Above Image: Lenah, c.1996
He was a man with no morals, he was proud of it and gloried in it. No need to pray for him.When he was 18, Pierre Molinier's younger sister died. Pierre was left alone with his deceased sister to photograph her, which he did. He also fucked her corpse and came on her dead stomach. He created his own dildos, using them to become his dream of top and bottom, giver and taker. When he found that his asshole stopped giving him pleasure he stared at himself in the mirror and shot himself while masturbating.
Méditation Vampirique, c. 1967
The reason we are reading about Molinier now is André Breton. Breton discovered Molinier's pictures and saw them rightly, as explorations of hermpahrodism, transvestism, sexuality, gender reversal, gender shattering, and weird perversity. Bréton, being the leader of the distinctly French surrealists, saw Molinier's imagery as anti-bourgeois, anti-religious, and a challenge to a broken world's morality. This was fine until Molinier created an image of himself as a half man / half woman, sucking the cock of a crucified Christ. The war was over, and the surrealists were declining in relevance, reality had just proved morality and sense dead. Molinier's cock sucking of Christ crossed some line with Breton. Who, while declaring the end of morals, traditional human relationships and the destruction of society, turned out to be a homophobic conservative.
Molinier fits into a larger idea of hermaphroditic surrealism; that branch of surrealist art focusing on the deconstruction and reconstruction of gender. Creatures with 15 stilettoed legs, three ripe buttocks and one smiling dolls face. Like most other surrealist art it is a reaction. This time a reaction to the existing gender identities and sexual conformities present, not just in postwar Paris, but in memories of the occupation. Molinier was different. His art was less a reaction and more of a gleeful exploration. Molinier was a mixture of an adolescent boy, naively groping himself while peeping through a hole in his aunt's wall, and that Burroughsian queer with a lifetime's refined taste and experience in all manner of proclivities.
Even when Breton was backing him it was next to impossible to get any of Molinier's work shown at any major galleries. No one in Paris wanted to see shoes adorned with dildos (for easy access to the anus, with a simple bend of the leg), or collages of asses (Molinaire's) plastered around a unidentifiable body. Even less did they care for his mysticism. Some of his most striking work was in full leather outfits, with glowing eyes, backlit; a silhouette of his ultimate being. A woman of power and and a creature of lust.
Molinier sometimes worked with models, but for the most part the transformation of himself into his version of a glamor model was as important to him as the final picture, then modification of the picture.
He would slide stockings up his shaved legs. When he was 16 his sisters would dress him up as a woman and take him out dancing. He would clip garter belts to silk panties that strained against his hardon. There is nothing inherently wrong with this behavior, but men in the 50s who partook in transvestism or homosexuality were going against what society deemed correct. The important thing about Molinaire was that he didn't care.
One hesitates to call Molinier's work self portraiture in the same way we have difficulty classifying Cindy Sherman as such. Molinier transformed himself for each picture, then spent a large time in post production creating the object he desired. The work was not a portrait of himself, rather a work that used his body t convey a character. He would create props, mostly phallic objects, that he would use in his pictures. He would attach these phalluses onto shoes. It seems unfairly sanitary to call his lovingly crafted and well used dildos 'phallic objects'. Molinier would want us to say cocks, dicks, pricks, biroute, chinois, or polpol. So dicks it is. Molinier would make dicks and attach them to things. His shoes, his elbows, most often he would shove them into his asshole. Molinier made suits with absurdly large breasts and hourglass figures. Posing to photograph himself in his shamanistic glory, with an aching erection and firm tits.
Gode dit à Cannelures, c.1965
Molinier wouldn't be considered that unusual today. Except perhaps that early bout with necrophilia, but who doesn’t experiment at that age. No one is considered that unusual today. He is viewed as an early, less talented, less famous, less inhibited Robert Mapplethorpe. He would be at home on the internet, sharing pictures of his cock with strangers and buying dildo shoes online. He was before his time, and he was totally of his time. Molinier celebrated his sexuality, he lived and died for it. To fuck to be fucked, to look fuckable, to encourage sweat on brows or tightness in pants was his goal. Breton was turned off because Breton was a square. Molinier continued on, remorselessly, proudly exhibiting what others pretend never to have thought about. But he knew, he knew we all had those ideas in the backs of our minds. He knew when we said “his use of the phallus was important in post-war Parisian surrealism as it explored the absurdity of gender and the surrealism of hermaphrodites” we really thought in base words only; short and sharp:”pricks, dicks, assholes, heels, cocks, cum, grins, queer, legs, sex, death, fucking, fucking, fucking, fucking'.
Text by John Hutt
All Images ©Françoise Molinier, Courtesy Galerie Chistophe Gaillard, Paris and M+B, Los Angeles