Porn’s Dark, Industrial Treasure
An Interview with Inside Flesh
There’s this porn performer named Owen Gray. We met about a year ago on the set of a San Francisco gangbang, and have since become friends. Owen’s one of the sweetest, most down-to-earth guys I’ve met in the business. He also happens to be hard into underground music and visual art.
One night – while staying at my place in between Los Angeles XXX shoots – Owen introduced me to a Tumblr page called Inside Flesh. We scrolled through hundreds of images. They were some of the darkest, most beautiful, and most hardcore porn images I’d ever seen.
A little exploration lead us to a series of explicit, stylized videos that fell under the same Inside Flesh banner. We each bought a couple and raved about them to our peers.
Since then, another one of my friends, Proxy Paige, went to Poland to shoot a scene for Inside Flesh. I’ve been jealous ever since.
Proxy shed a few details about the Inside Flesh project: it was primarily the work of a performance-art couple, it had something to do with an art collective called Suka Off, and the experience was just as fucking cool as it looked.
To fulfill my own curiosity and to share with others what I believe to be the most interesting porn being created on the planet, I wrote a series of interview questions to the people at Inside Flesh. Do yourself a favor and read on.
Danny Wylde: As far as I can tell, Inside Flesh is a Tumblr page and an ongoing series of video releases. They both appear to relate to the same material, which is both dark and pornographic. I’ve had trouble describing this material to people who have not seen it. To paint a general picture, I say, “Imagine a porn film blended with an early Nine Inch Nails video.” This description still seems far off.
I found this inside the Carnal Fluidity DVD box: “Although INSIDE FLESH stands in opposition to the mainstream porn productions, it doesn’t have much to do with the alt porn scene. It’s not related to any specific subculture, ideology or gender. It’s the new vision of porn.”
So what is the new vision of porn? What is Inside Flesh?
Piotr W: First, I would like to say that I don’t think I “reinvented the wheel.” :)
With the term, “new vision of porn,” I mean a video recording of sexual activity that I have not seen before. Neither have my friends with whom I’ve been speaking about this subject. I do not want to make it sound like a manifesto. But the priority for me is the relationship between image, sound, and meaning contained in the scenes. Each of these elements must match the other. I do not tolerate porn in which you hear dubstep in the intro, and — when the track is over — all you hear is the moaning actors and the narrative moves to the level of how fast the dick penetrates the pussy or ass. I will talk later about the role of the image of a man and a woman.
Your comparison is nothing new. I’ve heard that before. I must admit that I, myself, had the need to watch porn with this kind of aesthetic. For example, there are some elements of the work of JP Witkin, which could be seen in the early Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson music videos. Corpses and decay in every frame, but no penetration or ejaculation. I have not seen a porn filmed in the style of Czech photographer Saudek, or Pierre Molinier. I’d really would like to see something like that. Not make it myself, because I find these kind of aesthetics archaic. Porn makers should seek more inspiration from the history of photography or painting – not only in the movies.
From my minimal research, I’ve gathered there are two main personalities behind this project. My friend, Proxy Paige, told me she went to Poland to shoot for you. She said you are a male/female couple who primarily work as performance artists. Can you tell me a little bit about your history with this? What is the relationship to SUKA OFF?
This would be a very long story. I founded SUKA OFF in 1995. I’ve been working with Sylvia for nearly 10 years now. I won’t talk about private matters, not related directly to my work. I’m not into documenting reality or describing the society’s mental health. I create fictional images and simulations of unreal situations. However, I use real objects, fluids, and materials. I think we all know how pornography is treated in art galleries: as a cheap attempt to evoke a scandal by an artist who’s run out of ideas. IF was founded and operated during its first years in conspiracy, as a separate project.
Of course, if you wanted to, you could find out “who and what.” But we didn’t want to use too much direct sexuality in SUKA OFF, because that would obliterate other important issues. So while IF is strictly focused on sexual relations, SUKA OFF deals with all other matters.
Most striking beyond the overall look of what’s in front of the camera is the incredible attention to sound design, music, and editing. Can you tell me a little bit about your background in film/video and music production?
In 2000, I created the BFV project, which is kind of the ancestor of IF. I was arranging performances with a view to the later process of video editing. Video allowed to show more details, which were not so visible when showed on stage.
Early BFV works were created using two VCRs and cassette players with adjustable speed allowing precise synchronization of picture and sound. Of course, with the use of computers, I can do this more accurately and faster. To this day, I am using modified VHS recording techniques in post-production. No plug-in gives you 100% simulation of certain distortions, which could also be precisely controlled.
Synchronization is a natural thing for me. When editing, I adapt the image to the graphical representation of the sound wave. There’s no art in it. It’s just time consuming. I realize that this may be discouraging, since you know that the viewer may not care about it at all and fast forward the video straight to the ejaculation scene. The trick is to create the impression of a whole. Nobody rewinds the video of one’s favorite band.
