I was just thinking that this blog may need a man, a male presence, or a male subject. Some people had already pointed it out to me and yes I agreed time to look for a male. I had already met Gerrie Lim a couple of times and knew that he had written several ground-breaking books about the porn and sex industries in LA and Singapore. Lim was born in Singapore but lived in Los Angeles for many years, where he wrote columns and articles about pornography, sex work, music & celebrity branding. He recently had moved to Hong Kong and we were introduced to each other by ex-TimeOut-journo Bourree Lam, who probably figured we were two curious spirits in the porn zone. Yes it can be lonely in that zone. I bought and read Lim’s books Invisible Trade: High Class Sex for Sale in Singapore (Monsoon Books, 2004) and In Lust we Trust: Adventures in Adult Cinema (Monsoon Books, 2006) and was very impressed. I recommend them highly as they are very pleasant and unusual at the same time. I am actually amazed by the amount of genuine and sex-positive information and compelling stories he has been able to pull from these different women. I personally prefer the book about escorts in Singapore because I could relate better to the stories about non-celebrities and their hidden affairs, maybe because this book is more critical of the Confucian orthodoxies that at times make me miserable in Hong Kong. Both books did an amazing job representing the everyday lives and aspirations of women involved in sex industries. Then recently he published Absolute Mayhem: Confessions of an Aussie Porn Star, (Random House, 2009) which is a memoir about his friend Monica Mayhem written in the first-person from her point of view.
I met with Lim a few weeks ago in an almost deserted pizza place in Times Square. We had a big booth all to ourselves and talked for several hours. He showed me a column that he had written for the magazine Penthouse Variations and a photography album of himself with different famous porn stars: including Asia Carrera, Monica Mayhem, and Nina Hartley. After 30 minutes or so into the conversation, I asked Gerrie why he spent so much time interviewing and adoring with sex workers. He told me that there were two answers to this question. The first asnswer was that the female voice is obviously underrepresented in most literature about sex workers. The second answer was that he thought he himself had been a famous Venetian courtesan in one of his previous lives. He also told me that he believed that I had a strong male presence and that this was maybe one of the reasons for us getting along. At that moment it was hard to steer the interview. My gender morphing ghost had been quiet for quite a while but they then felt like coming out of the box. I was affected by his declaration right there and understood that he had really captured the intimate lives of his sex workers, maybe like nobody had done it before. We talked on and on and were indeed morphing while exploring this new ground between us.
He wrote me a few days ago and asked me to read an article by the famous sex blogger Violet Blue about women and pornography. I wrote back that I don’t believe in pornography for women but I like the concept of cross-voyeurism. I like to morph into different genders and viewing positions while peeking into the habits and tastes of others–other genders, other orientations, other fads. I belong to the Internet and like to eavesdrop on people and then depart. I like to enter domains that would be traditionally closed to me. He answered that he is likes that too and would like to talk more about the concept of cross-voyeurism. He then asked me how I would try that explain that concept in a “strictly Chinese” context.
Well, let’s see where we would go next with that, Gerrie Lim, my lewd sister, my demon brother!
Siu Ding agreed to be interviewed on January 10 in my small apartment with view onto the grand city. I try to understand people’s personalities by the way they go stand on my balcony and the awe they receive. Siu Ding immediately spent some time there and took a range of pictures with her polaroid camera.
(Photo by Siu Ding)
She was accompanied by her collaborator Ada Hung who would speak for her whenever there was a 2 or 3 second silence. I asked Siu Ding if we could meet more then once, explaining that I might need more than one session to interview her. She replied on the phone that three sessions would be fine as well. She seems to understand how these things go. Siu Ding and Ada Hung walked into the apartment and took some time to check out my home space environment and all its intimate objects, paying detail to my dolls from various stages of real and fake childhood. Both Siu Ding and Ada seemed to like my Belgian dolls. They are two home-knit country-style boys with their hands in their pockets. They are usually ignored by visitors because they are a bit out of fashion but they were actually made by a couple of friends of my grandmother.
