Fotograf Magazine

Lenka Klodová

A list of basic rules which, according to Lenka Klodová, offer publishers of pornographic magazines guaranteed success with female readers:

  1. Pretend that you love her.
  2. She is the only one and it doesn’t matter what she is like. She is always perfect, the best.
  3. Men are strong and potent but succumb to her charm.
  4. Sex is a game for all the senses and is not limited by time. There is only one, it flows like a river over hills and through valleys, and it contains everything – ecstasy, senses aflame, sadness and depression.
  5. All these amazing events which you are writing about are from this amazing life. What hasn’t already happened won’t happen at all.
  6. Danger and dark adventure are things which we indulge according to our will. We throw ourselves into darkness and emerge from it without a scratch.
  7. Admire her for the ability to turn sex into procreation.
  8. Sometimes, in a moment of excitement, allow her to whisper a dirty word.
  9. Experience something exceptionally banal together, like washing the dishes.
  10. If you ever want to stop publishing your magazine, make the final issue full of farewells and grand emotions – that this time is the last time.
  11. Then return with another issue anyway.


“I was given this kind of universal body which I really enjoy using as a tool for expressing various ideas.” Lenka Klodová


In 2002 Lenka Klodová began her doctoral studies at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design (VŠUP), spending three years circling around the topic of a pornographic magazine for women. The mock-up for Ženin (Woman’s Magazine) was exhibited at the VŠUP Gallery in 2005 together the text of her doctoral thesis Fundamentals for the creation of a pornographic magazine for women. As she states in her thesis – which, like her magazine, deserves to be published by a regular publishing house – pornographic magazines are “essentially erotic aids in the guise of a magazine”. “The image of sexuality which they present consists mostly of scenes of brief sex acts performed with an unknown person, which, except for the sublimation of sexual tension, have little to do with the human body or soul. Sex is presented as a form of physical exercise, the biological need to eject bodily fluids, just like we occasionally need to blow our nose. … Porn magazines wrap this minimalist, essentially physiological image of sex into an attractive packaging of forbidden fruit. The natural result is that, among the majority of society, porn magazines evoke a puritanical reaction hostile to sex.”

In order to determine what a “magazine for every adult heterosexual woman” should look like, Klodová addressed women from her surroundings with self-made questionnaires, surveys and tests. She combined the results of her research with popular views on the issue of female sexual behavior, from which she selected “primarily the following aspects: the need for interest in oneself, She as the focus of attention, She as something more than merely gender, a more gradated rise in excitement and desire, touching, expressions of emotion, memories, broader contexts – family, friends.”

“This is how you could describe my strategy – subversiveness turned inside out: Already here we have countless shocking, perverse, unheard-of constructions, punk outbursts, protrusions, sharp and extreme spikes; on the other hand, we are trying to create pornography with a stealthy, expansive erotic feeling – one which, thanks to its omnipresence and commonness, has the potential of penetrating the cracks and crevices currently blocked off against aggressive sex by stereotyped images.”

Although Lenka Klodová usually reacts with reservations at being associated with feminism – and is one of the few Czech women artists with the theoretical background to know why – she quite frequently uses the term “activism” herself. The term can also be used in connection with the Ženin project. In social discourse, sexuality appears primarily in marginal situations – in relation to topics such as sexually transmitted diseases, contraception, infertility treatment, deviant behavior and porn as a socially tolerated indulgence. With Ženin, as with Klodová’s work in general, sexuality is instead understood comprehensively. Not merely as a projection of desire, not merely as sex, but simply as everything – from dreams embodied in mannequins in a miners’ changing room all the way to exercises for soft and supple “used” breasts. In Klodová’s work, pornography represents the more general topic of sexuality, which for her is the fundamental thing which we all have and which stood at the beginning of each of us, something associated with intimacy, home, with everyday life. Even the graphic design of Ženin evokes a homely sense of comfort, its pages offering animated lace, funny little flames, strawberries and similar enticing elements almost reminiscent of folk motifs. In fact, Klodová made use of folk imagery in connection with porn, for instance by dressing porn models in colorful folk costumes and creating paper cut-out clothing for them, all with the desire to “care for them”, or by making cut-outs of naked porn models removed from their original unwelcoming context, offering them a safe haven in her large motherly hand.

