Voracidad Máxima, 2003
This new video installation, commissioned and produced by MACBA, was conceived and realized throughout the year of 2003 to integrate our exhibition Dias & Riedweg. Possibly Talking About the Same, at MACBA, in November of the same year.
The piece explores the relationships between sexuality and economy, focusing on the male sexual workers of Barcelona at the time. It portrays the priorities of the sexual workers and their clients, relating the financial needs of the so-called “chaperos” [hustlers] to the individual needs of their clients. In a non-moralistic approach, it evokes the existent poetry and social tensions between these two groups of people that build the basis of the oldest profession in the world, but here devoted exclusively to the male homosexual field.
Since the first talks developed in the research period of the work and also, based on specialized texts (including the few existing statistics), which were collected, we could observe that prostitution nowadays directly refers to two main aspects of Immigration worldwide: the individual desire to move and the economic condition. Sexuality and economics are understood here as initial impulses for human movement.
Because prostitution is not considered a legal practice in most countries, specific studies and researches done so far advanced very little in this field. Always related to moral rules and local politics of control, the studies keep separating the realities of the clients and of the sexual workers to absolutely distinct territories, refusing to relate them to where they get together: the desire for power. If on the one hand the workers develop intriguing, creative and illegal strategies of survival and economy, on the other hand clients do the same, developing parallel strategies to reach an individual satisfaction of emotional integrity and realized sexuality through similar intriguing, creative and illegal lifestyles.
In both groups, the creation of a “double-life” is frequently observed, a separate reality of fantasy and individual satisfaction, that on the one hand hides and does not officially exist in this world, and on the other hand designs these people’s lives with strangely strong and defined ways of living. In both groups, age and economic power play a major part. Among the sexual workers, many are younger than 35, most in their twenties and come originally from poor background, from families that could not afford better education and better opportunities to improve the financial standard. The absolute majority of the sexual workers, male and female, homo and heterosexual, are originally from the so-called “developing countries” (formerly called third-world countries). Among the clients, most are over 35, some much older, with their professional, economic life pretty much organised and quite well integrated in the economically “productive” society.
What makes the relationship between them more complex and interesting is when we start observing that many of the young sexual workers leave their homelands, not only to fight for a better economic situation, but also to develop, and sometimes redefine, their relationship to their own sexuality. Many of the “chaperos” turned out to discover and develop another form of sexuality, not directed by their financial needs, but by the encounters with the clients, who offer them the opportunity to think in a different way about their own identity. Many of them define their homosexuality or heterosexuality during the practice of male gay prostitution.
It seems that the meeting point between these two groups of men, who otherwise do not really communicate to each other, originates in the exigencies of both economic and emotional aspects in both groups. The meeting-point of emotional and economic needs of both groups only materializes in the sexual practice. Nevertheless, general social and public opinion ignore the complex coexistence of both components in both groups, and tries to classify their needs and realities in terms of moral rules that conform to the general public administration’s idea of “civilized” behavior, even if this imposes a hypocritical reality.
This hypocrisy grows beyond urban administrative issues and is directly reflected in immigration policies. In fact, 90% of the sexual workers we met are immigrants from elsewhere, whose profession or basic social rights are not recognized within a European context, but who easily find it possible to exist in it under a broadly accepted and well-known form of illegality. The “chaperos” come from diverse countries of South America, North Africa and South Asia, almost all of them with rather weak social structures, little education and without the accessibility generally offered to other young populations of professionals. It also reflects the taste of the clients, who “look far away” for exotic nationalities, far from their own origins, to achieve their sexual fantasies. The video presents landscapes of the world in landscapes of different skins.
Here the penis shows the way – for those who buy it and those who sell it. Geography is shifted way beyond border control and religious or racial backgrounds. Here power is measured in banknotes and in organ size, no longer in education or in culture. The conversations here go sideways and are developed in no-go zones, and spread in most metropolises worldwide. Tolerance and ignorance of social administration and public opinion are a constructive part of this game. It is also a way of keeping borders closed. The doors only open at darkness and for a few hours. The territories of desire do not match the political ones, but money opens these borders for a rather long and silent history.
It might be possible, through the interviews and pictures in this video, to suggest a new mapping on the old South/North economic axis from the standpoint of this specific market. Morocco, Egypt, Thailand, the Philippines, Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba, Colombia, Hungary and Russia meet Western Europe in the no-go zones, where quite a complex exchange of communication take place, where the state does not reach and where the rules are freely designed by individuals case by case. We met potential candidates, some handsome future Brazilian immigrants, who following the traces of this trade will be working in some European city within a certain time, in a moment to be honest. The desire for borders directly affects the borders of desire.
