Category Archives: nature

The fascinating and revolting love lives of gastropoda

Having recently seen the documentary film Microcosmos (to be viewed in its entirety on Vimeo here[1]), I’d like to share these two pictures of snails mating.

These images are instances of zoological horror or the zoological fantastique, depending on your view.

Both horror and the fantastique are just as much rooted in fascination as in revulsion, ergo in ambiguity of emotions. And what could be more ambivalent and cause more ‘mixed feelings’ than slimy slugs and snails ‘getting it on’, an act which may involve hermaphroditism, firing love darts (a source of the Cupid myth, state some sources), apophallation (gnawing at stuck penises) and even sexual cannibalism?

Of course, the attentive reader will have noticed that in the photo of ‘Courtship in the edible snail, Helix pomatia’ the soft bodies of the snails look exactly like the labia majora of an adult female human mammal.

It needs not to be said that the whole field of animal sexuality is highly fascinating and has been represented in art not often enough. Apart from Microcosmos, there has been Green Porno and the magnificent films of Jean Painlevé (Acera, or the Witches’ Dance[2] comes to mind).

Introducing Japanese photographer Manabu Yamanaka

flesh_manabu_yamanaka_72b by bobinke


Manabu Yamanaka is a Japanese contemporary artist. He lives and works in Tokyo, was born in Hyogo, Japan, in 1959. His photographs have been exhibited throughout Europe and North America.

His exhibition, “Gyahtei,”[1] a Buddhist term meaning “great age,” consisting of a series of black and white photographs of old people brought him to international attention.

He also did the cover art to Coin Locker Babies[2].

Gratuitous nudity #11 and Icon of Erotic Art #32

sophie dahl by modelvancouver

Sophie Dahl, i-D, 1997

Sophie Dahl first came to my attention with her Opium (perfume) ad[1].

Today, following a link that started[2] at Trevor Brown‘s blog, which celebrated Takashi Itsuki‘s acrotomophiliac eroticism, which backlinked[3] to the new magazine Coilhouse (amazing new magazine, started as a blog in Aug 2007), I arrived at the photography of Nick Knight. On his site, one finds this image[4] (first published in i-D, 1997), which frankly, leaves me sick with desire. Just what is it that brings on this sickness? It’s the softness of her skin, the presumed quality of her fatty tissue, the pot belly and the pear-shaped breasts. And the nails. Amen.

This is a first for my series, where an image is both an instance of gratuitous nudity and an Icon of Erotic Art.

Cult fiction item #9: “Language is to the brain as the tapeworm is to the intestines”

Cities of the Red Night

Cover art of Cities of the Red Night depicting Brueghels  “The Triumph of Death“.

I read Cities of the Red Night this July while in Spain; I had to let it ferment for a while and unfurl it. it was a profound reading experience; and my first semi-sustained one after my first and only aborted attempt to read Burroughs by way of Naked Lunch.

I have the fondest memories of Burroughs in Drugstore Cowboy, and his Gus Van Sant-directed appearance on MTV with Thanksgiving Prayer[1] (unavailable in Europe).

Cities of the Red Night stated that spontaneous ejaculation is a heroin withdrawal symptom. This caught my attention. Today, I looked it up and it is apparently confirmed by medical literature. The novel is the perfect introduction to Burroughs’s whole language is a virus trope, later adopted by the likes of Laurie Anderson, Steven Shaviro and other postmodernists.

From my wiki:

Cities of the Red Night is a novel by William S. Burroughs. It was the first book in the final trilogy of the beat author, and was first published in 1981. Drugs play a major part in the novel, as do male homosexuality. The plot of this non-linear work revolves around a group of revolutionaries who seek the freedom to live under the articles set out by Captain James Mission. At the same time in near present day, detective Clem Snide is searching for a lost boy, abducted for some sort of sexual ritual. Another subplot weaved in thematically through the narrative is a world plagued by a fictional disease, Virus B-23, that destroys humanity and is sexually transmitted and sexual in nature, causing for example spontaneous orgasms. Addiction to opiates provides some resistance to it. The disease is viral, and, at first, it appears to be an allusion to AIDS, although, it must be remembered that the first case of AIDS was not discovered until after the book was first published.

See also:’the cities of the red night were six in number, alternate history, Dr Benway, Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted

Finally, whence the quote came:

Self-identity is ultimately a symptom of parasitic invasion, the expression within me of forces originating from outside. Language is to the brain as the tapeworm is to the intestines. Even more so: it may just be possible to find a digestive space free from parasitic infection, but we will never find an uncontaminated mental space. Strands of alien DNA unfurl themselves in our brains, just as tapeworms unfurl themselves in our guts. Not just language, but the whole quality of human consciousness, as expressed in male and female is basically a virus mechanism.” —Cities of the Red Night

Triumph of Death (1562) – Pieter Brueghel the Elder

Icon of Erotic Art #31

It is time for Icon of erotic art #31

Truck Babies (1999) by Patricia Piccinini

Truck Babies (1999) by Patricia Piccinini presents a pair of infant trucks. It is Icon of Erotic Art #31.

“The Truck Babies are infantile not miniature; they have big cheeks and fat bottoms, little wheels and lovely big eyes. They are what I imagined to be the offspring of the big trucks that I saw on the road. I examined the relationship between babies and fully-grown animals and people and applied these developmental changes backwards to the trucks.” [1]

The eroticism of this work is not obvious, but derives from the fact that most procreation is derived from the sexual act. It is my basic tenet that the sexual act is not necessarily “natural“, my favorite quote in this regard is from Leonardo da Vinci:

“The art of procreation and the members employed therein are so repulsive that if it were not for the beauty of the faces and the adornments of the actors and the pent-up impulse, nature would lose the human species.”

A quote that also comes to mind is one by Susan Sontag:

Human sexuality is, quite apart from Christian repressions, a highly questionable phenomenon, and belongs, at least potentially, among the extreme rather than the ordinary experiences of humanity. Tamed as it may be, sexuality remains one of the demonic forces in human consciousness – pushing us at intervals close to taboo and dangerous desires, which range from the impulse to commit sudden arbitrary violence upon another person to the voluptuous yearning for the extinction of one’s consciousness, for death itself.” –Susan Sontag in the The Pornographic Imagination

The sexual act requires humans to gain intimacy to body parts which are “naturally” abhorred by humans, body parts which involve excrementation for example.

The sex drive, to which near all human animals fall prey, has often propelled us to engage in the sexual act with non-human animals. I surmise that the depictions of human-animal hybrids featured in bestiaries so popular in the Middle Ages (only second in popularity to the Bible), is derived from the fear that human-animal copulation would result in offspring.

It is within the context of these bestiaries that the work of Piccinini should be viewed. The uncanniness of Truck Babies is derived from a fear of ascribing animal qualities to machines, machines having become the nearest equivalent to domestic animals in the post-industrial age.

Truck Babies also provides me with an opportunity to announce the death of American science fiction writer Thomas M. Disch (1940 – 2008), author of Camp Concentration, The Brave Little Toaster and 334. The oblique link between Truck Babies and Disch is the anthropomorphism evident in Truck Babies and The Brave Little Toaster.