Maya Ben David
Text by Lala Nurlala
I got to give a disclaimer first. I don’t usually view, let alone publicize explicit content. In fact, I tried to view this piece as carefully as possible when curating this piece. However, I feel like POKÉMORPH ME by Maya Ben David provides commentary on an important event in Japanese fandom history, so I felt like I had to put this in the exhibition that is about fandom. The piece is a video art that incorporates acting, animation, and found images.
Accompanied by the caption, “Aren’t we ALL pokemon?”, the video starts with Ben David asking how many Pokémon it takes to fix a lightbulb, to which she answers none because either the Pokemon gets released or they get killed. Ben David then put on a costume based on Charizard, a large orange Pokémon that resembles a dragon with large wings. Compared to the Pokémon in question, the costume wears glasses, a body shaped to one with more feminine body parts, and wearing the same t-shirt and underwear. It is as if Ben David had morphed into a Charizard.
Following the recording of Ben David in a costume, there is a photo of Ben David accompanied by sexier versions of Jynx; a purple Pokémon with a blonde wig and red dress, Lopunny, a brown bunny Pokémon with blonde and curly tips on its ears, and Seadra, a blue Pokémon resembling a starfish. A textbox representing Professor Oak, the first character you meet in the classic Pokémon games, says that the Pokémon are changing into sexier pokemorphs. Then we see Ben David dressed as Charizard, asking the viewer about their thoughts on sexy pokemon, and warns them not to make fanfic about them.
Then we see a drawn version of Ben David slowly transforming into a sexier Charizard. She along with the sexier versions of Jynx, Lopunny, and Seadra sing a song that accompanies lewd interactions and behavior done by various Pokémon, such as Pikachu; the iconic Pokémon based on a Japanese squirrel, Miltank; a pink Pokémon that resembles a cow, a pair of Rapidash; Pokémon that resemble white horses with flames, Charmander; a precursor to Charizard that resembles a round red salamander, and Hitmonchan; a brown Pokémon that wears boxer gloves and a purple outfit.
The following footage is of a child in a Cubone costume, wandering around in the woods. Cubone is a Pokémon that resembles a cream-colored lizard that wears a skull. There is descriptive text on the bottom that reads, “Cubone wears the skull of its dead mother and cries to the moon mourning her every night.”
Lastly, we see Smoochum, Buneary, and Horsea, slowly transform into Jynx, Lopunny, and Seadra, who then transform into their sexier pokemorphs. They are joined by a drawn version of Ben David in the Charizard costume. The dance was followed by more lewd images of Pokémon such as Jigglypuff, a pink Pokémon, and electric twins that resemble white rabbits, Plusle with red ear tips and Minun with blue ear tips, before the video cuts to Ben David’s face and the piece ends there.
The art piece seems like a celebration of sexuality in Pokémon, which in turn is a rebellion against Nintendo, and perhaps everyone who is suppressing the freedom of fandom activity. Doujinshi, fan content in Japan, has a proliferated ecosystem. For many years Japanese fans of media could easily make their own works and put them in a market without any legal threat. This was until 1999, when an artist got arrested for making a doujinshi that includes explicit depictions of Pokémon and spread it throughout the Internet, as Nintendo as a corporation did not want the pornographic doujinshi to tarnish their name. Since then the world of doujinshi has not been as safe as it was.
Maya Ben David, POKÉMORPH ME (2016) video, 6:21.
Pokémorph Me presents an interspecies fantasy in which the artist explores online Pokémon-based fan fictions to become a buff Charizard—what the video’s voiceover refers to as a “sexy Pokémorph.”
Which cultures influenced your work?
Jewish Culture and mythology
How did popular culture affect your growing up?
I grew up watching a lot of anime and it gave me an appreciation for character design and storytelling
What’s your favourite piece of pop culture? Be it a TV show, comic, or music.
I am really into science fiction mixed with fantasy books right now, I love the Dark Tower Series By Stephen King and The EarthSeed series by Octavia Butler.