I’ve noticed a theme of anonymity in a lot of your work. What I mean is that you often obstruct the eyes or entire face of a female model. From what I can see, the man’s identity is never revealed at all. He is often seen in full body, industrial outfits. The only skin we see is his cock. Is there an aesthetic or ideological reason behind this?
There is no ideology. Only aesthetic and practical issues. By not showing my face, I can become someone else every time. I try to diversify my participation in each production as much as possible.
I don’t want to create the stereotype functioning in the porn industry: create an actor X. To cause a situation in which people only watch a movie to see a particular cock and face. This is a secondary matter. This is the fundamental difference between IF and alt porn, where in addition to the characteristic morphology, actors are identified by tattoos or distinctive hairstyle. The character in the movie is no different than the person playing it. The actors can’t remove their “costume.”
When we work with someone who has tattoos, we either cover them, or if they fit stylistically to the narrative, we expose them. That also increases their value. They make the character unique.
It’s fun when you manage to uncover these characteristics in parts. The viewer has the extra fun discovering that this “strange” character is someone they know from other roles.
I’m irritated by all the making faces for the camera. Smiles, exposed tongues, exalted ecstasy. After a while, you get the feeling that you keep watching the same movie. The only difference is who puts what where, and to whom. Maybe I expect too much, but there is hardly any alternative to the usual porn.
My friend, Proxy Paige, told me that you view your work as feminist. Is this true? If so, can you explain why?
Ha ha. Too much said, but about 70% of our customers are women. Maybe it’s the male role, reduced to a protruding piece of meat.
On the other hand, ejaculating on a woman’s face is still something that feminists consider a humiliation of women in porn iconography. And that is something we show in most of our movies. I do not suggest the gender to which I direct the movie. I turn to one’s aesthetic sensibilities, and this is independent of whether a person is male or female.
How long does it typically take you to produce a movie for Inside Flesh?
It depends on the project. CARNAL FLUIDITY was produced within a year. From the moment we shot the first episode of the POSSESSIONS series to the dvd release, four years have passed.
At the beginning, I always assume the most optimistic version (i.e about half a year for editing). Sometimes I get stuck at one element of post-production and it takes me two weeks to finish one minute of video. The last short film, 16 FLOORS, I edited (including soundtrack) in a week. Work on the set also looks different every time. Filming a scene usually looks like a registration of performance. I work with multiple cameras at the same time. The more, the better.
Do you consume pornography outside of your work? If so, does this have anything to do with your process with Inside Flesh?
Less and less. My fetish in pornography is the film material itself. I could even enjoy watching Japanese girls vomit on each other if the video was shot, edited, and accompanied by sound in an interesting way. For example, with the use of an endoscope camera. In the race of what can be shown, it’s been forgotten how many ways there are to show it. If you are using the moving image, I assume that you have an idea for it. Watching regular recordings actually bores me, because it always loses touch with real life and real emotions. Today’s porn is like fast food: fast produced, fast consumed.
What are some of your influences in the film/music/art world?
I could talk about it for hours. Maybe I’ll focus on the things I haven’t mentioned so far (if I remember correctly). At the moment, I’m most inspired by music, which evolves in amazing ways. What inspires me most is the fact that some artists are able to produce at such a rate without loss of quality.
I’m searching everywhere. In the U.S., there’s a huge witch house scene, which I think is incredibly sensual music (I’m not a fan myself). You won’t find porn with this kind of soundtrack. It’s the same with noise and dark ambient.
It’s a strange thing because there are a couple of interesting projects being created, as well some twisted s&m images. But if I hear noise, I expect adequate thought about the image. Filming with an old VHS camcorder is not enough to call it video noise. Glitch art is experiencing a second youth. But I do not see any relation between them. Artists close themselves in their own ghettos, and after some time, they start eating each other. The scene fades.
I dream about productions of independent cinema combining video art, pornography, and sci-fi. Something like Cunningham’s “Flex” or Caro’s “Exercise of Steel.”
In the mainstream, this year I was most impressed by the remake of “Maniac” (visually, because the original I think had a better story), and “Only God forgives” by Refn. In both cases the sound, image and editing are a masterpiece.
What do you have coming up next? Is there anything you want to plug?
I have way more ideas than time. I could edit one short video every week. I have enough footage in my archives for a few months, but the priority for me right now is SUKA OFF – new performance and update of online resources. Slowly, I start the editing of BLACK LAB, a new production of IF. In the meantime, there will probably be some new shorts and limited editions.
Check out Inside Flesh at:
Piotr and Sylvia of Inside Flesh will be coming to the US this October 2013.
15-17 Oct — performance art workshops at Defibrillator Gallery in Chicago
18 Oct — performance at Defibrillator Gallery in Chicago
25 Oct — performance at Grace Exhibition Space in NY
27 Oct — performance at Queer New York International Arts Festival.