In February 2022, the Institute of Contemporary Arts will present Decriminalised Futures, a group exhibition featuring thirteen international artists whose work speaks to the multiplicity of contemporary sex worker experiences.
‘Full decriminalisation of sex work is the rallying cry that unites the sex worker rights movement across the world. Under this banner, sex workers and their allies have fought tirelessly for strong workers’ rights, an end toCo-curators of Decriminalised Futures, Yves Sanglante and Elio Sea.
exploitation, an end to criminalisation, and real measures to address poverty. Decriminalised Futures is a celebration of this movement. This exhibition is a testament to what can be created when we take politicised sex worker organising as our starting point.
‘It gives us great pleasure to share the stunning works of all the talented artists involved in Decriminalised Futures. This truly is a creatively diverse collection of works that offers nuance, sensitivity, humour and depth in
exploring sex worker lives and struggles. ‘As a small team who care about collaboration, we have thoroughly enjoyed working with the ICA. Their team has been supportive every step of the way, and demonstrated the ICA’s ongoing commitment to exploring meaningful struggles for justice and liberation.’
The exhibition highlights the history of the sex worker rights movement and its inextricable links to issues of racial and social justice, migrant rights, labour rights, anti-austerity work, and queer and trans liberation. Works comprise ten distinct projects by artists from the UK, France, Germany and the United States, and features the use of moving image, embroidery, bookmaking, gaming and sculpture. Through an interdisciplinary approach, themes of sacred space, mental health, gender, racial justice, joy, pain, disability, tenderness and desire become tools for solidarity and elicit conversations rooted in the need for a decriminalised future.
Queer Pakistani-Egyptian artist Aisha Mirza’s installation is presented in the lower gallery, a space that fuses poetry and picture to explore notions of queerness, sickness and transformation. The work features an altar with books, plants and sex work zines. The exhibition continues to a series of three life-size linocut self-portraits, by artist
Khaleb Brooks, whose work explores Blackness, transness and collective memory. A comic book, drawn by artist Annie Mok and written by Danica Uskert, questions the divide between ‘legitimate’ actors and adult performers in Hollywood in relation to sex presented in film.
In the upper galleries films by Chi Chi Castillo and May May Peltier, artists focusing on narratives around sex work and queerness, explore the lives and philosophies of four sex workers of colour, while performance artist and musician Liad Hussein Kantorowicz’s video Mythical Creatures tells the story of Argaman Alliance, the first sex worker organisation to exist in Palestine-Israel. Decriminalised Futures is hosted by the ICA in partnership with Arika, a UK-based political arts organisation that supports connections between artistic production and social change. The exhibition forms part of an ongoing project of the same name, led by organisers from SWARM (Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement), a UK based collective founded and led by sex workers.
Decriminalised Futures at ICA 15th February – 22nd May 2022
Decriminalised Futures is curated by Elio Sea and Yves Sanglante with support from the ICA’s curatorial team. Works were selected by an independent panel of writers, artists, performers, filmmakers and sex educators including Jay Bernard, Joanna Helfer, Morgan M. Page, Imani Robinson, Hello Rooster, and Yves Sanglante. A chapbook containing documentation of the exhibited works alongside texts and quotes from the panel discussions at SWARM’s 2019 festival will be published alongside the exhibition.
About the artists
Tobi Adebajo is an Anti-disciplinary artist exploring the question: ‘Who is not in this space? And why?’ Their projects are curated to highlight the inaccessibility of society for and to othered bodies, encouraging freedom with/in movement whilst celebrating survival. Focusing on sound, movement, visual and written pieces; Tobi’s practice draws from all the senses and relies upon meaningful collaboration to create works centralising diasporic experiences whilst simultaneously honouring the power of identity. Adebajo presents evidence of communal and spiritual language that we inherently possess but may be unable to access; framing this language as a basis for collective healing and liberation.
