Eat your heart out Cirque du Soleil.
Within moments of arriving outside the closed shutters on a quiet Borough backstreet we’re approached by men – they want the password, and once we’ve given it we’re in. It’s an old carpet factory, perfect for the sense of claustrophobia and dark dealings that CROOKS aims to create. The atmosphere is charged; the old lift creaks and clanks as we go down. There’s door upon door leading who knows where (if we go snooping, we’re told, they’ll f*cking kill us, so I resist the urge). We’re split into teams and throughout the next 90 minutes we’re tasked with extracting information from a bent rozzer, swapping two heavy, powdery briefcases over, playing a hand of Blackjack with the Don, scheming with his fur-coated wife and then slipping a vial of poison into a lurking glass of whiskey. It’s great entertainment, even if the pauses between each “scene” are a little drawn out in the dark, thumping downstairs saloon.
We know Beardsley as the poster boy for Naughty Ninety’s decadence: he was by far the most controversial exponent of Art Nouveau; apart from Henry Fuseli, virtually the only nineteenth century British erotic artist of any real importance (his Lysistrata was privately published); he lost his job as art editor at The Yellow Book essentially because of his association with Oscar Wilde.
The guide asked me if I was into "Shibari". What? Japanese fabric dying? For a moment I envisioned a W.I. instructor coming showing us how to make a beautiful table-cloths on the cheap. No, no, that's shibori. Shibari or, kinbaku if you're caught out by vowels as I so often am, is a Japanese erotic art form which involves tying girls up in rope. Well yes, actually, that sounds like just my sort of thing.
Robert Mapplethorpe and I have something in common: as children we both loved chewing our toenails. Fortunately, Mapplethorpe also loved drawing. He became an artistic sensation, turning photography into an art form as it had never been before. I doubt I’ll ever make a career out of chewing my toenails.
Catullus is not current or sexy. And he not only wrote – he wrote poems, which is a bit naff. Plus, he’s dead. Thankfully, Daisy Dunn is here to save the day. She adores this ancient verse-maker, and now, since reading her first books – published concurrently – so do I.
Allen Jones does not allow us to objectify her body and what she represents. Each image realises her as an individual person. The maîtresse may represent your utmost fantasies and she may wear a mask of sorts, but she is also a strong and a highly accessible representation of a sexually powerful female figure.
Sorry: How to Choose a Partner won't necessarily help you if you're trying to determine whether a prospective partner is going to be a good lay. It's not going to literally tell you how to choose a partner, either. But it could be massively helpful in suggesting why you've got it right (if your partnership works OK) or why you keep getting it so terribly, terribly wrong...
Fans of the cerebral and weird Being John Malkovich will be familiar with screenwriter and director Charlie Kaufman’s fascination with puppets. Before Kaufman had to contend with using real people as the puppets, now he’s a real puppet master. It’s almost a shame to give even the premise away, as seeing the story unfold is a pleasure in itself. Kaufman is a master story teller although you can feel like he’s dragging it out a little. But the intricate nature of the stop-still animation is enough to keep you quite comfortable in your seat. For those who relish the thought of being at the mercy of Kaufman’s genius: stop reading here. For those you need more convincing, read on.
The prominent theme running through this tour is of seeing the erotic in relation to culture. We can recognise an erotic power/status shift, which is made more dramatic the further we look back. Reality had become ultra-reality to the Romans as the female body is depicted nude in Classical sculpture. Only the goddess Venus would regularly be seen nude in the art and get away with it due to her divinity