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October 15–November 3, 2022
Presented by NEXPO, Querformat and gta exhibitions, ETH Zürich.
The cinema Kino Roland is closing. It has been a sex cinema for more than 40 years and until recently offered pornographic content, completing the range of sexual services on Zürich’s Langstrasse. Through its semiotic-technical administration, it has served as a mediating institution in the city, modulating and regulating the contemporary sexual subject. Its neon signs, mural paints, and bricks have been in charge of perpetuating the biopolitical norm of the heteronormative patriarchy while revealing the rebellious character of sexual urges and evoking sexual excitation in male spectators.
We investigate sites of transformation and look for the new in the existing as we look for potential locations for the upcoming Swiss national exhibition Nexpo. The partnership with Querformat is motivated by the question, “How do we live together in the 21st century?” and starts with the notion that space and sexuality are intricately entwined and interwoven. Sexkino Roland’s emptiness denotes a turning point and presents a number of possibilities and hypotheses. An inquiry will be conducted at the former theater. It serves as the focal point for a conversation on the ways in which corporeality is negotiated in urban and public space.
For one last time, we invite you to inhabit the void of Sexkino Roland with us.
Artworks by Mathilde Agius, Ellen Cantor, Azize Ferizi, Dese Escobar, Sidsel Meineche Hansen, Larry Johnson, Monica Majoli, Reba Maybury, La Chola Poblete, Dean Sameshima, Annie Sprinkle, Wu Tsang; installation by Querformat; kiosk by Tatjana Blaser and Madame ETH; merchandise by Mistress Rebecca.
The male subject’s exclusive domain is defined by the pornographic theater. Women are infamously absent, showing up only in murals or on screens depicting lesbian intercourse with the male gaze and as objects of pleasure. Audre Lorde’s assertion that the pornographic oppresses women’s erotic power serves as a powerful illustration of this basic erasure of womanhood. Feminists like Andrea Dworking, who have established a direct connection between the consumption of pornography and serious sexual violence against women, have come to condemn pornography as a whole practice due to its symbolic representations of patriarchal authority in heterosexual pleasure. Other feminism experts point out that porn has a radical liberating potential. For Virginie Despentes, “the porn actress is the liberated woman, the femme fatale, the one who turns heads, who always provokes a strong reaction…” While the anti-pornography movement runs the risk of defining the female body as inherently unable to emancipate through porn, Despentes states that “the only moral issue…is the political aggressiveness with which these women are treated offstage.”
According to Paul B. Preciado, the 1978 conversion of the 1881-built Kino Roland into a sex theater occurred in a pharmacopornographic capitalism that was already well-established. It has been one of the pharmacopornographic regime’s architectural manifestations in public space. Its closure might just represent a wider shift in pornographic media consumption to private homes and online. Every bedroom has been turned into a sex cinema thanks to Pornhub, XVideos, and Only Fans, and every resident is now a potential porn actress or performer.
However, there may have been more going on in the dark room than just watching and wanking. The necessity of sharing a physical area to watch porn led to chance encounters between guys seeking sexual pleasure. Prior to its demolition due to the zoning proposal for Times Square, Samuel Delany wrote about his experiences as a black homosexual man in the sex cinemas along 42nd Street in New York. These settings have promoted aromantic intimacy between people of different social classes and races. The intricate social network that surrounded them has preserved the variety of the many groups while stabilizing them. Four years after the book was published, the newspaper “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” reported eight male immigrant sex workers being arrested for providing sex services in Walche, another Sexkino in Zürich run by the company that operates Roland.
The fact that Sexkino Roland is closing down at the same time that Langstrasse is experiencing a larger, continuing gentrification trend may not be a coincidence. Stüssihof, one of Zürich’s sex theaters, was previously transformed into a children’s theater in 2014, while Stern Oerlikon was transformed into a restaurant with the intention of serving “the local community.” The elimination of sex in public places and gentrification go hand in hand. The above-mentioned rebellious nature of porn is squarely at war with the urban homogeneity trend. The conflict over public sex is “is about real estate and big business,” according to the collective “Dangerous Bedfellows.” They stated that, “restricting sexual expression in public space is about artificially inflating property values, “gentrifying” some neighborhoods while transforming others into commercial wasteland, and destroying the sexual culture that residents and tourists have built—and governments have fought against—for decades.” When gentrification occurs, family-friendly entertainment takes the place of sexual and disturbing content. The pharmacopornographic regime’s underpinnings must stay hidden, either in cybernetic or urban depths.
A void is created in the city’s public area as a result of Kino Roland’s closure and the building’s current condition of abandonment. It leaves a void full of potentiality that is waiting to be inhabited for the very last time because it is no longer a potential cruising interior or a physical location that supports the biopolitics of the pharmacopornographic society.
Paul B. Preciado gave a speech a few years ago in front of the “Ecole de la Cause Freudienne” in which he declared that we were living in a “time of extraordinary historic importance” and that “the epistemology of sex, gender, and sexual difference is changing.” Sexkino Roland may be a sign of a collapsing epistemology, and the structure may change along with it, signifying the transition from sex, gender, and sexual diversity to an infinite variety of body distinctions and uncountable unnamed and unnameable wants.
Inclusive Monuments? Preservation of Sex Cinemas: October 15, 6–7:30pm
Talk by Charlotte Malterre-Barthes (EPFL) and Silke Langenberg (ETH Zürich)
Dispositivo de Saturación Sexual: October 15, 8–9:30pm
Performance by Candela Capitán
Faster Than an Erection: October 21, 6–8pm
Talk by Reba Maybury and Cassandra Troyan
Samuel Delany’s Porn Worlds: October 22, 6–8pm
Talk by Tavia Nyong’o (Yale University) and Samuel Delany
Talk by Monica Majoli: October 28, 6–8pm
CYBORG MANIFESTO_2: October 28, 8–9pm
Performance by mercedes_666
Leaving the Movie Theater: October 29, 6–8pm
Talk by Damon R. Young (UC Berkeley)
Closing Talk: Kino Roland Barthes: November 3, 6–8pm
Talk by Bruce Hainley (Rice University)