10 Jan 2003



The exhibition The fourth sex. Adolescent Extremes

is an opportunity for reflection on the increasing importance of teenage tribes in our society. A society where the obsolesence of concepts of sexual and demographic identity reflects social changes in progress in a violent, contradictory manner. The fourth sex belongs to adolescents. A sexually indefinite moment, in which gender ambiguity prevails. Adolescents are not boys or girls and not yet men or women. They belong to a parallel, fluid universe, in a state of becoming. They are closely connected to the present, yet symbolically contain the seeds of future.
Adolescence is not just a phase of passage in human life, it also is a mental state, an existential condition with an overwhelming impact on lifestyles and trends. Adolescents are omnivorous, tireless consumers, distracted but also attentive, easily persuadable but also independent. Adolescents do not want to be well-balanced, they love extremes in everything: from fashion to art to music…
Unbalanced between the present and the future, adolescents appear to us as both agitated and strangely passive. They may give form to their world in an aggressive way, but at the same time they are also forced to come to terms with the labels, the judgments and  the formulae of the adult world.
Observed and studied by experts of all kinds, monitored in their behavior patterns, adolescents represent a decisive segment in the strategy of consumption. They adore clothes and music. They want to be cool at all costs. Fashion watches the teenage universe closely both as a source of inspiration and as a crucial target group, while contemporary art explores, exploits and analyzes the myth of the eternal adolescent. From the rebellion of the historical avantgardes, through the counterculture of the Sixties, to the doubts and uncertainties of Generation X, contemporary art has treated adolescence as an indispensable point of reference, coming to grips with its radical gestures, its violations and impatience.

The exhibition The fourth sex. Adolescent Extremes observes and portrays the restless territory of teenagers :an incredible resource of creative energy. The show lights a series of emotional fires where ideas meet and derail in new constellations of meaning. The materials in the show reflect the complex universe of contemporary culture: fashion, communications, art, music, cinema… The themes are many, and inevitably touch some of the nerve centers of our society. Talking about adolescence doesn’t only mean the subject of young people, but it also means talking about their restless relationship with the adult world. This doesn’t only mean representing the positive energies of this age group, but also exploring the insecurities and fears that can lead to terrible, extreme gestures. 
The two curators, Francesco Bonami and Raf Simons, intend to construct an exhibition that is itself an expression of the languages of adolescence, mixing expressive codes and disciplines. Drawing inspiration from the multiplicity of the languages of teenagers, The fourth sex will be a space in which different ideas and trends release, transforming the show into a place of encounter and dissemination.
The exhibition, installed at Stazione Leopolda by a group of young architects, the Cliostraats, sheds light on the strength, weakness and promises of the fourth sex. The book/catalogue offers a variegated montage not only of the images in the show, but also of supplementary iconographic materials, such as images from art, fashion, teenage icons, legendary films. The volume is also an anthology of the most interesting writings on the theme of adolescence, in which a mixture of poetry, literature, current events, journalism and essays, give form and color to all the contradictions and ambiguities of an unhappy age we will never regret.

The exhibition and catalogue include contributions by:
for art – 
Vanessa Beecroft, Dan Graham, Raymond Pettibon, Mike Kelley, Elizabeth Peyton, Andreas Gursky, Jim Lambie, Charles Ray, James Coleman, Sharon Lockhart, David Hamilton, Larry Clark, Gillian Wearing, J&D Chapman, Wolfgang Tillmans, Takashi Murakami, Katy Grannan, Collier Schorr, Bill Henson, Cady Noland, Olaf Breuning, Rineke Dijkstra, Keith Coventry, Simon Periton, Paul McCarthy, Ricky Swallow, Tracey Emin, Noble & Webster, Tim Rollins & K.O.S., Jeff Wall, Tony Matelli, Richard Prince, Robert Gober, Gilbert&George, Gavin Turk, Mark Leckey, Richard Billingham

for fashion – Paco Rabanne, André Courrèges, Pierre Cardin, Veronique Branquinho, Bernhard Willhelm, Stephen Sprouse, Walter Van Beirendonck, Dolce & Gabbana, Comme des Garçons,  Helmut Lang, Rudi Gernreich, Katherine Hamnett, Diesel, Benetton, Fiorucci, Jürgen Teller, Gucci, Corinne Day, Nick Knight, Terry Richardson, Emporio Armani,  David Sims, Steven Klein, Alexei Hay and Justine Parsons, Anuschka Blommers & Niels Schum, Bruce Weber, Nigel Shafran, Bert Houbrechts, Karl Heinz Weinberger, Willy Vanderperre, Panos Yiapanis

authors of the texts in the anthology include: Pier Paolo Pasolini, Pier Vittorio Tondelli, Stefano Pistolini, Paola Zannoner, Dennis Cooper, James Ballard, Vladimir Nabokov, Bret Easton Ellis, Dave Eggers, Paolo Crepet, Philip Larkin, Marilyn Manson, Margaret Talbot, Enrico Brizzi, Douglas Coupland, Camille Paglia