I made these films in the early mornings over the last year with a hidden camera and without the subject’s knowing or consent. Some films were made by chance depending on a suitable person choosing to sit opposite me and how they chose to sit and some were the result of where I chose to sit based on the same dependant factors. All films were made on the London underground exclusively on the Northern Line.
As the subjects are faceless it makes it easier for the audience to relate to them leading to the question, does the male audience relate and feel uncomfortable at me speculatively putting them into this context of “prey” or object of homosexual desire? Are they offended? Do they now question their own sexuality? Or my morality? Or both?
Does being forced into staring at the crotches of other men make them feel uncomfortable? If so why? Did I get away with not being punched because men don’t expect to be preyed upon in this way? Does this idea that men don’t expect to be preyed upon relate to their homophobia? That unless they are the subject of this objectification they do not find it offensive? Is this because they cannot empathise with those who are sexually preyed upon, i.e: women? Is this why the conviction rates in rape cases are so low? Or why when they are objectified by a gay man often they lash out in fear?
From a woman’s perspective, does a female viewer feel uncomfortable being forced to look? Do they feel more comfortable in doing so as it does not offend their machismo pride? Or more uncomfortable because women are not used to being so predatory? Because they’re used to being submissive to men, whereas most men are not?
Does the audience feel as though they will be judged by those around them (the other viewers) for watching these films? Or does the fact that they are watching the films with others reassure them, like Sartre’s bad faith?
The film makes men powerless, like they make the viewer powerless as it forces both into a situation where they are to be judged and to feel uncomfortable.
The film depicts men with their legs publicly wide open. To spread ones legs is submissive if one is female, but in a social masculine context it is a display of power. A display of the size and virility of their manhood. They are in effect, inviting me to look. How much of this body language is conscious? How much does it reflect on their personalities? To turn the subject from this into a powerless, submissive object of male homosexuality has the potential to be very disturbing to a male viewer.
Alternatively, women are taught to sit with their legs closed. The very word Vagina often makes women and men uncomfortable to utter out loud. It is a “hidden” organ to be protected and possessed and is a symbol of the woman and her suppressed history.
How about if these films were of women’s crotches? Would the work be seen as more controversial? I think so, as the person filming them is male and predatory, and due to society’s sexist obsession with protecting women and the vulnerability of women in general. For example, if a woman is murdered the press will generally cover the story for a longer period as opposed to when a man is murdered.
If I was female making these films how would the reaction to them differ? To a man, men are predominantly predatory historically and sexually so if a woman was making these films do they pose a threat to a man’s masculinity? These films would put men into a role submissive to a woman. To a woman these films may be seen as more humorous in that “diet Coke” kind of male objectification which does not seem as offensive as a man objectifying a woman.
Much like a feminine man being labelled as homosexual or the general assumption that most cross dressers are gay, if the male assumes a feminine, submissive role or feminine characteristic i.e. wearing makeup, wearing women’s clothes or being sexually submissive to another man they are labelled as weak, not a real man or a “poofter” by other more “manly” men.
Would a woman be more objective to “Gay” because it does not directly involve her gender? Or do they relate to the film by putting themselves into the familiar feminine role of being objectified and find the works equally as shocking? Is a man’s fearful/angry reaction to these films seen as a come-uppance by a woman? Or is “Gay” just an example of another disturbing objectification that women have to deal with everyday? Some women see male homosexuality as offensive and wrong, which comes from to the male’s dominance in influence throughout history of societal norms and thus on the female opinion, so therefore some women may find these films just as offensive as men do.
Also if these films HAD been made by a woman would some men and women feel the opposite? Would they feel arousal? And would this arousal relate to the voyeuristic risk taken or the reversal of gender roles?
In various points in history homosexuality has been labelled as perversion with gay men being imprisoned due to its illegality. To highlight that these films are a gay or “perverted” obsession adds to the intrusiveness and violation of the subjects.
To place ourselves into the public eye leaves us open to, and submissive to, a certain amount of scrutiny and objectification through the other’s judgement of us. So the objectification in these films of the subject in a public place is hardly surprising as we cannot control what others think of us. We can conform to a pre packaged “norm” in order to stand out less and leave less to be judged for, to blend in, but we will always be objectified by others as they do not know our complexities and so we are reduced down to categories and labels.
The fact that the film is made up of many smaller films of many different crotches related to the idea that repetition offers proof, much like in the context of a scientific experiment. Or does this repetition desensitise the audience to being offended by homosexuality and perversion and voyeurism?
There is a humorous aspect to “Gay” in that it deals with taboos and in the audacity and causality that I have made them in public with threat of reprimand and possibly violence. Do the audience wonder how I got away with making these films?
This also projects onto the viewer in that not only are they being put into the position of the film maker but are encouraged to stare and, in effect, use their imagination in the same contemplative and perverse way.
Ultimately, as the films are shot in an everyday situation and depict real people the audience will be able to relate to the subjects. As well as this, in comparison to the audience being confronted with images of actual nudity, they have to use their imagination as to why the films are perverse and the imaginative input on their part involves them in the violation. Does it make them exactly the same as the "pervert" behind the camera?
An experimental short film exploring reproductive libations, & erotic synesthesia, presented with the song “Thornhill” by Dreamboyy. This brief afternoon with Nigel was inspired by one of my favourite pieces of erotic literature, “Story of the Eye” by Georges Bataille