From 1974 to 1976, artists in a range of contexts produced works that drew connections between performance and prostitution. This article examines how these projects, by artists such as Carlos Ginzburg and Suzanne Lacy, speak to the wider political discourses and feminist attitudes toward prostitution in the 1970s, as well as to the economic shifts that saw the growth of service-oriented and intimate labor. In the 1970s, female performance artists and female critics who wrote for money were both likened to hookers. This article takes this analogy seriously to consider how two seemingly divergent populations—art workers and sex workers—emerged at this time. What does the conjoining of these two identifications tell us about the valuation of labor, especially when affective exchanges are involved? What were the gendered consequences of the professionalization of art, and of sex work, at this moment? Concluding with contemporary examples from the 1990s and 2000s, the author investigates ongoing questions of privilege, power, and social worth in artistic projects regarding sex work.
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Julia Bryan-Wilson; Dirty Commerce: Art Work and Sex Work Since the 1970s. differences 1 September 2012; 23 (2): 71–112. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-1629821
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