There is also an activist tone to the instructions for observing men, offered as an antithesis to the generally accepted way in which men stare at women. “According to classical feminist theory, the gaze establishes power and authority. When someone observes you, he gets you under his control. Traditionally, it is women who have been subjected to the gaze.” In the magazine, an important role is played by small erotic drawings, often documented together with the hand that is doing the drawing. These represent the female idea of what will come next; they also demolish the cliché – established sometime in the 19th century – that only men think ahead.

An important conclusion from Klodová’s research was that the Female Reader expects the magazine to contain a story. The texts were written by the artist herself, paraphrasing erotic literature such as Jana Krejcarová’s Czech classic Clarissa or reminiscent of archetypal stories about long-distance romance such as in Native American mythology (the tale of the princess). Narration relates to the concept of time. Turning the pages gives the story its rhythm (“The Female Reader is in control, even if only because she turns the magazine pages.”) and the magazine is a condensation of time which allows the relationship to evolve. Unlike ordinary porn, which always plays out just one scene, her stories span several weeks. The focus on the Female Reader has a metaphorical precursor in an older work by Klodová, in which a mirror is turned into the title page of a lifestyle magazine so that, unlike in real life, any woman can become the cover-girl.

Klodová expands the cliché of porn magazines to include ignored places and storylines: kissing, undressing and neglected personal space, thus shifting the focus from “sex” towards “relationship”. Another contrast with ordinary porn magazines is the way in which she depicts the sex act. “We try to capture the sex act directly through the eyes of the actor, the Female Reader. These depictions are not totally explicit – often we do not see directly what is going on. But if we think about it realistically and anatomically, the image should be much more arousing. Their sense of arousal should spring from the fact that this is real sex, that the penis is actually inside the vagina and that intercourse is happening, real intercourse, for which Linda Williams’s complaint applies that it is poorly visible. We are betting on authenticity at the expense of explicitness. Traditional pornographic depictions of the sex act are essentially no more than a depiction of the preparatory stage.” The sex act is photographed by the woman and the female reader is thus inside and everywhere. The concluding stories on the subject of “how we began…” are reminiscent of what all this sex leads to in the end. In fact, pregnancy and procreation are a central theme in Klodová’s work, one which comes together with her activism. (Among other things, she participated in exhibitions on birthing organized by the Movement for Active Motherhood.)

Photography has an important place in Lenka Klodová’s work. She plays with the visual nature of things (as in the earlier pseudo-porn magazines Birches and Chimneys) and it is part of her sculptural installations such as the panels of a photographed female figure installed into mine workers’ lockers. Klodová also uses photography to document her performance art. It allows her to directly process experienced reality, which represents a fundamental principle of her work.

 It is one thing to see Ženin as a research/publishing project or as the practical application of theory, but the role it plays as an original work of art within the context of Klodová’s oeuvre is quite another thing. The artist has incorporated herself and her children in her performance pieces, so it was only a matter of time before it was her husband’s turn. As a sculptor, she is continuously working with various extensions of her body – not a technologically instrumentalized body as is the case with contemporary bio-art; rather, she affectionately traces the possibilities of transformations and interconnections which naturally offer themselves.

Sculptor, performance artist and multimedia artist Lenka Klodová was born November 22, 1969 in Opava. From 1987 to 1990, she studied at the Pedagogical Faculty in Ostrava (Czech and art education), followed by studies at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design (1990-1991 design studio of professor Otakar Diblík, 1991-1997 sculpture studio of professor Kurt Gebauer). She has been exhibiting independently since 1994, and has participated in more than forty group exhibitions. She is also the author of a public installation in the town of Neratovice – three-meter high stone letters spelling out the word MILUJI (I LOVE). In 2002, she was nominated for the Chalupecký prize. She and her husband, architect Martin Kloda, are currently raising three children. In 2001, she was one of the founding members of the artisticsocial group Matky a Otcové (Mothers and Fathers). She completed her doctoral studies at VŠUP (2002-2005) with her project for the first women’s porn magazine, Ženin.

Lenka Vítková