This past weekend, members of the Future Femme Collective and Morgan Avenue Underground put up an exhibition called “Show Me More: A Collection of DickPix.” Four female artists interested in feminism, porn and the internet collected 300 dick pics over the summer and put them on display. Each artist approached the project in a different way. They mostly used their OkCupid accounts, missed connections from Craigslist and other social networking sites. One of them posed as a gay man and set up her own Grindr account, receiving about 150 dick pics. Having received dick pics myself (one was even dressed up to look like Krumm from Ahh!!! Real Monsters), I had not considered any of them works of art. Although nudity has long been apart of photography, painting and sculpture, this was a new approach.
Mandatory RSVP and a giant grid of penises
Before going to the gallery, I made sure not to read any comments or initial feedback on the Vice article that announced and analyzed the exhibition in order to avoid any bias. Morgan Avenue Underground is a little gallery space in Bushwick right off of the Morgan Ave L train stop between Grattan St and Harrison Pl. If it weren’t for the group of people outside, I would have walked right past it. The event was strictly RSVP and only those 18 years and older were allowed in. “We want everyone to have a safe experience as this is a controversial exhibit that received a lot of media attention,” explained a woman who checked IDs. A security guard stood at her side to ensure safety. A small staircase led down to a hallway lined with pictures of men in their underwear (mostly boxer briefs) posing with their legs spread apart and an iPhone (camera) pointed at their penises. The anticipation to be shocked, entertained and a bit uncomfortable quickly dispersed. It was a tiny room with another set of stairs to the left where a group of people were sitting and a wall to the right that was occupied with a giant poster and next to it, a giant grid of dick pics. Adjacent to that were some sketches of people having sex. The poster was basically an explanation of the artists’ incentives behind the project. “None of these men expected to be a subject to female aggression,” read one of the lines of the statement. I attempted to take a picture of the poster, but was quickly told to put my phone away. No cameras allowed, even for the one piece that was free of dicks.
“You deserve to be raped, bitch”
I moved onto the main attraction – dick pics. The pictures were meticulously organized, each sharing the same amount of wall space between each other. Scattered throughout the penises were pieces of paper with angry responses (assuming mostly from men) to the project. “Go choke on a bag of dicks.” “You deserve to to raped, tortured, and killed. KILLING YOU WOULD BE DOING THE WORLD A FAVOR.” “I usually use ‘ladies’ but a lady would not be so selfish.” “No wonder Muslims want to hack of your clitorises.” “As for the bitch claiming to be ‘queer’ just because you dabbled in lesbianism doesn’t give you the right to subject gay men to ridicule and embarrassment. Either that or she’s another man-hating dyke.” There were many more similar messages spread about the piece.
The pictures were simply penises – different colors, shapes, and sizes. The only thing that stuck out to me was one where a man put a measuring tape up to his member to show off his size (and no I didn’t take note of what it was).
Very solicited pics of dicks
The most controversial aspect to the exhibit according to us was how the women obtained the photos and what they did with them. Vice explains how the pictures were solicited: “Most of the women have gone the straightforward route in collecting dick pics, using versions of their real OKCupid profiles and brief conversations—sometimes just going right for the jugular and straight-up asking for a dick pic, avoiding flirtation and conversation at all costs.” Particularly, the artist who posed as a gay man on Grindr, ending with 150 pictures, definitely engaged with solicitation of dick pics. Now leaving the legality of this aside, to the artists, this was a feminist art piece – a retaliation against the unsolicited dick pics that men sent to women via text, Snapchat, email, etc. But solicitation of dick pics, even from gay men, contradicts this concept. The responses above were obviously provoked. If the men involved were aware of the project, there would have been some statement. There isn’t.
ihollaback.org does cyberfeminism better
Regardless of the responses to “DickPix,” there still lies the question: Is this a feminist act? At a website called ihollaback.org women are encouraged to share their stories of being harassed in the streets to others online. It’s a safe environment for women to disclose to each other (and the internet) experiences with men exposing themselves on subways, sidewalks or at any unwanted location. They are even encouraged to upload photos of their harassers. ihollaback.org is an example of an effective, cyberfeminist way to vent and take revenge. But do all dick pics fall into this category? What about the spam you get in your email? What about the posts on Craigslist that YOU opened up? If a woman gets a dick pic, she has the option to delete it. Almost all social networking sites have the option to delete and block users. Not all men fall into the category of being sexual deviants, but these artists have stereotyped them as such.
So the question remains… is this (good) art?
It is understandable why many (men) would be bothered by this. Feeling publicly humiliated and degraded was not something they signed up for. But does categorizing it as art justify the motives and end result of the project? Robert Mapplethorpe, Gaudenzio Marconi, Georgia O’Keeffe, Imogen Cunningham and Alfred Stieglitz all focused their art around nudity at some point in their careers. However, their subjects were surely aware of what they were participating in, right? Ethically, “Show Me More: A Collection of DickPix” could definitely be viewed as immoral and hurtful to the male population, but perhaps this is a new way of mixing social networking and art. Maybe if the artists had been more upfront about the project or had obtained legitimate consent from the men involved, this would be less of an issue. There were a good amount of men at the gallery too – all quiet, engaged in calm conversation and some laughing – so evidently not all of them were furious about the exhibition. Can this form of cyberfeminism be considered art? Or is it just inconsiderate, abusive behavior that has exploited men on the internet?