04 March – 03 August 2022

IM/PERFECT

Artspace Aotearoa is located in what used to be Auckland's red light district, Karangahape Road. Once full of sex clubs, sex stores, brothels and gay clubs, today alongside many suburbs like this around the world, the street is suffering from a new wave of gentrification where many LGBTQ+ and sex industry businesses are closing or scaling down, and sex workers are being encouraged away from the street or moving online.

IM/PERFECT is an exhibition that takes place within seven A3 aluminium clip poster holders on the back of each of Artspace Aotearoa and Atelier’s non-binary bathroom doors. Located in the the intimate public/private space of a bathroom stall, the project speaks to architectures of sex and cruising culture, and also to the important utility of the bathrooms as a place to freshen up, check your makeup, or access free sanitary products and condoms.

Posters will be rotated through the bathrooms every month, with each poster available to purchase as an edition sold in Artspace Aotearoa’s shop. 60% of each sale goes to the artist, and 40% to NZPC New Zealand Sex Workers’ Collective.

IM/PERFECT was developed by Artspace Aotearoa in partnership with NZPC New Zealand Sex Workers’ Collective, curated by Daniel John Corbett Sanders.

PAST:

I Wouldn't Pick a Fight With a Swan, Personally.
Gwyn Easterbrook-Smith
4 March - 16 April

Gwyn Easterbrook-Smith, Room 7 (I Wouldn’t Pick a Fight With a Swan, Personally), 2022, Installation shot.

The towel swan is an object which has a particular association for many sex workers. There are stories from people who were taught how to fold one on their first night at work by an older worker, and from others who worked in parlours where each room had a towel swan, which no one working there could reliably re-fold or reproduce, a relic left by a former worker. The swan was therefore carefully and reverently removed from the bed or massage table before each booking, and just as carefully replaced when the room was reset for the next appointment.

Creating the towel swan (or how to replicate whichever towel fold is dominant in a particular workplace) is a skill passed from one worker to another. This arrangement is also how other knowledge and skills which are more urgent and critical are dispersed through the community – about managing clients, and managing the stigma still attached to the work.

I Wouldn’t Pick a Fight With a Swan, Personally continues to explore some of the themes from Easterbrook-Smith’s exhibition Human Resources (Meanwhile, 2018, with Elisabeth Pointon), in terms of labour in sex workplaces, and the offering of alternate visual markers of sex work, in the form of towels. Like Human Resources, it uses humour and irreverence to suggest different entrance points into thinking about and understanding sex work, pointing towards an un-examined kind of workplace culture. The composition of the image, similar to the museological cataloguing of artifacts, references the way that sex work is often examined through an anthropological lens, and offers the towel swan as an object for analysis, refusing to confirm if this is tongue in cheek or sincere.

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Gwyn Easterbrook-Smith is a sex worker and academic, with a research practice which makes use of media and cultural studies frameworks to consider how different forms of work and labour are made legible or invisible. Their academic work focuses on news media productions of sex work under New Zealand's model of decrimininalisation.

Easterbrook-Smith’s first book, Producing the Acceptable Sex Worker, was recently published by Rowman & Littlefield in March. Their research has also been published in Sexualities, Continuum, and the European Journal of Cultural Studies. Their work features in Out Here: An Anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ Writers from Aotearoa, and in 2018 they exhibited with Elisabeth Pointon at Meanwhile Gallery.