A day-long conference to accompany Solitary Pleasures, a group exhibition that investigates a significant topic in the psychology of sexuality and eroticism: masturbation.
The conference explores the history of masturbation, both explicitly and implicitly, in which this ‘solitary pleasure’ has been considered as a disorder, as ‘unnatural’, ‘unhealthy’, and as a violation of a moral law; yet conversely it has been seen as a vital force, as a creative and magical act, and as ‘normal’ and ‘healthy’.
The conference, like the exhibition, reveals masturbation as a topic that can transform our understanding of human subjectivity and sexuality. Perhaps the most common form of human eroticism, it is also one of the least theorised. The conference will explore our complex sexual, erotic, and intimate encounters with ourselves and one another by viewing masturbation as an all-inclusive practice – gay, lesbian, heterosexual, bisexual, trans, queer, +. We hope to investigate masturbation as a ‘solitary pleasure’ as opposed to a ‘solitary vice’, as a pleasure that is universal and particular, collective and individual, and that’s also potentially mutual; a shared exchange and an intimate encounter between couples, lovers and strangers in ways that redefine desires and eroticism’s possibilities.
Making – masturbation in creativity and art practice
Educating – masturbation in sexual health and wellbeing
Talking – masturbation in clinical practice
Professor David Bennett (U. of Melbourne), Dr Sean Curran (Sutton House), Dr Chantal Faust (artist, RCA), Sarah Forbes (former Curator of the Sex Museum), Professor Johnny Golding (RCA), Natika Halil (Chief Executive, Family Planning Association), Jordan McKenzie (artist, UAL), David Morgan (clinician), Professor Michael Newman (Goldsmiths), Professor Adrian Rifkin (CSM), Florence Schechter (The Vagina Museum), Dr Marquard Smith (UCL IoE), and Dr Esther Teichmann (LCC).
Prof. David Bennett is professorial fellow in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne and has been Visiting Professor at Birkbeck University of London, the London Consortium, Durban University, and Essex University. He has published many books and articles on the history and politics of psychoanalysis, sexuality, censorship and cultural theory, including The Currency of Desire: Libidinal Economy, Psychoanalysis and Sexual Revolution (2016)
Dr Sean Curran is Community Learning Manager at Sutton House, The National Trust. A Heritage Educator, Curator, and LGBTQ culture(s) enthusiast, they teache on the MA Museums & Galleries in Education at UCL Institute of Education.
Dr Chantal Faust is an artist, writer, and Senior Tutor in the School of Arts and Humanities at the Royal College of Art. Interested in eroticism and haptic technology, her photographic, painting, video, and installation works have been exhibited in the UK, Australia, and North America.
Sarah Forbes is author of Sex in the Museum: My Unlikely Career at New York’s Most Provocative Museum (2016), a book about her time as Curator at the Sex Museum in New York. She is a sexual culturalist, writer, and Curator-in-Residence at Kindred Studios.
Prof. Johnny Golding is Professor of Philosophy & Fine Art at the RCA where she leads the PhD Research Group ‘Entanglement’. Internationally renowned for her philosophy-poetic enactments and sound-scape exhibitions, her research covers the entangled dimensionalities of Radical Matter, an intra-disciplinary arena of art, philosophy and the wild sciences.
Natika Halil is Chief Executive of the sexual health charity Family Planning Association.
Jordan McKenzie has presented performances, films, drawings and installations both nationally and internationally, including ‘Shame Chorus’, an uplifting project developed with the London Gay Men’s Choir and commissioned by the Freud Museum London. He is Lecturer in Drawing at Camberwell College of Arts, University of the Arts London.
David Morgan is a Psychoanalyst at the BPAS and a Training Analyst at the BPA. He is the organiser of the Political Minds seminars at the British Psychoanalytic Society and hosts the 'Frontier Psychoanalyst' podcasts. He is co-editor with Stan Ruszczynski of Sexuality Delinquency and Violence, published by Karnac Books. He has worked as a consultant psychotherapist in the NHS for 25 years at Camden Psychotherapy Unit and the Portman Clinic, regularly contributes to radio and television programmes, and lectures nationally and internationally.
Prof. Michael Newman is Professor of Art Writing in the Department of Art at Goldsmiths. His current research circles around the erotic, shame, and shamelessness, and has written books on Richard Prince, Jeff Wall and Seth Price.
Prof. Adrian Rifkin is a visiting professor at CSM, UNIVERSITY OF THE ARTS. He has written extensively on queer and gay sexualties amongst other things. His latest publication is Communards and Other Cultural Histories (Haymarket, 2018), a collection of essays edited by Steve Edwards.
Florence Schechter is a Science Communicator and Director of The Vagina Museum.
Dr Marquard Smith is Programme Leader of the MA Museums & Galleries in Education, UCL Institute of Education, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Visual Culture, and curator of ‘Solitary Pleasures’ at the Freud Museum London
Dr Esther Teichmann is an artist interested in fantasy and desire, and has recently had solo and group exhibitions in Cleveland, Manchester, and Mannheim. Currently Senior Lecturer in Photography at LCC, in April she begins a new role at the RCA.