Know It When I See It...$ (Uncensored Einstein to Uncensored Bork)
Armed with inspiration in the
form of Walter Kendrick's, The Secret Museum and Walker Percy's
Message in the Bottle, books dealing with the history of pornography,
its suppression, and the nature of language and man, Lawless
created a complex, multimedia installation at SPACES (Cleveland, Ohio),
a key work in the Uncensored exhibit in 1987. Although smaller than
Lightning this work confronted many of the same issues, resurrected
the offending "images" and incorporated video technology.
From the title down to the sources
for the video clips, Lawless rips political statements out of their contexts
and illuminates them with biting irony. Judge Potter Stewart's infamous
inadequte definition of pornography forms the title. Passages from the
Meese 1986 Commission on Pornography lifted verbatim from banned films
and books were used--titillating material, considering it is a goverment
document. A Mozart string quartet and quotes from Einstein and Susan Sontag
were also included on scrolling text. Lawless juxtaposes the "safest, most
conservative music--that of Mozart--with scenes from The Devil and Miss
Jones, and comments on the frequent censorship in art as compared to
music and science.
Framing the video monitors was
a wall of manufactured political posters slaped up repetively with graffiti,
and superimposed on what was a timed sequence of the same neon penis figure
stepping up to a podium to direct the proceedings. Although much of the
work is tongue-in-cheek, it addresses the issue of censorship, tries to
define the weird line between pornography and art, and wrestles with the
urge for communication under government suppression.
Amy Sparks, 1989
Ms. Sparks is a writer and poet, living in Cleveland, Ohio.