WILL FREDO: SEXUAL HEALERS TV
Mouches Volantes presents Sexual Healers TV, a solo exhibition by Will Fredo about sex work, created as a proheaux art channel dedicated to body politics. Through the artist’s research on the sex industry in the Americas and interviews and performances with two sexual healers, the semi-sci-fi video installation addresses an intersection of topics, including sex workers’ subjectivities and rights, technology as a tool for democratizing pleasure, Black trans body politics, decolonizing sexuality, among others.
The 4-channel video installation pieces together semi-fictional episodes that start with Fredo’s audition for a porn movie in Medellin, followed by interviews with Erik, a sex worker, and Leo, a criminal law attorney/OnlyFans star in Bogota. The exhibition ends with a 360° explicit video installation of a performance of sexual nature between Will Fredo and Erik about body politic, informed by the Sufi meditation and proheaux womanist practices of the artist.
The opening will feature a performance with Zimbabwean gender non-conforming multimedia artist Mandhla.
Central to Sexual Healers TV is how the artist engages with the artistic and social practices of othering subjects. Will Fredo’s various embodiments throughout the episodes also put into question institutionalized notions of respectability, power dynamics, epistemology and legitimacy. The channel will be gradually expanded with further video and performance art commissions.
In the race between digital innovation and social change in times of cam love, we thank Will Fredo for sharing his thoughts with us.
By Will Fredo
Whether in Western Europe, Iberoamerica or elsewhere, sex work is a topic rather left to the confines of secrecy. Yet, sex work as one of the most enduring and adaptable professions is key to understanding the ever shifting dynamics of power within society and within professional industries.
My experience with sex work* started in Medellin when I was invited via dating app Grindr to audition for an adult movie for bilatinmen.com in March this year. I did go to the audition and despite that having been an old desire of mine I chose not to do it with because the conditions offered didn’t seem fair enough to me. However, as an artist, writer and editor, I identified many of the dynamics and conditions of that experience as being similar to other situations in the industries I work in -the creative industries.
This experience developed into a video work that started with the audition, followed by the interview and adult movie I did with Erik, a Venezuelan migrant performer who went through the same experience. In addition, I also interviewed Leo, a Colombian adult performer who is also a criminal law attorney. I’m showing this semi-fictional video installation in my solo exhibition in Cologne, Germany, at Mouches Volantes.
Working with subject matters that are still marginalised (we didn’t get extra funding in Germany because of the topic) is a very delicate, complicated and complex endeavor. It can be a minefield in between the perceived poles of victimization and romanticisation. Throughout this experience it became clear that my project is work in progress and that sex work is a whole universe in itself. This lead me to develop the project into a web art channel dedicated to sex work and body politics because there is so much more to be said and to be explored and, where appropriate, make visible. I called this channel Sexual Healers TV and the first commission is a performance by transfeminine gender nonconforming Berlin-based Zimbabwean multimedia artist, Mandhla. The plan is to keep expanding it with further art commissions by sex workers and artists who deal with the topic in an honest manner.
In one of the conversations I’ve had with Paris-based Venezuelan curator Rolando J. Carmona, he told me about some of my blind spots as a non-sex worker. According to Carmona, I can’t be considered a sex worker because of the dynamics between me and Erik whom I paid to shoot a work of sexual nature, despite the fact I’m also selling my (body via) digital sex work within an art context.
Technology is key to complicating, unpacking and understanding power dynamics in sex work and life in general. In Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism, a 2019 book by Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, the author explores the camera as a colonial tool. Azoulay explains that historically and to this day the movement of the camera’s shutter draws three lines: in time, in space, and in the body politic -between those who possess and operate the devices and appropriate and accumulate their product, and those whose labor is extracted. However, the latest digital technologies complicate this even further as the masses can also today own and operate recording devices and disseminate and capitalize on the product.
Nonetheless, these dynamics are very much still present in the creative as well as sex industries. It’s often said that the artist has to a certain extent “prostitute” themselves in the art industry. Yet these simplistic analogies are not critique. With Sexual Healers TV I want to dig deeper and look into where different industries overlap. For instance, a porn actor is expected to not claim royalties for the movies they are in because they receive a lot of exposure which in turn can, in theory, raise their profile as escorts. And in the creative industries artists and creatives are expected to work for little or no fee because of the exposure institutions might grant them. Through Black trans body politics, in the post-woke era we have challenged these assumptions in the arts and fashion, so what’s stopping us from engaging with similar negotiations in other industries?
By no means I’m claiming that art and artists are here to save the world from itself. And this is something I confront head on from the beginning. Above all, Sexual Healers TV is here to question the unquestionable and explore taboos where you might not expect them.
*sex, erotic work in the broadest sense
Will Fredo (Furtado) is a non-binary artist, writer and editor exploring power dynamics, cultural dislocation and the intersection of pop culture, decolonial thought, Blackness, kuirness and technology. Born in Portugal of Guatemalan and Cape Verdean heritage, Will is based in Berlin, Germany. Since 2017, Will has been part of Contemporary And, an art platform focused on African perspectives. In their artistic practice Will Fredo works with images and text to explore decoloniality and Global South epistemologies. Will has exhibited with institutions including Museum Ludwig, HKW, Goethe Institut, Körnerpark Galerie Berlin, Supplement Projects Miami, 1.1 Basel, whitebox.art, and Sharjah Film Platform.
Mouches Volantes, Ebertplatz Passage 1, Köln, Germany
Press preview: October 15, 11am-1pm
Opening: October 16, 7pm. | Featuring Performance with Mandhla
(Berlin / Zimbabwe)
Duration: October 17 – November 7, 2020. Open daily, 3-8pm
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