Yesterday the Times assured us that — somehow — live peep shows still exist, calling them “a glimpse of Times Square’s sordid past.” Well, if you want to glimpse the sordid past without being seen going into Playpen, head to Bizarre tonight for a “scandalous dance party” to celebrate Bizarre Publishing’s new book of photos by Jean-Christian Bourcart, with text by Nan Goldin. The champagne-fueled fete will double as the “opening ceremony” to an exhibit of Bourcart’s photos at the Bushwick bar’s Black Box Gallery.
Bourcart has photographed everything from poverty and perseverance in Camden, NJ (a project that arose when he googled for the most dangerous city in America) to poor saps stuck in traffic outside of his apartment on Canal Street. He’s taken portraits of Woody Allen, Nick Cave, David Lynch, Kurt Vonnegut and so on, but what might be his most enduring work was actually done covertly. In 1992, on assignment for Marie Claire, he took photos inside of an S&M club in Frankfurt, using a customized jacket with a camera in the pocket. The camera, he wrote in Infertile Madonnas, “was far too noisy. I would pretend to be interested, only to leave immediately, coughing to mask the noise of my camera.”
The French-born photographer’s snapshots from the S&M vaults and swingers clubs of New York and Paris, taken from 1998 to 2001, were gathered in Forbidden City. They were taken “in pursuit of a dream of dissolution, harmony, and collective ecstasy,” he wrote. “As a creator of illusion, I’m concerned with truth. And for me these are places of truth, like mental hospitals and battlefields.”
Bizarre’s 160-page tome, All About Love, collects Bourcart’s work in all three locations over the years and pairs it with text by Nan Goldin. In an essay that accompanied Fordidden City, Goldin wrote that Bourcart “captures the women dressing after a trick or displaying themselves spread-eagled on their beds or sleeping, seemingly spent or waiting. With a woman washing her hair or another sewing, he shows the mundanity of life in the bordello.” The photos, she said, are “haunting sense of loneliness, these pictures maintain humanity and fragility. Jean-Christian never represents these women as alluring or even especially erotic, but as touching and also trapped: working a hard job in a difficult environment.”
So, depending on your point of view, it might be antithetical or appropriate that Bizarre is feting the book with a “crazy dance party and hot cabaret show” by the fabulous White Diamonds. Either way, with champagne to fuel the festivities it’s bound to be a blast and so much better than a coworker seeing you ducking into a Times Square peep show.