JUDITH BERNSTEIN: One Dick at a Time

Dicks are everywhere. They have dominated architecture from ancient columns to modernist skyscrapers, are symbolized by lightsabers in sci-fi movies, and are writhing in the chained up deodorant bottle of a Rexona ad – “Twice the power, it won’t let you down.” But for all the phallic symbolism that surrounds us in our everyday lives, intended to manipulate our desire for a product, a protagonist, a partner, or property, the real thing is rarely exposed to the public eye. For something pulsating with so much projective force, tied so closely to ego and status, the dick also holds the power to crush self-esteem. The penis is integral to many male neuroses.

74 year old artist Judith Bernstein has no qualms about her cocks. As she has noted many times, hers are bigger anyway. Her most famous work, entitled Horizontal, measures 9 x 26 feet and is a hybrid between a dick and a screw, two pieces of hardware that perform the same function: screwing. But when Horizontal was first shown to the world in 1973, the only person who got screwed was Bernstein. The curators censored the work out of the show and sent her off into art historical oblivion for the next few decades. In alignment with the fate of many artists – who happened to be women – Bernstein took on teaching gigs to pay the bills and kept producing work from her home studio. In footage of her painting in her studio, Bernstein radiates with joy. The pleasure with which she paints her massive, fragile, veiny cocks translates directly to the viewer. It debunks the widespread myth of the feminist as an ultra-earnest killjoy and instead lets her work appear playful, even tender.

Judith Bernstein in her studio, standing with two of her dicks (1973)

Judith Bernstein in her studio, standing with two of her dicks (1973)

Dicks of Death surveys Bernstein’s decades of dick paintings. It is the ultimate book of dick pics, showcasing a body of work that is as pleasurable as it is intensely political. Bernstein used the image of the phallus to protest the Vietnam War in her early work, succinctly lampooning the violent
and gendered nature of American patriotism. Over the decades, her approach to dicks has changed concurrently with that of society as a whole. For example, her more recent works – which also include cunt paintings – use genitalia as a stand-in for questions surrounding identity. With discrimination and violence based on gender and sexuality still rampant, 2016 does however offer more visibility to those who fall outside the magic circle of cis, straight, white men who have dominated all industries in the Western world and its colonies for centuries – except for housework and emotional labor. People know what “cis” means now. There is a budding understanding that the gender binary might be a faulty concept, that a spectrum of identity positions to choose from might be liberating for us as a people.

Birth of the Universe #4 (Space, Time and Infinity), 2012

Birth of the Universe #4 (Space, Time and Infinity), 2012

Bernstein possesses the defining qualities of those whom we call progressive: a thirst for knowledge, a willingness to learn. She might have started out painting dicks as a critique of pervasive machismo, masculine aggression, and warfare, but her work as a whole is of a more generous nature. Knowing that genitals do not determine gender, the collective struggle for equality looks quite different today. Bernstein’s inclination to never not complicate things is what keeps her practice relevant. Her work seems to wink at its beholder: This could be us, if only you were playing.

 

Dicks of Death is published by Edition Patrick Frey (Zurich, 2016).

Edition Patrick Frey 1
Judith Bernstein
Dicks of Death

Published in

Issue #31 — Winter 2016/2017HELMUT LANG

Issue # 31 — Winter 2016/2017

From 1986 to 2005, Helmut Lang systematically deconstructed every assumption about clothing and the way it is worn and communicated. As he himself once said, “I kept all the traditions and shades that were good — and then re-thought it all.” The Austrian designer’s lists of “firsts” is so long it could double as conceptual art. Lang was one of the first designers to collaborate with visual artists. The first to show clothing for men and women in a single presentation. The first to pioneer backstage photography as we know it today with Juergen Teller. The first to move a fashion house across the Atlantic … and the list goes on. In a 48-page dossier, 032c Issue 31 explores THE HELMUT LANG LEGACY and how his abrupt exit from the industry in 2005 has been felt like phantom limb in the world of fashion. The comprehensive study features essays by Ingeborg Harms and Ulf Poschardt, a roundtable with Tim Blanks, Olivier Saillard, and Neville Wakefield, an interview with Lang himself, as well as rare material from the Helmut Lang archive.

