Tania Ferrier has been interrogating the visual representations of women’s bodies in art for decades. In 1988 she was living in New York City and working in a bar where she witnessed a sexual assault. The experience prompted a feminist fashion project called Angry Underwear—creative, vicious, and wearable art designed for sex workers. “It was the ‘your body is a battleground’ times of Barbara Kruger,” says Ferrier. “It was New York with the Guerrilla Girls, Jenny Holzer, [and] Barbara Kruger doing guerilla work to be seen.”
Since then, her multi-disciplinary practice has covered everything from film, photography, fashion, painting, and performance. Her latest show at Gallery Central in Perth, Body of Opportunity, incorporates it all, with Angry Underwear even making a brief appearance. It’s a more collaborative exhibition, resulting from a public talk she gave in Fremantle in 2022 during her exhibition Pop Porn: “I was approached by some young women who work in the adult entertainment industry. Basically, one of them said to me, ‘Come back to the strip clubs and see where we’re at now.’”
Ferrier worked with photographers Sascha Turisini and Nikita Dunovits-Ferrier, costume creative Dana Stoll, models and performers Gabriela and Ruby, and feminist clown Gaea Anastas to create Body of Opportunity. “They’re really living through that moment of body empowerment,” she says of the younger participants. “Their bodies are still very political.”
In highlighting the importance of body autonomy, Ferrier found herself using nudity as a primary area of interrogation, asking when, how and why we make the distinction between art and pornography. “We should be able to look at women’s bodies the way they want to show them to us. We can think they’re beautiful, we can appreciate them, and it should not be taboo, it should not be equated with a whole industry that has been controlled by men.”
This article was originally published in the January/February 2024 print edition of Art Guide Australia.
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