The relationship between pornography and the museum began at the end of the 18th century, therefore very distant from the public debate established after the exhibition “Queer Museum”, at Santander de Porto Alegre, which continued with Panorama, at MAM, the Museum of Modern Art, of São Paulo, and, more recently, with the exhibition “Histórias das Sexualidades”, at the São Paulo Museum of Art, MASP. In each of these locations, especially in the first two, the debate had a post-truth mask, as the accusations in both exhibitions were of apology for zoophilia and pedophilia, which was an obvious exaggeration.
At Masp, the museum's management preferred to take the lead in the debate, itself already considering the exhibition prohibited to those under 18, even with the presence of parents, an exaggerated protection, conceived by lawyers, advisors outside the institution.
These episodes, throughout 2017 and early 2018, continue, even if subliminally, hovering in the air and guiding decisions by curators and directors of institutions.
It's not the first time that sex has been hidden in museums. During the excavations in Pompeii, Italy, between 1755 and 1857, in which frescoes and objects with sexual content appeared, scattered throughout the city, and not just confined in bridal chambers, the authorities realized that they needed to gather this collection of some way. That's why the Secret Museum was created, by order of Charles III of Bourbon.
This story is told by Paul Preciado, in the VB Notebook “Alliance of Vulnerable Bodies”, edited by the Peruvian Miguel López, two years ago. This text, “Museum, garbage and pornography”, is now part of a compilation published by the Museum of Latin American Art, Malpa, earlier this year, entitled “El museo erased” (the erased museum). More current, impossible. The small book brings together three essays by Preciado, among them the one that tells the story of the Secret Museum. “According to the royal decree, only men of the aristocracy – no women, no children, no one from the popular classes – could have access to the space”, says the essayist, in charge of the public program of documenta 14, Parliament of the Corps.
It was in this context, he continues, that “the German historian COMüller first used the word 'pornography' to refer to the contents of the Secret Museum”. Therefore, it is confined and inside a museum that the idea of pornography arises, creating a clumsy narrative about sexuality, which certainly has a relationship with the hysterical demonstrations against the shows held in Brazil. It seems to have become common sense that the positioning of Masp was not worthy of an institution of this stature. The genius of Malba's book is to bring together the issue of pornography with the new configuration of the great museums, in the text that closes the volume, entitled “El Museo erased”. In this text, Preciado points out the current trends of large museums such as the MoMA, in New York, or Masp itself, which is to “turn even the local visitor into a tourist in the history of globalized capitalism”. It is not by chance that these institutions are validated by great names, such as Picasso, Van 74 Gogh or Toulouse-Lautrec, which was the blockbuster of the year at the São Paulo museum. “This new baroque-financial museum produces a meaning without history, a single sensorial product, continuous and smooth”, defines Preciado.
Anyone who saw “Stories of Sexualities” noticed how the show has no libido, no desire, it is sex reduced to pieces of bodies. Within this confusing scenario, where protesters are manipulated and institutions protect themselves like fortresses, there seems to be only one way out, at least for Preciado: “Turn off the lights so that, without any possibility of spectacle, the museum can begin to function as a parliament of another sensitivity.”
The erased museum (Posmuseo Collection)
by Paul B. Preciado
Malba, Buenos Aires, 2017
64 pages. 19 x 13 cm.