Ramesh Mario Nithyendran is described as a phallo-centric artist. In case you wonder what that means, it testifies that this Sri Lankan artiste is fascinated with phallus like objects in his art.
This is how his bio describes him: ‘His work is focused upon the construction of a celebratory, phallo-centric discourse that spans Eastern and Western religious, pornographic, digital and historical contexts, particularly, through a multi-disciplinary practice that spans sculpture, painting, drawing and installation.’
Now, that is quite a mouthful to describe one artiste, but yes, that’s what Nithiyendran is – as his art spans the pornographic, digital and historical contexts, and he is very fond of depicting the phallus in his art.
As for pornography, if your immediate retort is that that’s not art, Nithiyendran thinks that it is, and that it is a decidedly subversive form of art…
He is a sculptor, and in a recent interview says that he likes to sculpt phallic totems and installations. He has acquired some level of fame and reputation doing so, and is now tenured at Sydney University, having been the recipient of several top drawer grants in the recent past for his rather off the beaten track work.
Don’t be too put off if you see his work and think that this man has an obsession with the phallus as the male sex organ sticks out of his sculpture, sometimes at the rate of ten per square inch or so, without much exaggeration.
This reminds me of Nona Faustine a black (African American) artiste who recently posed nude in former salve trading posts in New York, including Wall Street.
That’s right she posed in the stark raving buff, so to put it, and there were the explanations that she was honoring the slaves who were very often abused for sexual purposes and were therefore for all purposes ‘naked.’All this brought on an entire industry of vile and often off color criticisms against her, but she stuck to her guns.
Is the Sri Lankan born Nithivendran in the same league as Nona the black artist? Now, Faustine is an African American who has all the right to remember through her art how slaves were treated, and if she thinks that going in her birthday suit serves that purpose – so be it.
Nithivendran was certainly not a sexually exploited woman who was, or whose ancestors were, forced into pornography. But yet he says that he in some way either celebrates or depicts the ‘pornography of art’ in his phallic sculptures.
In one interview he says that pornography is subversive and then it leaves the reader wondering if Nithivendran is being totally exploitative of Art in his appropriating of the penis for his work. All of this is up for argument, but there is some difference between hundreds phalluses sticking out of what appears to be a over-large phallus holding receptacle, and somebody going naked in New York to remember what was done to the slaves.
Nithivendran says that his art also has something to do with the phallic depictions in the Hindu religion, but he does not tell you exactly what.
He says his is a ‘celebratory phallocentric discourse’, and proceeds to claim that he is fond of putting penises in women or trans people and so forth.
If this makes you think that this is a guy who is in it purely for the prurient interest, you are excused, and this is especially so in the context that there were others such as Faustine who were torn apart in the media when they were up to something that was by far less questionable.
The question aimed at Faustine was whether she had to go naked to remember the slaves and did not have any other way of doing it? She was also asked if she as an African American did not know the law, which was that if somebody was to go naked in New York for no other reason but to sun herself, she would undoubtedly get herself arrested.
She took all of this in her naked stride, but what she did have was a solid block of persons who were on her side, and who believed the fact that she was full of empathy for the plight of her ancestors who were sold, and whose bodies were exploited.
Does Nithiyendran have any such history by which to ‘justify’ his phallic interests and his idolization of phallic symbols? Were his forbearers harassed pornographers? Were they sold into pornography, bound and gagged in Sri Lanka, which does not have a history of pornography during the time of the Sinhala Kings that anybody knows of?
No. This is why Nithiyendran celebrates pornography and thinks that it is subversive.
So considering those who say that getting women – in the main – to perform sex acts is in and of itself a form of slavery, Nithiyendran is not doing much in terms of being socially conscious then? Perhaps a Nona Faustine of the future would very probably pose nude, and denigrate what Nithiyendran is celebrating now?
Others might say that Nithiyendran challenges the orthodoxy, and that this article itself is a pointer to the fact that he rocked the boat. That’s exactly what he did, and with all due respect to Faustine, he didn’t I have to go nude for it either. He managed to do it displaying what are large and conspicuous facsimiles of other people’s penises!