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Have you ever wondered what it would be like for you to have sex with a different man every day for a year? What would you experience? Who would you end up with? Where would you go to have sex? How would you feel afterwards? Well, one German based performance artist named Mischa Badasyan is about to find the answer to all of these questions in a new performance art project.
The project titled Save the Date is scheduled to start on 9 September 2014, and it will center around Mischa Badasyan having sex with a different man every day for a year. The 26-year old said in interviews with Mic.com and Vocativ that he wants to take on this project to explore the relationship between loneliness and sex, and more specifically sex in what are referred to as ‘non-places’ (a concept from French philosopher Marc Auge).
When asked about what is considered a non-place, Badasyan said, ‘Non-places are supermarkets, shopping malls, airports and other largely anonymous spots where people lose a sense of identity and feel like they don’t belong. In these places, you don’t have to talk to anyone or feel a sense of belonging. That creates loneliness.’
Added to this list of non-places are internet spaces. Badasyan plans to use apps like Grindr and Scruff, in addition to sites he already frequents like GayRomeo and Gaydar, to accomplish this goal of meeting with men in physical non-spaces such as parks.
According to the interviewer at Mic.com, the performance artist goes on to wonder what will happen if he becomes as cold as the locations he plans to hook up in.
Badasyan said, ‘Eventually I’ll be like a non-place. So it’ll be like a supermarket. I’ll go on a date and then I’ll go back.’
Badasyan is no stranger to projects that touch on sexuality in the 21st century as it relates to homosexuality or using sexuality as a means to critique other aspects of society. About a year ago, he did a project called ADbusters, where he walked around with an iPad on his crotch to pose questions about constant advertising’s affect on society. He has also conducted other projects around pornography’s increasing acceptance into the mainstream and body image. Still, this project is going to be much riskier and more involved than anything he’s ever done.
According to Vocativ, Badasyan plans to document this art project by creating photo and video installations, a documentary, and a sculpture made from his bed sheets and other small items that he plans to take from each of his encounters. It will be interesting to see what this documentary looks like and what pieces he will collect considering that he does not plan to tell most of the men he encounters about the project – because he believes it is terrible to tell someone that he just had sex with them for an art project.
Badasyan admits that some of this comes from personal experience. As he recounts in his interview with Mic.com, ‘I would go to the [the park] every night and have sex with guys … until 5 o’clock [or] 6 o’clock in the morning. And I was always … I felt very bad, I was crying all the time. I am always sad after these kind of meetings.’
He also admits that he is even a little scared of this project despite his previous projects, his work as an HIV/AIDS activist, his recent testing for HIV and syphilis (both came back negative), and a condom sponsorship. He says he worries about the effect it may have on his mental health the most and how this project will be his most ‘sophisticated and dangerous work’ yet.
The reaction to Save the Date have ranged from intrigue to anger, and I’m not exactly sure how I feel about this project. My first thoughts could best be summed up by a close friend of mine who basically used more extreme terms to describe this project.
She said, ‘It’s like saying that I am going to protest or show the harmful effects of cutting by cutting.’ While this is quite the extreme comparison, I thought there were legitimate questions to be asked about why someone whose experiences with casual sex left him hurt would put himself back in that situation.
Furthermore, the two interviews set two different tones and seem to give two different motivations for Badasyan’s work. The first interview with Vocativ seems to make the piece a personal exploration, while the Mic.com story makes it seem like a critique of hook up culture in gay men. So, which is it? Is it a critique of hook up culture or is it, as Animal New York called it, ‘a psychologically, masochistic feat’? Or … what if it’s a little of both but for a different reason than we think?
In the Mic.com interview, Badasyan says that the many opportunities for casual gay sex are why he is lonely. He then says it’s easier for a gay man to conduct this kind of a project than a straight man, because they do not have as many opportunities.
To quote him exactly, he says, ‘It’s easier for a gay man to do this kind of project. It’s why I feel lonely. Straight people don’t have these kind of applications, so many gay chats, in terms of cruising, sex clubs, sex bars, they don’t have as many opportunities as gay people.’
Both interviews make references to the artist’s failure in the relationship department. Badasyan admits to Vocativ that he has fallen in love twice, but his love was unrequited. Mic.com states that Badasyan is a regular user of GayRomeo and Gaydar and has never been in a relationship.
With everything that Badasyan has laid out on the table, what if the problem is not with the culture but with the artist himself?
The Mic.com interview happened a little over a week after the Vocativ interview, which suggests to me that he really does seek to critique ‘hookup culture’ and how he views it as a hindrance to finding love and connection. During the interview, the writer remarks on how Badasyan ‘seems hardened by a gay culture that has left many feeling bitter’. Yet he has and continues to engage in behaviours he knows are detrimental to not only his search for love but his overall wellbeing. He has fallen twice for guys who did not love him back.
Based on what’s been presented, I would argue that what you are seeing is a classic case of shifting the blame. Badasyan is trying to critique the culture around him in order to not have to accept responsibility for the role he plays in his own loneliness. Now am I saying that there is nothing to be discussed and critiqued around ‘hookup culture’? Absolutely not. In fact, there are many conversations to be had around sexuality in culture. However, I am hard-pressed to believe it is the reason for gay and bi men’s loneliness and the reasons why some of us can’t form potentially lasting relationships.
You could argue that the hysteria over ‘hookup culture’ is just that, especially amongst gay men. An article that was published in The Guardian back in 2010 basically revealed that straight people and LGBT+ people have casual sex at roughly the same rate. This is telling, considering a long reigning myth that homosexuals engage in much higher rates of casual sex than their heterosexual counterparts. On top of that, it’s rather difficult to find data suggesting that casual sex negatively impacts gay men’s ability to form relationships that come from a reliable and unbiased source, and without actual data it’s hard to draw a concrete conclusion.
My conclusion on this project is that what we’re looking at is not as much a legitimate critique of the queer community as it is the lengths that a young man will go to in order to pass off the responsibility for his current state. Casual sex is not for everyone, as not everyone is willing and/or capable of separating their emotions from a physically intimate situation. That’s perfectly fine, but if that’s the case, then there are other ways to meet men. In fact, he can meet some of these men on these dating apps as everyone on there is not looking for casual sex. It seems like he is not taking any steps to reach outside of the immediate world he knows in order to experience something new but getting upset when he gets the same results. It also seems clear that is he not ready to take an honest look at himself. It’s just unfortunate that he will go as far as to garner media attention while unduly critiquing the queer community and risking his mental health in order to avoid doing so.