For Rhizome (

1996 Art Review
Henri Maccheroni : "2000 Photos du Sexe d'une Femme"
Galerie A l'Enseigne des Oudin
58 rue Quincampoix 75004
Henri Maccheroni : "Aspects érotiques de la période socio-critique
Galerie Mantoux-Gignac
55, rue des Archives 75003
Joseph Nechvatal

William Burroughs has said that sexual desire is like a virus that is always
on the hunt for a new host - a virus that almost always infects new
technology first. Apropos in reverse, Bill LeFurgy, editor of the fine www
cultural site "Culture in Cyberspace"
(, reports in the February 11,
1996 issue that cultural organizations should note that the new
telecommunications law forbids making "indecent material" obtainable and
that anyone who violates the law could pay a fine or land in jail. But as
Laura Grindstaff and Robert Nideffer report in SPEED 1.2 "cyberspace is a
virtual hotbed of pornographic activity" and that "sex is often the first
thing people do with a new medium".

Of course, the new Internet telecommunications law is ridiculous. This is
immediately understood by anyone who actually uses Internet technology
because by creating a seamless and global zone of communications - both
borderless and unregulatable - the Internet calls into question the very
conception of a simple standard of decency.

As if to make this point off-line and in advance, I give you the art of
Henri Maccheroni, for depending on one's sexual orientation and taste,
Maccheroni's 2000 photographs of a woman's vagina can be quite daunting (or
are they many many women's? - we're never really convinced despite the
title). To add to this feeling of overwhelming stupefaction, I was informed
the 2000 photographs on view had been edited down from 6000 - the number
which makes up the complete series called "Photos du Sexe d'une Femme" - but
that 6000 were too many to mount in the gallery at one time (the walls were
covered). Even in arty black and white these tightly cropped close-ups of
bushy vaginal construction made my straight female companion squirm and me
badly blush. I pity the uni-sexual gay male that may have strayed into
Galerie A l'Enseigne des Oudin by hazard.

The late-surrealist panache which permitted and sanctioned the creation of
this body of work is intensely foreign to today's current puritanical PC
standards which are attempting to rule cyberspace. Indeed I was astonished
they could be exhibited at all (even in Paris) and I applaud Galerie A
l'Enseigne des Oudin for its courage in doing so. That the exhibit
undermined any simple standard of disposition and decency was made evident
by the fact that my man-friendly lesbian friend who saw the show seemed
quite offended with it - perhaps because I told her in advance the pictures
had been taken by a male, or perhaps by the fact that these photographs were
not particular lovely visions. In fact they were a chore to visually

Perhaps a bit more palatable to some hypothetical predilection for modesty
was a subsequent collection of photos from the artist's oeuvre at Galerie
Mantoux-Gignac. There, under the theme "Aspects érotiques de la période
socio-critique 1972-1974", one encountered even more female vaginas - but
now kaleidoscoped and psychedelicized into semi-abstractions. Thus
transformed, they formed odd looking bird-like creatures and funny fluted
troughs. Their socio-critical nature eluded me in the context of 1972-1974,
but they (along with the 2000 Photos du Sexe d'une Femme) did speak to me of
our current on-line situation by foreshadowing the need for an intellectual
liberty that undoes all peremptory definitions of decency.

Indeed I concluded my visit to the second gallery by thinking that one
aspect of the Net is forever going to be an anti-sovereign Alt.Sex machine
which churns out a Maccheroniian-like libertine expanse in which one may
encounter, if so desired, late-surrealist anti-decency made evident on a
routinely overwhelming basis. So we had better get adjusted to it.