Critics’ Picks

Ian Giles, After BUTT, 2018, video, color, sound, 34 minutes.


Ian Giles

Chelsea Space
16 John Islip Street Chelsea College of Arts
January 24–March 2

Ian Giles’s current exhibition considers the legacy of the influential, pink pages of BUTT magazine, which started in 2001 and ended as a print object in 2011 (BUTT still maintains a website). Issues appear in a small library and vitrine display at the gallery’s entrance, where copies of other gay periodicals such as the 1970s zine Straight to Hell—a journal of anonymous sex stories that was a formative inspiration for BUTT—and recent issues of Attitude, Fantastic Man, and Hello Mr. are also laid out.

Giles solicited firsthand material through interviews in order to build a narrative for After BUTT, 2018, a thirty-four-minute film. Conversations with BUTT’s founders, Gert Jonkers and Jop van Bennekom, and contributors including curator Stuart Comer and artist Paul Kopkau, led to the production of a script, performed in the film by a group of twelve young men. BUTT was driven by a desire for authenticity—beyond the images of shiny “muscle Marys going through the motions,” as one of the film’s actors says—that embraced joyful, sex- and body-positive representations of gay men. The film celebrates the magazine’s unabashed raunchiness and its desire to foster the “Playboy formula,” where high-quality cultural writing sits comfortably alongside soft-core pornography. Yet BUTT’s problems are addressed as well, especially its Eurocentric, whitewashed illustrations of class, gender, and race, which alienated some audiences, and the difficulty of maintaining a print publication at a time when physical communities and real-life cruising were slowly being replaced with apps, taps, and clicks. Giles’s project is intriguing in its analytical candor and expands modes of oral history and self-publishing practices.