Sunday, December 31, 2006

Design Porn
Portrait of a Novelist… Drunk!

Kofi Fosu Forson

James Joyce, the cool slant… that is love.

The official portrait of James Joyce on the back cover of a book… that is love! Samuel Beckett, wise as an owl! Sam Sheperd, how the west will always be won!

Portrait of an author on the back page of a book…With what discipline do they manage to capture our hearts, staring desperately into a photographer’s camera?

What was on Beckett’s mind? Does Sheperd truly dream of horses? Erica Jong… Is it safe for the male to be drawn to an author, masculine, not homosexually but by love of character, likeness to the “cool,” much the way a sixteen year old admires the way Reggie Jackson swings a baseball bat? I don’t love Sam Sheperd. I like the picture of him on the cover of his book of plays.

Question is…why?

Men are given to means of attraction for other men. It’s not sexual. It pertains to the love for the other person’s character, talent, style or fame…Also indirectly, there’s an affinity to what the other man represents, whether it’s Christianity or male independence.

Erica Jong. I think of my favorite picture of Erica Jong. She’s always smiling. Her lips are incredibly full. There’s seduction in those eyes. Am I tempted to slowly rub my inner thigh? Should the image of Erica Jong on the cover of a book cause my mouth to water?

What is Design Porn? Advertism begets the process with which a company markets a product to the general public. In doing so, many lengths are drawn to fascinate the angles that would lead to a purchase. What then is the notion behind Erica Jong’s photograph selling a novel? She’s the least bit comparable to a swim suit model. But why am I turned on enough to want to buy her book?

Generally, products are marketed based on a demographic. It gives an understanding of who, what and how to sell. Certain ploys are implemented, as in taste, color, shape, expression, design, models, ethnicity or the all too familiar portrait of a novelist on a book flap.

What is taken into contention concerning the pose of the author?

In the case of Erica Jong, it’s a means of suggestiveness. Her eyes are seductive. They stare right at the camera. Sexuality is used to titillate the buyer. If female, then one would suppose something else. But these are all subliminal messages sent to the general public. What would happen if Erica Jong posed for the picture…drunk?! Then she would be marketed to another demographic. Anything goes!

In the world of magazines, especially where fashion meets art, design porn is prevalent. The models are angled if not by pose then by set up, as in a teenaged black boy standing next to an older white woman. Given their age and race, they would have nothing in common, not if one was to suppose what he’s wearing, (a suit) and how she bares her cleavage.

With the success and popularity of a younger set of pop stars and actors, popular culture, including music, fashion and cinema has put a stranglehold on how anything is marketed. There are continuous hints of BDSM, bestiality, lesbianism and homo-eros.

The origin of Design Porn is rooted in earlier works by artists like Man Ray and Mapplethorpe. What it becomes is a combination of fashion and sexuality. In a world of fetish and other sexual probabilities, the marketing world has more ways, people and reasons to market everything from vodka to umbrellas.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Psyche of a Modern African Male

Kofi Fosu Forson

Formerly in a township, the sound of some one being tortured could be a death song. This is much like the voices of people wailing at a funeral. In the forest, the howling of the wolf could signal the arrival of death. In a given country, the sirens of police cars and ambulances have a distinct sound. It also merits the immediacy of death.

When a thief hears the sirens of a police car passing by, his heart beats a little faster, his feet peddle a bit quicker. In ghettos around the world, the sounds of the police and ambulance serve as death songs.

What is a death song? Does death warrant a composition of its own? A death song could be the aura that surrounds a person under the spell of fear. The song is metaphoric. It is the unique combination of things that the person hears, from the sound of oncoming feet to cars passing by. The words to this song are all internal. They border paranoia. That particular voice within the conscience becomes apprehensive. This is usually caused by an inordinate amount of tension. The death song forecasts the emotional combustion.

The death song works well as a cinematic ploy. In a horror film, a certain key on the piano signifies approaching danger. Certain ballads are written out of helplessness, be it a jazz ballad, haunting vocals or a horn at a funeral. Despite the dark aspirations, they take on a quality of beauty. That it can be said--- “Strange is beautiful” “Death is a song.”

At a funeral, the death song encompasses everything, from the weather, temperament, clothing, food and the circumstance of death.

It is not however circumstances of death that presents a person with feelings of death. A rainy day or simply put, a cloudy day can bring on feelings of death. Frustration with smoking cigarettes can cause one to feel exasperated. The beginning of the work-week can present what is known as “the blues.”

The blues can then be called the precursor to the death song. The wealth of music found in the African culture has a notion of death in celebration, aftermath or redemption. Some can ascertain that as an African people, we come from death. It is from pain that we proclaim joy.

Every culture has its notion of what the death song is and it usually comes from misery. Not every one knows true happiness but we know pain. Country music is said to be music for the heart broken. African music has seen its share of the downtrodden and love affairs gone “bad.”

