Article by Nina Prader // Sept. 03, 2019
Similar to the Canadian pop-rockstar and queer feminist icon’s synth beats, Peaches’ first institutional solo art show is based on a one-liner hook: the Fleshies. Known in the sex toy business as Double Masturbators or fleshlights, in ‘Whose Jizz Is This?’ the toys become animated, re-name themselves “Fleshies” and begin their journey of self-narration and emancipation. The exhibition, which has been mounted in collaboration with the international Kampnagel summer music festival, takes the visitor on a fourteen-act journey through the Fleshies’ transformation and accompanies their inner revolution. Each installation has its own unique track and stage design; it’s a pop-rock concert turned art world exhibition. On its campy surface, the show’s narrative is easily digestible and hyper-experiential, but the underlying message is deeply political and ushers in a post-porn universe.
In the first scene, the Double Masturbator is introduced and defined. A video of a YouTube product demo by a male user forms the entry point and formulates the dialectic. The Double Masturbator appears strange in shape: a pinkish, brownish latex trunk. On one side, there’s a human mouth with latex dentures and a tongue and, on the other, a vulva. It’s implicitly female, but somehow also sexless. The hyper-real aesthetic exudes the same sheen as Instagram filters provide, it’s interface is matte and blemish-less.
The user in the video prods the Double Masturbator, selling it as a fantasy for men who have trouble interacting with human women, for those in search of a “shut-up-and-suck-my-cock-bitch” fantasy. It’s disconcerting, as it sheds light on the violently misogynistic rape culture in which these products are often marketed and in which they gain popularity.
Next, visitors enter the ‘Glory Hall’—a tunnel filled with glowing Double Masturbators—that gives way to a darkly-lit, club-like exhibition space, wherein the so-called Fleshies, literally, find their voice. The Fleshies may not be human but they do represent human elements; they band together and form a shared community around their struggle for freedom. Throughout the exhibition, Peaches highlights their half-human, half-AI qualities using her signature vocabulary, focused on gender-bending and bodily secretions. They are deconstructed and resurrected as independent creatures.
From a beige-latex curtained stage on a plinth, the Fleshies begin to sing: “I could be with you, you could be with me.” They grow larger and manifest as a fountain, spraying liquid into each other’s orifices, emancipating themselves from human slavery. Signs proclaiming “Please, do not touch” and benches marked “Humans here,” establish the boundaries in this Fleshie safe space.
In one video, a kind of AA meeting of the Fleshies is documented. They are captured under a kitchen sink with dust bunnies, hanging out in fridges, on bookshelves and in bubble baths. They lament their situations, redefining themselves as tools and starting to organize their movement for freedom. They become activists and academics, quoting queer feminist discourses. They rewrite their narrative under the hashtag #fuckhumans and try to embrace their right to pleasure and desire. They learn to express themselves autonomously.
The metaphor of the Fleshies will leave an imprint on your psyche; their story is one of violence, overcoming and survival. And, though they are imbued with a kind of animism and cartoon-like playfulness, the story that they are based on is all-too-real. The Fleshies were not invented as artworks, they are readymades. Ultimately, in ‘Whose Jizz is This?’, Peaches has found an engaging way to address the darker side of the porn industry, queer it and reclaim it for emancipatory purposes.