I came across Genki-Genki in 2009. We were trying to boost traffic to Swellco & Swellco. The live events and original material just didn’t generate enough content for the site, so we started moving into the realm of shock value, bizarro clickbait blogging. Those early Genki-Genki posts were a big hit and the immediate gratification that comes from capitalizing on that dark and scary corner of the web helped define where Swellco & Swellco ended up. (Eventually to my regret.)
But those posts were no more original than virtually anything written on the web about Genki-Genki. All westerners approach the subject like a carnival barker, nervously assigned to lure rubes into a snuff film tent camped on the edge of hell.
“If you click on this link, you’ll regret it. I’m warning you, don’t blame me. I didn’t make it and I don’t endorse it… but wow… It’s crazy but it’s not my fault.”
The reader clicks on a link to a site they’ve been told is the world’s filthiest perversion made in a far away alien land, and are immediately confronted with images of a naked woman with her face covered in cockroaches, or with an eel hanging out of her ass. Of course the automatic response is to flee the virtual tent with a case of hysterical vapors, and then immediately testify in the comments that he or she regrets hitting that link. And so the tent fills again and the site’s traffic stats build…
In the past, my reaction has been no different. It IS disgusting. But I realized, like everyone else, I’ve never spent more than a minute peeking through my fingers at this horror show. So I did something that virtually no one does. (Like Begotten) I actually watched a whole volume of Genki- Genki. It IS disgusting. But it isn’t porn in any way that I would define it.
Now, people would say there are a million fetishes on the web that don’t involve actual sex. True. Popping balloons is a fetish. Armpit licking is a fetish. Cake farting is a fetish. But fetish video is always specific and repetitious- and this “porn” always varies conceptually and doesn’t’ have niche psychosexual triggers. Also, the free market dictates sex trade, and while the market for foot videos is a thing, there is only one man on the planet who sporadically produces squid porn- Daikichi Amano.
There is a rare interview (the only one I could find) from a documentary short by Vice. In it, he talks about how the entire crew always vomits from the smell during filming, and the productions border on unbearable for everyone involved including himself; but it’s worth it for the intriguing images he gets.
It struck me, if the words “porn studio” were changed to “art studio” and if “squid and frogs” were replaced with “honey and flowers,” then this interview would sound like an artist describing a new gallery series.
At one point he is asked “is this art?” He shrugs and says “art? Nah, its just porn.”
I call bullshit. Amano is also a photographer. His photo work is presented in galleries and he’s published a book of it. But almost all of his photo-shoots are effectively stills of his porn sets. They are disturbing, they are compelling, they are art.
It’s all CONTEXT. He takes the same material, presents it as porn, and it’s porn. He presents it as art, it’s art. Is it almost unbearably traumatizing, hyper-sexual, and utterly transgressive to the point of inducing madness? Yes. But it’s art.
When Robert Mapplethorpe presents a photo series of his friends drinking piss, or Terry Richardson publishes a photo with his dick in a model’s mouth, or Orlan videotapes her plastic surgery and projects it, or Joel Peter Witkin builds a still life using parts from actual human corpses, or Bob Flannigan hammers a nail into the head of his dick or Richard Kern films Lydia Lunch getting fucked with the barrel of a gun…
…the artists all scream, argue and plead “this is not porn, it’s art” until they’ve gone hoarse.
Many of the examples I just listed are as upsetting as Genki-Genki, and several are more pornographic than the “porn” produced by Daikichi Amano. But by changing the context, Amano nullifies the debate completely.
“Art? Nah, its just porn.”
I WON’T suggest you sit through a volume of Genki-Genki. It IS disgusting. But I assure you, it reads like any countless live or video taped performance art pieces you’ve ever suffered through. Unlike those performances, Daikichi Amano will stay with you for a very, very long time.