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Empathy Loading

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Couples

24/09/2003
Furtherfield

Featured image: Screenshot from an online magazine that advertises sex with others

Ivan Pope’s latest work and project ‘Couples’ crawls into one’s psyche, as he manages to unearth a seemingly timeless activity that in the contemporary world functions as a networking activity between millions of people all over the world. We are all now probably accustomed to the idea that it occurs on the Internet and that there are swingers regularly contacting each other and arranging liaisons through it. Instead of concentrating on such subterranean mutuality and its pursuits on a digital medium like the Internet Ivan has chosen to collect his information from a magazine such as ‘Matchmaker’.

Yet this is not the only magazine out there being rabidly collected by these flesh swappers (may be you are interested). Many of them possess curious titles such as ‘Women in Jail’, ‘Adult Fun Times’, Liberated Women’, ‘Fads and Fantasies’, ‘Subs and Doms’ and of course ‘Couples’. They are usually bi-monthly issues containing contact catalogues showing explicit photographs of people exhibiting themselves.

The works that you see here are a small selection of a much larger growing collection. In actuality they are presented in the form of larger Inkjet prints, measuring up to two meters high. Thus reflecting upon our selves the viewer when observed (in the flesh) a human scale experience. This consciously aware figurative art declares a social context showing text with the images of people’s measurements, eyes and hair colours, height, false and alias names, desired requirements and contact details.

James Hillman the Archetypal psychologist said that ‘The sexual fascination is the soul trying to get out and get into something other than itself’. Which kind of explains not just the functionally of this habitual occurrence to a small degree but it also casts light upon the emotional side of it and why there are so many people out there in the world trying to meet each other this way, even when it seems that they are content with being with another singular loving entity. A subculture that swaps flesh not only goes through the process of swapping their physical selves, their bodies but also they share consciousnesses. There is a sense that many people feel an intense urgency to fulfill their desires (not need) by immersing their physical frames with others. Exploring their anonymity, letting go of the everyday nonsense that we all have to deal with, such as politics, paying bills, family struggles, wars and even love.

‘I was carried by the conviction that I rejoiced in extraordinary freedom. To fuck above and beyond any sense of disgust was not just a way of lowering oneself, it was to raise your self above all prejudice. There are those who break taboos as powerful as incest. I settled for not having to choose my partners.’ Catherine Millet. The Observer, Sunday May 19, 2002.

As I look at ‘Couples’ I am subjected to the unnerving realization that what I am seeing is also a kind of cattle market, flesh being sold on to those who long to possess them. They are also actually photographic images of real people rather than illustrations, cartoons, paintings; adding weight to the pieces with an undeniable raw intensity. Yes, it is dark. Yet it is also a barometer, a brutal signifier carrying with it an honest realism that we are more complicated, more connected to our visceral and feral identities than supposed civilized society acknowledges and lets on and informs us all to be.