Yarli Allison is a Canadian-born-Hong Kongese artist based in London. Her frequent relocations and mixed identities have focused her attention to the collective uprootedness and solidarity of migrant demographic groups. In her works, she fabricates imagined worlds that consist of her invented survival tactics and coping mechanisms, often in interaction with sculptural installation, drawings, performances, and moving images.
Khaleb Brooks is an interdisciplinary artist, researcher and writer exploring blackness, transness and collective memory. Meshing the black queer figure with surreal environments in paintings, using printmaking to question the politics of desire and entering transcendental states in performance they force their audience to confront the literal and social death of black people globally. Khaleb, originally from Chicago is inspired by the perseverance of black families in overcoming poverty, addiction, abuse and gang violence as well as their own experiences of being transgender. Khaleb is currently an artist in residence at the International Slavery Museum and Metal Culture
Chi Chi Castillo is an independent filmmaker and writer focused on narratives around sex work, queerness, and DIY. Chi Chi is collaborating with May May Peltier to create work especially for this exhibit. Castillo and Peltier began making films together in 2017, with their first film being Chi Chi’s House Party, a smut film highlighting the queer underground in Oakland, California. Peltier and Castillo are now continuing their work together under the name Stone Dove. They’re excited to invite you into Stone Dove’s dream world.
Cory Cocktail is a power exchange architect and escort; a post disciplinary artist with an interest in the intersections of the body and technology, narrative design, contemporary dance, interactive fiction, migration, gender, and sexuality. A transsexual descendant of Oceti Sakowin and European peoples, Cocktail is attempting to bring a sex worker
digital interactive fiction experience into the world for Decriminalised Futures. Cocktail is based in the unceded lands of the Duwamish, in what is currently known as Seattle, United States of America.
Hanecdote, is an artist and sex worker with chronic pain who specialises in hand embroidery which speaks from a place of emotion. They are interested in portraying everyday life, inspired by art history but making sure it is much more inclusive and beautiful. Hanecdote believes art is therapy, justice, communication, love and a human experience.
Liad Hussein Kantorowicz is a performance artist, musician, perpetual migrant, and master of the margins. Her performances de-exotify and de-mystify the positions of so-called sexual or political deviants. In them, the body is a tool of resistance, a platform to display vulnerabilities, and means of transgressing the boundaries of the public space.
Letizia Miro is a Spanish queer who migrated to London several years ago. She is a sex worker and poet. Miro has been involved in sex workers’ rights and political organising in Spain as well as in the UK. When she is not monetising her erotic capital, she writes poetry that digs into the meanings of sexuality and existential pain. She has performed and published her work both in English and in Spanish.
Aisha Mirza is a queer Pakistani-Egyptian writer, DJ, multi-disciplinary artist and stripper. Their work explores the relationship between queerness, transness, race, mental health, sex and art. They are also creator of Misery, a mental health collective and sober club night for queer/trans people of colour. Mirza writes a monthly advice column for gal-dem and lives on a boat.
Annie Mok is a intersex trans woman writer-artist, musician (formerly in See-Through Girls, currently in the Knight Dreams), and sometime filmmaker. She drew and designed the graphic memoir Unsustainable based off her friend Danica Uskert’s script.
May May Peltier is a model and video artist emphasising experimental paradigms to document the culture of feminine identities and how they intersect with modern systems of oppression. Peltier will be working alongside Chi Chi Castillo, a brilliant artist she is frequently in collaboration with under the production name ‘Stone Dove’.
pxr•mxt•r is an inquiry that will be using the space to study, present and be in negotiation with infrastructure and power exchange.
Danica Anna Uskert-Quinn s a mixed-race, pansexual, polyamorous film director, producer, video and
performance artist, curator, writer, and the editor-in-chief of filmandfishnet.com. As Danica Darling, she is also a cam girl, porn performer, and professional submissive. She currently resides in Hollywood, United States with her dog Elvira.