirit to be in the hands of a religious elite and sex to be inherently evil. And more importantly, for us liberal and sexual progressives, this different understanding of "erotic" could be the escape pod that could help us avoid the subtle trap of thinking we are free from this tyranny when if fact we have turned the trap inside out and then stuck our foot back in it, which to my mind is what we do by equating sex with erotic and thinking we are balancing out the sexually oppressive dominant culture.
To think of erotic art as simply art that has something/anything to do with sex is to miss a very exciting boat that is going to a whole new dimension of spirited, integrated and animated living that to be sure, includes lots of shame free sex. But it could include more than that. It could include lots of art making- singing, poetry, painting, dancing, miming, sculpting, acting and drawing- much of which may or may not include sex as its subject.
And that kind of experience, I guess, is what we call Little Red Studio.