(Art) The Perverse Paraphilias of Trevor Brown [Very NSFW]

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English artist Trevor Brown, who works and resides in Japan, has planted his flag in the narrow hinterland between conventional pop surrealism and taboo paraphiliac erotica.

paraphilia. [par″ah-fil´e-ah] a sexual disorder characterized by recurrent intense sexual urges, sexually arousing fantasies, or behavior involving use of a nonhuman object, the suffering or humiliation of oneself or one’s partner, or children or other nonconsenting partners.

The prefix “para” means outside of, apart from, beyond, which is an attempt by the medical community to define these feelings as abnormal, something to be fixed or eliminated.

They are certainly unhealthy. Some would be dangerous or criminal if ever acted out — not that that is ever the point of fantasy.

There is a genre of manga in Japan, for example, called guro, from the English word gore, that features stories of young girls being abducted and either maimed or mutilated. Although they do sometimes die in the end, it is not a category of “snuff” in that the fetish is not death but dismemberment — quite literally. The girls are often left with their arms and legs removed.

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Such imaginings are abhorrent. But they also seem to be recurrent elements of the human psyche, ones that won’t simply go away for wishing it, and that makes them as valid a subject for art as any other, if not more so for forcing us to consider the inconsiderable.

I see these urges much like smallpox or influenza. Both are “natural” in that they result from the normal function of evolved microorganisms. Same for cancer, which existed long before the chemical industry.

That doesn’t make any of them good, healthy, or desirable, and we may validly want to be rid of them, just as we want to be rid of cancer. What we cannot do is deny they are part of the world — or blame them on weakness of constitution. Something else is at cause.

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Brown’s subjects are almost always prepubescent girls, which is apt since they are our paradigms of innocence, and he presents them in an anime style, full of round edges and soft colors, thereby visually associating them with children’s media, which amplifies the sheer incongruity and feelings of unease.

They are, however, not simple objects in the pornographic sense. In fact, in Brown’s art, they are often the perpetrators, which I find even more disturbing than the reverse.

I couldn’t tell you what Mr. Brown hopes to achieve with his art. I’m not sure any body of work has one explicit interpretation anyway, or even that the artist’s intent matters to our experience of it.

The reason I find his works alluring is that they poke and caress an uncomfortable wrinkle in my psyche. I am discomfited when I see them, and in as much as good art provokes — an emotion, an outcry, praise, derision — in that at least, his work succeeds, however you feel about the rest.


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