Africans are somehow immune to the notion of death. It’s an accepted part of the culture, as in the death rate of a ghetto.

The modern African male is sensitive to death. He hides behind a form of intellectualism. It varies from metaphysics to extreme politics. The modern African male's sensitivity is a form of strength, manifesting through to the years spent in education, interpreting American and European movies and literature.

The image of the black male has progressively changed over the years, from the jazz age through the civil rights movement to what is now perceived as "hip hop.” This continues to stress the important role of blacks in a postmodernist culture.

Black Male Artist
Kofi Fosu Forson

Black male artists having outlived the Harlem Renaissance are now a throwback to the Jean-Michelle Basquiat mystique of a black male artist as genius. But overall whether they are African, Jamaican or African American, they express a sense of prescience and fortitude. This is what the knowledge of art affords them.

The black male artist is well read. He knows his history. His sexuality can be interpreted as heterosexual, homosexual, bi-sexual. He is a slave to his art. He is a pig to his art. There is a perversion there… a constant perversion to paint and fornicate. Painting is the instinct. Women are the resolution.

Money is air the black male artist breathes. It is natural, acquired through friends, the public and his art. Money is the canceling point because he never has enough of it. Sometimes, he never has any of it at all.

The sexuality of the black male artist is peculiar. Women pass through him as anything from lovers to business partners. It is the exchange. Women are like decorations, similar to butterflies surrounding a gorilla. Sexually, the black male artist doesn’t discriminate.

The black male artist will always be viewed as potentially "free" in love, of self, of art, of the opposite sex, of the same sex and of the universe. This is true of an artist of any sex or culture. But the black male artist crushes the view of the black male as "Psycho-sexual."

The neurosis of the black male artist is of the sexual and intellectual. This is true because of the role their mothers have played in their lives. Firstly, the mother is a dominant female figure representative of an unattainable woman. She is the very person the black male artist associates with the idea of love. His sexuality either blossoms as a “sexual dynamo” or crumbles whereby women form a neurotic complex.

What is the black male artist’s notion of the intellect and sexual? We all have a personal history. However we are governed by an overall history which defines us as a community, a race and a gender. Seemingly, we are not divided by race or gender but by intellect. We are informed by the same media, educated by principal schools and taught morally how to behave. The experience is very much culturally the same. How then does the black artist form his notion on sex and the intellect?

Intellectually, the black male artist was raised on a variety of philosophies, from slave narratives, to that of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. He has read books by James Baldwin and Richard Wright.

While attending art colleges, the black male artist associated with the white public. He became introduced to white women. It was a colonization of sorts. The black woman was replaced by images of nude white women in classical paintings.

Andy Warhol gave us Basquiat.

Post Basquiat has paved the way for other black artists. What also begot Basquiat and is clear in the hip hop world are the roles of the playa, pimp and thug. These are the current archetypes of the black male. As a playa, he is in control of his sexuality. For better or worse, women define him as a lover. The pimp is an example of a man and his maneuverability. He uses women and men to gain an advantage. The thug in this case is more domineering and physical.

It was once said the older white woman walking with the younger black man isn’t his lover. She’s his mentor. Don’t look now. She could be everything from his agent to the woman he’s manipulating for money or sex.

The artist is a passenger of love. The black male artist is one in the same.

Kofi Fosu Forson

Body and Gender Politics
Kofi Fosu Forson

The body fleshed at birth is the origin of our truest form of vanity.

The body at birth signifies purity. Virginity begets experience. In the coital sense; the body is a libidinal sphere, combustible and orgasmic. Sex, as an act, is what transforms the male and female body. As an ideology, it separates the male and female gender, hence gender politics.

The male and female body is differentiated by the penis and the vulva, respectively. The skin is flesh, pink to spotted, stretch-marked to wrinkled, white to burnt. To all concerned, the flesh is dead!

Pornography is a subtext for life. It is not sex. But in keeping with the idea of gender and body politics, one must realize that in pornography, the human body is continuously politicized. It is the facet that runs governments, builds families, runs corporations and inspires couples at night. In pornography, the body is useless. There is no true communication. If at all, pleasure is acquired from within, not from a video.

In today’s society, the self resembles a fall-out-shelter. It’s continuously bombarded with propaganda. This begets the headache, the diarrhea, the vices, smoking, drinking, copulating… Tattoos aren’t enough to shield the self from the harangue. What they’ve become is exploitative. At first juvenile, they now mark a crucial statement on one’s personality. This goes hand in hand with shaved pubis and penile piercing.

Gender politics: Power, Control, Sex and Money. I broached the subject of “intellect and sex” with a successful businessman. He in turn spoke of “power and sex”. The common link between the genders at the moment is pornographic.

Besides dealing with the issues involving the male and female genders, gender politics has to do with the body and the language the body chooses to attract the same or opposite gender.

