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Monday, May 29, 2023

‘Asexual’ unveils darker aspects of female sexuality

The Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier has been called a great many things, but rarely is he known as an “inspiration.” Phobic, depressive and disdainful of anything American, Trier has created such hopeless dramas as “Dogville,” “Antichrist” and “Melancholia.” If Trier inspires anyone to do anything, it’s probably to sit in an unlit room and ponder the futility of life.

But artist Mariana den Hollander Miranda doesn’t see it that way. When Hollander saw Trier’s latest film, the controversial “Nymphomaniac,” the story moved her to create a series of collages. Entitled “Asexual,” the exhibit is now on display in the lobby of Cine Magaly.

If “Nymphomaniac” sounds like naughty fun, you might want to prepare yourself. Rampant sex looks a little different through the lens of a Scandinavian nihilist:

In many ways, “Asexual” echoes the mood and aesthetic of Trier’s films. Each multimedia piece is dark and dispiriting, an experimental mixture of photography, drawing, and even thread sewn crudely into the paper. The portraits are raw and explicit. “Asexual” does not share the erotic beauty of Georgia O’Keeffe’s flowers or the sensual awakening of Anaïs Nin. “Asexual” is raw and unpleasant – and even bitterly funny.

The imagery focuses on three major themes: the secrecy of female sexuality, the physical challenges of womanhood, and society’s peculiar demands on women. The masturbation-themed “Pescando Placer” (“Fishing for Pleasure”) shows fingers and crevices, but neither face nor context. The moment seems covert. “No Comás” (“Don’t Eat”) shows a woman’s lips hovering near a naked female groin. None of these figures looks caged, but neither do they seem free.

Perhaps the most provocative collage has less to do with sexuality than with the body’s inevitable rebellion. “Secando Cuerpo” (“Drying Out the Body”) shows a withered female torso with dismissive Xs drawn over her bust. The piece examines common perceptions of the female life cycle: A woman may spend decades of menstruation and male attention, love and lust, pleasure and pain, and just when she’s figured everything out, menopause strikes, and society deems her sexually irrelevant.

Like Trier’s films, “Asexual” offers an extreme vision. Trier’s characters are routinely victims of sexual malevolence, so it’s no wonder that “Asexual” would focus on the bleaker aspects of female sexuality. But it’s heartening to see a female artist respond to a male artist responding to a female worldview. If you decide to see “Nymphomaniac” at Cine Magaly, you will have to walk past Hollander’s collages. Check them out when you enter, and when the film is over, give them a second viewing. You will likely see them in a whole new way.

“Asexual” continues through Sept. 18 at Cine Magaly, Barrio Escalante. Mon.-Sun., 1-10 p.m. Gallery free. Info: Cinema Facebook page.

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