As the American director Alex Holdridge proposed in 2007 with his mumblecore feature In Search of a Midnight Kiss – a black and white piece that explored New Year’s Eve in LA – Craigslist can take you anywhere. For the film’s protagonist Wilson, it leads to Vivian and a day of at times, painful small talk: for London based artist Dominic Myatt, it was the catalyst for a book of erotic illustrations.
Initially released in Japan, (no kissing) arrives in the UK this week – Myatt will be signing copies at London’s Hoi Polloi tomorrow from 7pm. A simple black and white set up, hand drawn images of gay fetish fills each page, every one accompanied by a reprint of the ad that inspired the picture, word for word in polite Times New Roman. Intrigued and amazed in equal measure, we caught up with Myatt to learn more.
So when did you first discover Craigslist?
I first used Craigslist as a place to sell things like used socks, underwear – even toenail clippings – for cash when I was studying at Goldsmiths. Money was pretty tight and it was a relatively quick and easy way to top-up my student loan.
A lot of your work deals with eroticism. What initially drew you to this as a theme?
I think it’s always been a subconscious, underlying theme in a lot of my work, but it was a module at university called Sexual Poetics, taught by Dr Lynn Turner, that really made me think critically about these topics.
You’ve previously said of the book, “Sexuality and the human body are universally understood things – it’s only perhaps the ways in which they are understood which differ from person to person.” Can you expand on this?
What I mean is that eroticism and the act of sex is a part of everybody and every culture – even if that is just down to the fact that we were all produced through a sexual act. Our bodies are also sexualised by others, whether we like it or not – the censorship of nipples on various social media channels for instance. The book focuses specifically on ads posted by men who have sex with men – but I think it speaks about sex and sexuality more broadly. There are elements of humour and pain and joy in the images, which I think delivers an honest representation of many peoples experience with sex.
We’re living in a digital era, where apps like Grindr, Tinder, etc are prevalent. How do you think these are changing the ways in which people understand the aforementioned?
I think these apps give people more and more autonomy over their own sexuality and the sex they have – or don’t have. They perhaps help people have a deeper understanding of their own urges and desires.
Your illustrations all come from ads you saw on Craigslist. Were there any requests you saw and consciously decided against illustrating?
In many of the ads the text was quite convoluted and fascinating to read but the end result would have just been a ‘simple’ penetrative sex act, and there was only so many of those I could draw before you’d just become disengaged with the images and the text.
What were your hopes, dreams or expectation when you were initially compiling (no kissing)?
I didn’t expect to find anywhere near as much content as I came across, so in one way it’s exceeded my expectations. Me and Hideko, the publisher, had to edit down the content so it all sat together well. I’d love to do a second edition and include some of the content we cut.
And how did you decide on the title, (no kissing)? It’s quite innocent in terms of content that follows.
The title comes from an ad that wasn’t included in the final book. I like the way that it feels very innocent – but reading through the book I think it makes you realise that a lot of these ads actually are very innocent in some ways – they are guiltless and unashamed (most of them anyway).
Has anyone from the ads recognised themselves? What would you do if they did?
I haven’t had any messages from anyone… yet, but so far the book has only been out in Japan and the ads are from the London Craigslist pages. If someone did recognise their ad, which were all anonymous anyway, I’d obviously hope that they’d be happy about its inclusion in (no kissing).
The book is about to be released in the UK and you’ll be signing copies at Hoi Polloi tomorrow. Who would be your dream fan with a sharpie in hand?
I’d be pretty overwhelmed if Paul McCarthy turned up with David Shrigley to have a copy signed!
That’d be pretty epic. So lastly, what are you working on now/next?
I’m working on a new body of work to exhibit this year, more etching artwork on to people’s skin and also a collaborative project with COMMUNE EAST toward the end of the year.