VAEFF 2014 opening day featured “Beauty, Sex, and Shame,” a screening of works which explore and analyze the overlap between beauty, shame, and sexuality. The works looked at how those boundaries are blurred within classical forms of sexual representation and how they interrelate within personal sexuality. In keeping with VAEFF 2014’s goal to explore a multitude of mediums within moving visual forms, the screening featured works of video art and experimental short film, as well as music and fashion videos. The range of works in “Beauty, Sex, and Shame” was exceptional. The pieces were not only diverse in medium; they dealt with the themes in diverse approaches – the critical and the personal, the abstract and the political.
The screening opened with “B E A U T Y” by Italian artist Rino Stephano Tagliafierro, which explores how beauty and female sexuality in classical painting morphed the depiction of sexual beauty with undertones of sin and disease, a phenomenon that Tagliafierro highlights with an innovative animation technique. In contrast to the theoretical focus of “B E A U T Y,” Iranian artist Koorosh Asgari created a very literal visual symbol for the burden their own sexuality places on women in Iran in the piece “Sharamboo,” which resulted in the physical feeling of being smothered.
“BUCK FEVER” by the German and French artist collective NEOZOON, a cleverly-crafted montage of YouTube videos of hunters prepping their shots and exclaiming over the beauty of their kills, exposed how beauty engenders an urge to destroy and possess. This work contrasted nicely with Canadian artist Jennifer Linton’s “Domestikia, Chapter 3: La Petite Mort,” a narrative of revenge and triumph in the face of destruction. “Coming Soon,” by Diego Agulló and Agata Siniarska, explored the prevalence of sexuality and self-gratification in media.
Thursday closed with “SHAME” by St. John McKay, an extremely intimate look at the artist’s most shameful moments and relationship to addiction. It was followed by a personal discussion with McKay, who discussed the inspiration for his work: while watching the 2011 film “Shame” directed by Steve McQueen, which told the story of a wealthy sex addict in NYC, McKay felt that he had much more shameful stories to tell, and that the truly shameful contains no glamour. When asked if he intended his film to give him a sense of catharsis, McKay said that his hope for the work is to give people a platform to admit and discuss their shameful moments, and that the acknowledgement of the lows that people can reach would remove the power and stigma they contain.