Ninja Turtle Sex Museum


Written by Olly Rees
06 Monday 06th September 2010

The logo of James Unsworth’s solo show Ninja Turtle Sex Musuem is “a picture of a ninja turtle defecating while wielding a huge erection.” This sums up the shocking and intense imagery that is seen throughout Unsworth’s work. With a shop, a specially made film Ninja Turtle Sex Musuem: The Movie and over 80 new works his show will certainly turn heads, but the exhibition is much more than just crude pornography.

Full of irony, satire and dark humour, Unsworth’s work is deliberately juvenile. Well spoken and with a first class fine art printmaking degree from WSA he mocks “exhibitions about girls in school uniforms”, “recent mass produced erotica and those boring exhibitions.” Yet he also takes the idea of ‘shock art’ a step further and confronts viewers directly about their conceptions of love, sex and what an “acceptable” fetish really is.
Ninja Turtle Sex Museum is very different from other exhibitions out there, and you’re not going to see anything like it too soon. Don’t Panic talked to James Unsworth to see exactly how he managed it.
Many people's first reaction to much of your work may be shock: is this intentional and do you see it as the main function of your work?
I don't mind shocking people, I like to be shaken up myself from time to time. I personally don't go to galleries for an easy time or to see something 'nice', that's what the park/zoo/beach is for. I don't mean to say that the show will be a chore but you aren't going to have a totally pleasant time there, you'll maybe feel sick, laugh, see some imagery brought back from a world you will have never been to before and you'll definitely leave with some kind of opinion. That’s what it's all about, right?
What inspired you to create the Ninja Turtle Sex Museum?
Ninja Turtle Sex Museum started out when I was thinking about incongruous things after researching the grotesque, which is a combination of the seemingly opposing elements of horror and humour. That's the kind of thing I'm interested in, what happens when you combine things that shouldn't really occupy the same space or idea. I find it absolutely amazing that we can fetishise and obsess over pretty much anything. I suppose in that way the work is celebratory but it's mostly dark and disgusting... some of it I'm really unsure about. But I'll let the viewer judge for themselves.
Some people may consider your work to be disturbing and disgusting: is this intentional?
Some of it is really, really disgusting and I'd agree with these people. There's disgusting stuff in the world, real stuff, real horror. I can’t ignore it, I've said before that I'm interested in the idea of knowledge being a ‘brutalizer of innocence’. This is a monumental theme and something common to all people. There are events and information that we are confronted with that we would rather blot out, you either remain afraid to address them or you confront your fears. It’s more dangerous to pretend that everything is just fine.
What has been your favourite reaction that a viewer of your work has had?
I enjoy watching people looking at my work; it's a voyeuristic pleasure. I like any reaction as I try to make artworks that provoke. The worst reaction I can imagine is for viewers to be left unmoved. On walking into the gallery people will be confronted with an image that will allow them to make an immediate decision about weather they want to stay or turn straight around. I want to polarise opinion some people will absolutely hate this show but some people will be grabbed by it, I'm certain no one will be bored by this show.
You have a very unique and different style: have you always had it?
I can remember drawing Fraggles being killed and tortured in a variety of ways in the back of my French exercise book, I'm pretty much still doing the same thing.
How come you decided to have a gift shop in your exhibition?
The gift shop developed from an early idea of creating a completely uncommercial 'brand', which is where the Ninja Turtle Sex Museum comes from. It’s completely uncommercial due to legal reasons and the obscene content of the artworks, but I have produced these items of merchendise. The logo of the museum is a picture of a ninja turtle defecating while wielding a huge erection. This image is printed onto traditional gift shop items like mugs and T-shirts. I hope to make some links between these limited edition artworks and the items that were pushed on me as a 10-year-old Ninja Turtle fan.
James Unsworth’s Ninja Turtle Sex Musuem is on at Five Hundred Dollars from 10 September – 10 October.

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