There's a beauty in taking selfies that often goes unacknowledged. We can angle our own cameras, choose our own poses, and select our preferred filters and captions. It's a level of control, a level of self-expression that was never possible before.
But even if your photos are #nofilter, there's an argument to be had that that level of control can make your self-expression less than candid. And that's what inspired artist Clayton Cubitt to film his video series "Hysterical Literature" in 2012.
"Today, everyone has a well-practiced pose for 'selfies' and social media, and I was interested in how I might make a portrait that makes it impossible for the sitter to maintain this pose," Cubitt explains on the series' website.
So Cubitt decided on a two-pronged plan to make the Warhol-influenced "Hysterical Literature" as honest as it was personal.
He asked his subjects, a group comprised of artists, filmmakers and adult performers, to pick a book of their own choosing to read. Choice in literature, the reasoning went, is in itself very revealing. It says a lot about who a person is and the topics they care about and engage with.
Then, as the women read their chosen books for the camera, an unseen assistant "distracted" them with a vibrator until they could no longer continue with their reading.
"I want to explore the battle between the mind and the body," Cubitt explains. "On the level after that I want to explore the relationship of female sexuality to society's concepts of shame. On the final level I want to explore the cultural contrast between art and sex, particularly how people react to the mixture of the two."
Although "Hysterical Literature" deals with the intersection of human sexuality and artistic expression, Cubitt deliberately tried to make the project as "unsexy" as possible.
"All of the artistic choiceswere made in order to reduce, as much as was aesthetically possible, anything generally associated with pornography, or luridness," he writes.
Check the series out below.
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