Artists: Lina Bembe* / Peter Berlin / Adham Faramawy / Umi Ishihara / Massimo Alì Mohammad / Annika Weertz / Youssef Youssef
I Like to Watch is an online exhibition of short film and moving image works by artists, filmmakers and independent porn-makers using the camera to explore desire, voyeurism, pleasure, connection and intimacy in the digital age.
Listen to an audio walkthrough of the exhibition by curator Rosa Abbott here:
If cinema is the “pervert’s medium” (Zizek, ofc), then there is no better way to explore our collective desires than watching moving image. In ‘Visual Pleasure in Narrative Cinema’, Laura Mulvey argued that “cinematic codes create a gaze, a world, and an object, thereby producing an illusion to cut the measure of desire”. But while Mulvey argues this gaze is oppressive – structured by the unconscious of the patriarchy – I Like to Watch proffers an alternative use of cinema’s innate scopophilia: one that can liberate and unlock repressed desire, pleasure and alternative expressions of sexuality.
The artists and filmmakers in this exhibition use film as a medium to express longing, (dis)connection, fantasy, repulsion, tenderness, celebration, ambiguity, self-expression and autoeroticism. Rather than punishing cinematic depictions of pleasure, it seeks to explore ways in which pleasure can give access to power, but also accepts the complex nature of this pleasure and its relationship to vulnerability and abjection.
The featured films in I Like to Watch seek to restore agency to traditionally desired subjects by putting them in front and behind the camera and exploring the liberating potential of perversion.
Exhibition dates: 26th November 2020 – 25th January 2021
*Lina Bembe screening only from 26th – 30th November 2020
Curated by Rosa Abbott / Liquid
Umi Ishihara, Janitor of Lunacy
2019, 12 minutes, 10 seconds
Longing and desire are the driving forces of Umi Ishihara’s short Janitor of Lunacy. A young woman, foreign in a strange new town, seeks connection and intimacy online, becoming obsessed with a BDSM account she finds on a dating app. Digital fixations seep into real life, distorting subjective reality – and yet at the same, the gap between fabricated digital representations and their reality become palpable. Though her sexual encounters might result in disappointment, the subject refuses to sublimate her libidinal desires, resulting in an ambivalent type of agency.
Umi Ishihara is an artist and film director based between London and Tokyo. She makes experimental narrative films and video installations that centre around love, personal memories, womanhood and wider societal issues. Her first feature-length film The Garden Apartment premiered at International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2019. She was also selected for Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2019. Originally commissioned by BFI/BBC, Janitor of Lunacy premiered at BFI Southbank last year. Originally commissioned by BFI/BBC, the film premiered at BFI Southbank last year.
Adham Faramawy, Janus Collapse
2016, 9 minutes, 51 seconds
Situated at the nexus of disgust and desire, Adham Faramawy’s Janus Collapse appears, at first glance, to be a utopic exploration of free sexual expression, but is pervaded by a sense of unease, contamination and decay. Digitally manipulated voices and greenscreen advertising graphics lure us into a sense of unreality while happy, smiling people wave to the camera and frolic in white undergarments – pillow fighting and smothering themselves in ambiguous liquids. CGI maggots infest the screen, writhing among gelatinous membrane forms. What, in another world, might be a celebration of sex, here prods the wound of how sexuality is fraught with anxiety and risk of infection, how fascination and fantasy can intersect with repulsion and abjection.
Adham Faramawy is a Dubai-born, London-based artist of Egyptian origin whose practice spans moving image, sculptural installation and print. He uses technology to examine how identity is constructed in the 21st Century. The body is central to his practice and is approached as a primary, sensual site in which gender and sexuality are fluid. His work often co-opts the language of advertising (brilliance, shine and endless momentum), but tips it into the transgressive aesthetics of body horror.
Annika Weertz, Noah Eating Ice Cream Short
2020, 37 seconds
In Noah Eating Ice Cream, Annika Weertz captures the sensuality of a beautiful boy lapping an ice cream cone in silence, seemingly unaware of the camera. Turning a female gaze onto a male subject, Annika’s work deconstructs tropes of masculinity, shining a light on male beauty and vulnerability. Shot close up on Kodak Vision3 200T film, with its pleasing pops and nostalgic grain, the video reveals only sections of the face and hand, inviting the viewer into this intimate snapshot, and demonstrating what everyone knows: eating ice cream on camera is sexual.
Annika Weertz is a German artist working with photography and moving image. Her images combine a direct and intimate approach to her subjects with a timeless feeling. Her personal work often revolves around topics of sexuality and the portrayal of men as part of a feminist and therefore public discourse. Her work has been exhibited in London, Berlin and Los Angeles, and published in TISSUE, i-D, Nylon and HUNGER among others.