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Untitled (Incall)

Sophia Giovannitti

A photo of Sophia Giovannitti
A photo of Sophia Giovannitti

Due to the process-based nature of the Session program, this project will undergo constant modifications; the features of this page provide accruing information on the project’s developments.

May 4–June 15, 2021

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Sophia Giovannitti’s performance work Untitled (Incall) interrogates the material overlap between the art and sex industries to address the ambivalent labor identity of cultural producers. The artist will turn half of the Recess gallery into an incall, a space of transaction of services between the artist and the visitor. The incall project and its accompanying workshops and screenings underscore the conditions of self-commodity under capitalism and the realist strategies needed to navigate its deterritorialized economy.

Untitled (Incall) formally references Andrea Fraser’s performance video Untitled (2003), in which Fraser filmed herself having sex with an art collector to complete a contractual agreement for an art acquisition; he purchased the resulting sex tape for, reportedly, $20,000. Giovannitti, however, relocates the work into the register of labor precarity and informal marketplaces. While Fraser used the metaphor of prostitution to comment on extractive, fantasy-based relationships between artists and collectors, Giovannitti directs her audience toward the actual, circular flow of capital: to make a living wage, so many young artists sell sex to the hyper-wealthy, before becoming institutionally established enough to sell their art to these very same clients. Giovannitti wagers that the “buyers” are quite literally one and the same; the purchase of erotic labor from precarious, emerging artists funds much of the individual cultural production in New York City today. In turn, positioning one’s sex work as art is a lucrative and legally self-protective choreography—a choreography only available to those with institutional access, contingent on race, gender, and class position.

Giovannitti will invite a collector to commission a performance art piece from her for a fee of $20,000, to take place at her Recess incall after hours. In industry terms, an incall is a space a sex worker maintains to host her clients. Giovannitti’s collector will receive only a paper certificate of ownership for the single performance commissioned from the artist, private and unrecorded; in place of a public-facing image, there is merely the movement of money.

During public gallery hours, Giovannitti’s incall will be open to visitors without payment, by appointment only. Options exist to book appointments hourly, or overnight, at the artist’s discretion. The second half of the gallery will house an Erotic Labor Reading Room, filled with literature by and for sex workers, harm reduction supplies, and space to rest. The Reading Room provides a space designed for those engaged in erotic labor, without requiring the outing of one’s particular labor identity, or lack thereof, to enter.

In April 2018, the legislation SESTA/FOSTA forced the immediate shut-down of most websites advertising the sale of sex, stripping sex workers of the ability to safely and effectively screen clients. The Eros Guide remains one of few operational websites hosting escort ads; in addition to being prohibitively expensive, many speculate Eros cooperates with the US government in prostitution stings and border control. In conversation with criminalization, surveillance, and the pressure to perform one’s authenticity when making art from a politicized identity, Giovannitti will post an Eros ad soliciting a patron to commission her after hours performance.

Untitled (Incall) will be accompanied by a series of public offerings, and an option for mail-in participation for those in need of safer-sex, self-defense, and harm reduction supplies. The criminalization of sex work endangers workers and pushes information-sharing on workplace safety to the margins; Giovannitti and her collaborators operate from an autonomous, anti-police framework. She will host a digital panel discussion on the insecure conditions structuring the sale of both creative and erotic labor, and an offsite, outdoor harm reduction skill-sharing workshop, providing kits designed for drug-using sex workers. Giovannitti’s closing event will feature a screening of her new short film, In Heaven: An Alternate Reality Game, starring herself and the artist Tourmaline. Tourmaline will join her for a discussion on the use of advertising to disrupt and aestheticize the boundary between the art and sex industries. You’ll find event registration links on the left side of this page.

Session invites artists to use Recess’s public platform to combine productive studio space with dynamic exhibition opportunities. Sessions remain open to the public from the first day of the artist’s project through the last, encouraging sustained dialogue between artists and audiences. Due to the process-based nature of Session, projects undergo constant revision and the above proposal is subject to change.

About the artist

Sophia Giovannitti

Sophia Giovannitti is an artist who lives in New York. She studies the commodification of parts of ourselves we hold dear, positing, from a materialist perspective, that there is no way out but through. Her work exists in this through-space of sale, scam, and reflection.

In addition to performance, she creates photography, video, and essays, writing and directing her own work. Her pieces have appeared most recently in The New Inquiry, SSENSE, and n+1. Her first book, Working Girl: Art and Sex Under Capitalism, is forthcoming from Verso in 2023.

She is open to commission and solicitation.

artist website


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