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November 15, 2006

100,000 years of sex in Salzburg

With our ticket to the Haus Der Natur we also got admittance to a special exhibition called "100,000 Years of Sex", which was housed in a different building across the road.

The lower floor was more concerned with modern sexual attraction and health, whilst the upper floor looked at the history of sexuality. If I can get through writing this entry on the Lemon Tree/Edelweiss blog without resorting to schoolboy smut and double entendres I'll have done very well indeed. Suffice it to say that at various points I'm sure neither my parents nor I knew where to look, nor imagined that this would be how we would be spending a Saturday afternoon together in Austria.

I actually got slightly spooked as we went into the exhibition, because the first thing you saw was a bench on which were sitting full-sized life models of a naked man and woman and a couple of clothed young men. I thought it was an interesting exhibit exploring how we dealt with nudity in the context of our everyday lives. So I nearly jumped out of my skin when suddenly the clothed guys moved, and I realised that in fact they were not part of the exhibit, but just a couple of guys who had sat down next to the nude statues.

There was an interactive panel for men and for women which displayed ten models of each sex in their underwear with the opportunity to vote for the most attractive. I don't know if it was that I don't fancy Austrian women much, or the fact that I was somewhat intimidated about expressing a sexual preference for a strange woman in front of both my wife and my mother, but I didn't actually find any of them attractive. Funnily enough, when you saw the scores, the blondest woman with the largest breasts was winning the vote.

Upstairs the exhibition featured dildos and condoms form the 17th and 18th century, early cave-paintings depicting sex, and some very odd sexual paraphenalia unearthed from graves.

And then there was the pornography, from the Roman era onwards.

The thing that always most amuses me about the invention of photography is that people immediately did two things. As I mentioned once when writing up about an exhibition on Brunel in London, instead of trying to make the pictures in colour, they tried to make them in 3D using a stereoscopic double image process and special viewing glasses. And secondly, having invented the camera, people immediately started getting young ladies to pose in front of it with their clothes off.

Vintageerotica The 100,000 Years of Sex exhibition had a little curtained off area with an old-style peep show machine with images of erotica from around the turn of the century, all carefully posed, and some with the underwear, lips and nipples hand-painted back into delicate colour. And all taken with two cameras at slightly different angles to provide the "3D" effect.

Anyway, some time later, when Claire dragged me out of the naked lady booth, we got to see a video of several amateur models posing in some of the erotic kit that was on display in the museum. We were nearly crying with laughter. There was one guy wearing the inevitable cod-piece, and a long sequence with a clearly corpsing model taking hours to have all her clothing layers removed by a fumbling Edwardian buffoon. The killer though was a guy wearing in just a cape and a posing pouch which had been found in some pre-historic grave, consisting of a slip of black material and and a fake brass penis. Apart from that looking funny in itself, the way the guy was strutting his stuff in it just about had us on the floor.

On the way out there were a series of boxes you could peep into, at varying heights. The ones at child level were very innocent depictions of reproduction (birds in a nest) and love (couple holding hands). As you got higher, they became more exotic. The middle peep-hole had a couple kissing, and the second-from-top had a couple uindressed on a bed. Sadly, I'm too short to see what was in the top window, but I'm sure it was really filthy...

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