Having gained traction from their first exhibition at Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Garden’s, Perth based artists Pony Express have finally brought their smash hit Ecosexual Bathouse home to WA. As a plant lover and artist, I’ve been eager to experience their work for quite some time. Let me make the (perhaps obvious) point, however, that social media clips are incredibly different from the real thing. This is a piece of art that needs to be smelled, felt and seen with your own eyes.
While I am a very open and sexually positive person, I was timid, apprehensive, and a little skeptical about the idea of ecosexuality. One of Pony Express’ aims through Ecosexual Bathhouse is to embrace the earth as a sexual partner in order to highlight our relationship with the planet and trigger some kind of global action. What made me anxious was being around other such a large amount of strangers, especially in a situation where there is an alien, sexual vibe around every individual.
At the entrance to the exhibition, everyone was assigned a “morph.” These were accessories that bordered plant and BDSM parallels, plant masks, water bottles attached to belt chains. Ground rules were also set out before we entered the bathhouse: respect others privacy (no selfies allowed, soz), always ask for consent, and the safe word is “timber”. These rules were emphasised as extremely important, so that while I felt challenged during the experience, I also felt constantly safe.
My anxiety and apprehension melted away quite readily. By the end of the show I found myself listening to dirty talk on a phone and sporadicaly screaming out “FUCK CHARLES DARWIN” ——under the command of who ever was on the other side of that line— which I was met with laughs and smiles by the lovely people around me. I was open to being touched: this involved getting a peepshow from a silvery moth like goddess, cocooning me in her wings, brushing up against my face with hers and having my hands massaged with mud (which felt like going to lush to be honest). I’m a very sensory person, so it was nice to actually get my hands dirty (literally) and play with the materials, as opposed to most art shows and their strict no-touching policies.
While I still have my skepticisms about ecosexuality as a means to change the way we all treat the planet, I think it’s successful at opening up a conversation, and discussing how our bodies and personal preferences (sexual or not) interact with the environments and ecosystems that surround us. It is impossible to fully articulate the intricacies of such an exhibition, so if you’re feeling biocurious I’d highly recommend stepping out of your comfort zone and experiencing it yourself.
Words by Sophie Nixon
Ecosexual Bathouse is part of PICA’s Reckless Acts program. It runs until 28 January.