Salo IX – The Erotic Drawings Show took place during the weekend between the 22nd and 25fh of June, in Paris. We jumped on the occasion in order to talk with Laurent Quénéhen, the curator who created this event back in 2013. We also chatted with Lucie Linder, one of the artists that exhibited there. A double edition for the eyes’ pleasure.
Why should we hide our gaze? The maidenly prudishness is old fashioned. Erotic art, many times hidden, unfairly categorized as vulgar, emancipated itself at the Erotic Drawings Show in Paris. It came out from the shadows and outgrew the habitual fenomenon of frustration, to prove that no society can live without seduction, pleasure, and bodies.
The bodies represented in sensual poses may appear licentious to us. Yet eroticism shouldn’t be mistaken with pornography. The shame, when it comes to sexuality in the field of arts, stems from the invention of pornography, evoqued for the first timy during the Victorian Era (XIXth Century). Yet naked antique statues were part of polyteist cults. The Hindu, Buddhist, Shintoist nude etchings still have a specific symbolism.
“An erotc show is not a pronografic show, the artists work through suggestion”, says Laurent Quénéhen. The West has been invaded by conceptual art in the 70ies, according to which the body representation was almost erased for decades. Joseph Kosuth, Sol LeWiitt, Robert Barry, Lawrence Weiner, , brought with them drawings of black and white, stripped down words and thoughts. Hans Haacke, Bernar Venet, Joseph Beuys, François Morellet sidelined painting, classical sculpture, and depiction. An odd change in the artistic field. All of those are brought backs again today : “Starting with this day, painting is dead ”, used to say Paul Delaroche.
The Salo show embodied those changes. Laurent Quénéhen explained the roots of this designation : “Salo is the pig’s fat [in French], yes, I come from a family of butchers”. A subtle pun, ironic reference to the subject’s so-called “dirty” characteristic – “être cochon”, that is “to be depraved”. Yet the show’s philosophy is not debauchery for the sake of it. This year’s edition turned around gender issues, trans issues and child abuse issues. We had a multistory lecture on what appears to be frivolous at first sight. In 2020, the precedent edition welcomed Maria Xypolopoulou, Greek curator. The latter had built the exhibition in tribute to the male genitalia, a theme that, in the same way as this year’s, talked about taboo social subjects through evocative pieces. ”In 2020 we were talking a lot about Harvey Weinstein (…) sexual abuses (…), in the books and in the media. It all came to the point of one being ashamed to be a man and have a penis. Hence my press release: a man has a penis (…), but the penis doesn’t think on its own.”, explains Laurent Quénéhen.
Although it’s a drawing show, Salo refuses limitations. Paintings, photos, sculptures or performances are also accepted. The curator wanted to operate the selection without a Curriculum Vitae or the participant’s names, but only on the basis of their artwork. The artists’ identity was discovered when they came to drop their pieces. “I don’t know if they are young or old beforehand, sometimes I don’t even know if they’re men or women.”
This was the case for Lucie Linder as well, a visual artist whose shape-shifting artworks were also exhibited.
SS: Lucie, you were part of the Les Grands Voins’ artist residency in Paris, then you became a permanent resident at the Villa Mais d’Ici, where you also had an exhibition. Did being part of Salo help you rethink your creative process given a precise subject?
LL: What do we name eroticism, if not desire and games? The childish aspect and also the wild aspect are primordial. For the exhibition, I am showing a diving mask covering an uterus, miniskirt burkas protecting from microwaves, as well as dildoes banalised by a user’s manual. The Erotic Drawing Show is different from other shows because it reinterprets today’s eroticism despite the flourishing representations of some hypersexuality. I’m interested in the body as an object, similar to Hans Bellmer’s. (…) During the show, we noticed the artwork’s eclecticism. (…) There were varied subjectivities, all different, from a simple carnal presence to consensual action, if not violence. We think sexuality is innate, that it is a strictly mechanical action, but one has to learn. You have to know yourself, to test your own limits, to seduce, to displease, to dominate, to be dominated, to love. (…) After the solitude of lockdown, I noticed (…) that there exists a true need to touch and be touched, it is also proved to be vital. (…) Deep inside, I am conscious that, through human and animal presences, I search for a way to survive in front of death through [my artworks]. I play with what can be hidden, shown and dissolved.
SS: A certain fragility echoes from your artworks. What importance do you give to the body, sexuality and eroticism when you make a piece of art?
LL: First of all, when I use delicate materials, such as porcelain, or when I think a short-lived mise-en-scène of a body, fragility is of interest especially opposed to other materials, more brutal. This tension, this confrontation are sexual. To create means to express a wish by the means of this confrontation. I evoque the sensitive in a world of force, because the sensitive creates force and life. I use artistic creation as an authentic act in accordance with myself. It is an act of gratitude.
SS: You use several techniques : cyanotype, photography, sculpture or ceramics. How would you describe your artwork?
LL: I wouldn’t say my artworks are autobiographical, only the performances. The fact is that my pieces reveal my concerns about ecological aesthetics, a certain spirituality or feminism. (…) They are (…) a bridge between reality and imagination, between desire and disappointment, gentleness and brutality. (…) I have a strong bond with myths, cultures and rituals that make us grow. For this reason, I am interested in collective phantasmagoria (…), and I find it also inside the synergy of the different techniques I use. (…) One of the things that comes back the most is the link with nature, death and rebirth.