Real Work, Real Talk
Time for some real talk and reflections here.
The past 2 weeks have been a whirlwind and as you know from my previous post here I have been freelancing for FACT in Liverpool.
I am very grateful for my friend Erin who attended both tours and took lots of photos for my blog. Love you mate.
I am also extremely grateful for the opportunity from FACT, the people who attended and engaged, John the owner of Angels, and the supportive staff at FACT including Priya, Charlotte and Joe.
My tours were advertised through FACT and Eventbrite, and I had no idea who or what to expect. I have ran these guided walks of sexual entertainment venues for the last 6 years for students, and opening them up to a new audience is exciting. Many people who were on the waiting list have contacted me and I do plan a lot more public events soon.
I have so many reflections and ideas that I imagine it will take a few blogs to untangle my ideas, but I do have a lot to deconstruct and work through.
When I teach in any capacity I learn so so much. Teaching, mentoring, activism and events are my passion.
The sensory aspect of this piece ‘Real Work’ massively appealed to me. It was only yesterday that I realised how much I was crouching down to listen intently to the individual pieces. The placement of the speakers underneath the screens was perfect; they forced the listener to lean in closely as if listening to a good friend, trying to decipher the words. This embodiment of the art was not obvious to me on my first few viewings, it is incredibly intimate and makes the audience do the work.
In a world of sexualisation and pornification, where women’s bodies, and particularly sex worker’s bodies are often objectified, here it is your body which must mould against the wall to do the hard work.
I enjoyed walking into the gallery and being bombarded with noise. The room heavy with the brutal monologues of 10 sex workers telling you their stories. I liked the surrender, I liked the power dynamic. You will listen to them.
The videos are available on Vimeo under Candice Breitz ‘Sweat’. SWEAT is Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce. You can follow the group of sex workers/ activists on Facebook or on their website here.
My first guided walk consisted of an hours tour around the outside of sexual entertainment venues in Liverpool city centre (in the pouring rain) followed by an hour inside Angels.
Each walk I do is different due to the engagement and interactions. What I enjoyed about this walk was the laid back atmosphere once we were inside Angels. With students I tend to stand, whilst in this group, we all say round the stage and seating. It was very intimate, not only as subject matter, but our bodies and the sensory experience. It made me reflect on bodies in general.
The second walk was after a longer curation and discussion in the gallery. We then took an hour long guided walk and looked at the history of the city and sex work. We considered how this linked to the words we had heard.
Zoe Black of SWEAT states:
“This economy was built on slavery and sex work, back to colonisation….The same people that enslaved you are now coming back to seek pleasure…”
When our guided walk met the suitcases on Hope Street we reflected on all the humans that had come in and out of Liverpool, the role of slavery in the city, and the lives lost coming in and out of our port. We can’t ignore the role of (neo) colonialism and imperialism when we talk about Liverpool.
And nor can we when we consider academia or the art world.
After the walk yesterday I had a long conversation about the issue of whiteness in both academia and the art world (the second of the latter is not my usual habitat). There were huge overlaps. There are too many middle class white people making their careers off people of colour (who largely have less economic capital, less social capital) and the fetishized ‘exotic’ other is a real and racist phenomenon. As a white working class Sociologist in extremely precarious working conditions (hustling!) I have long been extremely uncomfortable with the volume of middle class white peeps making their careers from poc.
In this case of this exhibit, SWEAT collectively own the piece, they make money when the series is sold and shown.
The narratives in the series are strong and necessary.
Duduzile Dlamini of SWEAT states:
“I don’t underestimate domestic workers, or farm workers, or security guard. I really respect those workers, and I would also like them to respect my work, but I choose sex work”.
This is a welcome and necessary disruption to the dominant discourse that all migrant sex workers/ many sex workers of colour are trafficked victims. This discourse is fuelled by the lucrative white fundamentalist christian rescue industry. It also rests on colonial ideas of power and control
Zoe Black of SWEAT also says:
“But please to all the feminists who think sex workers can’t be feminists: Let us set our own agenda! Let us be heard instead of white privileged women setting the agenda. Our struggles are not their struggles. Our struggles are very real. We make our own choices”.
I think the messages of the sex workers and the space is valuable. I also think the critiques are valid and necessary. I am still unpicking my notes and thoughts and where to go next with this.
I am also extremely thankful for former students Megan, Joanne and Ros who attended.
Thank you to everyone who is conversing with me regarding the events. My head is very full of ideas right now!