I can't define porno, but I know it when I want to see more of it
Date: Tue, 20 Dec 94 16:47:30 PST
Subject: I can't define porno, but I know it when I want to see more of it
Forwarded-by: "email@example.com" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Forwarded-By: jas@talking.COM (Jim Shankland)
Originally-From: The New Yorker
[XYZ, you may recall an article by Adam Gopnik that I sent you a few
years ago, reviewing Jeff Koons's "Made in Heaven" exhibition, which
consisted primarily of photographs of the artist making love with his
wife, the Italian porn star Ilona Staller. We can thank the New Yorker
for the following update.]
New York State Supreme Court Justice David B. Saxe, wearing his
traditional black robe and a dour expression, sat at the bench of his
darkened courtroom last week and watched a videotape of a woman having
sexual intercourse with a large black snake (tail first). Also viewing
the spectacle, from the witness stand, was the artist Jeff Koons, who had
something in common with the snake. The woman in the video was Koons's
estranged wife, Ilona Staller -- or, as she is better known, La Cicciolina
-- and the occasion for the screening was the couple's divorce and the
custody battle over their two-year-old son, Ludwig Maximilian Koons.
Staller, a Hungarian-born pornography star who once was elected to the
Italian Parliament, was not in the courtroom but back in Italy with
Ludwig, whom she had taken there earlier this year.
The trial proceeded anyway, and, like so much of the couple's life, it
was open to the public: anybody wandering around the courthouse could have
dropped in for the showing of scenes from "Banane al Cioccolato,"
"Honorable et Perverse Cicciolina," and "Carne Volente," three of six
tapes that, in keeping with the austere nature of the proceedings, had
been bound with a rubber band as "Exhibit 61."
Before the tapes were shown, Koons, wearing a modish blue suit and no tie,
testified for several hours about his three-year marriage. His words were
revealing, but in a new way. "To have a family based on Protestant values
was important to me," he said, sounding more alike an applicant for an
N.E.A. grant than like the radical artist he professes to be -- the artist
who, only three years ago, recorded his own explicit sexual adventures
with Staller in an infamous series of photographs, paintings, and
sculptures entitled "Made In Heaven." Koons explained that he had
pressured Staller to convert from Catholicism to Protestantism, and that
she had relented. Then he berated her pornographic work as "vile" and
"vulgar." Sounding downright Helmsian, he declared, "She'll do anything
to dismantle cultural mores."
Koons's attorney, Mark, H. Alcott, thought it time to "get a picture of
what's involved" in the dismantling of cultural mores, so he nodded to a
young associate, who cued up a VCR. Alcott warned the judge that the
material was "quite raw," prompting a general rearrangement of courtroom
spectators, all seeking a clear view of the screen. When everyone got
settled, the lights were extinguished.
Before each scene was shown, Koons, in an emotionless drone, read a short
synopsis of the tape: "Ilona goes into the crowd topless and bottomless
and lets members of the audience fondle her breasts and genitals." The
court watched La Cicciolina have sex with three men at once, to reggae.
On another tape, she had sex with a fat man in a field. A few motifs
began to establish themselves: a glass phallus, a Teddy bear. Then there
was the bit with the snake. "Holy smoke," someone muttered, and Judge
Saxe, who had been sitting impassively throughout the viewing, cast a
magisterial glance at Alcott. That was enough. As Koons was reading away
("Then she and the dog urinate on the floor"), Alcott again nodded to the
associate, and he turned off the television. A court officer rekindled
the lights, Judge Saxe called for a brief recess, and the court reporter
summoned Alcott. "How do you spell 'Banane al Cioccolato'?" he needed to
know for the record.
© 1994 Peter Langston