Prune Nourry presented her new project Genesis for the first time at the historic Casino Venier in conjunction with the 2013 Venice Biennale. For the occasion, the artist explores the complicated themes of gender and sexual identity. Travelling through time, from the myth of creation, to a permissive Classical antiquity, the Baroque libertines, and today’s exploding porn industry, Prune collaborates with performers, animating sculpture and examining the relationship between religion and sexuality.
It is the site of the Casino Vernier itself that inspired Prune’s June 15 peculiar event. The word “casino” describes a 18th-century intimate house of games and pleasures, and is now also Italian slang for brothel. Prune had been studying the question of sexuality and gender through science and in our customs for some time now. As a result, the invitation of the Alliance Francaise to present her work in a venue with such a loaded history seemed like the perfect opportunity to develop these themes. Italy being the land of the Pope - with Catholicism embedded in the traditions - Prune decided to highlight the rapport between sexuality and religion.
Aiming to touch upon sensitive subjects, inviting her viewer to question rather than shocking him, Prune always tries to subtly infiltrate the local culture through a familiar symbol, which she appropriates through humor, hence the focus on detail and the choice of offering the audience chocolate nipples, molded off the artist, in ciboriums (Eucharist dishes). Holy Water blessed by the artist is also served throughout the evening as the Italian version of “eau de vie”, or grappa.
Prune explores a wide range of mediums. Genesis shows her interest in video and dance, as well as culinary skill, though sculpture remains her “spine”, as she describes it. The idea of merging dance and sculpture is reflected in the Adam and Eve videos that also delve into the concept of creation. Similarly to God giving life to Adam in a touch in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, Prune gives life to her sculptures and has Adam sculpting himself with white clay, and becomig alive. Pushing the idea of sculpture explored through a bidimensional medium, Prune also plays with the technique of re-projection, creating a mystery image, only to be revealed at the end.
She wears the magician hat again in the Eve video, in which the dancer leaves intriguing body marks with water that recall Yves Klein’s anthropometry. The female dancer is sensuous, but simultaneously almost seems androgynous. The idea that human gender and sexuality should be studied as a spectrum rather than a restrictive binary categorization has only began resurging in the 20th century after centuries of repressing humans’ complex nature. In a society that is only beginning to accept homosexuality today, the larger than expected, intersex population is still forced to make a choice between male and female.
In the same way that our society finds it difficult to accept “abnormal” traits, there is a clear contrast in sex between what “we want” and what is “allowed”. The majority of movies watched in the US are pornographic; yet, it is forbidden to show nipples publically. For the church, sex is sacred creation, yet the act itself is frowned upon. Taking these aspects into consideration, Prune invited the ex pornstar and aerial performer Katsuni for a live pole dance inspired by Baroque sculpture on classical music of the period. She mixes old and new, conservative and liberal, yet again, inviting her audience to question our accepted customs.