In Georges Bataille’s eroticism, there is little or no place to theorize about feminine transgression. The feminine is absent in his work. Women, for Bataille, occupy the place of God, a promise of connection with the universe. The only problem is that God is dead. Thus, Bataille’s eroticism only shows us a structure for masculine transgressive pleasure that instrumentalizes feminine bodies in order for masculine subjects to experience fleeting glimpses of spiritual continuity through their beloved objects of desire. Bataille’s eroticism is fraught with the irony of this crucial absence and lack. Rürrü Mipanochia’s recent exhibition, Xochiquetzal: Erotismo y Procreación, at ArtSpace México, exploits this lack in order to explore a transgressive feminine pleasure within the very specific cultural and historical context of contemporary Mexico.
The exterior of the gallery features a mural of hybridized animal and human figures in pornographic poses, alongside snakes, birds, and flowers. The partially clothed figures suggest contemporary girly fashions, as well as iconography from pre-Hispanic, Mesoamerican cultures. Mipanochia furthers this jarring mash-up by using bright neon colors and simplified geometric shapes, which together create a playful and irreverent effect. The work actively plays with transgressions of every sort, conflating old and new, human and animal, man and woman, divine and profane.
The transgressions continue into three rooms of the gallery, where several series of works in the same style represent mythical figures in various stages of undress and copulation. Fluids, body hair, gaping genitals, piercings, high heels, strap-on dildos, fishnet stockings, brightly colored knee socks, flora, and fauna abound. Interestingly, all of these highly pornographic, profane paintings are rendered with great care and attention to detail. The artist uses flat colors, clear and confident lines, and composes each with deliberation. In addition, every piece is traditionally framed and matted, most of them under glass. These choices mimic the nature of transgression—the care and precision exercised here seem almost perverse—and collide unexpectedly with the concepts present in the show.
Zotz, a series of three paintings, plays with the idea of the bat, which Maya and Nahua cultures associate with death, fertility, and sexuality. The series represents seven feminine figures, whose breasts and genitals are exposed as they lounge in postures reminiscent of contemporary pornography, presented as either objects of desire themselves, or those doing the desiring. Black fluids spring from some of their open vaginas. One figure defecates rainbow-colored feces, another ejaculates from a strap-on dildo. Each body is performing its own erotic action, and together, all of the bodies are encircled by outlined color fields and an abundance of bats and flowers.
Another series in the show represents the god of twins and of monsters, who is also associated with gods of seduction, sin, punishment, and excess. In Xolotl-Pie Hecho de Bola, the artist represents the god as a woman with legs spread, black fluid flowing from her genitals, dressed in brightly striped socks, and with a doglike head. Muerte-Xolotl shows the same god—generally considered male, but represented here with a female body—in a blue thong, with female genitals exposed, touching the breast of a squatting woman with a skull for a head.
The series Tlaltecuhtli brings these various kinds of playful, pornographic transgressions together. Two paintings depict three round-faced clownish figures in pornographic repose using all of the same pictorial and thematic conventions of the other works in the show; amputated limbs, ejaculations of every sort, and neon colors are ever present. This series, however, situates these “perverse” pleasures in the very specific context of a world created by gendered violence. Mipanochia paints all three feminine figures either surrounded by, or being menaced by, snakes, clear symbols of phallic domination. Tlaltecuhtli, the series’ namesake, is a god of ambiguous gender, whose rape functions as a creation myth for the heavens and the earth in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.
Tlaltecuhtli suggests that Mipanochia’s show, Xochiquetzal: Erotismo y Procreación, is merely play in this world of violence and trauma, but it is not just play. The title of the show includes “procreation,” the reproduction of the culture. What, then, is being brought forth by Mipanochia’s work? In Preface to Transgression, Michel Foucault talks about an anti-dialectical, embodied, and erotic language that emerges from the death of God. In an essay in her book Bodies of Work, Kathy Acker talks about writing as something very similar, as an embodied process of discovery from within our own labyrinthian organ, the colon, where reason is lost. Mipanochia’s work uses exactly this kind of playful and threatening language. It is as if the artist took Kathy Acker seriously when she said in an interview, “I’m looking for what might be called a body language. One thing I do is stick a vibrator up my cunt and start writing—writing from the point of orgasm and losing control of the language and seeing what that’s like.” What that’s like may very well be Rürrü Mipanochia’s show.
Xochiquetzal: Erotismo y Procreación is on view through March 31, 2017.