Masturbation Explored By Visual Artists At The Freud Museum

The Freud Museum in North London is presenting an exhibition exploring the topic of Masturbation. Solitary Pleasures is a group exhibition that investigates this significant topic in Freudian and post-Freudian psychoanalysis, sexuality, and eroticism.

“We are all agreed on one thing – that the subject of masturbation is quite inexhaustible.” – Sigmund Freud

The exhibition includes work by Shannon Bell, VALIE EXPORT, Chantal Faust, Antony Gormley, Jordan McKenzie, Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens, Emma Talbot, and Michelle Williams Gamaker. Together, they tell the human story, both ancient and modern, of our complex sexual, erotic, and intimate encounters with ourselves and others by way of masturbation as an all-inclusive – gay, lesbian, heterosexual, bisexual, trans, queer, + – practice.

Sigmund Freud famously described masturbation as the first or ‘primal’ addiction. Solitary Pleasures interrogates and investigates masturbation, and the eroticism, desire, and gratification associated with it, not just as an isolated or solitary ‘vice’, but as a pleasure that is mutual; shared between couples, lovers, and strangers in ways that redefine erotic possibilities.

Solitary Pleasures makes manifest, extends, and challenges pre-Freudian, Freudian, and post-Freudian concepts surrounding the theme, The exhibition draws on the history of masturbation, both explicitly and implicitly, in which this ‘solitary pleasure’ has been considered as a disorder, as ‘unnatural’, ‘unhealthy’, and as a violation of the moral law; yet conversely it is seen as a vital force, as a creative and magical act, and as ‘normal’ and ‘healthy’.

Graphic, material, and embodied; joyful and ejaculatory; comforting and confrontational; sensuous and inhuman; theatrical and performative; parodic and heart-wrenching – this exhibition exposes and explores masturbation as a topic that can transform our understanding of the human subject, human subjectivity, and human sexuality.

Ultimately, this exhibition aims to celebrate masturbation as a ‘solitary pleasure’, as opposed to a ‘solitary vice’, as a pleasure that is universal and particular, collective and individual, and that is mutual; a shared exchange, an intimate encounter.

Solitary Pleasures challenges social taboos and contributes to the arts, sex education, and sexual health and wellbeing agenda by generating original, wide-ranging dialogues on this topic central to gender, sexuality, eroticism and mental health.

Solitary Pleasures Curated by Marquard Smith Freud Museum London 18 April -13 May 2018

Top Photo: Chantal Faust, Float, 2003-2018 Courtesy Freud Museum

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