So how do we define pornography in the ever changing sexual climate of society today? The dictionary is very clear indeed and reads “it is printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.” Yet as attitudes to sexuality continually evolve in our culture today and we question and challenge the firmly entrenched views of older generations, there is now a remarkable reluctance to condemn pornography as simply something to be confined to the sordid fringes of society. With the readiness to publicly embrace pornography and redeem it from it’s negative image, there is a movement afoot to take it even more out of the shadows and recognize the fact that there are so manymore layers that could be explored and developed pornography even further.
People in the gay community, particularly men, who struggled for years for their sexual identity when homosexuality was still illegal in most of the world, have always turned to the imagery of pornography to help them find their own sexuality on websites similar to www.hdpornvideo.xxx. Their wholesale embrace of pornography started them exploring parts of their nature that society had made them repress for so long, and thus it became much more than a means to simply arouse and stimulate them sexually, but as a way of expressing their own queer identity.
Antonio Da Silva, an openly gay Portuguese award-winning filmmaker and artist who lives in London wants to take this all one step even further. Da Silva is a passionate crusader who has always been fascinated by male sex and sexuality. He has always felt increasingly frustrated with how moving Image has explored this, and so for the past four years, he has made some very full-on explicit and provocative films on a whole range of sexual-based topics from performance to voyeurism.
This graduate with Master’s degrees from both Central St Martins and the London Contemporary Dance School has produced an extraordinary body of work that is completely unique as it explores different artistic genres driven by his own daily routines and personal experiences. On the eve of his latest show ANTONIO DA SILVA: SPUNK + DOGGERS + SOLOS at the Fringe Film Festival in London’s East End we caught up with Da Silva to see if he could throw some light on the whole art versus porn question. A totally disarming and fascinating young man, he turned out to have as many contractions as his work itself which made for an intriguing conversation.
N.B. WARNING please be aware before you click on any
of the links published with this interview that they contain
explicit sexual content.
RWD: So how are you happiest describing yourself? As an artist or a filmmaker, or even a pornographer?
ADS: I am constantly contradicting myself, although I’m attempting to do so less and less as I try to actually understand what this contradiction means. Because usually when people say to me ‘you are an artist’, I will add ‘and a pornographer‘. And if people say ‘you are a pornographer‘ I will add ‘an artist too.’ I like to play with being somewhere in between the two as you can see in my films as well.
I don’t have a problem with calling myself a pornographer, but there is a problem if people consider me just a pornographer and nothing else. Essentially I am a filmmaker and a kind of an artist who is interested in people and places.
RWD: Are you offended or annoyed if people refer to your work just as porn?
ADS : It all depends on the context. I also design most of my films so that they bring some sexual excitement, and that is also the role of porn. But I also like to get in some emotions and feelings and truth, which is totally different.
RWD: If we look at your work as art, and some of it you have described in the past as poetry, then what do you expect or want the audience to react: to stimulate to educate to entertain or to titilate?
ADS: All of them (laugh). One is a poem, another one is explicit porn-like stuff seen on Nu Bay, and another is a funny humor joke with explicit content. Another is more like a dance film. My work has all these different layers that I am very interested in too.
RWD: OK, then let’s start at the beginning. When did your fascination with sexuality start to manifest itself in your films?
ADS: It started with a big frustration because I’m a filmmaker and I was seeing a lot of films that were not reaching certain things that I wanted to see
RWD: But why sex?
ADS: I’m interested in the male body and movement. I had this technique of choreographing and moving the body that I wanted to use, and I just decided to make it explicit to reach more people with my work. If I had to do all this without any explicit content then it could be exactly the same, but it would not hit so many people and so the response to all that would be much less.
RWD: Did you ever question yourself about
ADS: I always consider this question, and I have ups and downs without really finding an answer. Especially after I finish a piece of work, and even during the process, I somehow go downhill. I am always questioning why am I doing this, why am I working on this project, and why have I been working on all of these projects. The conflict is not that big and essentially I’m really confident about the fact that I had to do the piece. It was important for me to express myself in this way and it always kind of helps me liberate and find things in my inner self as well.
RWD: How do you decide on the theme of each piece?
ADS: It’s the convenience somehow because I have many ideas as we all have, but the point is the practicalities. What can I really achieve from what I have around me, that’s where I go from actually. v
RWD: Why do you avoid having a narrative for most of them?
ADS: I disagree with your take on that, as all of my films have a narrative. How do you define narrative? People talking or a story? Each of my films has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and in most of them, the narrative finishes with a climax which is related to orgasm because of its sex. What I try to achieve is a kind of narrative that is sometimes visual, or sometimes it is audio, but there is a kind of storytelling. I think it’s quite obvious what makes my films different than many other explicit films is that there is a narrative, so that’s why I disagree with you.
RWD: You like to work with amateurs, particularly shy ones, why?
ADS: Because there is more fragility and sometimes more honesty. There is a beauty in that as well.
