Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The LapDance Scholarship (NSFW)

by Robert Boyd

I recently got a copy of Phonebook 3, a guide to artist-run spaces in the U.S. (Phonebook 3 deserves it's own post, really--it's literally a printed phonebook with listings for spaces, residencies, and resources published by Chicago art space threewalls. I like the idea, but what's weird is that it's a book. When the internet age came on us, the first type of book to be made obsolete was the telephone directory. The problem with directories is that they are databases that go out-of-date almost instantly. Databases can be easily hosted online, and updated in real time. Phonebook 3 was just published, and already I know at least one entry is out-of-date. Still, it's nice, it's a useful resource, and as an official old, guy, I still like books.)

Under the resources category, they have a subcategory of "Support," which includes small and/or community-based grant-making organizations. And one of these is the LapDance Scholarship in Iowa City. When I saw that listing, I assumed the title was a bit of irony. But apparently not. Here is the listing:
The LapDance Scholarship was founded in December 2010 by Hailey Jude Minder, a self-proclaimed vaginally-funded experience artist.  As an artist, Hailey has always been interested in, and often troubled by, the sources of fine arts funding. Having become somewhat disenchanted with the whole search for funding and the sources of such funds, Hailey set out to make her own.  Moonlighting as a stripper twice a week, Hailey is bringing funding for the arts into the trenches.  She has funded her own art in this manner and now wishes to help her fellow artists achieve their goals.
Obviously this demanded further exploration. Three people/institutions have received grants. The grants are determined by how much money Minder made dancing during that month. The grants tend to range between $350 and $400. The scholarship has been mentioned in the local media. Still, it was hard to know whether this was just a clever art project/ruse by Emily Moran Barwick, the administrator of the scholarship and an MFA candidate at the University of Iowa.

So given my curiosity, I called Barwick up. First of all, Barwick is Minder. Hailey Jude Minder is an alter-ego that grew out of a semi-autobiographical short story by Barwick. She studies in the sculpture department at the University of Iowa. At first, she was having to work four jobs to keep body and soul together. Then she decided to try stripping. The Minder persona is the one who is more physical, who is willing to dance naked for strangers.

OK, one can see this as an option if you are a student and you need cash. But Barwick went further. She did some research and looked at the amount of revenue that the sex industry generates in a year and compared it to the annual federal expenditure for art. Then she divided the latter by the former to get a rough ratio of spending for art/spending for sex.

Then she started applying that ratio to her earnings at the strip club. And she decided to devote that percentage of her earnings to other artists in the form of grants. Aside from wanting to do a good thing for artists, she wanted to create a grant where the source of the money is transparent. To get this grant, you have to be willing to acknowledge that it was paid for by a young woman's nude dancing. Whereas, if you get a grant from a foundation, you don't really know what kinds of activities paid for it.

Barwick is personally interested in sex, money, etc. An earlier project involved a John Holmes dildo. She was slightly freaked out that someone had licensed the use of a dead porn star's member. So she took one of the John Holmes dildos and cast it in plaster--and made copies (unauthorized, presumably). Thinking about the kitschy "Cow Parade" painted sculptures (and the many similar follow-ons that appeared like a plague all over the U.S.), she handed out copies of Holmes' plaster penis to artist friends with instructions to decorate it. The John Holmes Prick Parade was shown in a gallery on campus--but the gallery doors were kept shut (not the usual practice), and there was a big warning on the door.

And stripping is not her first foray into the sex business. She worked at a sex shop first, then as a phone sex operator, before becoming a stripper. I remarked that in each case, her level of contact with the customer was getting more intimate. Did she have a stopping point? She said that she wouldn't do actual prostitution. (Whew).

She works at a club called Woody's where her managers and fellow dancers know her as Hailey. (Stop by and support the arts if you're ever in Cedar Rapids!) The dances are all nude, and while there is a private VIP room, it's not really private. It has a video camera pointed at the dancer and her customer. This video was the basis for one of Barwick's most intriguing artworks, Philanthropic Performace. It's about the LapDance Scholarship itself. She went into Woody's and copied all the video that featured her dancing in the VIP room. Then she laboriously blanked out each customer's face. Then in a booth built to show the video, she has twelve channels running simultaneously at different speeds. In addition, she has a closed circuit television where the camera is aimed at the face of the person sitting in the booth and the monitor showing his or her face is on the outside of the booth.




Emily Moran Barwick, Philanthropic Performace, multichannel video, closed circuit video, mixed media, 2011


Obviously this work is about voyeurism, about looking and being seen, surveillance, the male gaze, sex, money and a lot more. Artists whose work influenced Barwick include Vito Acconci (especially Command Performance, but one has to imagine Seedbed was also in the back of Barwick's mind) and more important, Eleanor Antin's Carving: A Traditional Sculpture.


One problem Barwick has had is getting enough proposals. She guesses that artists are perhaps embarrassed or offended by the LapDance Scholarship. It's a local grant, so I encourage any Cedar Rapids-area artists to apply. I mean, you could get a grant from some foundation whose endowment has stock in Bank of America and Goldman Sacks or you could get a grant from a woman who dances naked. The choice is yours.


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1 comment:

  1. Devon Britt-Darby should do this.

    ReplyDelete