(Above) Portrait of Alex shot by Catherine Hourihan for Emily Small's Artful inclusion Project.
Here's a little secret about me; I constantly scrutinise the performances I create and how I may either be working for or against the empowerment of women.
I am extremely conscious that when it comes to persistent social problems like the objectification and oppression of women “you're either part of the problem or part of the solution”.
After a week of swimming neck deep in #metoo I admit I've been pondering my impact as a nude professional even a bit more than usual.
Just when I was starting to feel quite burdened by the severity of being a Stripteaser in a culture seething with sexual abuse and misconduct, a little gem of encouragement landed in my lap.
That gem is Sydney social worker, turned artist activist and burlesque enthusiast, Emily Small.
Emily saw the U.S.Oh! Show in early 2017. She was so inspired by the show and its “strong female characters” that she went on to create her own artistic project in a totally different field.
I spoke to Emily on the phone. With her charmingly adorable UK accent, Emily explained how it had all come together...
“I came to the U.S.Oh! Show at the Bamboozle Room at the start of 2017. I was blown away by the strong female roles, atmosphere and ascetics of this burlesque show . I saw the potential burlesque has to make a strong statement.
With my background in media and my experience as a social worker, I was inspired to combine these elements to create a socially aware artistic statement of female power for the Artful Inclusion Community Development Project. I devised a photography project that I hoped would capture the strength and power of its female participants in a similar way to Bamboozle's burlesque U.S.Oh! Show.
I teamed up with Catherine Hourihan; a Sydney based photographer and Burlesque performer (stage name Selina Vixen). She has a long history in burlesque, starting “Neo Red Vixen Burlesque” in New York in 1998. Her background was perfect for capturing the strength, creativity and beauty of the participants.
None of the “participants,” were professional models. They all live in inner Sydney, mostly around Potts Point and Woolloomooloo. They are all in some way isolated and socially vulnerable, and this is why it was so important for me to give them an opportunity for expression and empowerment through this project.
(Below) Harriet shot by Hourihan Photography for Emily Small's Artful Inclusion Project.
I'm extremely happy with the outcome. What we achieved together with this photo shoot is not only a representation of the participant's personalities, but what it takes to be a young woman going it alone, in one of the most fantastic but expensive cities in the world; Sydney.”
Emily Small's photographic project will be exhibited at the Uptown Festival: Saturday 28th October at Harris Community Centre, 97 Quarry St Ultimo. Or you can see some of the photographs on the Artful Inclusion facebook page.
According to a meme I saw yesterday, Bob Dylan said “the highest purpose of art is to inspire.”
Its with great gratitude that I can say I created the U.S.Oh! Show that inspired a young woman...to create and inspire other young women.
But “Inspire them to do what!?” I hear a naysayer up the back ask.
Does it matter, when feeling inspired is half the battle when attempting to better yourself? Pretty sure Bob left out those specifics for good reason. That's what I love most about Emily's story. She felt moved, and she got to work making something that mattered, almost immediately! She didn't agonise over what the finished product would look like or how small her impact might be. Reaching one person can be enough.
That's the thing about human empowerment. It doesn't finish with a specific action. It doesn't arrive with a single event. It can keep evolving, progressing, and spreading.
And if enough of us keep being inspired, maybe one day we'll all be able to say #notme.
Until then, I'll keep taking off my clothes to music.