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In Pornworld

Katrina Zaat, Sep 30th

Is porn making us dumber? More aggressive? More gender-conservative? Or does it liberate the erotic imagination? Porn inhabits an uncanny space between real and pretend, shaping preferences and behaviours beyond the screen. While high-speed internet transforms the production, distribution and regulation of porn, the public discussion about its merits, and its potential for harm, is mired in a decades-old impasse over the value of different forms of evidence. Katrina Zaat asks who sets the terms of the porn debate, and whether it is possible to reframe it.

Recent articles

At the Festival of Love

Anna Blair, Aug 25th

In summer 2014, London’s Southbank Centre hosts the Festival of Love. Visitors can play games and dance, attend exhibitions, or watch performances: they are encouraged to engage with the structures of meaning around exhibitions of intimacy. Anna Blair reflects on the Festival’s nostalgic aesthetic, and on the ways in which engagement with others can be shaped and formed by place.

Cinema of Intimacy: Steve McQueen at Espace Louis Vuitton, Tokyo

Becca Voelcker, Aug 21st

The 8-metre-high glass-walled space is cocooned in aperture-like darkness; the film is projected on a loop, and we find ourselves at sea in Caribbean sunlight. Ashes is not a film about death. Though its title might evoke cremation, ultimately it celebrates life. We enter the installation, and Ashes’ life, in medias res, with no context to his earlier life or subsequent misfortune: only his buoyancy.

The Elasticity of the Artwork: An Interview with Fabrice Le Nézet

Chris Townsend, Aug 18th

The artist Fabrice Le Nézet’s latest sculptural works, exhibited online in a number of photographs, are distinctive works — not least because they do not exist in real life. This has been the cause of significant confusion (and, in some cases, embarrassment) for art critics. Chris Townsend had the chance to speak to Le Nézet about this work, the nature of truth and lies in art, and the relation of artist to critic.

‘I lived once in a grave’: Palestinian writers respond to the attack on Gaza

Decca Muldowney, Aug 14th

Blockades surrounding the Gaza strip prevent essential supplies – food, building materials, medicines – from crossing the border. But rarely do we think of these blockades as cultural and literary barriers, which stifle the voices of those living in the Strip. Decca Muldowney considers a range of Palestinian writers and poets, and meditates upon the power of literature to represent human experience, even across borders.

Careful: Do touch

Tobias Haeusermann, Aug 13th

Historically, the dominant paradigm of care has been providing acute for infectious diseases, rather than chronic treatments. Yet in light of the rising prevalence of chronic illnesses, care is becoming a more and more long-winded affair. It offers the most intimate insights into human nature: its lows, its highs, its errors, its embarrassments, and its inspiration. “But how can intimacy and care be combined?” asks Tobias Haeusermann, and illustrates how simultaneously maintaining empathy and professionalism means walking a thin and fragile line.

You’ll find Virginia in the City. A review of Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision at The National Portrait Gallery

Georgina Parfitt, Aug 11th

Georgina Parfitt visits the National Portrait Gallery in London to review Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision, a collection of artifacts that tell the story of Virginia’s life, from photographs of her as a baby to the original suicide letters she wrote to Leonard Woolf and Vanessa Bell in 1941. How did Woolf’s love of the energy of the city and her perception of her own persona, within this tumult of life that she loved so ardently, change through time?

Tracking Keynes through King’s: Economics, Genes and the Possibilities for Our Grandchildren

William Hoffman, Jul 29th

In a famous essay he published in 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted a future of material abundance and abundant leisure. Keynes’s essay has resurfaced today with the growth of automation and high levels of unemployment. In the interim his fellow King’s graduates advanced and chronicled the scientific and technical improvements that Keynes wrote characterize the modern age. In this essay, William Hoffman tracks computer genius Alan Turing, the technology entrepreneur Hermann Hauser, Charles Nicholl, who wrote a biography of Leonardo da Vinci, and the science journalist Nicholas Wade.

Thinking Through Activism, Sexuality, and Scholarship

Tom Boellstorff, Jul 23rd

How can we respond to the challenges of combining activism and scholarship in regard to the topic of sexuality? This question is important when, in the context of continuing worldwide inequality, queer activists cannot allow governments and corporations to be the only entities acting at the global level. In particular, how are activists and scholars who are in some sense Western work for goals of social justice and make use of their privilege without having that privilege detract from the work of non-Westerners? In this article Tom Boellstorff discusses three possible strategies for responding to this state of affairs, based on his own experiences in Indonesia and elsewhere.

Did Somebody Say … George Orwell?

