I spent some time yesterday with VB Cast member Lyssa. She had lots of technical ideas for the company: HUDs and Alternate Viewers for Cast Members that could let the director make cast adjustments and/or let audience members manipulate cast members – lots of interesting / interactive ideas – so many in fact that I’m a little dizzy trying to sort them out – but I’m sure they’ll make their way to a VB Performance near you soon enough.
What she really had though, was all sorts of content ideas – in some cases, like the Protest Burka, their speech was inevitable – in other cases, like this image of her Ravaged / Fuck Toy / Rape Fantasy, I think it represents Lyssa having fun, indulging in a personal fantasy, but it also is a powerful statement that flies straight at our culture.
To be honest, this degrading, objectified image of Lyssa was pretty difficult for me to look at when she gave it to me yesterday. “Rape” is not a fantasy I’ve ever had, and it was difficult to see this image as anything other than insulting and offensive. Yes, it happens to be Lyssa having a consensual, good time – but isn’t it degrading to and objectifying of, all women?
Well… it is…
But anything that “arrests” you: makes you stop and think, makes you look again, makes you question your assumptions/beliefs… isn’t that the function of art? Isn’t that a moment where cultural perspective can be reassessed?
I’ve written here about “naked vs nude,” the idea that there are art museums and museum directors here in SL who are comfortable with “the nude,” that many centuries old female aesthetically presented for consumption. The soft-core porn of the Western canon of art. Vis-a-vis the “naked” female who is assertive, empowered, harder to control, more in-your-face, and not always so welcome in the art museum.
I came to realize that there is a lot of that “naked woman” in this image of Lyssa. Whether this image is of Lyssa trying to make a political statement about art and culture, or whether this image is of Lyssa trying to have a kinky good time, this is an unexpectedly empowered image.
I’m fond of pointing out the two late-19th-century paintings: Birth of Venus by Bouguereau, and Olympia by Meurent (with Manet) and how Venus is a nude object whereas Olympia is a naked person. But that was a century-and-a-half ago now! Almost nobody who isn’t in Art History or Women’s Studies even sees this in Olympia anymore. And… hasn’t Lyssa outflanked us with this image of her pleasure?
Yes it’s a degrading image, yes it’s a difficult image, but really, couldn’t you take a general art history text, a survey of the Western canon, and write “Fuck Toy” on half the paintings in the book?
And if that’s true, then isn’t this one of the most honest, and strangely empowered images imaginable. Doesn’t it speak truth to the role of women in cultures across the ages and to some degree in this very age?
IDK if I’d really have the nerve to produce this as a performance — I fear it’s too offensive, too controversial, would turn off too many audience members and journalists. But if all that’s true… then isn’t anything less just a cultural band-aid?
Remember that extraordinary moment in Apocalypse Now when they mistakenly machine-gun a boat of people to bits, then start doing triage on them – Martin Sheen’s character Willard ends the broken lives and comments, “We’d cut em in half with machine guns and give them a band aid.”