Remember Clayton Cubitt’s video art series “Hysterical Literature“? You know, the one in which women sit down to read a book out loud until unseen forces working under the table bring them to orgasm? Sure you don’t. In any case, the latest installment in this unsurprisingly popular series of short video art pieces features stand-up comic Margaret Cho (video embedded below), who gets through nearly five minutes of A.N. Roquelaure’s “Sleeping Beauty.”
Speaking with Slate’s XXfactor blog, Cubitt offered some perspective on the series.
“Using the format of a book reading as the excuse for the exercise allowed me to illustrate a battle between mind and body, between ‘high art’ and ‘primal urge,’ between culturally acceptable and unacceptable,” Cubitt explains. “Which led me to its feminist aspects—a modern recasting of the control of women in history through the medicalization of their pleasure. The title, ‘Hysterical Literature,’ is a nod to the old quack medical treatment for massaging women to orgasm in order rebalance their uterus and “improve” their behavior.”
Responding to critics who see the artist’s gender as fundamentally incompatible with his project’s deployment of feminist discourse, Cubitt argues that this disconnect only makes the project richer.
“While I believe that the identity of an artist can provide metadata that can enrich or inform a work, ultimately I think the work rests on its own merits,” he says. “It’s potentially interesting that I’m a man, creating this project that comments on the role of men channeling and controlling female pleasure throughout history.” Still, it seems problematic that his project that “comments on the role of men channeling and controlling female pleasure” requires him to channel and control female pleasure.
Watch Margaret Cho reading “Sleeping Beauty” for Clayton Cubitt’s “Hysterical Literature” video art series:
— Benjamin Sutton
(YouTube screengrab courtesy Clayton Cubitt.)