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Thinking pop culture

Baptism by animated genitals

Philip Brophy, frame from “The Hungry Vagina” (2013)

Not that “date” was ever a word I was partial to anyway, but my lifelong avoidance of it was validated in a cafe last year. The seven-year-old that I’d been corrupting for the day spontaneously asked, “Did you ever come on a date with Dad here?” My not-quite-poker face betrayed me. “Not like a date date,” she clarified. “Just a date.”

Channeling a sitcom parent, I pointed to her bowl, “Eat your ice cream.”

For me, date is laden with Happy Days images of two straws in a milkshake and copious lashings of social awkwardness. Dating as a verb has always felt thoroughly suspicious.

So - completely dodging any dastardly D-words - last night I was on an evening social outing with a man. I’d been invited to the new Philip Brophy exhibition and suggested he and I do Brophy first then dinner.

Side by side in the gallery, I had my day’s epiphany. Brophy was talking us through his pieces with sweetly scatty enthusiasm, but far more resonant was the audio from one of his installations. Damp and squelchy parting labias with barely detectable accents of potato-chip crunching.

Philip Brophy, frame from “The Hungry Vagina” (2013)

“The Hungry Vagina”.

Standing there, listening to the vagina talk, the vagina squelching, watching the hypnotic images of dilating cartoon vaginas on the screens, I realised I’d perhaps stumbled upon a possibly wonderful pre-screening for potential partners.

I’d always assumed that a single conversation with me would be more than enough for a bloke to determine whether I’m too loud/sarcastic/perverse/arsey whatever for his tastes. Perhaps not. Perhaps I’ve always needed something more elaborate. Maybe cajoling him to look at illustrated vaginas with me was the key. A kind of baptism by animated genitals.

On this particular occasion, I’d actually already been out with him and knew I liked him. And, just to completely crush the suspense, we moved around the gallery with shared comfort and confusion.

Philip Brophy, frame from “The Hungry Vagina” (2013)

But what if he had freaked out amongst all the audible juiciness? Been weirded out by those forever opening and closing chasms? Alternatively, what if he had gotten a little too into it? Wanted to stare a little too long? Leave fingerprints on the screens?

Far less interesting than whether a “bad” reaction on his part would have been some kind of deal-breaker for me - truth be told I doubt it - is the strange tightwalk a man would need to walk at such an exhibition: convey that he was interested enough so as to be respectful to vaginas, to women, but not so interested as to seem like a sleazy, creepy perv.

Come to think of it, drooling might have ended things. Or panting.

The Philip Brophy Colour Me Dead exhibition is showing at the Ian Potter Gallery at the University of Melbourne until the 8th of September, 2013.

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