Provocative Pleasure exhibition at RMIT Gallery set to intrigue

2 December 2019


Pleasure opening crowd

Jenny Bannister and Lia Tabrah

Best outfit winners!

Secret Judges


From embellishment and exaggeration, to examinations of identity, gender and desire, the new exhibition Pleasure presents the work of a diverse group of 48 artists who use the body as a personal, provocative and at times political canvas from the flamboyant 1980s to contemporary times.

Curated by Julian Goddard, Helen Rayment and Evelyn Tsitas, Pleasure challenges our ideas about the nature of pleasure, and how our bodies give, receive and rejoice in pleasure.

Pleasure opened on 28 November with a large Pleasure Party, featuring DJ Dom Hogan and VJ Mandala, as well as flash performances by RMIT hip hop dance group The Funkadelics, performances by artists Ciara Murphy in her 80 kg nail suit and GunShy’s activation of their work in the Pleasure Plus room. Many of the works in Pleasure are highly erotic or graphic in their content, depicting sexuality through an alternative lens to mainstream representations. Pleasure after all is a subjective joy, with author Jane Austen once observing ‘one half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.’

While people tend not to talk openly about their desires and fetishes, the exhibition’s ‘Pleasure Plus’ room celebrates nuanced perspectives usually silenced in the world of online pornographic culture. Goddard said that Pleasure foregrounds the work of artists motivated to challenge the banalities of late capitalist society by constructing interventions that lift our spirits, produce wonder and make us laugh.

“Prepare to be surprised, delighted, and depending on your sensibilities, a little shocked. Pleasure seeks to embrace frivolity, contradictions and minor perversities.”

The Pleasure exhibition was developed in response to the enormous public interest in the transformed human form revealed in RMIT Gallery’s popular 2018 exhibition, My Monster: The Human Animal Hybrid. “We realised audiences had a strong desire to see intriguing artwork that reflected their own fantasies and anxieties about what it means to be human,” Tsitas said.

Pleasure celebrates artwork that explores diverse sexualities and the disruption of gender and bodily boundaries.”

Works include:

GunShy’s (Katherine Jamieson) film and fashion mixed media installation that is a tongue in cheek, contemporary, psychedelic, psycho-sexual journey.

Nick Chilvers’ Puff Piece II (the Enablers), where fashion and sportswear branding overlap with the cultures of pleasure, risk, sexuality, and Queer sub-cultural identity.

Ciara Murphy’s 80 kilo nail suit, exploring the pleasure of work.

VERMIN (Lia Tabrah and Jenny Bannister) transforming the grotesque into luxury couture with punk cane toad fashion.

Judith Glover’s ceramic hand-made dildos and bespoke bento boxes celebrating slow sexual ritual.

Xylouris White’s music video by the Cretan lute player George Xylouris and Australian drummer Jim White, reminding us that the pleasure of dance is universal and ageless.

Gerwyn Davies’ highly contrived photographic works that feature playful self-transformation and invoke the parody, artifice and excess of a Camp sensibility.

John Pastoriza-Piñol’s series of drawings that document the Melbourne gay leather scene, with its strict aesthetic and social codes of conduct.

Kate Durham’s large sculptural costume for performer Moira Finucane reminding us of the pleasure in dressing up, and the momentary pleasure to be gained from transforming our identity through what we wear.

Artist Kate Durham advises “l think we should pursue pleasure more than we do, we should wear it, eat it, ride it, bathe in it, sip on it, gorge on it, experience it, even to excess: sometimes grateful that we can; we are not yet deprived, drought-driven or drowned… not yet. Pleasure is delightful, pleasure is essential, but ephemeral.  Seek it; take it; and give it when you can.”

Pleasure, RMIT Gallery, 29 November – 7 March 2020.


Photos: Margund Sallowsky