If you would like to volunteer to sit for a portrait then please contact Bareback Museum and read the description below for more information.
Being naked is an essential part of us. We are naked often within intimate spaces such as the bathroom or the bedroom but it is also important to consider how the body can relate to the public space, institutions and organisations. What can the body tell us about the way that we work, how we relate to our colleagues or the way that we love? How can nudity manage change?
The experience of nudity can help people to feel more confident about the body, away from the mainstream, and to think about queerness, feminism and non-conformity. Nudity is about the body and the environment: sometimes hostile. Through the body, narratives can form about identity which when given transparency can be empowering. For some people being naked helps them to confront and challenge the relational identities of masculinity and femininity.
On Grindr nudity is portrayed through personal images and shared between individual users through the message app. ‘Sex pics’ crop areas of the body to provide anonymity for users. Racism and other forms of discrimination are a problem on the platform. Grindr is “the world’s largest online Gay social network”. Many people using grindr are lead into the practice of Bareback (unprotected) sex, through the community behaviours within the social network, as the pressure becomes normalised.
I started the Bareback Museum over three years ago, which is a life drawing and performance workshop about sexual health and intimacy. Through a queer methodology of subverting a life drawing class into a live art performance, an agency was created for LGBTQI audiences to discuss Bareback (unproteced) sex openly within public and sanitised spaces, without stigmatisation. Groups attended the workshop performance as participants who drew together and collectively evaluated the drawings as a process to think about the futures of their health and of Aids Memory. As an effect of introducing PREP, a treatment that prevents high risk individuals from contracting HIV, there is an increased number of people having Bareback sex.
If nudity helps us to consider all the things mentioned about gender, race, or our human relations and interactions with other people, then it can improve the inequalities within the way that we work and the way that we live. By challenging them, it can create the transparency to improve the practice of our human rights.
I am creating portraits of volunteers who pose for life drawing. The exchange between myself and the sitter offers reflective questioning about artwork in relation to sexual, personal and public encounters. This is an opportunity for volunteers to experiment with nudity and to benefit from visual art discussions about social science, politics and health. Many of the sitters have been invited through Grindr as I am part of this demographic, social network, and wish to learn more about the conversations and trends: in this context Nudity is used as a structure of life drawing to advance more intimate conversations about Bareback Sex. Conversations and friendships freely form whilst the drawing commences. The process to undertake life drawing with volunteers is to reflect and to evaluate the psychology of an individuals sexual health. The intimacy and imagination of life drawing for the sitters is an experience of concentration.
Drawings of the volunteer sitters will be made in the Bareback Museum art studio at London City Island, E14. The materials will include pen, charcoal, pencil, colouring pencil, pastel and watercolors on various sizes of cartridge paper, card and watercolour paper. During the process I will encourage sitters to talk.
Through the development of portraits, independent research organisations and charities will be sought to provide advice and consultation about the interactions. The created artworks will be given to the volunteers after their portraits are made or collected for an exhibition.
Grindr is a privately owned company with the largest shareholder base in China. During the BB Portraits, questions will be asked about how the behavior of the community of Grindr users is affected by the management of the social platform. And why, with such a large and historically marginalised community, there is not more democratic or political participation occurring from the Grindr users about the way that they interact with Bareback sex.
I hope that this portraiture project will help unite communities beyond the trends of the this social network behaviour by opening up life drawing and exhibition events for individuals and volunteers. There are over 50% less LGBTQ venues than there were ten years ago. Organisational structures have been affected and as the empowerment of LGBTQ communities has changed from local LGBTQ communities to online groups with their own philosophies of change and identity politics, the wealth of local communities is funneled into shareholder profits.
The Life drawing encounters will provide educational research about the psychological behaviors of users associated with the Grindr community in relation to its organisational management and places of meeting.
Within the short term, donations raised for the BB portraits project will help to provide funding for an art studio and the cost of materials needed for drawing. It will help to support my time required to run the project and to draw volunteers. Life drawing users from Grindr can be varied and some volunteers stay for up to four of five hours.
The project will aim to hold an exhibition event for the volunteers and the public to engage once there are a sufficient number of portraits created. Fundraising will cover the cost of the hired venue and group workshops.
In the long term, the project will aim to forma social network to provide support for volunteers who would like to undertake their own BB Portraits encounters and to promote more Life drawing performance workshops in the future.