I am off on a little trip myself next week, to see the opening night of an exhibition in London of an artist friend of mine, Sandra Turnbull.
I had a look at some of her work last summer and found it intriguing, not least for the conflicting emotions it evoked in me.
The exhibition is called “All about Eve” and is an exploration of the right of women to choose to work in the sex industry. Now, already, that is a loaded statement for me.
It depends on what you mean by choose, doesn’t it?
If you have a heavy heroin habit, you may choose to be a prostitute to service your habit.
And then you choose to take heroin to soften the hard edges of life as a prostitute.
It’s the old chicken and egg business again. Is this a real choice or simply the only option left in an otherwise intolerable life? Then there is the notorious people trafficking of women transported against their will from across Europe and forced into brothels.
All this contributes to the uneasiness one feels as a spectator/voyeur.
This uneasiness is accentuated by the problem of one’s own reaction to sexual images.
XXX, a version of De Sade’s Philosophy in the Boudoir by the superb Catalan Theatre Company Les Furas dels Baus was a theatrical performance that showed me that it is possible to be aroused sexually by images and actions that reason rejects as appalling. How humiliating for a civilized being to be betrayed by a wayward id.
There is a long history of art celebrating the body beautiful, with nudes painted by the great masters for noble gentleman to hang in their private bed chambers being the equivalent of today’s soft core porn. Somehow it feels less disturbing and morally bankrupt to look at the Rokeby Venus than a latter-day Venus at work in a centrefold, but is it just a question of context rather than artistic merit? And what is the context Sandra’s work?
Sandra tells me that she has been to pole dancing bars and been enormously impressed by the discipline of the women performers. She considers it an art form. It is not easy to dangle from a pole using just the one arm and still look sexy. She knows…she is a dancer and went to pole dance training classes to find out just how difficult it is. The ritualistic exchange between the nonchalant performers and the expressive faces in the audience (who are not allowed to touch!), seems to fascinate her as a visual artist.
I think it is an interesting subject which she is looking at from a thought provoking angle, but it may not be an easy ride….I'll let you know...
4 days ago