Owen Holland, Jul 15th

Owen Holland reviews 1984, Robert Icke and Duncan MacMillan’s stage adaptation of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, a co-production between Headlong, the Nottingham Playhouse theatre company and the Almeida Theatre. It will continue to run at the London Playhouse theatre until August 23rd. This article elaborates the current political resonances of the production in the light of some twentieth-century co-optations of Orwell’s novel. It comments on the decisions made in adapting the novel for the stage, keeping half an eye on Yevgeny Zamyatin’s dystopian glass-world, the Bauhaus and Lionel Trilling.

Corporate Boards, Quotas for Women and Political Theory

Jude Browne, Jul 5th

Across Europe, the question of whether quotas should be enforced for the highest-ranking corporate positions as a means to addressing gender injustice is under vigorous discussion. Much of the debate has focused on the European Commission’s (2012) draft directive COM 614, which would place an “obligation of means” on listed companies to ensure that at least 40% of non-executive directors (or 30% of all directors) of each corporate board are female by 2020. Jude Browne (Director of the University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies) considers the philosophical arguments that underlie the main challenges to quota policy and concludes that a much greater emphasis should be placed on the structural causes of gender inequality in employing institutions. From this, Browne outlines the beginnings of an alternative quota policy: the Critical Mass Marker approach.

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The Blog

What form does laughter take? Disturbing Reactions to Kara Walker’s Newest Piece

Kyle StonemanSep 24

Kara Walker’s installation at the Domino Sugar Refinery has received a lot of attention, much of it problematic. It is Walker’s ironic enlistment of racist stereotypes that gives her work its power, but this can also lead to inappropriate laughter and racist reactions. Kyle Stoneman explores how we tackle race and female bodies in a museum setting, looking at the installation and its impact.

What does it mean to have a right when you don’t know what a right is?

Nkita SimpsonSep 19

The Indian state has made significant headway in both welfare policies and neo-liberal economic development. They are well on the way to creating citizens out of the masses of people. In the column ‘Terra Nullius’, Nikita Simpson questions the narrative government officials spin particularly with regards to women and how in everyday life women are often not the empowered ‘nexus of rights’ the officials imagine.

Heroin and the stainless steel plane of the spoon

Johannes LenhardSep 16

In the Flummox-column, Johannes Lenhard narrates Michael’s story begging, scoring and shooting heroin on the streets of London. Michael is an addict who cares for his drug, but he has reasons for this: on the stainless steel plane of the spoon, the drug cares back – something that he was denied all his life.

Last Night of the What? The Proms are already over.

Anita DattaSep 13

The Last Night of the Proms rests in prime position in the British cultural calendar, but in many ways it is a betrayal of everything The Promenade Concerts stand for, argues Anita Data in the Sound World column.

Radical Feminism, Transgender Issues, and Phenomenology

Sarah Stein LubranoAug 24

A subset of radical feminists argue that trans people’s claims about their gender are invalid, but these radical feminists need to take a harder look at the epistemological basis of their worldview.

Jeremy Deller Confronts the William Morris Myth: Problems of Biography and Image

Kim Clayton-GreeneAug 22

William Morris is celebrated as a British hero, a craftsman who fought for equality. Jeremy Deller’s ‘We Sit Starving Amidst Our Gold’ celebrates and queries this legacy, summoning Morris to throw Roman Abramovich’s yacht into the Venetian lagoon. Kim Clayton-Greene looks at Morris’s biography and popular image, and the ways in which his intent and impact have at times conflicted.

Australia’s refugee crisis and the normality of exception

Nkita SimpsonAug 17

The phantasm of the illegal asylum seeker has haunted Australian politics for the past fifty years. The measures successive governments have taken to tame the beast encroach increasingly on their human dignity. As the Abbott government introduces ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’, Nikita Simpson questions what happens when the exception becomes the norm.

“Can we do some real music now?” – Practice and the pursuit of perfection.

Anita DattaAug 10

If practice makes perfect, and nothing’s ever perfect, why practise? This piece considers the various different kinds of practice that go into making an adept and talented musician. Thinking through the problem from a range of viewpoints, from that of neurology to that of a six-year-old child, Anita Datta reflects on attitudes towards practice and considers the array of possible results.

Palimpsestic Townscapes: Gilbert & George’s Scapegoating Pictures

Aurélie PetiotAug 8

Gilbert and George’s new exhibition, Scapegoating Pictures for London, stirs controversy, as per usual: for going too far, by portraying their immediate environment and including, for the first time, many references to Islam. Are these criticisms as empty as their canisters of
laughing gas? What are these works really depicting?

Pro-sex, and anti-prison, but what about kink?

Sarah Stein LubranoAug 7

This June, Gay Shame, a radical queer anti-assimilation group, led a protest against a prison-themed kink party. They say they are ‘Pro-sex and anti-prison’ but neither they nor their opponents have a clear sense of what to say about kink itself.