So, me and Victor Ivanov have been in his studio once again discussing this collaboration of ours. Moving on from our first attempt at creating this visceral piece of work, we have decide that we will re-shoot it, this time with more planning and careful dissection.
The first video was an experiment, on the day I was in the studio dressed in that way and with my purple bob wig (for no reason at all, I just felt like it) so we had this idea and we just decided to shoot it. At first we tried it with a white background but felt that it became too clinical and that it somehow tamed down the performance, so we decided to try it out with Victor’s Union Jack flag artwork (which you see in the video).
First video (un-cut):
We never gave much thought to the work, primarily because it was an impulsive idea born out of a studio joke and also because we were preparing for our degree shows on the last year of our Sculpture Degree, so this video stayed on the sidelines. But now that we have graduated we have gone back to it and we are trying to bring it into the next stages. We have been thinking about what we want to say with this video, how we want to present it and why we are making it.
Watching the video back we drew up a mind map of all the themes and ideas that we thought were evident within the work:
God Save the Queen Video
Fetish – strangling – torture – submission/dominance – sex as taboo
Surreal – fantastical
Identity – loss of identity? – adoption of various identities?
Cultural referencing – pop/media culture – the age of the internet – the X factor syndrome – Britishness? – Japanese Iconography
Queer aesthetics – Queerness – Camp aesthetics – gender bender? – Drag – wigs – dollyesque
Cabaret – Vaudeville – Macabre
Un-rehearsed nature in the beginning – sense of innocence – detachment
The more we talked about this work, the more we understood what we were trying to do in the first place, finally allowing us to stand back and realize the complexities that we have stumbled into. So what are we saying with this work? What are the main ideas behind this and how can we elaborate on them?
The following texts are mind maps of my own that I have been battling with in regards to this.
>>> First of all, let’s talk about the primary act within the video: the strangling / choking. Erotic asphyxiation (or ‘breath play’ as it is known in bdsm terms) is the act of gaining sexual pleasure from being asphyxiated.
Erotic asphyxiation defined on Wikipedia: Erotic asphyxiation or breath control play is the intentional restriction of oxygen to the brain for sexual arousal. The sexual practice is variously called asphyxiophilia,autoerotic asphyxia, hypoxyphilia. Colloquially, a person engaging in the activity is sometimes called a gasper. The erotic interest in asphyxiation is classified as a paraphilia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association.
Now there are two parts to this: As the receiver (the submissive) you give up all power, you give your life, your soul to the dominant. When you are the person who is doing the act (of strangling), you have control over the other person, you the dominant are in control of the other person’s life. There’s that sense of extreme power, a god-like power: the power to take the other person’s life. So it’s all about power play and the psychological experience and how that translates sexually – a key point to mention is that a lot of erotic play or bdsm practices can be a spiritual act/experience for some people, sex itself can be a spiritual (or outer-body) experience when done right (the Kama Sutra is a key example of this). For me, the glowing aura around my head (an accidental brilliance, it is caused by the light in the background) points to this fantastical phenomena and goes back to this idea that what arouses us sexually manifests itself in the psyche as well as in the physical.
This would be a good point to mention the use of the leather gloves within the video, acting as a noose perhaps. It acts as more than a prop and is one of the reasons why we came to make this piece of work. Victor had just bought them and he showed them to me, joking about how he would strangle me with them (one of our on-going studio jokes I may add) and thus our idea was born. There is no doubts about the heavy symbolism that leather holds within BDSM practices, it is a fetish material and the gloves not only reference the presence of the item within various sexual acts but also sways towards a more clinical understanding of the body (the use of gloves within hospitals, etc).
>>> Second to the fetish element within the work is the overt relation to “queerness” and queer aesthetics. Now this ties in to my own art practice and it manifests itself within a feminine framework where I am trying to find my own identity outside of the stereotypes placed on me due to my biological sex and finding my place as woman (a queer one). I like to play with the idea of over performing this feminine identity through the use of drag (over performing an idea of femininity and using the drag queen as my inspiration) as well as creating various characters for myself, hence why wigs appear a lot within my work. The act of strangling then translates to the idea of us wanting to break these traditions and Queering it to allow a common place for various identities, so it was only natural for the wig to appear in this particular work. But isn’t art itself queer?
>>>The union jack flag (Victor’s artwork) in the background has two points of reference:
1. The over-saturated pop culture that we operate in, it reminds me also of ‘pop idol’ and the image it puts out of what good talent consists of (as well as commenting on that desired 15 mins of fame).
2. Britishness – I guess it fits in with this whole debate over what being British means (something i don’t really want to delve too much into). Perhaps this is something that came out subconsciously as neither one of us was born in the UK, something to explore further perhaps.
For now this will do, there is still a lot to dissect.