Reading the Liminal: An Interview with A.K. Burns

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Reading the Liminal: An Interview with A.K. Burns

exposed genitalia is the qualification for determining what is pornographic.

Sexuality is portrayed in a fairly narrow way in which the body has been reduced to these fragments or essentialized parts. For the queer body, nothing in sexuality is predetermined, and the whole body is a sex organ. What does sex look like when it's not just a pole and a hole? Within online fetish culture, some of it gets censored, but alot of it doesn't. From this perspective, censorship is a method of assimilating or legitimizing particular types of sexual behavior. The censorship validates the act. I'm a firm believer in anti-assimilationist equality, so I was looking for images and actions that were liminal and undefined.

Patricia:  Do you know the Rhianna video that was initially banned on YouTube? When I finally saw it, I thought it was super cutesy and sweet. It's also funny, and far from offensive, despite being sexually charged. Sexually charged like just about every other contemporary music video.

A.K. Burns: Possessing and displaying sexuality, especially for women is still so complicated and verboten in many ways. But a pair of new white Keds… totally ok!

Patricia: And cucumbers!
A.K. Burns: Ha, yes covertly crushing the phallus.

Patricia: Yes, it gets into that very easily.

A.K. Burns: But it is more complicated than the simple read of castration, you can also read it as ejaculatory. I found it really interesting how metaphors of violence, intercourse and ejaculation were enacted through these various methods of palpitating.


A.K. Burns, Touch Parade, 2011. Installation view. ©International Center of Photography, 2013. Photograph by John Berens.

Patricia:  Why did you pick these specific five fetishes? Why inhabit these five scenarios?
A.K. Burns: Appropriation occurs frequently in art, but I had a very clear desire to make the work my own. I see them more as memes or covers. A personalized variation on multiple originals. I'm interested in embodying things and learning something from that process. I always want to insert something of my own into each act, rather than just take the images into a new context.

In my studio I had accumulated a vast selection of rubber work gloves in various colors and textures. I recognized this as my own consumer fetish. With the balloon video, I had been trying to cast balloons and I