Nico Athe's work brings to the forefront important discussions regarding the body. Her works and documents of thereof confronts the participant or viewer to confront important questions- to reconsider the political thinking capacity of the so-called object. In doing so, Nico disrupts the objectification of the femm body and performance.
Her work captures the labour of an idealised formed body traded for intellectual capitol that she is recognized for. Her work negotiates important debates with regards to sex-work and the femme body. Nico in conversation regarding her video work 'Money Makes me Cum'
We all sell ourselves in some way, and yet we legitimize certain embodied labour over others. Explicit paid for labour - whatever the circumstances - is much better than the implicit, unpaid kind. the only thing that could make you relaxed enough to cum in the context of stripping is the certainty that you are being paid fairly for your labour, and your labour in this particular instance does not explicitly include the job of making his emotions feel extra special. Being paid for your sexy performance is not a terrible thing. It is a celebration and acknowledgement, of your sexual power, embodied labour and future financial security. If only men could get over their guilt about being in the club in the first place, and stop making it our extra unpaid labour to relieve them of it, the women in strip clubs would all be much richer and sexually satisfied.
As women we are all taught to perform and use our sexuality as the seat of our power. Look at ad campaigns and every film super hero. Its all about femme fatales. If we present as a certain kind of femme and don’t then deliver on it in terms of how we pander to male egos so as to appear alluring but not threatening, we are denied access to jobs, promotions, opportunities etc. This has been my experience in every industry I have worked in. We are all sex workers as women - we are all born into it and if not pandering to it, then actively working against it. And yet, when we charge for it explicitly - the gendered and sexual labour - we are demonised. Prostitution is still illegal in this country, a country where we still don’t get equal wages for doing the same job as men. Sex work when charged for (which by the way includes stripping, and in fact any moment of performative gendered labour) is still taboo, and yet women do it all day for free. I don’t get the hypocrisy. Its just another way to try police our bodies and maintain the status quo by forcing us to channel our labour through male industry and preventing us from economising off them.
B I O G R A P H Y
Nico is a body of colliding personas and intimate intricacies: of political and personal, immediate and distant, academic and under-qualified. Born and raised in Cape Town South Africa, she has two degrees under her formal identity, neither directly related to art. She worked a number of years in the creative film industry before giving up her ‘real name’ to become a stripper in a Cape Town club. She blames patriarchy and glass ceilings, ‘I figured that if I was going to be sucking cock for cash, I may as well be doing it for proper pay.’ Actually it’s because she always wanted to be a dancer. It was here that she was born - a stripper/whore whose only mandate is to use artists and their institutions to up her cultural capital: a hyperbolised comment on demonised female stereotypes, sexuality and transactionality that constantly flits between the surreal and mundane.
A R T I S T S S T A T M E N T
My practice consists mainly of online and site specific performance based installations that challenge how we perceive art, economy and publics in relation to the body of the artist. I am interested in exploring real-time intimate improvisation between bodies, persons and personas, across online and domestic spaces, and the possibility or impossibility of facilitating non-linear narrative and mutual relating. I am also concerned with understanding the conditions through which intangibles, such as attention, emotion and space/time can be used as art material. Beneath it all, is my deep and very un-theoretical desire to communicate or facilitate something that is authentic to me. Maybe even to find love and connection, but as with money in stripping, to protect myself from the vulnerability that such relating requires by steeping it in theory. Should this not be the true definition of relational aesthetics? To transcend these constructed dualisms of public vs private for a queerer more inclusive experience in the world?