An artwork inspired by comerce, consumerism, the glamour of cars and embodied by girls in catsuits performing a Busby Berkeley-esque kaledoscopic routine. Roman Vasseur’s Franchise
I have completed the second chapter of my PhD thesis. For it, I visited 18 showgirl spectacles, cabarets and gentlemen’s clubs and considered how these shows made me feel. I’m really keen to think of this chapter as in dialogue with performers rather than about them, at a distance, and so I would love to circulate my chapter to showgirls of all stripes and other performers in order to include their footnoted responses to my text. Email me if you would like to have a read. I visited shows including Jubilee and Vegas! The Show in Las Vegas, The Moulin Rouge and Lido in Paris, Yma in Berlin, burlesque shows in London like La Reve and Bete Noir and also Spearmint Rhino. Do let me know if you’d like to take a read and I’ll email it to you. In particular, I have not been able to send to a stripper/showgirl. Thanks!
I’ve uploaded a few things if you want to see some of my recent output. Here’s the paper I delivered at the Onscenity Network’s Bodies Seminar, Tits, Teeth & Talent, The Showgirl’s Body and What She Can Do With It, which you can also access via the ‘Writing’ section.
The complete Video Letters dialogue with Kerstin Honeit, which formed the main part of our exhibition at LoBe, Berlin and SIA gallery, Sheffield, is viewable here: Vimeo Showtime.
When I delivered Tits & Teeth, at the end I presented a video of me dancing the Charleston to Lady Gaga. That was the final Video Letter in the Video Letters: Body conversation with Kerstin. If you want to view that by itself in conjunction with the paper, I’ve also uploaded it here.
I feel I shall have to transition from photography and video and into live art and performance practices to really continue this list. Before I do, I shall just list women photographers who in some way address the Showgirlian.
Elinor Carucci is a photographer by day, but a belly dancer by night. She’s documented her dancing life in the book and series ‘Diary of a Dancer‘. A well observed project in which we see the types of venues, audiences, costumes, dance moves, preparations and the come down following performing. Its documentary and a diary. Just through pictures a complex narrative is told. With lots of sequins.
Katharina Bosse‘s book New Burlesque is a fabulous collection of portraits of New Burlesque dancers. The dancers look fabulous in clothes the look like they could be performance costume, or in some cases, sassy day wear. The pose and flirt with the camera knowingly, in domestic spaces, corners of cafes and deserts – nowhere you’d expect to find them. They are there, at the beginning of this new movement, carving out a space for themselves. Its a joyous book.
To reduce Sophie Calle‘s down to just the work she did stripping is a sin. However, this is what I shall do here and now. Please go look up Calle’s wider practice if she’s new to you.
Sophie Calle’s practice is brave, transgressive, self-reflexive, uses herself. But its wider than that, its also about how we perform ourselves, how we connect to other people, how our emotions shape us. How we look, and how we are looked at. Again, total fan!
Leigh Ledare represents a transition into the frame, and a new way of approaching the showgirl. Now, my examples will be about embodying or trying out the showgirl, and thus, the following examples are about what she symbolises, how she can be used, rather than, who is she?
It’s worth pointing out, that these practices would not exist without a number of female photographers, whose work engages less with a Showgirlian impulse, but women-in-representation. So, look up, if you don’t already know:
Tom Hunter‘s photographs tell stories of contemporary life. Inspired by newspaper headlines, sensational reporting and more Pre-Raphaelite compositional tropes, among other things, Hunter’s photographs are complex, full of detail and place our contemporary context into a historical one. And his photographs are (say it quietly) beautiful.