The Demented Goddess (DG): Marne, you are widely recognised as a pioneer of infra-red film making. In your cult film, The Operation (1995), showing at UNCENSORED FESTIVAL in London, May 2019, you play a surgeon who displays her skills at making love upon her patient, probing beneath the skin. How has your transformation of humans into fleshy vessels of pulsing and dying light affected the way you view a sexual encounter?
I use infrared technology in experimental videos and photographs for its surreal, eerie aesthetic; thermal imaging shows surface temperature changes happening in the body or objects, so heat appears white and cold areas are black. The viewer experiences the literal glow from the human body, demonstrating the idea that we are made of ancient star matter, that we are beings of light!
I think about the energy that is exchanged between people during sex. For me it feels almost psychedelic, like time travel. In this state my body seems to dissipate and consciousness goes where it wants to.
Having made an erotic film (with collaborator Jacob Pander) made me keenly aware of my sexuality and deepened my fascination with the body. I didn’t think I’d ever be in an erotic art film, but it was life-changing to have done so. It made me more of a feminist. I support sex workers rights, I believe in self-expression, in having agency over one’s own body, and intimacy without shame. After making THE OPERATION, I began photographing nudes and pin-up style portraits of myself ‘MLSP series’ and of women and men. I put people at ease, my sitters and I become collaborators, experiencing an intimate trust during the shoot that can be very bonding.
DG: Our Editor, Soma Ghosh, was the first performer to use the word ‘cunt’ at The Hay Festival in the UK. We’d like to reclaim it for women, from derogatory use. By naming yourself CuntemporaryArtist and with your new cunty photos, premiering at the Every Woman Biennial -New York, May 19-29th, how do you feel about the word, ‘cunt’ compared to ‘pussy’?
In the past I was more comfortable with pussy, I felt that cunt was a menacing insult used by mostly men towards women. After 20+ years as a working artist, I made a conscious decision to start using “cunt” in my work as a direct response to the unfair slut-shaming I’ve experienced since I made THE OPERATION in 1995. My collaborator’s career was stimulated by the attention our film garnered, but I was slut-shamed and shunned by the art world for many years; for a film that we both made and participated in. My alias “CuntemporaryArtist” is just that, taking a shot at the male dominated art world and the patriarchy, and, calling out deep-rooted antifeminist attitudes that we women have also been conditioned to perpetuate. I love creating vernacular and I strongly believe that our language shapes us. For THE OPERATION I chose the alias Gina Velour because it sounds a bit like a play on “Vagina”. If women embrace this word, we indeed reclaim language that has historically been used against us.
DG: What are the greatest artistic challenges when exploring the cunt?
The idea or representation of the cunt /cave/slit/tunnel ought to provide a warm, welcoming feeling since we all came out of our mother’s vagina! But we seem to be quite afraid of what might be inside the cave. Our culture reacts by shunning women’s bodies thus shaming our very existence.
Last year I started a humorous, text-based series of photographs titled “Cunning Stunts” as part of reclaiming the word CUNT. I’m inspired by artist Betty Tompkins use of text over her paintings, she’s successful in celebrating the feminine while pushing back anti-feminist rhetoric in our faces. I use 3-dimensional letters CUNT juxtaposed in various environments to startle the viewer by our associations with the word. Cunt is ultimately feminine and beautiful. The goal with using this word in my art and in naming myself CuntemporaryArtist is to take out the sting of shame that is directed at cis/trans women and non-binary folks.
DG: Culture remains largely silent about menopause, the one fact that happens to almost every woman with a cunt and womb. In your infra-red film, ‘Haute Flash’, showing in NYC and Italy this summer, a naked woman bathes ritually in the sea of an igneous bay.
Menopause, amid these lava-like rocks and surging waves, is presented in the film’s story as the breaking of mannequin-like femininity into the birth of a new energetic being. Can women feel fertile, post-menopause?
I made Haute Flash in response to my own journey through perimenopause and menopause. I wanted to make a positive message with art about the challenging hormonal transition that I experienced. I still have a lot of hot flashes! I shot the film with a thermal hunting rifle scope, the crosshairs are visible throughout the film, referencing the targeted feeling of sudden hot flashes and related symptoms. ‘Haute Flash’ was made specifically for Transitional States: Hormones at the Crossroads of Art and Science (2018) a touring video installation series in the U.K and Europe.
As I’m two years post-menopause and have no oestrogen, I felt alienated by my lack of cycles. I really missed ovulation and my sex drive had waned. A friend did a Tibetan Bowl sound healing on me with the intention set to cultivate more feminine energy. During the healing I felt a profound shift within my womb and a warming, energetic quivering feeling. This lasted for 3 weeks, I could feel my uterus again and felt more sensual than I had since menopause. I felt similar to how I did before I stopped having menstrual cycles.
I had no prior experience with sound healing and no expectations about what I might experience, but the session made me deeply aware of sound vibration as a positive healing force. Vibration is the movement of energy, and energy can’t be created nor destroyed, this is the basis of our universe, and I finally connected with this within my body.
So yes, if feminine energy is consciously tended to, and while it may feel differently post-menopause, it can’t be destroyed. My call to goddesses is embrace the feminine and take back our cunts!
Follow Marne Lucas Twitter @MarneLucas, Instagram @marnelucas
All images copyright Marne Lucas except where noted.
*May 17-19, 2019 HAUTE FLASH is part of The Psychedelic and Transpersonal Film and Music Festival NYC. May 30-June 2, 2019 HAUTE FLASH The CoSM Women’s Visionary Film Symposium, Wappinger Falls, NY.
*May 30-June 5, 2019 FEMeeting- Women in Art, Science and Technology, Lisbon and Milfontes, Portugal. Speaker, presenting my infrared video art.
June 6, 2019 ‘Transitional States’ video exhibition as part of FVG Gay Pride, Trieste, Italy. HAUTE FLASH
June 22, 2019 ‘Aliens’ curated by Dust to Dust, at High Desert Observatory. Color and infrared collaged photography.
July 27-Sept 14, 2019 INCIDENT ENERGY in ‘Other Suns’ a science fiction exhibition co-curated by Erin Coates and Jack Sargeant, partnership between Fremantle Arts Centre and Revelation Perth International Film Festival.