Erotika Biennale Wants to Change the Conversation About Sex and Art
Above, artwork by Nicole Salcedo. The artist will open their studio to visitors during the Erotika Biennale, being held throughout the month of February (Photo by Nicole Salcedo/Courtesy of ClitSplash)
In today’s culture, it can seem like sex is everywhere and nowhere. The media is as replete with stories about polyamory, porn addiction, and OnlyFans content ranches in central Florida. And if certain studies are to be believed, young people are having less sex than ever (possibly because of all that freely-available porn). Meanwhile, social media platforms like Instagram are so puritanical about nudity that even their board is getting tired of it. It’s all a bit confusing.
“Younger generations have technology access and use that is, frankly, sometimes out of control,” says Tam Gryn, a Miami-based art historian, curator, and researcher. “They spend most of their time, and most of their social interactions happen in the metaverse, or in some sort of digital or gaming platform. So this generation is less used to being physical, both in a social context and also in a sexual context.”
Gryn’s work with ClitSplash, an erotic art collective co-founded by fellow curators Luisa Ausenda and Gladys Garrote, involves demystifying and destigmatizing art with sexual themes. That’s certainly the goal of their next project, the Erotika Biennale, a festival of erotic art debuting in February at venues across Miami. With a schedule including film screenings, panel discussions, studio visits, and live exhibitions, the program attempts to provide an elevated, inclusive, and safe platform for the exploration of erotic art, one that prioritizes perspectives and experiences from outside of traditional, patriarchal views on sex.
“(We’re) looking at art and culture, not from the male gaze only, but trying to be as inclusive as possible, putting a big focus on women’s perspectives,” says Gryn. “So, most of the artists that we work with and that we select are in line with this.”
Aiming to reach a wide-ranging audience of varying comfort levels, offerings at the biennale range from tame panel discussions to BDSM demonstrations. A $60 ticket gains access to most events. The festival kicks off on Friday, Feb. 2 with a screening of ethically created erotic films by Swedish filmmaker Erika List at The Wilzig Erotic Art Museum.
With an esteemed collection of art from around the world, the WEAM is the defacto home base for the Biennale. Other events taking place there over the month include an art talk featuring experts from the well-regarded Kinsey Institute on Thursday, Feb. 15 and demonstrations of tantra and shibari (Japanese rope bondage) on Thursday, Feb. 8. Several Spanish-language panels are also scheduled
The organizers also wanted to make sure Miami’s robust, yet stigmatized local erotic art scene was included. Studio visits of various artists are in the offing, some of whom have never opened their practices to the public before. An evening of classy striptease performances from Lotus Exotic Conscious Cabaret will also take place on Saturday, Feb. 10, aiming to offer a way to appreciate the form outside of the often misogynistic confines of a strip club.
The group’s work builds upon that of Naomi Wilzig, the WEAM’s intrepid founder who passed away in 2015. The socialite and real estate heiress turned to collecting erotic art in her later years, advocating for public acceptance of sexuality in popular culture and opening the museum in 2005. In a 2002 Miami Herald profile she declared herself “a crusader to get John Q. Public to accept that erotic art is out there. We accept violence, but we go crazy over the idea of a nude body.”
Along with this robust local community, it wasn’t just the fact that ClitSplash is based in Miami that made the group decide to launch the Biennale here. As Gryn describes, Miami’s permissive atmosphere was part of the appeal, especially in comparison to other places in Florida. The group has run into obstacles running events elsewhere, such as a Pride-themed exhibition they held last year at MadArts in Dania Beach.
“Miami is honestly a very sexual city, and we felt like it was ripe for this kind of offering more than other cities,” Gryn says. “Maybe it’s the fact that it’s hot in terms of weather, and the way people are comfortable with their bodies, or even more stereotypical things like, you know, the availability and popularity of plastic surgery. There’s a lot of things about Miami, both good and bad, both stereotypical and nascent, that could classify Miami as a very openly sexual place.”
In Miami, the group has found willing partners, including the WEAM, the soon-to-open satellite of the New York-based Museum of Sex, which will be housed in Miami’s Allapattah arts district, and the music venue ZeyZey on NE 61st St in Little River, which will host the closing party on Saturday, Feb. 24.
“There’s so many artists creating really beautiful sublime art, digital or regular, that is erotic, and they cannot show it or market it in traditional platforms like social media because it gets banned,” says Gryn. “There’s this beautiful sort of underground market of collectors and artists that appreciate this kind of work about the human body and sexuality, that is not on the surface (of culture) because of the nature of censorship that we live with.”
WHAT: Erotika Biennale
WHERE: Wilzig Erotic Art Museum, 1201 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, and venues throughout Miami
WHEN: Friday, Feb. 2 through Wednesday, Feb. 28
COST: $60, shotgun.live/festivals/the-erotika-biennale
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