People do Water

People do water (2013-2019) is a photographic archive of human beings in the moment when they join the sea, an observation of people mating with water. Hydrophilia is a term to indicate the property of an element to absorb and attract water and, at the same time, a sensual pleasure produced by physical contact with water or in relation to images of people immersed in water. Re-interpreting the physical union with the sea is an attempt to displace the margins between the body and the space around the body, the sea.

Technical details
Color and b/w film photographic series, 50 images + texts. Variable dimensions.

Complete project unpublished. Exhibeted as preview at Neue Galerie im Homannhaus, Augsburg, "A Process", exhibition (special edition book edited by Der Greif); Frieze Art, London, "Curated by Paul Smith and friends", exhibition; Der Greif, Artist Feature selection; Fotofilmic, short list selection, Canada; Salon Ligne Roset, public talk with Tommaso Cotroneo, London.

People do Water Preview at Der Greif, A Process, Exhibition at Neue Galerie im Homannhaus, Augsburg (2014) + special edition book:

People do Water Preview at Der Greif, A Process, Exhibition at Neue Galerie im Homannhaus, Augsburg (2014) + special edition book:

People do Water Preview, A Process special edition book, Der Greif, Germany

People do Water Preview, A Process special edition book, Der Greif, Germany

People do Water Preview at Fotofilmic, shortlisted. Canada:

People do Water Preview at Fotofilmic, shortlisted. Canada:

People do Water, a pornographic introduction

text by Benedetta Panisson

People do Water as Debbie does Dallas.
Debbie does Dallas is a 1978 porn movie directed by Jim Clark, when porn movies where shot on film. Is Debbie a goddess able to incorporate between her limbs all the city of Dallas, through an almighty coitus act that include urban structures, infrastructures, citizens? Behind this title is there any kind of cosmogonic scenario?
They tell Debbie does Dallas but the only trace that the chemical photographic film process reveals, even if all films are sensitive to ultraviolet, x-rays and high-energy particles, is Debbie the Cheerleader doing the owner of a sport store.
A chemical game between a hole, or diaphragm, and a sensitive surface, or film: hole opens, light penetrates, sensitive surface reacts, hole closes. A latent image is impressed on film. The reaction is physical, chemical, and invisible. Then the developing agent will let emerge the visible image.
But also here, between the invisible and the manifesting image, there is no trace of any amplified sexual intercourse between a superhuman Debbie and thousand of small humans resident in Dallas. Nothing. Actually, they are not even in Dallas. And no hierogamy makes manifest.

Hieros gamos, they told in the past, was a divine mating that happened somewhere else, a generative power that pulsing could create nothing less that the manifest world, re-represented in earth as human performative synthesis in form of sexual ritual. They called it maithuna.
Human beings copulated in the earth justified by a mimesis with a latent imaginary made of sexual intercourse between gods and goddesses in cosmos. A symbolic reduction of an immense copulating.
Maybe this is what Debbie does in Dallas: a penniless cheerleader doing a guy in a sport store in a non-place made of campuses and locker rooms, as symbolic and ritual sexual reduction of a Debbie, Goddess of the Cheerleaders, between thunderbolts and vortices, copulating with the invincible and omnipotent God of Sport Store.
A simplified and abbreviated sexual ritual of a latent image, so latent that there is no trace of it in the film, both before and after the devolopment.

The film's sensitivity to light (100 iso, 400 iso, 3200 iso, etc) absorbes some excesses, but some excesses are forbidden also to the most sensitive chemical agents.
This is too fast, this is too far, this is too shady, this is too much. The more you see in the dark, the dirtier is the image. The reduction of exposure corresponding to use of higher sensitivities generally leads to reduced image quality. It is a logic that underlies both some chemical photographic reaction and pornographic dynamics.
The sexual alchemy, the photosensitive process alchemy, the imaginary alchemy: nothing is created, nothing is destroyed, everything is transformed. Therefore between title and impressed film, there is a calculation hyperbole, an excess of narration.

In 1978 Dallas population was about of 900,000 people; Debbie, from minute 0 to minute 80, does a human being, her cheerleader mates do about 10 boys. That's all.
The movie inspired a long series of hypothesis of spatialized sexuality, Debbie does New Orleans, Debbie does Wall Street, Rocco ravishes Prague, Debbie does Dallas again, but in any case there is always a numeric precipice, or an insensitivity of the photographic chemical support.
Hyperextending sexuality till becoming territorial, urban, regional, statal, continental, cosmic, including everybody and everything, till rivers, coasts, seas, all that surrounds Debbie as much as an ancient greek, ancient roman, or hinduist divinity, it is a praxis that has always matches with the history of the narration of sexuality, from sacred mitology to mass pornography, from magic ritual supports to the libertins, from the erotic oral tradition to a photographic collection.

