Are you yearning to bump and grind on a pedestal but fear the ensuing sore muscles your erotic gymnastics might yield? Le Petit Mort’s Nuit Blanche event has got you covered.
Curated by Toronto multidisciplinary artist John Caffery (of experimental art-rock collective Kids on TV), the aptly titled Working Conditions invites participants to receive a massage by on-site therapists after shakin’ it alongside hired go-go dancers. The therapists are entertained by the dancers as they work, creating a cyclical event asking audiences to consider the experiences of those working in both businesses.
Though he’s never given rubdowns professionally, Caffery’s well acquainted with all things go-go. He forged his status as a Toronto scenester in the late 1990s, performing at the late Will Munro’s legendary Vazaleen parties.
“There’s a level of objectification when you’re onstage in your underwear, and sometimes people don’t know where to draw the line,” the Hamilton expat says. “They think they can touch you or act inappropriately because you’re performing. I never felt threatened, but I was performing in a very supportive environment. It’s not always that easy for people doing this kind of thing when someone’s crossing the line.”
John Caffery dances at a Toronto event.
La Petit Mort’s director, Guy Bérubé, asked Caffery to devise something after seeing his programming for the AGYU’s 2011 Will Munro retrospective
. With La Petit Mort’s current exhibition (documentary photographer Mimi Chakarova’s work on Eastern European sex workers), Caffery saw a natural fit exploring the issues from another angle.
“I wanted a participatory space talking about sex work without actual sex,” he says. “People working as go-go dancers and massage therapists can sometimes have requests for sexual activity. We’re creating a safe space where people will be comfortable, knowing expectations won’t go too far but while asking larger questions about the supports people working in the sex business need.”
“Sex workers are often marginalized and can face dangerous conditions doing what they do,” he says. “Those in the trans and First Nations communities are particularly vulnerable, and the laws that supposedly protect them are instead used to further endanger them.”
It’s no accident the event is being presented in the nation’s capital. As current legislation on sex work makes its way to the Supreme Court, Caffery sees a need for greater public dialogue.
“Of course, it’s a party space and a chance for people to have fun,” he says. “But I’m hoping audiences also leave with questions of how our society treats sex workers and a greater understanding of their vulnerability.”
La Petite Mort Gallery presents:
Working Conditions, by John Caffery
Part of Nuit Blanche Ottawa
Sat, Sept 22, 8pm-2am