Sex work, the very mention of it gets Canadians embroiled in heated debates about the pros and cons, the legal frameworks, and the morality of the issue, but what is often overlooked are the sex workers. What about them? What do we really know about them and how they see themselves and the business of selling sex? Do our perceptions match reality?
You are invited to challenge your perceptions with Sex Worker, Truth & Archetype – a documentary based art installation by Esther Bukareff and Barbara Greczny. The exhibit explores the personal lives of sex workers through film and photography. It runs October 4th until the 23rd at the Beaver Hall Gallery in Toronto.
Bukareff and Greczny teamed up to produce the non-traditional documentary and hope that the exhibit challenges society’s perception of a sex worker by documenting a worker’s own every day reality through the use of intimate video interviews, and photographs that depict each sex worker’s archetype. You will discover how sex workers see themselves through basically any personification of culture, morals, values and mythology.
Visitors to Sex Worker, Truth & Archetype will see/hear interviews with sex workers. The topics are divided into short vignettes and address issues such as work – ‘What do you do?’; love & intimacy – ‘How do you reconcile intimacy & love with having sex for money?’; and intimate questions about the sex worker’s perspective on life, including: childhood, family, sexual gender, ethics, morals, wives & marriage, and so on. A series of tablets with attached head phones, displaying edited short vignettes of the interviews will be placed adjacent to the photograph of each participant. A sound scape with corresponding lighting effects and a video projection is included in the installation, creating another layer to the exhibit.
Sex workers also speak to the current laws that are being debated in parliament to which Bukareff says, “The timing of the exhibit is a coincidence. It was not planned to coincide with the current legal climate – it just happened that way.”
When asked where the idea for the documentary exhibit come from Greczny said, “Back in 2005 I thought of doing an exhibit about sex workers. At the time I had known people who were in the industry. In late 2012 during a conversation with Esther we discovered we were both interested in the topic of sex workers for different reasons and decided to work together on the project.”
I asked Bukareff and Greczny to respond to those that might take issue with the exhibit in that it asks the public to redefine who or what is a sex worker (To what end?):
“This exhibit removes the veil of secrecy associated with sex work. Secrecy most often translates into myth that dictates laws that adversely affect people’s lives. A democracy cannot function effectively if the public, which makes decisions on behalf of others, is uneducated and poorly informed because the information required to create diligent law is kept secret. The mere question, ‘To what end?’ denotes ignorance. The person who asks this question is the individual who will gain the most by attending the show.”
When asked if they think Canadians are changing their attitudes towards sex work and sex workers, Bukareff said, “The acid test is Bill C36. If the bill passes, I don’t think any attitudes have changed.” Bukareff added, “This project was coordinated using an open consent form, which is a very unique way for any artist to work. An open consent negotiates my subjectivity to ensure that it isn’t my truth that is conveyed, but a truth that represents the people affected by it most. There is no mincing words and nothing is left to the imagination. This is as it should be, when laws are constructed and people’s lives are at stake.”
Learn more about Sex Worker, Truth & Archetype by visiting:
You can also find information about the exhibit in the media! Events Calendar.
By Roy Whyte