Is Calabasas the new Abu Dhabi? Are the Californian suburbs the perfect place for new energy experiments in modern apparel? In an editorial shot by MERT & MARCUS and conceptualized by KANYE WEST, 032c travels to the Los Angeles exurb of Calabasas to bathe in the dust of the Wests’ under-construction home designed by Axel Vervoordt. The shoot features cameos by KIM KARDASHIAN WEST, KHLOÉ KARDASHIAN, AMINA BLUE, TRAVIS SCOTT, and others.

“At the time we started collaborating, everything in the world of art and fashion was polished. Everything was smooth, so we felt that Prada must be rough.” For the past decade, a windowless concrete hall at the PRADA headquarters has become an architectural gymnasium for REM KOOLHAAS and his firm OMA/AMO. Traveling from Rotterdam to Milan, architecture critic Jack Self examines the phenomenon of the firm’s catwalks for the Italian mega-house, exploring how Prada and OMA/AMO have teamed up to create the foundation of a new corporate aesthetic.

“You fuck. Or you don’t fuck. You can’t fuck a little.” In a 2012 reportage, writer Alexander Gorkow and photographer Andreas Mühe followed RAMMSTEIN on their tour of America. Since then, our private obsession with this document has become a matter of political urgency. What was once the anti-capitalist spectacle of an East German rock band in 2012, now reads like a seismograph for the right-wing political landscape of 2016. Here, we witness ideology’s opposite: raw energy unhinged from the burden of truth.

As our contemporary economy grows to demand CREATIVITY from all of its citizens, it has become increasingly unclear exactly what “creativity” is. In a double-feature illustrated by the Japanese photographer Kenta Cobayashi, Joachim Bessing speaks with Wolfgang Ullrich and Lars Vollmer on how society’s idea of a creative ethos has transformed within the digital revolution.

“People say this is vandalism.” 032c’s Bianca Heuser and photographer Nadine Fraczkowski take us inside ANNE IMHOF’s Angst, a grand and opaque artwork that has drifted across the world like a low-pressure system. Furnished with smoke machines, sleeping bags, razors, and bongs, the three-act immersive opera is a training camp for the denizens of hyper-capitalism.

Founded as sneaker blogs in 2005, HYPEBEAST and HIGHSNOBIETY have grown into large and disruptive forces in fashion. Simultaneously fuelling and gorging on a new generation’s appetite for content, they have set a rabid pace that has multinational brands following suit. Travelling up the feed and towards “the heart of content,” 032c’s Thom Bettridge and photographer Lukas Wassmann visit the companies’ respective HQs in Hong Kong and Berlin to suss out what this revolution spells for the landscape of media at large.

In the “SSENSE Files,” we present scenes of cross-platform madness from our work at ssense.com. The section features seven interviews with a range of cultural producers from rappers LIL YACHTY and SCHOOLBOY Q to jewelry designer GAIA REPOSSI, stylist ANDREW RICHARDSON, author NATASHA STAGG, artist SIMON DENNY, and artist/musician FATIMA AL QADIRI.

In our fashion section, WILLY VANDERPERRE and OLIVIER RIZZO shoot Clara 3000 in the editorial “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” GOSHA RUBCHINSKIY and 032c fashion director Mel Ottenberg team up for the ultimate study on Seinfeld-chic, while PIERRE DEBUSSCHERE and 032c fashion editor Marc Goehring vaporize Flemish baroque into a warped digital reality.

This issue, we also proudly introduce our “BERLIN REVIEW,” a section dedicated to our favorite printed matter of the season.

All this and more on 296 pages!