Madison Young is a busy lady. In addition to her work as an award-winning adult filmmaker and actress, running the queer and sex-positive art gallery Femina Potens in San Francisco, exhibiting artwork for the show Lines, Limits & Love at the Alchemy Collective in Berkeley, touring for her memoir Daddy (plus writing a new book for Greenery Press called DIY Porn Handbook: Documenting Our Own Sexual Revolution), participating in radical parenting conferences like Berkeley's recent Boobie-Palooza, and raising a small child, Young has also somehow found the time to organize a monthly erotic film screening, ArtGasm, the first of which is this Friday at The New Parkway in Oakland — all while taking a six-month hiatus from the internet, as part of a life art performance piece.
Young said that the impetus for ArtGasm came about after she directed and performed in The StarrLust Experience last summer, an experimental, erotic art house film inspired by Ziggy Stardust. "It was so much fun to create a film that was erotic and artistic at the same time," said Young. "I've always been compelled to blend and intersect the worlds of art and sexuality, and this was just a lovely moment in which that really was able to manifest — in a surreal dreamlike film experience."
With ArtGasm, Young said she wanted to curate an art film happening that was "edgier" and addressed "eroticism, sexuality, and desire" by bringing together a diverse group of voices, experiences, and filmmakers, both local and international. Judging by the first lineup, which is almost all women of color filmmakers, Young is definitely making good on that promise.
ArtGasm's debut involves a DIY compilation of feminist shorts titled She Is A Sex Junkie that explores sexuality, violence, subversive motherhood, and even intimacy involving the elderly ("My Grandmother's Striptease" by Maria Llopis). In addition to shorts, ArtGasm will also feature full-lengths, with next month's program including Too Much Pussy, a feature-length documentary porn film by artist and filmmaker Emilie Jouvet.
According to Young, what makes a great erotic film is "telling an authentic story. That doesn't mean that the film needs to be a narrative or documentary in style, but that the film comes from a place of authentic self," she said. "That can be surreal or abstract, but is also a compelling truth, a vision that is clear and full of passion and makes me feel something. I want to watch film and experience art that change me, that open me and leave me transformed."
Other filmmakers featured in the February 27 lineup include Lola Clavo from Barcelona, Julia Ostertag from Germany, Helena Torres Sbarbati, also from Barcelona, Tejal Shah and Anuj Vaidya, who live and work in India, and Llopis, a "post-pornographer" from Spain who now lives in Vancouver, and will be joining the screening via Skype for a post-film Q&A. Young said this month she's most excited about the Sex Junkie compilation, which was brought to her attention by Llopis. "I love the work she is doing. ... We met in Seattle, as she wanted to interview me for a book she is writing called Subversive Motherhood."
When asked if curating a mostly women-of-color screening was intentional, Young said it wasn't, but also that she wasn't surprised, as she is "interested in really curating a diverse group of filmmakers with different voices and points of view. In the great scheme of erotic imagery that is created, women erotic filmmakers still make up a small percentage of the industry and movement."
That said, Young also noted that more women than ever before are picking up cameras (and smartphones) and documenting their desires in motion. "I believe the most compelling, interesting voices in erotic film are coming from women, queers, the trans community, feminist community, and artists who are fearless in their representation of authentic desire," she said.
This authenticity is a trend Young hopes to encourage and facilitate with her upcoming three-day Erotic Film School workshop March 13–15 at San Francisco's Center for Sex and Culture (EroticFilmSchool.com), whereby Young, along with the help of other sex-radical pioneers such as Jiz Lee, will walk students through the entire process of creating an erotic film, "from concept to editing, distribution and marketing," she said. At the end of the three days, students will have created their own collaborative film and screened it in front of industry professionals.
The realm of porn is increasingly becoming more democratized, as evidenced by the popularity of amateur porn sites, and the ease with which smartphones have enabled us to shoot, edit, and share videos on the internet. (The winning Judge's Pick of the Express' recent erotic short film competition BRIEFS, No Artificial Sweetener, was shot on an iPhone, for instance). Young is very much in favor of this democratization: "We can't wait for the mainstream to represent our stories and our sexuality in a way that is authentic and resonates with us," she said. "Mainstream porn, as well as mainstream television and film, will always be looking at content based on its commercial capitalistic value. It's up to us — the artists, the activists — to care about and create change for the cultural advancement of our communities and the way in which we are represented as individuals and sexual beings."
Indeed, and events such as ArtGasm are innovative ways that artists, feminists, and radicals are helping to usher in the new era of DIY eroticism, and putting the "real" back in the reel.