Generally we narrate about sexuality for two reasons: controlling it or going over it, reducing it or increasing it.
Where the sexuality of the possible ends, the sexuality of the impossible begins. Utopies, hyperboles, imagination jumps, multiplications, stimulating our handy sexuality going down deep the sexuality that we cannot. Sexuality we cannot is both because of an interdiction or because it is unattainable. In both cases it deals with a margin, the chance to go over it, stopping the calculation, letting us  immerse. Like when we cross the littoral between land and sea.
A simple and hyperexpended coitus act as spacial movement, to touch, to know, to create relations.
And People do Water is an observation of people in physical union with water, a film photographic archive of people mating with the sea.
If only photographic film could be more sensitive…


text by Benedetta Panisson

We are born breaking waters from a hole. Then the body sips our sexual possibilities. Skin, some orifices, a couple of hands, a mounth, a tongue, we can what we can. We think to be excessive but also the most extreme sexual variation always touches a basic simplicity, re-precipitates in the body of those who believe to go over it.

Cronus instead, for example, cuts his father Uranus' genitals to rebel against his tyranny; the genitals are thrown into the sea; from the meeting of the genitals of Uranus with the sea, foam is created, and from the foam Aphrodite is born. Or, at least, this is what Hesiod says in the Theogony[1]. Immense organs that mate with the waves generate bodies and lands, and gods.
One of the most probable etymology of Uranus dates back to the ancient Greek, ouréō, urinating. Uranus is the one who causes rain, actually urine or rain, and through this it makes the earth fertile and creates the world below his jet.
Sacred, spatiliazed Golden Rain, just to ridicule our shame for urolagnia.

Indra, hinduist god of the thunder and of the storms, after a thousand years of his mother's pregnancy, does not want to come out from the usual hole, considered dangerous. He is born from her side. His birth frees the waters. This is the RgVeda[2].

And then Siva, the erotic ascetic[3], and his role during that maritime show that ancient texts call the churning of the ocean: gods and anti-gods, deva and asuras, fight for dominion over the worlds. Victory is in the amrta, the nectar kept in the ocean. It is only with a great friction of the waters that the ocean will ejaculate the nectar among the waves. It takes a strategy: the gods penetrate the sea with a mountain, move like a top, whisk the sea, and to make it turn comes Vasuki, the king of snakes, used as a long rope. The whipping, frictions, waves, foam, the frenzied rotation of the mountain, become so powerful that Vasuki spits out his poison. It is Shiva who drinks it so that it does not poison the whole world. After a thousand years the enterprise is accomplished and the ocean emits the immortal nectar[4].
Doing the sea with a mountain, other than Debbie does Dallas...

In Satapatha Brahamana it is Pragapati, in his polymorphism, to create the ocean. He creates it practicing tapas: the physical ardor necessary at birth, something similar to the maternal warmth in the growth of the fetus, to the animal hatching the eggs, to the innate warmth in every state of union; tapas becomes in the later traditions, and in the solitude of the male ascetic, the heat generated by abstinence and by detentions in spiritual practices. Waters are born from a hot, sweaty deity, at the unexploded limit of restrained desire:

Verily, Pragâpati alone was here in the beginning. He desired, 'May I exist, may I reproduce myself!' He toiled, he practised tapas (or, became heated). From him, worn out and heated, the waters were created: from that heated Person the waters are born. The waters said, 'What is to become of us?'--'Ye shall be heated,' he said. They were heated; they created foam: hence foam is produced in heated water. [5]

History gives us many chances to queer the conventional sexual horizon, to make it a diagonal that cross and join apparently disjoint territories. Cosmogonies and microcosmos in which the margins between sexuality, territory, body, creation, destruction, desire, pleasure, alchemy, are made of what the sea foam is made of.
If it is foam.


[1] Hesiod, Theogony, 188-206, Einaudi-Gallimard, 1998.
[2] Rg Veda, IV, 18.
[3] W. Doniger, The Erotic Ascetic, Oxford University Press, 1981.
[4] Srimad-Bhagavatam, 8.8.6.
[5] Satapatha Brahamana, Doniger pag. 65, Satapatha Brahamana, VI, 1,3, 1-2.


