On the Ubiquity of “Porn”

In the wake of this fall’s Houston Fine Art Fair and Texas Contemporary Fair in Houston, someone remarked to me that art fairs are “Art Porn,” an overwhelming smorgasbord of visual stimulation and (hopefully) frenzied acquisition. This got me thinking about how the term “porn” has expanded from its traditional sense. To wit:

Food Porn
Home Porn
Fashion Porn
Shopping Porn

Basically, anything that you look at obsessively, that is presented with glossy, touched-up photography or some other kind of excessive or unrealistic visuals, can now be classified as “porn.” The classic and original (at least according to Wikipedia) is Food Porn, a term coined in the 1980s by feminist critic Rosalind Coward.

You had me at “egg salad.” [image via foodporndaily.com]

Home porn: so eclectic, so impossibly chic!
[Elle Decor image via thecoatcheck.com]

On Facebook, a well-known figure in the Texas art scene clearly has their finger on the zeitgeist:

Let’s take a closer look at that, shall we?

Somehow, I’m wanting a latte… [image via espressoporn.com]

Then there’s Craft Porn (a.k.a. Etsy & Pinterest).

Mmmm… yarn coaster…

There’s even Math Porn.

This week we can add “Storm Porn” to the list. If you spent more than an hour looking at images of flooding/carnage/mayhem from Hurricane Sandy, you know what I mean.

Gosh, I’ve already seen this on the 5 news sites I’ve looked at– can’t we find other images of destruction?

 

Then there’s Poll Porn, a quadrennial phenomenon our politically-minded readers will be familiar with.

USA Today’s state-by-state graphics, updated daily

 

NYTimes… throwing down the gauntlet with interactive Poll Porn!

If you’ve been repeatedly checking all the charts with the blue lines and the red lines and the statistical probabilities minced up in a thousand different combinations, you probably have a Poll Porn Problem (similar to the day trader who can’t tear themselves away from the Stock Market Porn of ticker feeds).

And that might not be a good thing. Just as good old traditional Porn Porn is getting a bad name for being addictive, Non-Porn Porn seems to scratch a similar itch by working a similar way – by flooding the viewer with mind-numbing visuals, creating an insatiable desire to SEE MORE.

 

…must…see…more…totes…

 

Let’s face it: if you have an online interest that involves a fantasy world of beguiling images that you can never attain (sweetheart, you’re never going to make that yarn-and-felted-flowers holiday wreath), then you are one of the millions of online porn addicts.

You and your glue gun can only fantasize about such glories.

 

Clearly, we need a scapegoat for this phenomenon. I nominate this guy:

 

If only because he looks like Jabba the Hutt and he runs Fox News, the originator of Pundit Porn.

Fair and balanced.

 

Rainey Knudson is the founder and director of Glasstire.

 

also by Rainey Knudson

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12 responses to “On the Ubiquity of “Porn””

  1. You forgot about “ruin porn,” the practice of creating beautiful photographs of damaged urban areas like Detroit and New Orleans. (See http://www.mlive.com/entertainment/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2012/07/ruin_porn_like_detroit_disasse.html , for example)

    Ruin porn is, as the Sex Pistols put it, “a cheap holiday in other peoples misery!”

  2. Great post, Rainey! The list is endless. Let’s add “nature porn” … http://pinterest.com/grist/nature-porn/

  3. And this, a document of a dying breed: http://bookshelfporn.com/

  4. the best of all….

    JUSTICE PORN

    http://www.reddit.com/r/JusticePorn/

  5. Here’s a timely one–a bunch of New Yorkers huddled together charging their phones. It’s “powerstrip porn.” http://betabeat.com/2012/10/new-york-manhattan-hurricane-sandy-powerstrip-porn-coworking/

  6. Terrific post! I look back even further, though, to a time when porn wasn’t necessarily all that visually seductive. Back in the 60s and 70s, “porn porn” was bleak and tacky. So, when I do a mash-up of bleak and seductive porn, what I’m left with to define it is the emotional superficiality of it all, the lack of real engagement. Which is sad to consider in terms of art.

  7. James Joyce writes about pornographic art in “Portrait of the Artist…”. He takes it from Aquinas, saying basically that any art that moves us to possess or acquire it is pornographic. Joseph Campbell takes it all even further in his commentaries on Joyce, saying that all advertising is pornographic by nature, since its sole intention is to incite desire for the object advertised. If a person is moved to possess something, the dynamic is that of pornography. If a person is repelled or moved by pity or sympathy, that is didacticism, also a response less than his ideal. These responses are kinetic. They are ways in which we are moved. They are also the forces that drive markets.

    Many artists are torn between some notion of success based upon the market and what Joyce would have called a static, rather than kinetic, response. Joyce’s idea of beauty is based upon what he calls wholeness, harmony, and radiance. An apprehension of these qualities in a work of art renders the work beyond the kinetic and gives it a kind of stillness. An artist whose motives are almost purely static is, for me, Andrew Goldsworthy. I cannot possess his work. It cannot be packaged and sold so easily.

    Finally, I’d like to add that I am saddened to read about Daniel Kayne’s death. I never knew him, but I admired what he did. He made the kind of art that was whole, harmonious, and radiant. I wish that he could have been sustained by that idea, but in this world that is very, very difficult.

  8. this sounds like “porn-porn”… if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all… i’m going back to sleep now!

  9. I guess I should not be surprised that the second largest form of porn, in this nation, was not mentioned by columnist or commentators, “war porn.”

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