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16th February 2024

Indelicate 4.0: Are sex and art mutually exclusive?

The Mancunion explores the magical world of West Art Collective’s fetish and sex-positive art exhibition, Indelicate 4.0. The naughtiest night in Manchester celebrates all things pleasure, desire and sex through art, risqué performances, and workshops
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Indelicate 4.0: Are sex and art mutually exclusive?
Credit: Anna Marsden @ The Mancunion

Antwerp Mansion: a hidden gem, tucked away in plain sight. A gothic hideaway for the misfits and creatives of Manchester. A crumbling, colourful palace with walls that talk. They talk of art, love, and community; they talk of acceptance, queerness, and of youth.

On the second Friday of February, these walls spoke of all things deemed indecent, of passion and sex. They whispered of bodies, the feminine, the sex-positive, and the silly. They screamed about leather and latex, shouted about lace and self-pleasure, yelled about shamelessness and pride and safety. Because shame has no place at events run by West Art Collective, instead, pride and safety are in abundance.

Established in 2019, West Art Collective are a blazing force in the Manchester events scene, curating zero-cost exhibitions to support local and independent artists. By creating these financially accessible events, the group has created a community of people who count down the days until they can make their next pilgrimage towards the adult theme park that is Antwerp Mansion.

Friday night’s Indelicate 4.0 was the ultimate adult night of fun. Indelicate is the collective’s “annual sex positive, kink art and music event.” It was a night to celebrate pleasure, desire and sex without judgment or boundaries. The societal shame surrounding kink and fetish felt non-existent and, in all seriousness, in that house, on that night, all felt right with the world.

Arriving at the Mansion feels fun and naughty, but not quite as fun and naughty as trotting down the Curry Mile scantily clad in fantastically eye-turning outfits. As you slip through the inconspicuous gate, you enter a whole new world. The mansion looms above, a beautiful old building which gives no clues as to what lies in store. Pink lights twinkle ahead, a mirage at the end of a muddy walk to an outside space of graffiti art and creative seating, with fabulously, artistic static pornography flickering on a TV.

The mansion itself, with creaking, gapped floorboards and a grand curving staircase, creates an exhibition venue unlike any other. A sculpted figure in intricate bondage hung from the ceiling above the grand piano, something like a kinky chandelier. With over 50 artists exhibiting, the homoerotic stained glass and homages to queer sex were plentiful, with the walls and windowsills host to sculptures of fun and impactful work exploring self-love, consent, and personal explorations of sexuality.

Animatronic by odo_paints – Credit: Anna Marsden @ The Mancunion

Sex was everywhere within art that night, just like it always has been. Picasso once said, “Sex and art are the same thing.” As one of the oldest subjects in the history of art, sex can be explored through one’s craft in a way that harnesses the power of sexual imagery, especially for the queer community and in feminist work. Artistic practice can be a look into sexual enjoyment and self-pleasure, away from the harmful lens of the porn industry which is so steeped in misogyny that the fun and pleasure within consensual fetish or kink play is lost. Sex and art are equal in the liberation they create for both the participant and the voyeur.

Attendees expressed their excitement and awe without taboo or judgement which gave the whole event a wonderful atmosphere of community and safety. A visitor confided to me; “I’ve never felt as safe or seen as I have at Antwerp.” For West Art Collective to create a space this special and nurturing for people to escape to, was a feat to behold, and I could feel this sense of safety in each piece of crumbling paint and dusty corner of that building.

Positive sexual relationships are for everyone, it is all about how we treat our own bodies and the bodies of others, highlighted through the incredible performances and workshops available to the crowds. From nipple casting to life drawing and vintage burlesque, the event allowed everyone present to celebrate and show respect for their own form and those of the performers.

The cavernous upstairs was full of independent artists selling prints, masks, breast-shaped bags, jewellery, and everything in between. I had stepped into a world where sex and art weren’t mutually exclusive, and the result was some of the most beautiful and erotic hats, bags, and ties I have ever had the privilege to see.

The showstopper was Ronnie Stone and Amiel Nitrate’s BDSM show, which was not only fun and kinky, but also forced everyone in the audience to let go of their shame and unlearn everything society had taught them about the right and wrongs of sex. It was an act that was not only full of candles and chains but also one that taught all who were lucky enough to be there that fetish and kink is full of consent and, above all, fun and pleasure.

Credit: Anna Marsden @ The Mancunion

It was mind-blowing to think this was all happening barely a stone’s throw from the Curry Mile; it was as though you had been transported to another planet… a planet where clothes are overrated.

You could feel the empowerment in the air and if some were to accuse these events and behaviours of being for “the shock factor,” it would be an insult to the hard work, emotion and craft that had gone into each and every piece of art.

As I left, I looked down from the bannister to a spontaneous sing-along of strangers around the piano, each with red wine-stained lips and belting out of tune. It was the perfect end to an evening that celebrated enjoying yourself without abandon, without shame but with pleasure, safety and sexual liberation.

The relationship between art and sex was proven to be inexplicably intertwined that night – you cannot have sex without art and there could never be art without sex. Art is rooted in passion, desire, secrets, and the erotic. West Art Collective have given people a place to celebrate art, sexuality and the world of fetish and kink.

As you enter the mansion, any reservations one may have instantly fall from your back like heavy, useless skin so you can get lost in the kind of dream world that only the team of West Art Collective could conjure. And, as you leave, you will probably be the bearer of a lot less clothing and a much-expanded mind, and the walls will be calling out to you to come back again and again and again…

Anna Marsden

Anna Marsden

Anna spends her time as a student photographer, mostly reading and drinking sparkling water.

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