Ass Backwards


In the current issue of Artforum there’s a two-page ad with a close-up color photograph of a woman’s bare behind. On the next page there’s an essay about it, titled “Totally My Ass,” by the woman whose behind it is, Centre Pompidou curator Alison M. Gingeras. The picture, by Piotr Uklanski, is a sort of Prada ad by way of Andres Serrano. The essay exudes all-knowing irony. Gingeras writes, “I am slightly bending over, flashing my ass to the camera as if begging for a good smack”; points out that Uklanski paid for these pages himself (I’m guessing close to $15,000); and claims that the image “confronts the projection of taboo.” She neglects to mention that she and Uklanski are lovers, although she does gush about his artistic brilliance.

What’s striking about this whole tiresome enterprise is not the brazenness of the picture (which is quite mild and lacks any élan), but the brazen disingenuousness of the essay.

Uklanski is a good, uneven artist; Gingeras a promising curator. But this self-love fest is little more than smug pillow talk, an inane way of saying, “My boyfriend’s a genius” and “My girlfriend’s got a nice ass.” It’s not breaking any rules, it’s playing by them. When Lynda Benglis attacked the macho image of the artist by posing naked with a dildo in Artforum (November 1974), Annette Michelson and Rosalind Krauss (who called the picture “vulgar,” “disgusting,” and “the last straw”) resigned from the magazine. When Jeff Koons took out self-promoting ads in 1988, he was shunned. Uklanski and Gingeras aren’t being transgressive or subversive, they’re pandering, and celebrating insiderness, advertising, and the powers that be. They’re like the needy narcissists who date on national TV. The whole phony spread is a last gasp of late-’90s hype. Someday Uklanski and Gingeras will understand what Whoopi Goldberg meant when she said, “My ass is stalking me.”