When we want to celebrate or mark an occasion with emotional sentiment, we often choose to say it with flowers. Giving, receiving and growing flowers are so commonplace in human civilisation, it has become a part of our ‘natural and accepted behaviour’.
Flowers are a plant’s sexual organs. Their display symbolises the plant’s sexual maturity, putting into motion the conditions that aim to bring fertilisation and reproduction. Nature requires no prescriptive legislation to determine when it will sprout, flower or die. Only the varying environmental conditions and climate are its guide.
No one would think for a second that there was anything strange about giving a bunch of flowers, and yet, it is one of the most puzzling and surreal rituals and symbolic cultural practices; an, at times, unconscious assertion of our power over nature and given right as the dominant species. We welcome and celebrate these marvels of nature – these unashamed sexual genital displays. We have created industries dedicated to mutilating these reproductive organs, arranging them together in a bunch and offering them as symbolic gestures to each other.
However our relationship with flowers (sexual organs) sits in stark contrast to our feelings, culture, social conditioning and symbolic value of our own genders, sex, sexuality and sexual organs. Basted in shame, relegated to being hidden at all cost at the risk to our virtue, social standing and identity. Such things are kept on a tight leash indeed, governed not only by intricate socialisation and cultural expectation, but actual legislation that strictly enforces constructions of gender, how you will interact sexually, express or display sex and sexuality, and when you are considered sexually mature to do so.
In some cultures, failure to follow or uphold laws and practices that are not deemed ‘normal’ could be fatal. A rather overt and significant amount of energy is expended to manipulate, criminalise and control in the name of maintaining social order – a status quo that often privileges the dominant beings in that culture, reasserts their power through symbolic reward and punishment. This seems a long way from the glorious celebration of life symbolised by the giving of flowers.
De Jonk frames kaliedescopic representations of sexual acts – specifically gay sex that is often demonised and condemned for being outside ‘natural order’ – within the visual and conceptual position that it is as much a part of natural order and survival as a flower is to a plant.
The interactive displays present 3d extruded video of flowers blooming and a pattern made of repeated sexual acts which the the viewer can control, view and compare the two, moving it back and forth through the bloom by tilting and moving the device.
SEXUAL ORGANS continues de Jonk’s interest in exploring the origins, development and meanings of our most potent and often ubiquitous symbolism, behaviours and rituals, with a particular focus on how and why their meaning changes over time.