Critics’ Picks

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

London

Ian Giles

Chelsea Space
16 John Islip Street Chelsea College of Arts
January 24–March 2, 2018

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.