Have you ever come out of a long-term relationship, exhausted, depressed, self-loathing and promising your poor withered body that you’ll never put it through anything remotely similar ever again? Feminist, photographer, artist and muse to basically everyone (including me) Arvida Byström, feels your pain. Not your direct pain, that would be weird, but according to her, the concept of a monogamous relationship is completely archaic and unnecessary.
Today, she is moving into The Wayward Gallery together with another artist, Tim Kelly to be part of a weeklong installation during which they will stream their developing relationship to the world. This will include sex, an audio recording of Tim’s first experience of anal sex and a video of Arvida’s face as she gets a “Hollywood” wax. I know, it sounds very intense.
I caught up with Arvida to chat about why she doesn’t believe in going steady.
Hey Arvida, lots of people will recognise you as a photographer from your work with The Ardorous collective.
Yes, photography is my main medium. The first official thing I did was actually for VICE, when I was 16 – I think it was a series of self-portraits. Since then I’ve been mostly trying to discuss gender through my photography.
Evidently we have great taste. Why the move towards installation and video art?
It’s not really something I decided. For a long time I’ve felt that photography isn’t really my art. It feels like I use photography as my medium because I know it so well, but when I’m trying to really say something I can find it distracting. It’s not always suitable; In the case of this project using video seemed more appropriate.
Gotcha. So how did this project come about?
I met Tim when he was couchsurfing at my friends’ house. He had just come out of a long-term relationship and was feeling kind of weird about sex – I think it was because he was really hurt and was scared of having hurt someone else, too. Suddenly he thought he was a misogynist, and I disagreed. Anyway we basically got drunk together and decided to work on an art project discussing relationships and feminism, at the end of which we’d have sex for the first time. The next day I mentioned it and he was like, “I say a lot of stupid things when I’m drunk”, but it turned into a piece anyway.
So you weren’t together when you decided to do this?
We were just friends back then, but I didn’t think it would be awkward. Now it’s developed into us having a relationship, which is kind of weird because obviously we haven’t had penetrative sex yet. That’s really changed the direction of everything.
I'd think so. Can you tell us a bit more about the project?
It’s about relationships, and about monogamy. I’m not normally in exclusive relationships – I find the concept slightly problematic, so that is one conversation there. Also, it’s about the transparency of a relationship; I don’t usually let other people know about what is going on with my relationships even though I'm comfortable with exposing myself. Now, I'm doing the opposite. It’s very new to me.
Are you nervous about having sex on camera?
Not really. I mean, I don’t do it anymore but I have already had sex on cam. I think Tim’s more freaked out than me. There’s a lot about this project, that freaks out Tim more than me.
It’s not something people often share so candidly. Why are you doing it?
In the past, a woman would choose a man who was successful in society because she needed him to pay for her life and her kids'. Things are different now, you don’t have to marry someone to be accepted in society, you don’t have to have kids; you can use condoms. There’s a huge change in the way we view and form relationships and it's happening naturally. We’re asking: Is it relevant to be monogamous now?
ART INSTALLATION PERFORMANCE PIECE EXPLORING MODERN SEXUALITY & RELATIONSHIP TRANSPARENCY IN THE CONNECTED AGE
Opening: 7 February, 19.00 – 22.00
On view: 7-14 February, 12.00 – 18.00
The Wayward Gallery
47 Mowlem St (off Vyner St)
London E2 9HE
Follow Bertie on Twitter: @bertiebrandes
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