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Authors:Michael Frank: Bentley University, USA
Publication title:The Ontology of the Pornographic Image: Some Speculations
Conference:NORLIT 2009: Codex and Code, Aesthetics, Language and Politics in an Age of Digital Media, Stockholm, August 6-9, 2009
Publication type: Abstract and Fulltext
Issue:042
Article No.:030
Abstract:The remarkable foliation of porn studies in has led to a far more nuanced understanding of pornography. But what is largely missing from these discussions is any extended inquiry into what might be called the essence – the quidditas – of porn, the thing that constitutes it as porn in the first place, of what Andre Bazin, speaking about cinema in general, calls its ontology.

Common-sense might lead us to assume that porn is constituted by its subject matter, by what it is a representation of. But a little reflection calls this argument into question, for different pornophiles are notoriously various in what they crave, and the same material that seems so arousing under one set of circumstances can seem trivial or tawdry on another. If, then, we, at least provisionally, eliminate subject matter – that which is represented in porn – as its defining characteristic, as what is both necessary and sufficient adequately to define it, we’re left with looking at the transaction that takes place in the process of accessing porn, that is, the process of representation.

Andre Bazin has noted that the process of photographic represntation provides, with minimal mediation, access to the real, to some otherwise unrepresentable part of human experience. The ubiquity of the come shot, could then be read as the guarantor of that authenticity. Yet animated porn, to say nothing of strictly verbal porn that dominated the first great efflorescence of porn in Victorian England, provides no access to that authenticity; unlike Bazin’s photographic image, it gives us no degree at all of unmediated access to “the real thing.” Thus, if we take verbal, animated, and photographic porn as sharing the same “quidditas,” the question becomes what does it give us access to. This has to be the great challenge for porn studies, partly because it itself is so crucial for our understanding of the relationship of sexuality to representation, but even more so because it is a laboratory for understanding the nature of representation – especially pictorial representation – in toto. In fact porn is the ideal laboratory in which to explore the relationship between cinema as an access to the real and cinema as a conventional code, a language.

And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
Genesis 2.25

Language:Swedish
Year:2009
No. of pages:12
Pages:375-386
Series:Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings
ISSN (print):1650-3740
ISSN (online):1650-3686
File:http://www.ep.liu.se/ecp/042/030/ecp0942030.pdf
Available:2010-04-27
Publisher:Linköping University Electronic Press, Linköpings universitet

REFERENCE TO THIS PAGE
Michael Frank (2009). The Ontology of the Pornographic Image: Some Speculations, NORLIT 2009: Codex and Code, Aesthetics, Language and Politics in an Age of Digital Media, Stockholm, August 6-9, 2009 http://www.ep.liu.se/ecp_article/index.en.aspx?issue=042;article=030 (accessed 8/22/2014)