日本語版はこちらVideo Podcast No. 2: ‘Maruo Suehiro & the Art of Erotic Grotesquerie’ Narrated by Stephen Salel, Co-curator, Modern Love
Erotic grotesquerie has been a pervasive topic throughout the history of sexually explicit Japanese art. Shunga became phenomenally popular in the mid-17th century because it so blatantly and insistently challenged the prevalent beliefs about social propriety, which forbade even such innocuous public displays of affection as holding hands. At that time, a painting or woodblock print depicting a couple in an amorous embrace was considered scandalous. As the public became increasingly accustomed to such imagery however, its sense of taboo dissipated, and artists had to venture into topics and images that were ever more provocative and bizarre, like this 19th-century story of a boy being haunted by a monstrous vagina.
Although many modern and contemporary Japanese artists have produced works of erotic grotesquerie, this exhibition highlights the manga designer Maruo Suehiro, who has recently received the Osamu Tezuka Prize, the most distinguished award in the mainstream manga industry. Among the motifs that commonly appear in Maruo’s meticulously drawn images are the rose and the human eye, both symbols of delicacy, beauty, and purity. Maruo often makes his viewers squirm by manipulating these icons in horrific ways.
These motifs play crucial roles in Maruo's short story ‘Impotent Boyfriends Since the Beginning.’ The tale focuses upon a young man and two women with whom he was sexually involved. In the first scene, we find the man lying dead upon the floor with one of his girlfriends grieving beside him. We quickly learn that this woman is dangerously deranged. She extracts one of his eyeballs and places it in her vagina in order to tap into his visual memories. The first memory that she retrieves is of a romantic day the two had spent together. The man lovingly decorates her hair with a rose, and in reliving these events as seen through her boyfriend's eyes, the woman is so overjoyed that she blinds herself, explaining, ‘I only want to see beautiful things.’ Immediately thereafter, however, she realizes her folly. Among those memories of her lover that she is forced to witness is a sexual encounter between him and her romantic rival. In order to stop the vision, she mutilates the extracted eye of her boyfriend. Beyond its bizarre details, Maruo's ‘Impotent Boyfriends Since the Beginning’ is essentially an erotic reinterpretation of Sophocles' tragedy ‘Oedipus Rex.’