Cunts The Movie (working title) is inspired by the electric and unpredictable responses that both the word and the imagery of ‘cunts’ evoke from people. While charting the public reception of the sculptural exhibition ‘CUNTS and Other Conversations’, the documentary delves into contemporary and historical attitudes toward female genitals and the language that is used to refer them.
CUNTS the exhibition
The catalyst is a sculptural exhibition of women’s genitalia by Melbourne artist Greg Taylor. Taylor’s efforts to honour what he calls ‘the face of humanity’ transforms the lives of his female models but provokes controversy once publicly launched.
Taylor’s gender and subject matter inspire curiosity from all quarters and the preview exhibition in Melbourne 2008 and full exhibition in Adelaide 2009 provoked censorship and controversy.
Poster ban and radio documentary
After initial disinterest in what I hastily judged was a 1970′s style literal sculptural exhibition of body parts by a voyeurising male artist, I was inspired to visit the preview exhibition in Melbourne after I saw the street posters promoting the exhibition – A2 sized posters featuring nine of the sculptures with the word ‘CUNTS’ in pink ‘never mind the bollocks’ style font – and heard that the posters were being taken down by the local council.
Over a hundred, porcelain life sized sculptures were displayed at eye level and revealed the incredible diversity of women’s genitalia. As one viewer phrased it, ‘all different, like snowflakes’. What I felt, to my surprise, was awe. After producing a ten minute radio documentary for 3CR Radio I decided to make a film documentary with fellow filmmakers Suze Houghton and Adis Hondo.
Cunts The Movie engages with many people’s ambivalent feelings about female genitals. The audience is taken on a journey as the artist and his models engage with what is usually censored, vilified or silenced.
The female sitters recall the controversy that the initial exhibition attracted, the excitement at the opening night of the exhibition – an ‘invitation to sitters only’ which ‘felt like a revolution’. Audiences streamed in – especially young people, female and male. On hand at the gallery throughout was the artist who engaged passionately with visitors about society’s taboos around women’s sexuality and the word ‘cunt’. Viewers commented at the uniqueness of this display of women’s genitalia and how liberating it felt to see it.
Taylor pinpoints what upset some people and the crux of his mission: “It’s all about the word,” he says. “Why is it that in our culture the most vile and disgusting thing is perceived to be a cunt?”
Are women’s genitals seen by society at large today as unmentionable and/or unpleasant? And if so, why? And why do most women find the English language so inadequate when it comes to referring to their intimate parts?
New Zealand academic and researcher Virginia Braun talks of the persistent negative representations of women’s genitalia while interviews with sex educators in schools, surgeons carrying out cosmetic female genital surgery, beauticians and sex workers reveal the complexity of contemporary attitudes to women’s genitalia.
The audience is invited to question the paradox that is women’s genitalia in our society. Half of humanity has one yet so many women, and men, live without intimate awareness and knowledge of them.