Artist Clayton Cubitt's "Hysterical Literature" Series to Make Its First Museum Appearance

by Gabby Bess

Alongside various other book-centric works at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Clayton Cubitt's "Hysterical Literature" series will be on view as part of a new exhibition called Bibliotecaphilia.

Cubitt's "Hysterical Literature" series first appeared online in 2012 and the on-going project quickly gained attention. The videos in the series depicted fully clothed women sitting at a table reading a literary work of their choice aloud, with one small twist: they were having orgasms courtesy of an unseen vibrator under the table. The film portraits are in black-and-white and the reading material is serious, but the videos themselves are often funny at times -- they show the subjects laughing and trying to keep it together enough to, um, finish -- and they feature various women from porn actress Stoya to comedian Margaret Cho.

In interviews, Culbitt has said that he wanted to capture the candid essence of his subject's personality with this project in reaction to "the era of the ubiquitous selfie." "It occurred to me that someone's choice of literature is one of the most personal reflections of him or her as a person," the artist told Slate. "Using the format of a book reading as the excuse for the exercise allowed me to illustrate a battle between mind and body, between 'high art' and 'primal urge.'"

Here's Stoya's take on the experience, who read from Supervert's Necrophilia Variations for the project:

As I start reading, my disbelief is suspended. I forget what is about to happen. The first touch on my thigh sends all available blood to my vulva. I continue to enunciate properly, focusing on the text. I've broken a sweat. If this goes on for much longer my hair will be plastered to my head with perspiration as though I've been working out or engaging in acrobatic man/woman penetrative fucking. I stumble over a word, my concentration breaks as I go back to pronounce it correctly. Neither the Hitachi or the woman wielding it will be denied, but in the interests of art (and because this feels so beautifully filthy I don't want it to stop yet) I hold out as long as I can. This section of the world that I'm inhabiting slows down, zooms in. Like a stretched rubber band it suddenly contracts, and I am lovingly punched with an orgasm.

Watch Stoya's work of art, above, and then head to Mass MoCA on the 24th to see the entire Bibliotecaphilia exhibit.

Subscribe to Get More