Sade. Freedom or evil

Xcèntric Archive

Coinciding with the exhibition of the same name about the figure of the Marquis de Sade (CCCB, 11 May-15 October 2023), this line-up of six films from the catalogue of the Xcèntric Archive reflects on the close ties between pleasure and pain, and questions the nature of our drives and desires, placing the act of looking, the quintessential sadistic gesture, in the forefront.

The Murder Mystery, Dietmar Brehm, Austria, 1992, 16’

Sex and violence are intertwined in this nebula of images. The mystery of an alleged murder is diluted when it comes into contact with Brehm’s camera, always situated in limbo between desire and trauma. Morality is suspended: the filmmaker deprives viewers of their sight to force them to ask what they are willing to see in order to satisfy their desire to know more, in order to keep watching... but is it still the murder that he wants to solve?

* Related viewing: Blicklust, Dietmar Brehm, Austria, 1992, 16’

Intoxicated by My Illness, Stephen Dwoskin, United Kingdom, 2001, 40’

This dreamlike documentary, devised while Dwoskin was in intensive care due to polio, follows the fantasies of the hospitalized filmmaker, who transforms his medical submission into bondage rituals and his nurse into a dominatrix. Dwoskin liberates a sexuality apparently impossible in his condition. Pain and medication act as stimulants to his imagination, freeing him from limitation or deprivation to subject him to his own desires.

* Related viewing: Pain Is..., Stephen Dwoskin, England, 1997, 80’

Bodybuilding, Ursula Pürrer and Hans Scheirl, Austria, 1984, 3’

The actors in this actionist performance celebrating sexual freedom are bodies given over to sadomasochistic games. To the rhythm of what sound like whips, the characters skate on a thin layer of paradox: the instruments that repress them are liberating them. Pürrer and Scheirl once again pay tribute to the vitality, anti-romanticism and commitment to the LGBTQIA+ collective that have shaped their filmography, demonstrating that sadomasochism can be reappropriated in power play.

* Related viewing: 1/2 Frösche ficken flink, Ursula Pürrer and Hans Scheirl, Austria, 1996, 17’

26/71 Zeichenfilm - Balzac und das Auge Gottes, Kurt Kren, 1971, Austria, 31”

In less than a minute, Kren is capable of concentrating the sadomasochistic essence of his collaborations with Otto Mühl and Günter Brus, central figures in Viennese actionism. This animated short film with scatological or grotesque humour meets the materiality, radicality and transgression typical of the movement to stage a death turned into intercourse and intercourse turned into death; the excitement caused by pain is presented as a fatally transmitted disease. Kren titles his piece with a reference to the thinking of French writer Honoré de Balzac, who maintained that society should live in fear of God. “God strung up his own son like a side of veal. I shudder to think what he would do to me”, said Sade.

Take Off, Gunvor Nelson, USA, 1972, 9’

A stripper rebels against the spectator’s gaze in this self-destructive choreography and takes the logic of striptease to its extreme: as though the spectator’s gaze were a disease that is contracted, she herself contracts to the point of annihilation or complete consumption, rendering impossible the gaze that turned her into a consumer object.

Removed, Naomi Uman, USA, 1999, 6’

This US filmmaker eliminates the female figure from a seventies’ porn film and turns the object of desire into an unknown, something that viewers are forced to question and redefine. Taking her cue from Take Off, she erases the body and frustrates the satisfaction of desire, at the same time perhaps describing a sexual space that accommodates bodily destruction.


A playlist by Dani Grandes.

You can view the works of this playlist in the Xcèntric Archive.