Much of my recent work deals with the theme of prostitution. My approach to the subject centres on prostitution as an issue inseparable from gender, race and class issues. It is a complex topic, and it is complicated to make art from something this desolate and vulnerable.
I have, over the course of several years, built up a substantial collection of interviews with the testimonies of prostituted and trafficked women, a selection of which I am now in the process of transforming into videos for The Prostitution Monologues.

The series details the stories of women’s journeys into prostitution – histories which are witness to the way in which prostitution (and trafficking) is tied to larger economic and political processes, such as economic imbalance, privatisation and corruption, and the relationship to modern consumerism. Precisely from their position, at once in the margin and in the centre of society, these women’s stories are able to shed light on the larger links which are often ignored in the debate surrounding the topic.

My connection with the women concerned is the result of long term research and investment.
For several years I have been volunteering as ‘crisis-buddy’ at a hostel for women who have been trafficked, predominantly into the sex-industry. Many of the women have come from sub-Saharan Africa or from the ex-communist, east-bloc countries, and their individual tales reveal backgrounds in societies rife with inequalities, misogyny and abuse, and expose the painful, disturbing reality of racial and class privilege, along with a tenacious assumption of male entitlement. Several women from the hostel agreed to collaborate with me for this project, allowing themselves to be interviewed at length. It is these interviews which formed the basis for the earliest videos of the series.

Thanks to support from the Mondriaan Fund, the production of eight new videos has been made possible. Based on testimonies taken verbatim from interviews conducted by me, over the course of the last few years, with women from different countries, the video’s include Senegal, Argentina, Paraguay, Dominican Republic and Albania. Scripts based on these testimonies are performed by actors who read the story in the first person – though the videos are not dramatized re-enactments. The actors do not attempt to cover up the fact that they are telling someone else’s story.
The videos are filmed using a deliberate simplicity, switching between classic, talking-head, and extreme close-up displaying the pores and imperfections and emphasising the vulnerability of the flesh. I intentionally use actors who are clearly dissimilar – in terms of gender, nationality, race – to the protagonist whose story they are relating. This produces an estranging effect which disturbs the viewers’ conceptions and challenges the general ‘out-of-sight-out-of-mind’ response to such stories, whereby these things seem to be acceptable, or inevitable, when they happen to a woman from Sierra Leone, and yet not when it is a white, English-speaking man relating the tale.

The tales are concerned with the circumstances that have led women into prostitution (not the gruesome details of what happens behind closed doors), as well as the stigmatisation which affects them; the manner which they are viewed and treated by the men who use them; and the ways in which the authorities have approached the regulation of prostitution.

The earliest videos were shown in the Amsterdam Tropenmuseum in 2014. Three of the recently produced videos were shown in Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia in October/November of 2018, and three others during Free Radicals in CBK-Zuidoost in January of 2019, and the entire series of The Prostitution Monologues will be installed in the Amsterdam Museum in an exhibition to open there in November 2019.
The plan to produce a theatre script based on the same testimonies but including other monologues on the topic (a whole evening of miserable testimonies would be too harrowing!) is also slowly being developed.
A link to a long interview about The Prostitution Monologues can be found HERE.