2 February 2017

Visual artist and publisher Amy Hood on the primal marriage of pain and pleasure

We talk through 'Cult Classic' the first book published by Amy's house, Viscous.

[A]my Hood is a name that is increasingly synonymous with the publication of transgressive material, both as ex-muse and partner-in-crime of image-maker Jonathan Leder, and as a visual artist and trans-media creative in her own right. Stepping out of the partnership that brought the world the retro-fetishism that made her famous in underground circles, she has recently founded her own publishing house Viscous – the fledgling title of which explores the darker side of the human condition and those twisted archetypes best exemplified by the excesses of the legendary Manson Family.

In the aptly titled Cult Classic our enduring fascination with sex and violence are explored in the darkly cinematic images of photographer Madison Kreiger, complemented by essays from various female figures, such as the respected cultural historian Laura Mcklaw Helms. Featuring Bodhi Rose, Zanah Marie, Diandra Godiva and Ana Corbi, the book is described as “a tale of wide-eyed girls doped by the lotus of charisma… These girls will torture and kill for their queen, oblivious to the outside world.” Here, the inimitable Ms Hood tells us why she believes America might just be in thrall to a modern day cult leader, how a life lived hard makes for the best artistic expression, and why the dynamics of dominance and submission never fail to turn her on…

You can purchase Cult Classic as well as a limited edition silkscreen poster signed by Amy (below) here.

Signed Silkscreen poster, edition of 25 available now at Viscousltd.com

Stylistically, where are you coming from with this new publishing venture?

It is not necessarily what one does but the way in which they do it that sets them apart–it’s that specially personalized output or method of execution that makes something noteworthy. I think the undercurrent of counter and subculture are increasingly gaining acceptance, but it takes certain people, hopefully even myself a little, to push those boundaries in a way that’s thoughtful and not crass. Having built Imperial Publishing from scratch and developed it for four years, I was very excited to pursue my own creative brainchild–something more design-based, thought provoking and intellectually stimulating.

Your first title explores the archetype of the cult–what fascinates you about the dark world of devotion?

The worship and the all-too-often blind adoration that they elicit. The exposure that technology and social media gives us now means the ‘old-fashioned’ way in which the cults of the 60s and 70s operated as isolated communities, which we explore in Cult Classic, doesn’t really exist any more. However, as totally non-romantic as this modern comparison may be, the followers of Trump have some similarities in their deficiency in facts, occasional secrecy and the total refusal of acknowledgment towards other ideas–and, of course, the danger and harm that comes with that. They are empowering a single person with no consideration to the impact that has on the greater good.

Portrait of Amy Hood by Kirsten Bode

Cults often revolve around a dynamic of infatuation, domination and submission… Why do we have a fascination with the dark side of desire?

I’m not sure what it is about the dark pools within us that crave the infatuation and the dynamic of dominance and submission, but it’s a psychological process I recurrently explore. Personally, I’m pretty obsessed with the dark side of desire, but as someone who’s very dark indeed, what I think is sexy or thrilling about it is the drawing out of those most deep, intimate parts of my mind the parts I don’t even know are wrong or right in principle, and that yet give pleasure. I think a lot of what makes those dark dynamics such a turn-on is also the element of fantasy. But we need that boundary established for when those reveries cross out of that dream and become inhibitive of daily life, ambitions and responsibilities.

How would you describe erotica?

Erotica can be described as the visual art of sexuality or nudity, although I’d argue that its purpose extends beyond the confinement of sexual stimulation, and that part of what makes it erotic is the potential, or the intention, to be mentally and visually stimulating as well. Sex and violence are classic, and they’re some of the most primal elements of the human brain; topics that have prevailed within art, culture and society in general for thousands of years. As such, erotica is just a part of life and culture, and once you stop even considering for a second what negative opinions people may develop, or have always had, you’re creatively free to do whatever your little heart desires–you’re unbound by pre-existing limitations.

You recently opened your first art exhibition. It is said that artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide– what is your opinion of that statement?

I certainly can relate to that. I’m at once reserved, concentrated and horribly anti-social, and, on the other hand, empathetic, human and supremely motivated by other people. Authenticity is something I contemplate with frequency–what makes one person a true artist and another not? Is it an MFA, or a certain amount of training or education? Is it how complex sounding an artist’s statement about their work is? Is it how innovative or talented one is within their chosen medium? Or is it the deep, challenging protraction from the crevices within one’s soul, suggesting that the more complicated a life you’ve lived, the better for a body of depth, and pushing all that you’ve learned into some form that can be shared and have impact on the world? It must be some combination of all these, but I’d hypothesize that it is predominantly, the latter.