Artist Maya Gurantz on textual pornography and her installation The Whore's Dialogue
In Maya Gurantz's latest piece, The Whore's Dialogue, she presents a collection of stories about women -- but she also offers commentary on the role of women in the history of the pornographic tale in a very upfront and captivating way.
Tobias Spellman A scene from The Whore's Dialogue.
Gurantz will be leading a discussion on the exploration of how women acquire and transmit sexual knowledge at Thursday's closing installment of the Feminism & Co. series at MCA Denver. In advance of that event, Gurantz spoke to Westword about the in-depth research involved in her latest installation, and how 120 Days of Sodom as a text influenced the content in this multi-screen video piece.
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Westword: Can you talk about yourself as an artist and how you became connected with the Feminism & Co. series?
Tobias Spellman Gurantz, behind the scenes of The Whore's Dialog.
Maya Gurantz: I'm an artist in video and installation -- I spent the first ten years of making work as a director of experimental and movement-based theater. The transition into visual arts is a little recent -- It's been about four years. I was connected to Elissa (Auther) and Gillian (Silverman, co-curators of Feminism & Co.) through Nicky Beer, who is a professor of poetry at UC Denver -- she's done a couple of Mixed Taste talks, and she told Elissa about the piece (The Whore's Dialogue) and she was interested.
I was visiting Nicky in Denver and I just met with her (Elissa) and had coffee and that was it -- it was a very sideways thing. But I really admired the MCA Denver's programming from a distance for a long time -- they do such exciting programming. I'm excited to show here.
The Whore's Dialogue, the piece you'll be presenting at Thursday's Feminism & Co. and that will be showing at the MCA Denver through June, was informed by Marquis de Sade's 120 Days of Sodom. Can you briefly describe that particular text?
That text -- basically, the plot is four corrupt nobles staged a horrifying orgy. They take a bunch of their wives and boy and girl virgins into a castle, along with these four older women, old madams, as storytellers -- to sort of keep the excitement up. He (de Sade) wrote it in the Bastille, and what is interesting is that for him, pornography was almost a political act, in two directions: de Sade was anti-Royalist, and so at some point he was put into the Bastille by the nobility.
In that respect, writing porn about nobles was a way of undermining them. The nobility said, we have been granted this by God; we have access to a non-physical body. At the time, the king was supposed to be an agent of God -- so when you write porn about them, you reduce them to a body.
In another way, it's not like he (de Sade) was part of the republic or a democrat; in this way, he was actually anti-republic. (Philosopher Jean-Jacques) Rousseau was all about the natural sort of goodness of man, and de Sade wrote these things where man is terrible. And the republic put him in jail. He didn't really fit in with either, in terms of what was going on politically at the time -- instead, he wrote these things that cut against both of them.
Continue reading for more from Maya Gurantz.