Last night it was showtime for Central Saint Martins’ Fine Art student Clayton Pettet. The hype around his performance Art School Stole My Virginity, which sparked a debate around the world, made us quite unsure what to expect. Though we understood it’s more a philosophical question about youth and sexuality, we had an undying curiosity to see if any of the rumours in the past month would take place. Alas, Jorinde saw it all and kept a journal.
15:00 It’s April Fool’s Day and I’ve already been pranked. Which, considering tonight’s show, makes me wonder whether Clayton and his partner will have paint on their bodies and have sex on an unstretched piece of canvas, resort to a Marina Abramovic approach or just doesn’t show up and leave a note with “ha ha, gotcha.”
19:00 We queue and have to hand in our telephones. We put them in a sealed plastic bag with our names on it, and I feel a chill run down my spine when I fastforward time in my mind, and see hordes of wild attendees trying to be the first to get their phone. It’s our ‘life’, after all.
19:20 Inside Theatre Delicatessen on Marylebone High Street, we sit in a big industrial room with concrete floors, neon lights (they also come from the tile-ventilators and make me feel like I’m in a 2007 music video) and rows of chairs. There’s a screen in the background with bananas on it. On the floor in between the screen and the chairs is a big steel bowl, a broom head, a paint brush and a pair of scissors.
19:30 People sit down, chat a bit. Two more people walk in, put down their bags and two bottles of tequila roll out on the concrete floor. Yeah, that kind of a party. Sexy music starts. People are quiet. Then start to laugh. I hear someone joke in the distance “lick my pussy, lick my crack”. We realize nothing’s happening. People continue to talk. I sip my red wine and notice how out of place the cheap Ikea chandeliers are.
19:42 Bam. Suddenly Clayton walks into the room with three followers behind him, who are naked except for black underwear and a white veil covering their faces. Mystique, or something. Clayton is wearing black boxershorts. His hair is curly, his body is clad with black paint. The words painted on his body are: NSFW 19, Teen Whore’ Oh, and ‘anus’ is delicately painted on his face.
19:43 He gets down on his knees and washes himself with a red brush. He looks intense. He rubs his private parts. He washes off paint. The water is red and it looks like blood. He gets a hard-on.
The three followers carry red cardboard with black letters: ‘anal virgin, your virgin, live fuck butt virgin sex show.’ After a while they drop them and turn to Clayton. One grabs the scissors and cuts Clayton’s hair, the other paints his face and the third continues to wash him.
19:46 Clayton disappears downstairs. The followers are still in the room. One speaks up, in a very earnest voice: “When I point to you, I want you to stand at this pillar.” He points and counts. There are fifteen people. They go downstairs. The audience is exhilirated and the tension rises.
19:48 In the background, the video plays on the projector. Clayton sits at a table surrounded by bananas.
19:55 The second white veil guy does the same job. People now feel uncomfortable, you can feel it. There is a certain sense of power and enjoyment in the voice of the guy who chooses. It is an ongoing process. There are at least 100 people in the room. Clayton licks the bananas in the background video. People sip their beer.
20:00 It’s like queueing for a roller coaster ride in the dark. You don’t know what’s going to happen, but it’s bound to be exciting and you can feel common tension rising among all with the same fate.
20:03 I wonder if the white-veiled guy is cold. He stands barefoot, like a statue, on the concrete floor. A recording starts to play. Just sound, no visuals. It’s an arty discussion about virginity.
20:10 Suddenly, Rozalina, who disappeared earlier, returns from behind us, picking up her bag. When I try to cross-question her, she says “I can’t talk now,” grabs her stuff and leaves. More people return to pick up their stuff but aren’t allowed to talk. One girl dares and gets put off angrily.
20:15 The same routine goes on. I am losing my sense of time. I am getting bored. I start to chat. Someone suggests lighting up a fag and I pray hallelujah. Then, I am number fifteen. I get up and walk to the queue, look around and see disorentation. We are brought down into a small pastel green room with walls full of words and gore phrases written in black felt pen. “When you fucked me in the mouth, did you feel anything?” Everyone stands stony-faced, like being in a museum where you aren’t permitted to make any sound. There’s glitter on the floor.
20:20 One of the white-veiled guys (really, it’s a bit Gareth Pugh-ish) picks people up one by one. He chooses me after a while and leads me to a small room in which is a small cabin. You have to kneel to get in. The booth is red and there are bananas everywhere. Clayton sits in the middle, with a serious face and a body painted with words.
“I am your anal virgin,” he says “You are my partner. You are going to penetrate me in the mouth six times with a banana.” It feels awkward. “Pick a banana.” I pick one and understand what is expected of me. I put the banana in his mouth and penetrate him six times, whilst keeping eye contact. When I’m done, I hand him the banana and he squeezes it in front of me. “Leave the booth,” he says.
20:22 Part two is the exhibition. He had made quite a look of art works, which you can only see on the 2nd of April from 10 to 10. It reminds me a bit of Keith Haring and Beth Postle. They are explicit and colorful. One says “Americas Little Virgin,” another “David Cumron”.
21:35 We all wait with much anticipation for the last group to come down. It’s nearly 10 o’ clock by then. There is a bar. After the last group, Clayton returns and stands in the corner of the room with his back facing the audience. His three followers surround him. One stands in front of him. I thought she was giving him a handjob, but she was cutting of his boxershorts. She covers him with veil. He and his followers storm out of the room. End of performance.
Read his October interview with VICE here, “I can tell you I will be having sex in front of an audience in a large space. It will be aesthetically pleasing and not presented like a peep show or something dark and seedy.”
Images by Willow Garms