Paul Andrew’s video artwork Engaged deals with male homosexuality and the practices of beat sex, the often anonymous, consensual sexual encounters which occur in public spaces. Engaged deals, in particular, with the site of the public toilet, to which its title refers (an occupied cubicle). The work depicts and describes the wide variety of men (and masculinities) which engage in the practice of beat sex, showing a wide variation in terms of age, occupation, social class, sexuality, etc. The overall atmosphere of the work is one of furtiveness and secrecy, tinged with feelings of fear and alienation, as well as sexual passion, desire, and energy. Such an atmosphere has its historical origins in the illegalisation of homosexuality and the state persecution of homosexuals and homosexual practices. However such an atmosphere has also gained contemporary currency through the AIDS crisis which has also revived social homophobia and brought about the involvement of the threat of death in the sexual encounter. Engaged details the subtleties of male body language and the shifting significations which inform masculinities. The work both creates and critiques eroticism.
Griffith Artworks, Beth Jackson, September 1996