Some unexpected answers are visible through very reasonable questions – Why should a “chapero” go looking for some legal badly paid job, which Europe always reserves for immigrants, if he can make up to 10'000 Euros a month, while he is pretty and new in town? Why should he stay in one town if he can always go anywhere else doing this? Why should he get old in one place if he can always be new somewhere else? Why should he stop fucking for money if this can be like doing anything else for money and is in truth much better paid than anything he could do just there, just then? On the other hand, why should society legalize prostitution if the clients prefer to pay more to live their fantasies in secret ways, being at the same time “free and honest” in their “other” lives? Why should the State be immoral to the general public and institutionalize prostitution if this practice raises much more money and satisfaction illegally? Tolerance and no-go zones are economically wonderful for everybody in this game. Besides, the “chaperos” don’t really want to immigrate anywhere definitively, because they know that they too will get old, and will go back home, hopefully carrying a bag of money, their deserved trophy for spreading pleasure abroad. They will remain silent and distant.
We contacted 18 “chaperos” to participate in the work. Of these, eleven confirmed their participation according to the conditions that we defined together in a previous contact. Their participation consisted of a certain number of hours of video recording realized in one apartment of the Barrio Chino, in Barcelona, during June 2003, which varied between 6 to 16 hours with each of them. Another important point we agreed with them was that their faces and names would not appear in the work. They don’t want their identities to go public under the word “chapero”, even if they call themselves that, because they would lose clients and get trouble in their private lives.
The choice of this team of eleven men, who took part in the project occurred after first contacts were made on the streets and in a certain termas in Barcelona during February this same year. The communication was passed on among them. Those who got most involved with the proposed idea invited some friends to approach us, so that their participation took place on a volunteer basis. We also stipulated some criteria, such as differences of age, nationality, skin color and the levels of comprehension about their own sexuality. They vary from 21 to 38 years old, and are from Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Spain and Venezuela. They are as black as they are white and mixed-race. Some come from very poor backgrounds with very low education, but some are graduates. One has a master’s degree from university. Many have a rather inspired and original way of understanding their work and the world.
We decided to realize a series of interviews that could reveal some of their background, family life, homeland, society in their homeland, education, their discovery of their own sexuality, their first sexual experience and their sexuality nowadays. Also their decision to emigrate, to try a new life, to start prostitution; the relationship between prostitution and their own ambition; the sexual practice and the sexual fantasy; their plans, their dreams and their daily life; their nostalgia and their instinct; their own perception of time and life; their voracity.
The interviews were all recorded on a bed, placed between two parallel mirrors, in one bedroom. To hide their identity, the participants wore masks during the video recording sessions. Two latex masks, casts of our own faces (Mauricio and Walter) were made. If the “chapero” was interviewed by Mauricio, he wore the mask with Mauricio’s face, so that there would be two persons with a similar face in the video frame. If Walter was doing the interview, the “chapero” speaking to him used the mask with his face. We wanted to let them wear our identities as they have to hide their own identities to participate in our video. The parallel mirrors multiply the same face in the lenses of the cameras. They allowed everybody to be on the same level while speaking about prostitution, and somehow reinforced the need to hide identities as an actual tool to bring the meaning of “identity” itself into question. The mirrors helped create confusing designs that repeat one single visual identity for the interviewer and the interviewee, who only differed in speech.
Genet’s text Journal d’un Voleur, once written in Barrio Chino based on his practice as a hustler himself, inspired us to focus the camera on their bodies, bringing the lenses as close as possible to their skins, transforming the hair, the marks and the forms into abstract landscapes. We hope to have translated much of the geographical complexity of their lives with the diversity of images caught in such close-ups. The body as homeland and as foreign territory. The body as a harbor to depart and as an island to arrive at.
The words VORACIDAD MAXIMA painted on the asphalt of the street below the recording flat set up an association of prostitution with the city traffic. Prostitution is an urban matter just as traffic is. Prostitution is often seen in places where the traffic conditions are somehow condensed, such as certain traffic lights, or else areas where the traffic is slower or hidden but still exists. Here the traffic serves as a metaphor for the circulation of money, of people and of sexual impulses. Filmed from the bedroom above, the “chaperos” appear to be resting over the white letters painted on the street, waiting, as if in a kind of electronic sexual menu, to be chosen by viewers for further translations.
Mauricio Dias & Walter Riedweg
Dias & Riedweg “Traffic Globalization Economy Sexuality Immigration Identity Relationship Money Love Homeland Freedom Nostalgia Market”, in Dias & Riedweg. Barcelona: MACBA, 2003.
- Original title:
- Voracidad Máxima
- Registration number:
- Dias, Maurício & Riedweg, Walter
- Date created:
- Date acquired:
- MACBA Collection. MACBA Consortium
- Object type:
- Media installation
- Double video projection, colour, sound, 71 min 14 s, mirrors, seats and remote control
- Dimensions variable
- Edition number:
- Ed. 1/3
- MACBA Collection. MACBA Consortium
- © Maurício Dias & Walter Riedweg
- It has accessibility resources:
The MACBA Collection features Catalan, Spanish and international art and, although it includes works from the 1920s onwards, its primary focus is on the period between the 1960s and the present.
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