Gallerie La Petite Mort on the edge of the Byward Market for showcasing subversive and often sexually charged artwork from both local and international artists. ‘Lost Femininities’ is one such collection by Berlin-based artist Exilentia Exiff.
Fascinated by norms connected with gender and age, Exiff explores the boundaries of beauty and age in terms of sexuality by asking why a young female naked body is acceptable and a picture of an old woman in a sexual pose violates the standards of society. She frames the exhibition with the question: What is self-dignity?
“My first impression of the pieces was of slight shock,” says Ben Derksen, a third-year history and political science student at Carleton University. Working on an assignment for his History of Sexuality class, Derksen says that although he had read about the art before going to the gallery, “reading the description and seeing it in person are two very different things.”
With his assignment first and foremost on his mind, Derksen was more analytical with his analysis of the works than most. Applying the works of social critics like Michel Foucault and Jeffrey Weeks the photos at Petite Mort, Derksen says that the definition of sexuality is narrow-minded.
“I think people have a very clean cut idea of what sexuality is.”
Derksen says that within a traditional, North American mindset, “the elderly, larger men [in the photographs], especially those in makeup…are seen as either asexual or sexual deviants.”
Since choosing to engage or appear to engage in sexual acts depicted in the photos might be offensive to someone who is not all that open-minded, Derksen says that the gallery’s reputation for scandalous still stands.
“After the initial shock subsided, I settled in to the viewing experience. That said, I come from an entire generation that is pretty hard to shock.”