Monkey Business

By Enrique Limón


 

On the road to subversive artisdom, Keith Hunter has joined the circus, elevated online casual encounters to an artform and is now contemplates becoming the Gandhi of DIY porn.

He’s sitting in the living room of his Westlake apartment, where it’s clear to see his passion for costume design stamped throughout—from his floral silk drapes to a zebra-print coverlet laid out on a daybed, and a piece of faux fur that rests against the seatback of his desk chair.

He just posted an ad on Craigslist’s casual encounters section for what will be his next pop-up performance art piece.

“It’s kind of a loose narrative,” Hunter says, adding that it will also be “kind of autobiographical, but in a symbolic way.”

At the end of the performance, he hopes that all the men in attendance will engage in sexual activity with him.

He’s shy and soft-spoken and a far cry from the “character created for the sexual pleasure of all mankind,” that his website, keithhunter.info, describes. The same site goes on to say that his costumes, which he uses to embody several characters—ranging from the sacrificial lamb to the serpent in the Garden of Eden—have effectively transformed the once diffident Quaker boy into a “formidable astral warrior armed with an 8 inch phallus and an ass that is a direct connection to Kali the dark mother.”

“I enjoy having two separate lives that are in some way opposite,” the former Quaker introvert says. “I was a good student at school, did my homework and never got in trouble for anything. I still am that kind of way.

Inspired by the great subversive artists of the past and turning not just his own body, but his health into a contested space, his extreme performances however, could get him in trouble.

He turns to gay hookup sites to advertise and scrounges for venues where to host his performances  “A lot of them have been in my own apartment,” he says.

His lates endeavor, “The Evolution of Keith Hunter,” will take place at the CNN building on Sunset Boulevard—thanks to another Craigslist post cajoling for a proper space.

“It’s exactly what I’ve asked for” he says, adding that performing inside a glass-encased room—like the an office’s conference room—has been a longstanding dream.

The question of legality does not worry him. “I feel that I’ve don more in my life in the past that’s more questionable than this,” he says with a grin.

Having hauled up a box of supplies including window cleaner, a sex swing and and “a giant box of condoms,” the show is about to start.


Performance

Via a Craigslist posting, Hunter was contacted by someone offering his office space on an off night as a venue for “The Evolution of Keith Hunter,” his latest experimental pop-up piece. It turned out to be in the famed CNN building on Sunset Blvd.

“[If they knew] maybe it would make their day more exciting,” Hunter said of the absent professional team on the eve of his performance. “If I worked in an office, I’d like to think that exciting things happen when I wasn’t there.”

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Costumes

Along with a succinct need to feed his inner exhibitionist, Hunter’s single character-driven pieces feed from his creative work as a costume designer. Punctiliously detailed and lush thanks to his experience as a biology undergrad, whether representing a seahorse or a baboon, his costumes draw elements from secret sexual desires, homespun narrative and taboo scenarios.

“It was a very sort of erotic experience to design [my own costumes] and create them,” he says. “As I tried them on, I had these fantasies of these crazy scenarios and the worlds that these characters would inhabit.”

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Past Works

In “The Sacrifice,” (spring 2012) Hunter played a stag in a symbolic sacrifice ritual. Attendees were encouraged to offer the stag food and drink and ended with participants spreading “seed” all over his body, “representing Earth’s renewal with each new season.”

“Specimen,” staged in the summer of 2012, featured Hunter bound and hanging by threads incorporating “bondage and voyeurism into a participatory gallery experience.” Spectators were invited to “touch and probe the abstracted body on display.”

“The Serpent” was Hunter’s first foray into experimental performance. Making its debut in the summer of 2010, it featured him in the main role as a snake “tempting mankind into transgression.” It concluded with participants ejaculating on his face. “Here, semen signifies humiliation and disdain,” Hunter points out, adding that he sought out to embody “that part of our humanity we seek to cast out and despise.”

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Philosophy

“I think art is any form of expression that affects us on an emotional and spiritual level,” Hunter explains. “[It] causes us to think and convey ideas beyond what specifically you are seeing or hearing and it contains elements that allow for the interpretation to continue within the viewer.”

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