"Show World Order" Valentina Vaccarella at Other Subjects, New York
In “Show World Order,” Valentina Vaccarella’s first solo exhibition, the artist showcases visceral sculptures and assembled ephemera to create a mirror of layered exchanges. On the surface, there is a cohesive message about women, labour, and sexuality that is familiar but on a more profound level, Vaccarella exposes a world of psychosexual drives, as seen in our dreams and buried within our subconscious. For her, the subconscious acts like a garden; fertile soil filled with memories of one’s experiences.
We see a bat coming out of a woman’s ass, intertwined, mutated bodies on a psychologist’s armchair, and an altar with a rosary and money chips from the strip club. These are the seeds of Vaccarella’s subconscious garden— whether they have grown to be flowers or weeds is up to the spectator.
Text and interview by KLLR DNTST
Images courtesy of Kristine Eudey
KD: So, why Bella Donna?
VV: I like watching her porn [from the early 2000s]. That specific scene is particularly iconic but it could have been any other actress using a baseball bat in such a way. The source image is a conduit, a means to illustrate a woman’s capacity to become a vessel for something greater. In concentrating on just a portion of a woman’s body I am grasping at something more essential, rather than a reference to an individual person. In a similar fashion, one of Robert Gober’s leg pieces happens to treat the human body in a synchronous way, and I found this similarity intriguing.
L: Barbie Sins LC4 Charlotte Perriand R: Gober’s essence of true romance, 2020
KD: The piece canonizes a very specific moment in her now-infamous film, much like a photograph of a performance art piece. Do you think art and porn are mutually exclusive? Much has been theorized about the role of porn being solely for sexual arousal while art’s aim is not, but more often than not (especially in the case of Bella Donna’s early 2000s films) you can argue that perspective is too simplistic.
VV: Good art does the same thing as good porn. In Paglia's Sexual Personae she mentions that porn makes many well-meaning people uncomfortable because it isolates the voyeuristic element present in all art. However, I find it unnecessary to attach the pornographic label to this sculpture. Extreme examples of voyeurism and vulnerability can be found in everyday occurrences, even in as mundane an occurrence as an emergency room doctor dealing with insertion accidents.
KD: What led you to conceptualize your first solo exhibitions "Show World Order"?
VV: Epiphanies during ecstasy.
KD: Do you ever worry about anti-feminist criticism that as a woman who uses herself in her work you are being narcissistic and self-eroticizing? I ask this question because your work in some ways reminds me of Hannah Wilke’s radical’s reclamation of the female body where she used her own image as an agent of power while simultaneously objectifying it and embracing the conditions of her debasement.
VV: What I express is factual. I am not concerned with social considerations or labelling when making work and I am not the direct subject. If one wishes to claim what I do is narcissistic and self-eroticizing that is a valid interpretation.
KD: There is definitely a sense of thematic cohesion in many of the sculptures, they point towards the ways you, as a dancer, received payments in an orderly, almost rigid and systematic fashion. As a non-sex worker, I was surprised to learn about the mundane process of the “cash out.” Your sculptures provide a lot of clues about the not so well-known relationship between sex work and market forces/ late-capitalist consumption. What do you see as your own experience related to that dynamic, and specifically, do you think there are other under-recognized aspects of sex work?
VV: Part of the work is about the commodification of the body, but more so it is about the transcendence of that. Sex work informs part of this work but is not something that I want to define it. Sex work, like the art world itself, carries an explicit relation to power- both of access and denial.
Private Redemption, 2020
KD: There are psychosexual references in the sculptures such as the Freudian chair and the bat, what type of language do these objects have in relation to the figures cast on/with them?
VV: I did not intend for definitive puns in using the chaise and baseball bat; I was more interested in them as objects that absorb bodies or force and what they provide in their utilitarian purpose, and also how they can be used in ways unintended by their makers. I don’t imagine they were created as vehicles for extreme moments of transgression and transcendence, but in a curious way, this role was revealed as a natural telos.
KD: Is there anything you can't say with your sculptures but want to?
“Show World Order” is up until January 31st at Other Subjects in Mcguinness Studios in Greenpoint Brooklyn, and online at killer-dentist.com