Is the tying up of a woman’s body in exaggerated poses a discipline or something radical? Is it not a language? Does it not purport to a certain kind of communication between men and women?

“He ties her up to a chair. Reads her Beaudelaire.”

This makes for a moment. The body trapped in anxiety. The couples bent on communicating without straining for the everyday sexual performance. Why tie a woman to a chair? How idiosyncratic some would say! What if the world were removed of speech? How would we communicate?

Language is the link between two existences. What if this link were made of sound and or expression only? Is the erect penis entering the woman the only form of communication that defines each man and woman within their respective genders? Isolation, fetish and fashion are all meant to promote a discourse between the genders with or without sex.

In gender politics, the penis is to the male as the body is to the female. The male is driven by his erect penis. In sex as an ideology, the ramifications surrounding gender politics showcases a more disciplined route. It focuses on “sex,” the thing, not the act, rather the thing that revolves around every issue pertaining to the male and female. For the female, the body is an issue. Is it too fat? Is it too thin?

Once again, in pornography, it is not the women who have the gang rape. And yet indeed women are expressing the same libidinal energy with which men have controlled them for centuries. Some of this libido can be translated through business, where women can now be very direct with men, having attained superior titles. Sadomasochism has a correlation to the work place.

The body is but a machine. It doesn’t require adornment. Ultimately, the skin dies. There are no facets of purity. It is given once at birth, lost through the aging process. As men and women we are connected by coitus. The greater picture is to lessen the roles of the genders as animals and to find the common link which binds us as humans.

Kofi Fosu Forson

Friday, December 29, 2006

Art and Sexuality
Seduction and Co-existence
Kofi Fosu Forson

Can the artist and muse co-exist?

The language of art is befallen by several truths, beauty, neurosis, self-love, admiration, seduction and eventually sexuality.

It is not the art that leaves one to question. It should always be the process. The work of art has a life of its own. It lives on in infinity. What the public interprets as torment and turmoil should be left up to their imagination. They have no understanding of the relationship between an artist and a muse, painter and model, director and actress/actor and mentor and protégé. We speak a private language.

How do the artist and muse co-exist? Every artist and muse must draw a conclusion as to why they have come together. Even if as lovers, the art must supercede the love. Sex as an act can preclude any chances at making art but it shouldn’t be the optimum dialogue. A lover can be a muse but she isn’t necessarily confined to the creative process. She is therefore a source of inspiration.

The world of art is full of misgivings so much that, the language between an artist and a muse is sacred. It’s time spent alone. What has to be defined is that when is it proper for the artist and muse to fall in love or misbehave and when is it best to keep each other’s energies contained within the realm of creating art?

Love and sex emerges from the creative language. It is a language that should be in agreement for both partners. Seducing, whether male to female, or female to male, usually comes about when one of the participants has his/her guard down. It is not a means of being victimized unless the person who has been seduced sees it as such.

Once again, it is a private and personal language. There are those who use this as a means of dictating power. The language between an artist and muse is not a game of power. It is understood who is in control. It is up to the mentor to keep the protégé well aware of her defenses. Crossing a certain line should be and will be deemed inappropriate.

I remember the first girl I asked to pose for me. Her words were, “Do I have to take my clothes off?” I had one session with this model but I have since done some vivid drawings of her in oil pastel, paintings in acrylic and even wrote a song about her.

For an artist, seduction is at times unspoken. This girl was a muse. Our co-existence was brought about through a friendship. It is possible for a relationship between an artist and muse to be void of any sexuality. This is more the pragmatic behavior of all these type of relationships. I find that certain relationships with models, muses or actresses commonly and uncommonly have sexual undertones.

The three, art, sexuality and spirituality form to make up part of my foundation. The gravest example is when sexuality is a common language between painter and model, artist to muse, director to actress and mentor to protégé. There is the level of guilt. It is so because of the features of abnormality. The mentor then has to guide the protégé, advice her, steer the project from going astray.

An actress once told me that producers constantly try to seduce her. She looked at me as if to say, “Aren’t you going to seduce me?” I promptly ignored her. As adult members of a given gender, I feel mutual attraction is acceptable. However the two in question articulate the language of love is particular to them alone.

In theater, it is somehow not permissible. In art, an artist can seduce a muse. A painter can seduce a model. In Hollywood, a director can seduce an actress. Theater is open to a general public. Hollywood is more of an exclusive club.

The artist and muse can co-exist…as lovers, as friends, as artists. Seduction is not a written language. It is afforded by those who dare to speak it. There are always consequences.

As long as the artist and muse are in understanding of what measures they are going to take to complete their work of art, it shouldn’t be questioned. An artist shouldn’t ask his muse for perfection. Just as well, their relationship should live on in their private thoughts and the works of art they have completed.

Kofi Fosu Forson