A new exhibition by sex worker led collective Objects of Desire explores stories around the everyday practice of sex work in Berlin.
This exhibition displays artefacts collected through ethnographically informed interviews conducted over the past year in Berlin. The objects range from the mundane to the bizarre, from a hand painted tea light given by a client to a bicycle used to ride to work whilst wearing heels to a butt tunnel. The objects, and the accompanying stories told by the sex workers who donated them, highlight the material politics of sex work in Berlin today. Through focusing on the personal stories of sex workers and the physical objects involved, Objects of Desire aims to facilitate an understanding of the everyday practice of sex work as work.
In particular, this exhibition emphasises the ways in which sex workers manage relationships with clients, lovers, families, the public, the law
and the objects themselves.
Accompanying the archival collection Objects of Desire presents a series of works created by artists who are also sex workers. Responding to an open call artists present creative interpretations of the lived material dimensions of sex work inspired by the objects, themes and stories of the archival collection. The pieces range from a performance exploring fetishisation of national identity, to a fully immersive astrological workspace, as well as sculpture, music, video and photography. A series of events, exhibition tours and workshops will accompany the exhibition.
The show is particularly timely in Berlin, as ‘The Prostitute’s Protection Act’ came into effect in Germany as of 1 July 2017. , This new law, aimed at regulating sex work, makes the registration and identification of sex workers mandatory. This policy has come under fierce criticism from sex workers’ organisations, public health organisations, legal organisations and human rights groups. Objects of Desire’s research took place in the year following the laws implementation, amidst an atmosphere of legal uncertainty for sex workers in Berlin. The exhibition serves as a vital intervention into current debates around the new law through exhibiting voices that detail nuanced experiences of sex work.
While sex worker organisations worldwide continue to fight for decriminalisation as the best method to secure sex workers’ rights and better working conditions, debates surrounding legislation still repeatedly exclude sex workers’ voices. As a collective of sex workers, artists and anthropologists, Objects of Desire seeks to reclaim the narrative through preserving sex workers stories. The collective’s first exhibition was held in London in August 2016, following research with sex workers in London. Further to temporary exhibitions of objects, the collective is building a permanent archive of sex workers artefacts. Objects from Berlin and London will be catalogued in the archive, which serves as an ongoing resource for sex workers worldwide.
Objects of Desire in Berlin is funded by Open Society in cooperation with Schwules Museum.