(9 Photo-Text panels, 1990)
This work focuses on the politics of the representation of the male body, identifying forms of institutional and legal protection, fear, censorship and eroticism surrounding access to the male nude. Responding to Simon Watney’s Policing Desire(1987); an influential critical commentary on the moral panic around the AIDS crisis, elements brought together in the work present the male body as a site of contestation, where urgent AIDS activism meets more latent and unexplored feminist questions about a woman’s right to look at the male body.
The images in the work are a mixture of quotes from advertising combined with Naomi Salaman’s own set-up studio shots. To the left a black and white Smirnoff advertisement cloaked in references to Cold War spy glamour is answered by a contemporary office scene, where surveillance images are being reviewed and made sense of. The central photographs are her own documentation of a street billboard, surprising for its time, depicting five men jumping in the air, one of them naked, pasted up near Elephant and Castle in London where she was living.
Photo documentation of the work ;
The context for this work – first shown at Kettle’s Yard Gallery in an exhibition called Post-Morality, was the AIDS crisis. As well as making art work for exhibition and writing contextual essays and accounts, Salaman was involved in anti censorship campaigns, safe sex education and debates in feminism about pornography, power, aesthetics and obscenity.
The title of the work, and the text used in the work was taken from a BBC documentary of the same name that aired in early 1990’s. It addressed the perceived threat to public morality and public decency posed by new TV media reaching Britain from Europe by satellite. Of particular concern was the pornography coming from the Netherlands. Satellite information crosses national frontiers. It was a relatively new technology that had become available to the domestic market. At the time, Britain had the highest level of state regulation of explicit sexual imagery of any advanced democracy. The BBC documentary Satellite Sex asked; how can the existing regulatory bodies such as the British Broadcasting Authority – respond to and control the new media beamed in by satellite?
Looking again at this work in 2020 – there is an echo of concern about the rampant power and reach of digital information. The relentless pace of change of technology has shifted us far from the concerns and critiques of the 1990’s. Most of the prominent state involvement in ‘policing desire’ that we were once critical of has vanished. The ground on which we once made such a critique has also vanished. What we are dealing with now – what our society now depends on as infrastructure – is a network of largely unregulated commercial ventures that provide the 24/7 digital communication platforms and content, to which we are glued, by our own desires to our own devices that we literally cannot put down.