Recently, I tripped across an online review for my animated short film La Petite Mort on a French-language arts & culture magazine called Wukali. At least, I think it’s a review. The reason for my uncertainty is, of course, the absolutely horrendous French-to-English translation offered by Google Chrome. The author, identified as Pierre-Alain Lèvy, seems to be discussing the difference between erotica — that classy, art-directed tease who promises, but never quite delivers — and her more hardcore sister, pornography. This discussion name-drops a short list of Western civilization’s erotic art heavy-hitters, including Apollonaire, André Breton and Octave Mirbeau — the latter best known for his written anthology of sadism entitled Torture Garden — and alludes to Charles Baudelaire through his mention of Flowers of Evil.
It is notable that most of the names mentioned in the article are 19th and early 20th-century French men (Lèvy also mentions male Japanese artists Dan Kanemitsu and Katsushika Hokusai). Conspicuously absent are the historical women artists working with erotic content. Even the most cursory glance back at the early 20th-century in France summons the names of celebrated women writers Anaïs Nin, Colette, and Pauline Réage (author of the BDSM-themed novel The Story of O), all of whom would serve as better antecedents to my female-generated erotica than either Mirbeau or Baudelaire.
That said, Lèvy does correctly detect the influence of Japanese erotic art on La Petite Mort. A tiny reproduction of The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife by Katsushika Hokusai is prominently placed within the frame, providing a strong hint at what’s to come in the narrative. As with many of my animation projects, the concept for the film began with a single image — the Hokusai print, in this case — and developed outwards from there. I asked myself questions such as: “What happened before that image? And what happened after?” The resulting animation is my response to those questions.
A similar tactic was employed in the development of my most recent animation project Wunderkammer, which grew as a response to an image by Toshio Saeki from his print series Masturbation Box. An astute reader will have already noted that both the Japanese artists I’ve mentioned are men. Regrettably, there are very few Japanese women artists engaged with this type of ero-guro or “erotic-grotesque” imagery — at least, of which I am aware (Junko Mizuno is the one name that springs to mind, though I’d classify her work as more gothic kawaii than truly ero-guro). I consider my animations as female-lensed erotica engaged in a game of call-and-answer with the content produced by these male Japanese artists. Wunderkammer expands the universe surrounding Saeki’s image to a considerable degree, fleshing out the story with my other various fixations such as cabinets of curiosity, oddities, taxidermy, octopuses, and Edwardian-style costumes and furnishings. And, of course, that mysterious box.
Below is a screen capture of the Wukali article and here is a link to the original French article, which I imagine makes considerably more sense than the translated version offered here (if you can read French, that is).
3 thoughts on “Female-generated erotica, lost in translation.”
Dear Lady Lazarus, I read the article in english as in french and I don´t find the translation too bad, maybe lost some of the original power but is correct in general terms, and I think the intention of his author it´s to call attention about the misinterpretation not only of pornography and eroticism (to me two faces of the same thing with different intenstity or accent) but specially of animation (mainly japanese anima and manga) as a genre (mostly for children and young people) when in fact as your own work demonstrates it´s a medium, and as medium can be used for any genre including eroticism and pornography, of course, not for children or too young people. I personally think that the eroguro japanese tradition in manga, anime and hentai is for adult consumers and not can be judge as if it was made for children or teenagers, as many others anime genres and themes. And about the female writers and artists I think the writer of the article maybe limits his references to quoting the authors that made direct reference to the idea of eroticism and pornography or others like Baudelaire who suffers legal prosecution for his work, but is true that there are female writers of the same period (decadent and modernist) that can provide interesting and relevant material for the case, as Rachilde (Marguerite Eymery), author of perverse erotica as “Monsieur Vénus” and friend and publisher of french decadents as Lorraine and praised by Barbey d´Aurevilly, who say of her: “A pornographer, yes, she is, but such a distinguished one!”, talking about her most famous novel. Sorry for my english, I´m a spanish (from Spain) follower of you:-D
Many thanks for sharing your insight into the French article, as well as your comments regarding adult-oriented manga and the Decadents. Make no apologies for your English since, by your own admission, you can read at least three languages. That’s two more than I (I have a very basic knowledge of German, but that’s about it).
You´re welcome for your very beautiful and interesting work, and many thanks for your answer. I hope to see soon new material from you. Best wishes.