Many people regard fetish art in the same way they regard fetish in general: a subculture, and catering only to a very select clientele. However, in recent times, more and more visual and performance artists are dealing with bondage and fetishism as their subject matter. As pictured above, even references to popular culture such as comics, cartoons, and other commonplace things are given a fetish twist (pun intended) and depicted with ropes, rivets, hooks, ball-gags, chains, whips, and other paraphernalia commonly associated with the BDSM lifestyle.
What is the purpose, you might ask?
Nobody has a clear answer, except that it can either intrigue or repel people (you may notice the tone of earlier posts in this blog, which obviously reflects the latter). The funny thing is that bondage has been dealt with in earlier forms of art. Take the case of the famous painting by Rembrandt, of Andromeda chained to the rocks awaiting Perseus’ rescue, based on the Greek mythology. Sculpture, dance, and performance art also reflected this in earlier times.
Even in religion, bondage is depicted, though not in the way many perceive it the way it is today. Getting chained, fettered, whipped, slapped around, and pierced with sharp objects were oftentimes for humiliation and punishment, witnessed by many people. Medieval times also reflected this as choice of punishment for many crimes.
That both bondage and fetishism, and Medieval depictions of punishment, share many similarities in visual art forms is very interesting. We cannot fully argue that bondage is a private act, because there are many public humiliation sites and references sprouting up nowadays, with fetishists making willing spectacles of themselves in very public places like parks, restaurants, and even public utility vehicles.
And yet, the main difference between fetish art and religious art is the presence of consent. Fetishism is all about consent and choice. Inflicting and receiving pain is borne out of consent from the participants; punishment in the religious and Medieval sense does not. In BDSM speak, in fact, “punishment” is a term that has come to mean entirely something new: the punishment is inflicted, yet at the same time it is welcome.
In underlining this difference, perhaps fetish art does exist to make people look at bondage differently from what they have witnessed of it in earlier forms of art.