Published on October 30, 2013 | by Sean McKee0
CSM student ‘doing it’ for the art
CSM student Clayton Pettet, 19, has been facing down a global media storm since announcing his latest project Art School Stole My Virginity.
The show has been created to “liberalise sexuality” and will involve him losing his virginity with another male.
Pettet said his new work is the development of a pre-existing art concept. “Sex has been used in art for hundreds of years,” he told the Standard. “The only reason why my piece is getting all this attention now is because it has the word ‘gay’ near it.”
Since announcing that the performance will take place in January in front of an audience of about 100 people, Pettet has received press attention from around the world.
The concept has also been met with a backlash from critics, accusing him of performing “a stunt that cheapens sexual relationships”.
However, he has described the media attention as mostly positive for him: “People are talking about contemporary art again, it’s interesting to read into various articles and it makes you realise how much society still values the concept of physical virginity, gender and sexuality”.
Pettet does insist that he didn’t set out to shock: “My virginity wasn’t in any sense a gimmick. I’ve been developing this idea for a while. I thought, ‘Well, this might get a little bit of press in London closer to the event’, but not this.”
He adds: “When people are saying stuff like ‘faggot’, ‘get an STD’, it doesn’t hurt me, but it’s not intelligent. Obviously I am completely fine with people not liking my work, if they have an intelligent argument for why.”
Like many conceptual artists, Pettet is drawing on his life experiences to create art, using this project to address the labelling he experienced during his school years.
CSM – famous for encouraging its students to take on controversial issues in their art – have also distanced themselves from his work.
However, he has received offers of support and guidance from tutors. “They had to disassociate the school because they’re worried about the legalities, they can’t risk the school so it’s my own project.”
Speaking about the press attention, he said: “It’s just got bigger and bigger. They’ve invented quotes from me. They’ve said my parents didn’t know. They’ve said I expect rave reviews, that I would have a Q&A session after the event and that I’m a teenage narcissist. It’s absurd! Crazy!
“There are a lot of assumptions about my definition of ‘virginity’ and how it will be ‘lost’…I haven’t even said anything about who is penetrating whom.”
“They’ve invented quotes from me. They’ve said my parents didn’t know. It’s absurd! Crazy!” – Clayton Pettet
In defence of his project, Pettet is also going to use the negative press he has received as part of the project: “I’m going to use (the press) and the assumptions made as part of the piece and the exhibition. In some ways it’s quite useful to make my point.
“People have put a box around Art School Stole… (the show) in order to make it easier to understand. Everything is not what it seems.”
This isn’t the first time Pettet has taken on the subject of sex for his art. In his first year, he also looked at the female orgasm in a project called Whorgasm.
“It was about the labelling of a girl who enjoys having sex, who enjoys having an orgasm, and enjoys doing whatever she wants in a way that would be acceptable from a man.
“It’s always about male masturbation, and men watching porn and how it’s weird if girls watch porn or masturbate, and that’s unfair, and unjust. It’s a dreadful label girls carry because they have a vagina.”
Despite all the hype around his performance, he has remained tight-lipped, however, he has revealed to Arts London News that the partner in his performance is his partner in real life. “I respect my partner a lot, we work with each other well. They will deal with their own publicity… but thats all I can say about him.”
Pettet has explained that he wants to keep the events of the actual performance top secret, so he does not spoil the experience of losing his virginity in as real an environment as possible. “No one even knows exactly what’s going to happen in this performance…I’m still developing the idea.”
So what about who he wants to watch the show? Interest in his exhibition has spread far, and Pettet will thoroughly assess every application for tickets before giving them out, mainly for his own security and to ensure everyone there will appreciate the art of the performance.
“I don’t think the audience know what to expect yet, I feel like they’re already experiencing part of the performance. I want to achieve liberation from the social constructs that hold us down. I want (to see) a varied type of people, full of those who want to experience a new kind of virginity and protest against the society that holds so many of us down.”
The show will take place on January 25 2014, with the location still to be announced. To register interest for tickets to Art School Stole My Virginity visit: artschoolstolemyvirginity.tumblr.com