Through her annoyance of women being represented in the media and art as mere objects, Vasilisa Forbes took to challenge the industry and create a discussion through her hyper-sexualised and pop inspired series Waxchick. Using herself as the subject, dressed in latex or scantily clad in comprising positions, her message of objectification has been seen on billboards in major cities such as London, NYC and St Petersburg. In our interview with the artist, we get to know what provoked her to bring this portrayal of women in today’s society to light and her own meaning of the word feminism.
Who is Vasilisa Forbes? A luster. Describe yourself in three words? Bizarre, ready, foolish. Your project Waxchick gives an explicit, hyper-sexualised representation of how women are represented in the media – is there anything you have come across that shocks you when it comes to how women are portrayed today?
When I started doing the project I was annoyed at everything, annoyed at what I was seeing and feeling and it felt necessary to act on it. I wanted to attack the ad industry and the arts industry for their constant use of women as an object- sculpture, figure, image not creator. I wanted to get rid of that passive imagery and that pathetic feeling I got from lots of campaigns where the women had no character. The Waxchick images were each a dialogue on a different image in media- some talked about the ‘woman as passive sculpture / decoration’ context, some attacked the passive, vulnerable model character by contrasting it with a bold, brassy and vulgar model image and other images like #selfyourbody were a direct shout to women for empowerment. Now I’ve been doing the project for a while I feel a sense of change and relief. My message is getting out.
You’ve had both positive and negative responses from WAXCHICK – what are your feelings towards the mixed response?
That’s expected because a) the images are in different styles – each billboard asks for a different response. And b) the people who are viewing them all see a different story – either they read the subversion or not. Both are valid reactions entirely. Any reaction is relevant. This is the interesting thing about the images – I have no expected response, I want to see what the reactions are: what will the public think? It’s a survey…
With a strong theme of feminism in your work – what is own your idea of feminism?
The same that is present in the artworks, to empower but also for everyone to create their own story. It’s about individualism and challenging existing power structures in society. I don’t want to be part of a movement in some sense. I would like it to be about reaching out to individuals too and encouraging younger females to feel independent in their futures. But my art series is mainly about imagery the in the fashion, pop and advertising industries. It’s about being the curator.
Were there any key figures growing up that represented feminism to you?
I was a big fan of the female artist Lynda Benglis’s statement in art forum in the seventies. When I was growing up I was looking more at male artists work because that was predominantly what was taught. This did not bother me as such. But all my art teachers were female and my mother was the leading force in my family life teaching me things and taking me to lessons so I would say these individual women were the figures. Also it was when I picked up a book at the library about sex slavery and it changed my life. I was so shocked and upset I started writing various texts on philosophy and sort of immature writings about how the world needs to change. These were great starting points for anti-establishment feelings and I knew I wanted to do things that challenged status quo and tried to alter perceptions. Mainly through writing initially and studying philosophy.
Posing provocatively in front of the camera, do you ever feel conscious about your body and how do you feel about the pressure for women to look a certain way in today’s society?
I think the pressure for women is there but it’s false too. It’s not a real pressure. It’s about conditioned norms. The point is you can step outside that norm and do what you want – here in the West in London you really can make that change. It’s about finding the confidence to do it. And some of the imagery nods directly to that.
Being a visual artist is there anyone you would recommend we look up in the realms of social media?
I love what Signe Pierce did recently in her online videos. I’m also following the artworks and art direction of Carolina Mizrahi which I’m finding very exciting.
What’s a typical day in London like for Vasilisa Forbes? There’s definitely a lot of time spent at the desk / Mac book doing preps, post edits and retouch! Then there’s some meetings and events to attend. But when I can I love getting out of London entirely.
Tell us something that we don’t know about you?
Mystery is better than telling secrets 😉
What can we expect from you next?
More films and some new art posters out in other countries and cities including Berlin and beyond!
Is there anyone you would like to collaborate with in the future?
Yes lots of great people I’m already talking with which is fun. I like keeping collabs a secret too but both of the ladies I mentioned above and also female photographer / artist Alis Pelleschi, singer Rina Sawa, artist Juno Calypso too 🙂
What would you want to be remembered for?
Statements. Freedom of thought 🙂