We see 3D model protagonist EVA v3.0 with a phallic sex toy. She penetrates a large clay-like form, seen in different positions from different viewpoints displaying the mechanics of sexual intercourse. She cuts the abstract form with a scalpel, seemingly to sculpt and mould it to reflect and fulfill her desires. This animation plays out on a hanging monitor suspended by a structure that evokes a hybrid of exhibition display and BDSM dungeon, as part of Sidsel Meineche Hansen’s Second Sex War, running at London’s Gasworks from March 17 to May 29. A soundtrack by Nkisi called Exotica plays throughout, with samples of breathing that break into high-powered beats. Multiple perspectives span the animations and gaming PCs distributed across the gallery, combining the point-of-view of EVA v3.0 with poses for constructing digital animation and of what the Second Sex War press release calls “post-human porn production“.
Featuring new commissions and collaborations with the aforementioned producer, as well as James B Stringer, Nikola Dechev, and Kepla, the show explores the politics of female and non-binary sexuality and pleasure within the processes of artistic production and how desire and power shape markets, representations and the use of new visual technologies. The title refers to Simone de Beauvoir’s seminal 1949 work The Second Sex, a critical feminist text arguing that women have historically been treated as secondary to men. The show expands this into the continuing battle against the objectification and commodification of embodied experience that finds new forms through digital technologies.
Hansen uses body fluids in the work ‘Methylene Blue Diluted by Female Ejaculation’ (2015) combined with a drawing style that is non-anatomical or less naturalistic. The artist describes it as “low-tech manual craft”, a more direct expression of bodily experience, in comparison to the outsourced skilled digital labour of the other works. This includes laser cut drawings ‘iSlave (non-dualistic)’ (2016) as an assertion of submissive and slave positions in BDSM as well as relating to the Apple computer brand, and ‘No Baby’ (2015) as sexual pleasure liberated from the functionality of procreation. ‘No Right Way 2 Cum’ (2015) is a CGI animation made with James B Stringer, a “feminist ‘cum shot’ video” according to the press release, featuring a grinding and pulsing soundtrack by Kepla.
EVA v3.0 was created by designer Nikola Dechev as a stock avatar for adult entertainment company TurboSquid, and is here used to disrupt the straight male gaze through empowered female-bodied actions. This includes masturbation and female ejaculation responding to the UK ban of their depiction in porn, and an ‘Off Our Backs’ poster in the background of the CGI room referencing the “first lesbian erotica magazine run by women for women”. Eventually the moving image of EVA v3.0’s body begins to break up and display an inverted face that looks like stretched skin and echoing ‘Cite Werkflow Ltd.’ (2015), a face imprinted in clay installed across the gallery. The gaming PC ‘SECOND SEX WAR ZONE’ and animation ‘DICKGIRL 3D(X)’ (2016, respectively) made with digital arts studio Werkflow Ltd explore processes of 3D modelling as a parallel to how human bodies are socially constructed and altered to conform.
In the vegan leather cushion in the centre of the space and the wire suspended monitor and speaker, the artist explicitly references the sado-masochistic practice of artists Sheree Rose and Bob Flanagan. This also recalls Hansen’s previous series of interdisciplinary events This Is Not A Symptom (2014– 2015) on biopolitics, disability theory and Anti-Psychiatry as the critique of mainstream psychiatric treatment. ‘CULTURAL CAPITAL COOPERATIVE OBJECT #1’ is a ceramic wall relief produced in collaboration with artists Manuela Gernedel, Alan Michael, Georgie Nettell, Oliver Rees, Matthew Richardson, Gili Tal and Lena Tutunjian, and co-operatively owned by the makers. Similar to how the body is reduced to commodity for capital, a relational process as organic as collaborative artistic practice can be framed and formalised as ‘cultural capital’ within certain discourses, and exploited for commercial purposes.**