Hydrophilia in Human Beings and in Cotton

text by Benedetta Panisson

Hydrophilia is, at the same time, the property of an element of absorbing and attracting water, and a form of sexual excitement in humans.For example the hydrofilic cotton wool is a kind a fibre from which resinous and waxy matters have been chemically removed, making it highly absorbent and penetrable; in contact with water it embodies it in itself.
In human beings Hydrophilia manifests in form of sexual excitement involving the immersion of the body in water, or of people or objects in water, or in front of images about people or objects in water.
People do Water begins as the working process of many photographers begins: the research of a refrain, a tic, a recurrent image, a rhythm between a negatives strip and another.
I have always taken pictures of people in the sea but I had not yet realized that these could be a body of images. At the first shot I was a child, and sea was just right there in front of me. An elementary expressions, or photographs that you do not even remember having taken. Just when I was 32 years old, looking for refrains in my personal film archive, this long sequence of hundreds of images of people immersed in the water has emerged. I therefore imaged they were doing water, from the first to the last. I evidently superimposed to an elementary expression a superstructure. Since then I have never stopped to look at people in the water as people doing water.
I chose People do Water as title; it was the most honest.

Every photographer is made to take an image, and not to take another. Often photographers are genre photographers, they are attracted to something to which they attribute a surplus of value, and that is worth repeating and repeating again in the shot. A mechanism of desire capable of acting in the form of displacement, selection, exclusion, inclusion, echo, deformation, epiphany.
The subtle desire of the eye is realized in the multiplication of the difference. Every ocular orifice is sensitive in its own way. Every orifice is sensitive in its own way.
When I think about the differentiation of photography I tend to think not about a list of genres, but to a list of paraphilias.
Paraphilia is the displacement of a sexual pulsion, next to, above of, beside of a sexual pulsion that is considered conventional. From 2013 DSM, Diagnostical and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, lightened its psychiatric judgment on paraphilias, distinguishing them from paraphilic disorders. These are disorders when causing distress to the subject or causing harm, or risk of harm, to others.
Feeling pleasure, as powerful as it is, does not escape from the rules of norm and control. And, after all, it is a form of fight.
When the sexual fantasy of those who practice meets/crashes with the logic of those who catalog and put the excesses in alphabetical order, whether they are doctors or online porn catalogs producers, to exceed are also lists of words.
Crossing the data, here is a list of some sexual categories in relation with water:

 Aquaphilia (or Hydrophilia): sexual excitement involving water, wet environments, including bathtubs, swimming pools, sea, or also rain, or images of people or objects immersed in water.
Ablutophilia: sexual excitement from baths or showers.
Albutophilia: sexual excitement from orgasms in the water.
Antiophilia: sexual excitement from fluid substances.
Clothes Wetting: sexual excitement in wetting someone's clothes or watching somebody get wet (with wate ror urines).
Klismaphilia: paraphilia involving enjoyments of, and sexual arousal from, water enamas injected inside the body.
Coitobalnism: sexual intercoursing in a water-filled bathtub.
Coiuts a unda: under water sexual intercoursing.
Bidetonism: the use of water spray from a bidet as a genital sexual stimulant.
Liquidophilia: immersing genitals in water.
Water bondage: underwater bondage practices.

It seems that the word Aquaphilia (synonym of Hydrophilia) was used for the first time in the '90s by Phil Bolton, author of the online magazine Aquaphiles Journal", a collection of under water erotic scenes.

One of the most ancient cases of Hydrophilia attestation, with the exception of the numerous divine and mythological unions with water that precede it, is the one narrated by Suetonious in The Lives of the Caesars. This historiographical text, sometimes criticized of groundlessness,  was written in the II century AD. In the book III-44 we can read about the life of the roman emperor Tiberius Caesar, born in 42 BC:

 Maiore adhuc ac turpiore infamia flagravit, vix ut referri audirive, nedum credi fas sit, quasi pueros primae teneritudinis, quos pisciculos vocabat, institueret, ut natanti sibi inter femina versarentur ac luderent lingua morsuque sensim adpetentes...[1]

 He indulged in greater and more shameful depravities, things scarcely to be told or heard, let alone credited, such as the little boys he called his ‘minnows’ whom he trained to swim between his thighs to nibble and lick him while he was swimming...

In the Manusmrti, or Laws of Manu, a set of dharmic legal codices of the ancient Hindu society (II a.C.-II d.C.), part is dedicated to the regulation of sexual relations and underwater sexual intercourses are punished with fast (11.174):

 A man who has committed a bestial crime, or an unnatural crime with a female, or has had intercourse in water, or with a menstruating woman shall perform a Samtapana Krikkhra (fast).[2]

We could continue for a long time, drawing up more lists, collecting other cases, tell stories, but it is enough to simply immerse our body in the water: penetrating with a body made of 65% water, the water itself.
The union with water is an echo of a physical union that, after all, has already happened inside.



[1] Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum, III-44. Source:
[2] The Laws of Manu, II-174, ed. and tr. by G. Buhler, Oxford, Clarendon Press, Princeton Theological Seminary Library, 1886.