In Faster Than An Erection, Her first solo exhibition in a museum, British artist and dominatrix, Reba Maybury explores the meaning and role of transgression and perversion in the institutional context of the museum by having Her local submissive create the work for Her. Maybury has to “work faster than the speed of their erections” in order to shape “men’s desire … into [Her] own choice of outcome”. The artist has developed a distinct practice in which writing and Her role as a political dominatrix (at times under the pseudonym Mistress Rebecca) inform each other and work together to unravel and ‘penetrate’ male authority/power, transaction and desire, while pushing the boundaries of female strength beyond men’s fantasy. To the Her, “Sadomasochism is everywhere and not just in a dimly lit subterranean box in our collective minds”.
A curtain has been hung to close off the exhibition space and behind it Maybury’s submissive followed Her directions in the creation of the work on display: evidence left by the body of the (submissive) man on the floor of the museum, made visible by blue lights. By crossing the threshold, marked by the presence of the curtain, the visitor will in turn consent to entering the room and participate in this upended world.
In bringing the interaction between the Dominatrix and the submissive into an institutional space, Maybury furthers Her exploration of the segregation of perversion and the simultaneous stigmatization of the sex worker. Through the installation, visitors are invited to reflect upon the notion that sex work cannot be reduced to a world of kink, of images, or of shame, or to a commodity ready for capitalist consumption and detached sensationalism. Rather it is a world populated by persons with their own distinct authorities, labours and personalities. Throughout Her work, the submissive man is at once the performer and labourer, but the viewer does not see him, rather we see Reba Maybury’s oeuvre, which also becomes the commodity, produced by Her power. The evidence he has left is conceived by Maybury as the evidence of what is normally left unsaid. Men pay for sex under the protection of anonymity, while sex workers bear the burden of stigma, both his and Hers. By transforming the buyer into the labourer, the evidence becomes the property of the sex worker and the anonymous power of the male consumer comes under the spotlight.
Maybury’s practice touches upon the everyday imbalances of power and of labour distribution between women and men along the gender binary, from how we inhabit space to the clothes we wear, from the office to the bedroom, from the sounds and pitches of our voices to the ways in which our respective bodies move in and occupy the world. And to Maybury, sex has everything to do with this. Her work revolves around redressing this imbalance and restructuring these labour dynamics. Along with this, women’s pleasure and what it means to be free as a woman, become a central part of Her exploration of the role of sex in society.
The exhibition is introduced by a poem written by writer and poet, Cassandra Troyan. In addition, the show is accompanied by a publication that includes the first chapter from Maybury’s upcoming book, Faster Than An Erection, a poem by Troyan, a selection of the contractual stipulations between the Artist and the men who wish to submit to Mistress Rebecca, as well as reproductions of a series of art works conceived by Maybury and made by Her submissives.
A heartfelt thank you to Arcadia Missa, UK, Temporars Susch at Muzeum Susch, Switzerland, Tbilisi Residency and Propaganda Network, Georgia
Coordinated by Chiara Siravo (curatorial) and Veronica Botta (production)
Exhibition and Events Assistants: Giulia Caruso, Beatrice Schivo
Assistant art handler: Matteo Pompili
Graphic production: Gimax
Heartfelt thank you to: Arcadia Missa, London, Temporars Susch at Muzeum Susch, Switzerland, Tblisi Residency and Propaganda Network, Tblisi, MADATEC srl, Milan.