RWD: How do you persuade the shy ones to not only get naked and aroused but also take part in sexual acts?
ADS: Just by trusting and letting things flow naturally and letting them know that nothing will happen without their consent. I try to understand what their boundaries are and I work around that.
RWD: Do you understand why they want to participate in one of your movies?
ADS: Yes I think so. Mostly by the feeling of them expressing themselves, and not just the shy ones but also the exhibitionists. There is something there about releasing all of their feelings. Others like the fact they leave their stamp and mark in the film even if they are not recognized by others, but they know they are there and they will always have the memory of that.
Antonio Da Silva
RWD: I read two conflicting statements about you personally. One is that you do not like to show you face at all in photographs, and yet you appear in some of your films presumably naked.
ADS: Firstly, I don’t think I am very pretty or cute or very ugly either but I don’t want to be recognized for my face or an image anyway. I want to be recognized for my work. I also want to protect my privacy because I’m already exposing a lot by doing these very explicit films. There are also family reasons too e.g. if I have a child later on I would not like them to have to face my past quite so explicitly
I do put myself in all my films. I’m there even if I am not there (laugh) as the camera is me. But you know that I don’t actually like to answer this very personal question too.
RWD: (laughing ) That bit is very clear. So let’s go on. Do you ever consider that there is any boundary as to what you will or will not include in terms of your perception of society’s expectations or limitations? Do you self-censor in any way? Fetishes?
ADS: The films took me to places that I thought I didn’t belong to, but actually I do. I really consider myself very vanilla, and that is why I think that most of the actions that are described as ‘fetishes’ in my pieces are very very soft. I am however suddenly realizing that I am actually full of fetish and that all our boundaries change with time and age, and I can see them changing now through my work. I never censor anything EXCEPT when it comes to the subject of really young people, minors, or anything that is not consensual .
RWD: Are there any sexually based themes that you haven’t done and still want to tackle?
ADS: Yes, yes there are many things that I still want to include. For me, everything is always a work in progress.
RWD: How does your work affect your own personal relationships?
ADS: It makes me liberated. In my personal life, I am the most conventional person you can imagine and I try to have an ordinary life but actually, this doesn’t happen. I cannot just have the work that allows me to express myself and then for me and my partner to be in the closet. The work allows me to be very chilled out about people and places because on a personal level I am so not ….Antonio Da Silva is very much my filmmaker persona …. and at the end of the day when my work is over I just want to be very homey.
RWD: Your movies are very much about the dialogue about queer identity that is continually evolving. How consciously are you about that, and how important is that element in your pieces?
ADS: I’m actually not a very political person like this, and I’m much more conscious about expressing and finding things that I relate to, and am attracted to. I realize that I can contribute to the queer community, but I am changing in terms of describing my work, and the way that this can evolve. I’m not just interested in only queer sexuality, but much more in male sexuality in general, and hopefully through time it will become more clear in my work.
For me, it’s not about ‘queer’ alone as they are like a category of people in a bubble that does not touch others, but I feel there is something else. If you think about male sexuality, it is more about men and their exact sexuality that comes from touching an object, a plant, a woman, or another man or another cock. I’m interested in being sexual and being with people when they express their sexuality. And for me, being sexual is not just about being queer it is about everyone.
RWD: Beyond installations in Art Galleries and inclusion in some of the edgier Film Festivals, where should your work be shown? Do you want it to be a private or public experience?
ADS: Mostly private although it does work in a Film Festival with a crowd. I think it is nice to share with a partner or someone else, or a very small group of people It depends of course on the film e.g. Spunk one of my new ones has this kind of sense of community like 3 or 4, people and it would be nice to share.DDDddddddddddd
RWD: Have they discovered you and your work in the USA yet?
ADS: Actually my main market is there particularly in L.A. and New York of course, but all over the country too. I had the very best reception of my career in L.A., and maybe this is because movies and the porn industry are so strong there and part of the whole L.A. culture. However it also somehow seemed as if they were not used to seeing such explicit movies on the big screen.
RWD: Meanwhile you are back as part of Fringe Film Festival in London’s East End, how exciting is that for you?
ADS: I feel part of their family there now as I have been showing my work there right from the beginning. I really love them as they put me together with people that I really connect with. They know and understand this audience that they have cultivated in the East End, and they give all of us filmmakers a home and make us so very welcome. They are very liberal and also they like the edgy side of things but not in a way that no one else will understand: they keep it all very accessible. It is edgy but not experimental. It’s a perfect place to show my latest work.
RWD: After that, what’s next for Antonio Da Silva?
ADS: I’m off to Brazil.
RWD: To work or to play?
ADS: Work means play. (laughs)
RWD: And in the long term?
ADS: That’s a hard question. I have a plan, but it’s complicated and I don’t want to risk it by talking about it too soon. I will always be making new explicit work, that celebrates male sexuality, and maybe there will even be a full-length feature film in the future too!