Currently showing through March 29th at Deitch Projects in New York City is Tim Noble and Sue Webster‘s collaborative exhibition titled Polymorphous Perverse. This is a recreation of an exhibition installed at the Freud Museum in London in the fall of 2006. The artists met while studying at Nottingham Trent University and have previously exhibited at PS1/MoMA, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and Centro de Arte Contemporaneo de Malaga.
The central piece of the show is a kinetic sculpture based on Freud’s assertion that children are “polymorphously perverse,” meaning that they display a tendency to achieve sexual gratification out of nearly anything. This nascent sexuality is suppressed by socialization within a culture that believes in the denial of genitality to the young, leaving dormant ideas of sexuality that persist into adulthood. Thus, the “mature” sexual adult is in a subconscious state of conflict between a desire to satisfy a wish and a fear of doing so.
The sculpture at Deitch Projects is constructed of a workbench, on which mechanized objects composed of childhood toys are placed and activated by viewer presence. When activated, the converted toys generate a series of sexual interactions our culture now regards as perverse. While a conventional response would perhaps be an initial squeamishness, a more open-minded view would allow for the existence of infantile gratification. Noble and Webster force the viewer to address his or her feelings about repressed sexuality by confronting sex-negative social structures and Freud’s concept that the libido is the primary motivational force in the self.