Watcher/Inside is a provocation to the public, confronting masturbation on terms not generally offered by society and incorporating it into an environment that by nature often fosters voyeurism. This exhibition aims to confront the private act of masturbation in a public, communal environment. Masturbation is a solitary activity and is generally a private, unshared experience. However, Watcher/Inside intends to bridge this gap between private act and public environment by placing its artworks on public display and incorporating the notion of voyeurism. By definition, voyeurism involves the idea of gaining some kind of sexual pleasure, often subconscious, from the act of looking at or spying on someone engaged in a private activity. Watcher/Inside displays works that evoke the private act of masturbation and begs for the works to be the object of the viewer’s voyeuristic gaze by their placement in the exhibition environment and their relationship to the space, props, and other artworks. Rather than dismissing this exhibition as a scopophilic experience, it hopes to invite viewers to approach this exhibition as an invitation to partake in a private human activity in a self-conscious way.
Watcher/Inside deliberately aims to create the sense of a communal, participatory experience. The presentation of this exhibition focuses on creating an experience for viewers where they are immersed in this seemingly private environment and are aware of their own act of voyeurism and of subjecting the artworks to the object of their gaze. To reinforce this idea, the exhibition features props and carefully exploits the space itself to communicate visually a feeling of intimacy in a bedroom-like environment and an awareness of trespassing into the private sphere. The bed on the exhibition floor evokes a bedroom environment, which conveys not only a feeling of privacy, but also reflects a typically imagined masturbation space. Moreover, the mirror, catching the reflection of viewers as they enter the exhibition space, helps to facilitate the viewer’s awareness of his/her intrusion and his/her complicity in the act of masturbation.
Unlike the other works in the exhibition that deal with masturbation on a more explicit level, Andy Pratt’s work, which functions as take away comic book-like foldouts placed on a small table, engages in notions of masturbation and voyeurism, but in a less overt manner. While the work is not necessarily sexual, it can be understood as participating in the creative masturbation space; it functions here as masturbatory material, similar to magazines, visual materials, and reading materials, all of which often are associated with masturbatory activity. Pratt’s work in itself can also be viewed as a sort of personal, creative, and intellectual masturbation, expanding the boundaries of the definition of masturbation and daring to decontextualize it from the sexual realm. By placing Pratt’s work in the exhibition, it no longer remains the artist’s private notebook-like doodling, but now invites viewers to engage publicly and visually with his work, and even to take it with them and incorporate it into their own private sphere.
The majority of the works featured in Watcher/Inside depict scenes of female masturbation. The activity of female masturbation, as it is publicly accepted, further reinforces the idea of crossing the boundary from the public arena to the private when art depicting this activity is displayed in the gallery setting. In our society and in the media, female masturbation is less publicly acknowledged and confronted than male masturbation. In light of this phenomenon in our society, Watcher/Inside focuses on female masturbation as a means of providing extra emphasis on the idea of crossing the boundary between the private and public space. Furthermore, in modern critical theory, the concept of voyeurism is often tied to the idea of the male gaze and of subjecting the female depicted in art to an object of the viewer’s gaze, generally thought of in masculine terms. Thus, Watcher/Inside participates in this gendered theoretical discourse, inviting the viewer not only to consider masturbation in terms of voyeuristic activity, but also from a gendered perspective, and to consider how female masturbation might provoke a more drastic and effective intrusion on the private environment.