Pornography, privilege, and piña coladas. Gen Eickers interviews filmmakers Ethan Folk and Ty Wardwell ahead of the screening of their breakfast porn trilogy at Fuck Me Tender on Thursday, 30th May 2019. Gen is the curator of Fuck Me Tender, an art night exploring the art and act of fucking tenderly in times of immediate access to lovers and fucks, in a scene—the queer scene in Berlin—where sex is available at all times and no efforts.
Gen: Which emoji or combination of emojis describes your films best?
Gen: What relationship do you have to the term ‘food porn’?
Ethan: It usually makes me think of being sticky or having crumbs in bed, which I don’t like. I would classify our films not as ‘food porn’, but rather as ‘cooking porn’ or perhaps ‘meal porn’. Much ‘food porn’ uses the body as a plate, but our films try to feature the body as a kitchen appliance that plays a functional role in the creation of New Queer Cuisine.
Ty: Once we read an open call for a food porn program that specifically excluded sexually explicit content. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ So I guess they were looking for mainstream food porn like those hot sweaty images of shellacked Whoppers and enlarged photos of Fruit Loops suspended in plastic milk. I admire the art direction in those big-budget food porns, but I like to support amateur food pornographers by liking every image of vegan stir-fry that comes across my insta feed.
Ethan: Meals are sites of intimacy in our IRL relationship. That’s why we decided to make a nine film cycle that passes, chronologically, through the nine meals of the day. Breakfast in Bed (2016), Dear Babe (2018), and Brunch on Bikes (2019) are completed so far. We shot the 4th installment, The Pizza Topping, this April, and we expect to complete the 9th, Midnight Snack, in 2022.
Gen: Do you prefer breakfast over brunch and if yes, why? Also, do you think there is a significant difference?
Ty: Breakfast is low-stakes, high-affection. It’s for you and your best kind of friend. Ya’ll woke up under the same roof. Brunch is high-stakes, low-commitment. Like, how many times have you actually followed through on brunch plans? Shown up on time? Shown up empty handed? Just asking these questions makes me want to get a pin that says “No, we’re not doing brunch tomorrow.”
Ethan: I use the term breakfast for meals that take place after I wake up. I have no problem with people using the term “brunch” but I don’t identify my meals that way because I don’t want to share my breakfast headspace with the idea that I should be instagramming about avocado.
Gen: Has asparagus been featured yet, and if no, why not?
Ty: Not yet. It hasn’t been in season during our shooting schedule.
Ethan: I think we need to live in Germany for at least another 4 years before we can make informed work about the erotics of the Edible White Dildos that sprout around Deutschland every spring.
Gen: Do you think the display of bodies in film is inherently problematic?
Ethan: We both possess skinny, white, able-bodied bodies that are read as male. Dominant (Western) culture tells us that bodies that look like ours are “default”, and should be automatically centered. We need to recognize that inequitable and oppressive value systems (in combination with our white guy-ness) are a huge part of what affords us the privilege of making the movies that we make.
Ty: Just wanna jump in here to say E is using “bodies like ours” rather than “white men” because I’m non-binary. Based on my appearance I am read as a white man, and I’m benefitting from the same privilege as your average joe white guy. Breakfast in Bed got placed in several festivals’ “Gay Porn Shorts” programs. And yeah I was bothered by people classifying it as Gay Porn, but more than that, it made it clear that anytime Ethan and I are on screen, it’s going to look like Standard Model (White) Gay Porn.
Ethan: We’ve gotten feedback from colleagues that questions and challenges the ways we center our bodies in our work. And we’ve been told (and agree) that there is a hard limit on how much transgression we can expect to serve if the bodies doing it are as visibly non-transgressive as ours. Nevertheless we are committed to making work that expresses our own tender and bizarre ideas of intimacy, which are inextricable from our own bodies. Since Breakfast in Bed, we have collaborated with performers whose bodies are different than ours, and made space for those performers to control the way in which their bodies and sexualities are represented in the finished films.
Gen: Do your films qualify as porn rather than sex films or art films? Why?
Ty: Mmm. I call what we are making porn because my baseline threshold for porn is these questions: Is it sexy? Am I or is someone turned on? Are there moans and/or juicy beats? So far we satisfy those three in each of our films.
An elder acquaintance asked me, “Why don’t you call them sexual films rather than porn?” This was based off their understanding of capital P Porn as media produced exclusively through the abuse and exploitation of the subjects. So there’s this moral panic when the word porn comes up: pornography is reduced to violence, just as sex work is reduced to human trafficking.
Ethan: Yes, we call our films porn. But we can’t ignore the reality that the kind of work we make (independent, self-funded, screens-principally-at-festivals-and-art-events) exposes us to much less risk than other people who are involved in the creation of porn. We have enormous love and appreciation for sex workers and for sex work, and although our film and performance work is sex work adjacent it is not sex work. We are not subjected to the kinds of vulnerability, hostile legislation, and violence that many sex workers face.
Gen: Do you think your films have educational value?
Ty: Our films are also meant to educate clueless cooks. We’re starting with the basics, toast, muesli and yogurt. Working our way up to pancakes, and, later, lasagna.
Ethan: Porn is hugely educational. We both grew up with porn, and our films are responses to the toxic representations of bodies, sex, and masculinity we found through our 56k modems.
Without access to real sex education, (and in light of taboos that prevent frank discussions of sexuality with adolescents), young people are left to the internet to figure things out. By the numbers, the representations of sex they find there will reflect the dominant culture: coercive, abusive, misogynistic, cis- and hetero-sexist. The monopoly that “traditional” porn has on representations of sex plays a significant role in how young boys are socialized/radicalized to become Shitty And Toxic Men who are groomed to understand sex, themselves, women, and others in ways that have horrific consequences.
Gen: Blueberries or bananas?
Gen: Is there any porn that inspired your work? Which?
Ty: Yes: Pirates. Also, Tuff Titties: Motor Boys by Angela Herr, which I saw at HUMP! amateur porn film festival in Seattle in 2012. It was messy and hot and funny and the performers were trans and I was like oh fuck, I want to see more of this, I want to make more of this.
Ethan: Not Exactly Porn but: John Waters is a major inspiration. And we love Who Will Fuck Daddy? by Lasse Långström.
Gen: What are the best food items one could have in one’s butt? In terms of comfortability and enjoyability.
Ty: A virgin Piña Colada.
Check out Fuck Me Tender on 30 May, 2019, at 19:00 at ACUD MACHT NEU in Berlin, also featuring the work of Danielle Nebula, Sarah Berger, Cupcake, Siemon Leon, Gen Eickers, Sandra Sordini, S Rodriguez, and Ugo Rex.
Ethan Folk and Ty Wardwell are art partners who make performances and films that probe masculinity, queerness, and privilege through intimate encounters between their bodies, cash, and dairy products.
Gen Eickers is a trans fag they who makes mostly philosophy & sometimes art that explores the possibility of bodies and gender.