After we had dumplings with leek and pork, and Shanghai-style beef on fat transparent rice noodles, I started the interview about her work as an artists and erotic activist. She showed me a little flipbook that she had made during one of her art exhibitions at the Shek Kip Mei arts residency. It shows Siu Ding in a gallery surrounded by her many portraits and slowly taking off her bra. It is one of the most delicious books that I have ever seen. I asked her why she likes to takes off her bra, as I had seen many (self) portraits showing her breasts, and she answered that she actually takes off anything she likes.
She likes to be nude or half-nude and she likes the post-industrial Hong Kong architecture as her artistic backdrop. In another serious of photographs, she is filmed totally nude in front of the many buildings (22) that she has lived in since childhood. It is an ambitious yet warm space that she creates in this project entitled ’22 Morning Street’, where she is cast as a tiny and almost invisible figurine who streaks and poses in front of morphing urban sceneries.
Siu Ding reached her full digital fame when she acted in the nude for a music video by the local indie band Forever Tarkovsky Club. During the time of this video in december 2008, there was a rumour going around the city that this indie band would actually organize a half-naked christmas party in Foo Tak building in Wanchai. A journalist reported the rumor to the police and the party got cancelled in advance.
We talked about this incident and many topics related to art, nudity, Internet culture and erotic activism. What I remember today are her comments about what it means to receive support and feedback from Internet users. It is of course always pleasant to be discovered and receive out-of-bounds comments, but what counts even more is the sincere and forceful gestures that feed you but could not be spoken out loud. Of course some comments would be exactly the opposite as people just pay lip service to the latest fad, but overall many commentators do grab the opportunity to say something sweet&special while remaining at a distance. It is so powerful then to develop a personality based on these meaningful whispers of others that could scarcily be recognized in the material world. As always, the point of a good friendship or rich event (or a memorable fuck) is to try to capture these gestures into another space. This is not a nostlagic vision that favors the real parties of the past with their unique smells and colors, but wants to go forward. It is about taking our new feedback friends into new liminal zones of deep touch and embrace. Yes, feeling it in the second week of 2010, with all its promises of swan song and deep changes, I know now that it is possible.
Venus is a student at Hong Kong University and was introduced to me by our common friend Shyla. First Venus started helping me with my research and generally showed enthusiasm for my projects and personality. Now we have evolved and can chat with each other in the dark morning hours or late at night, and sometimes even in the French language. We use each other as willing subjects and objects of our research. Venus wrote a paper about me for one of her classes. Now I am writing about Venus in my new book about pornography and Internet culture.
(photo by Atomzi)
And several weeks ago, Venus invited people to write all over her school uniform in a performance art piece which took place during the opening of the exhibition ExtraordinaryDresscode:::The Rest of Us. She was wearing a traditional Chinese school uniform (Cheongsam style) and acted like a bored schoolgirl waiting to be distracted. She walked around in the gallery and convinced people to write messages on her uniform. We had thought out this concept together and went shopping for the uniform. It was challenging for us to deal with the personnel inside the school uniform store, as they could sense that I was not a real mom and they were afraid we would use the uniform to “party.” We were surrounded by hundreds of real moms who would swiftly give their instructions about their specific schools, sizes, and cuts (each school has a different uniform), then the moms would collect their kids’ uniforms and then get the hell out of there. I wanted to get a uniform for Venus as well and finally we convinced the personnel to sell us the blue cheongsam-style school uniform that Venus used to wear in high school.
The last time we met again was during my interview of Venus for my new book, where we chatted again for several hours until the digital tape recorder ran out of memory. We went out to eat pizza and Venus suddenly tackled the the topic of age gap–concrete stories about her love for the much younger and the much older. And some level-headed analysis about these these concrete instances of a somewhat lopsided desire. And then we agreed there was something amazing about it all as she ran off to catch her yoga class.
(photo by katrien)