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Slava Mogutin, ‘German licking, NYC, 2021’
Slava Mogutin, ‘German licking, NYC, 2021’Courtesy of the artist, We Are Village

These images are a deep dive into the complexities of sex and desire

Featuring Bruce LaBruce, Slava Mogutin and more, Desire explores a ‘powerful and complex force’ that shapes everything we do, according to curator Yves De Brabander

“Desire is the raw essence of the human experience,” says the Belgian photographer and curator Yves De Brabander. “A force that drives us, motivates us, and shapes our lives in ways both subtle and profound.” It’s also the focus of a new exhibition curated by De Brabander and Eric LeRouge for We Are Village, a Berlin-based space for queer creatives to come together and connect, as part of the institution’s ongoing Instinct series.

Featuring a range of acclaimed artists, including Slava Mogutin, Matt Lambert, Bruce LaBruce, Gio Black Peter, and Hanna Schaich, the show – titled Désir (Desire) – spans a range of media, from painting, to photography, to pornographic films and performance art. Alongside abstract self-portraits and intimate Polaroids, visitors will find stark dick pics, ketamine-inspired canvases and phallic sculptures. Probably not one you want to take your grandma to. Then again, maybe your grandma just needs to open her mind!

“Our exhibition aims to challenge visitors to think critically about their own desires, societal norms, and the way desire shapes us,” says De Brabander. “To embrace the diversity of human desire and sexuality. Desire is a multifaceted and complex aspect of human experience.”

Drawing on the teachings of French philosopher Michel Foucault, who helped rewrite contemporary attitudes toward sexuality, Désir also traces the fluidity of desire, based on the idea that “human desires and sexualities are not fixed or static but are instead dynamic and ever-changing over time”. This is fertile ground for artists, De Brabander suggests: As an artist, delving into desire allows for deep self-reflection and introspection. It’s a means of understanding oneself better and sharing those insights with others. It transcends cultural, social and geographical boundaries.”

Curating the exhibition itself involved a commitment to several core principles: inclusivity, diversity, artistic excellence and a deep connection to the theme of desire. This meant welcoming individuals across a range of sexual orientations, gender identities and cultural backgrounds, says De Brabander, noting the “invaluable” support and advocacy of Richard Villani, creative director of the Tom of Finland Foundation.

Tomorrow (September 8), Villani will also join the Durk Dehner at We Are Village, to deliver a talk on love and desire. This will be followed by a lecture performance by Gio Black Peter, and a film screening featuring work by Matt Lambert, Bruce LaBruce, Hanna Schaich, and the artistic duo Mathieu & Leolo, on September 9. Later in the exhibition’s run, visitors will be treated to more artist talks, readings from the Berlin Queer Writers Circle, an interactive walk exploring the city’s history of sex and a spoken word performance from Nicky Miller.

Ultimately, says De Brabander, he wants people to walk away with a sense of desire as a “powerful and complex force” that shapes our society. “It’s through understanding, empathy, and open dialogue,” he says, “that we can move towards a future where everyone is respected and celebrated for their unique desires and expressions.”

Desire opens today (September 7, 2023) at Berlin’s We Are Village, and runs until September 16. Find more information below, and get a preview of the work on show in the gallery above.

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