Artificial Womb was able to secure a last-minute stall at Late Leith’s Art Mart on Sunday (26/06). Part of my pitch was a performance piece where anyone could draw on me with sharpie permanent markers as long as they paid 5p or more.
I’m pretty sure this performance has been done before by Marina Abramovic & certainly by Amanda Palmer, but to my knowledge it’s always been a free thing. Like, they would invite audience members to participate without charging them for drawing on them. Amanda Palmer’s written about how doing the performance that way (with everyone at once going for it, being surrounded by people) can leave the artist vulnerable to groping and I felt that adding a small charge might prevent that kind of issue.
So I set up my hat and blackboard to the side of my stall and waited.
At first I was hoping that people would use different coloured pens based on their gender identity, but that only worked for the first few people and then one of my female friends insisted on using a blue pen and it all went out the window.
BUT, what turned out to be much more interesting was the way the 5p minimum donation made a difference. People were totally up for drawing or writing on me (as they often are totally up for drawing on the inside of my car), but when I said it cost 5p+ people really paused. It wasn’t about cost, since people who were already at my table had often bought a zine or had loose change, but it seemed to bring in an ethical dimension that people were less comfortable with. I say people, I mean women.
Men seemed to have no problem putting some money in the hat and putting pen to skin. But a number of women were really reluctant once they heard they had to pay. One women literally said, “I’d be so up for this if it was free, but… it just doesn’t feel right to pay to draw on you.” I thought that was so interesting. It’s like, what we are and aren’t allowed to charge for.
It wasn’t the venue to be totally naked (it was during the day and there were kids around, despite it being not a child-friendly event), so I’d worn the outfit I once did some stripping in. It was… different… being dressed like a sex worker while going about my usual art-business day. At first I felt really out of place, like I was standing in for someone else, but once people started to draw on me I got back into ‘artist’ mode and it was all fine.
I was surprised that kids wanted to draw on me and even more surprised that their parents let them and didn’t shoo them away or accuse me of corruption or something. I have so much internalised shame about my body and my sexuality and my voice/expression around these issues. It’s really encouraging to be allowed, by society, to raise issues of feminist performance art and sex work in a setting where children are present. There’s still so much of a taboo about talking to kids about bodies and sex, and I am no-where near being able to navigate this ground effectively. I just appreciated being there.
One girl – maybe about eleven-years-old – wrote, “Ana is cool art,” and then apologised for it not making much sense. But I thought it was awesome. I really liked that she asked what my name was and then included that in the temporary sharpie tattoo. It made me feel like a person, not just an object, and like what I’m doing is inspiring and does matter.
Overall I made between £5-7.50. I was counting all the change from stall sales and bowler hat together and moving coins around to ensure the stall float had a decent amount of change, so I’m not 100% sure how much I made. Even so, it was a decent amount for a first performance (especially given that participation started at 5p).
Here’s how I looked at the end of it:
There was other cool stuff going on as well. I met Faith Eliott, whose music I promoted in Artificial Womb #10. I ran into Sandy, who’s the current curator of Fine Roots Gallery where I’ve got an upcoming solo exhibition in September (more details to follow). And my friend Bethany Thompson, who prints Artificial Womb, was there promoting her illustration work:
AND the pink tent was appreciated by some folk, which always makes me happy. I’m waiting until I get the go-ahead from Mary Modeen (the course supervisor for my upcoming MFA) before I do any further work on the tent, but I hope I can get back to it soon.
Overall, it was just a good day. Thanks to Late Leith for letting me do my thing, everyone who bought something for boosting my self-esteem and supporting my business, DSEN whose feasibility grant is still helping pay for my petrol & time, and the patrons for their continued faith in me (join them here).
All my love,
Editor, Artificial Womb