Afflicted by a sense of shame, I want to divert my eyes from the provocative gaze confronting me, focus on another feature of the image, and find distraction in the floral adornments in the background. In German, the respective terms for labia and pubic hair are Schamlippen and Schamhaaren, literally ‘shame lips’ and ‘shame hair,’ an issue taken up by Margarete Stokowski in her 2018 bestseller Untenrum Frei . She writes that these things are spoken of as if they hide something forbidden, asking if the pubic area is something to be ashamed of. Do these paper cuts, with their nudity, sex, and excess, perhaps hide something else, something beyond that which is immediately evident, i.e., shame? And what does this something say about me, about us all?
Even though the characters in Yakovleva’s paper cuts are mostly women, she is also interested in other – male – perspectives on and representations of sexuality. OnlyFans (2021), for instance, depicts a male figure lying on his back, the focus on his anal and genital area. The work’s title is a reference to the online platform of the same name, which since 2016 has served as a portal for generating income through the sharing of photos and videos – including pornographic content – with (mostly male) ‘fans.’ According to founder and CEO Tim Stokely, the reason for the platform’s success is the “intimacy” it offers between subscribers and content producers. But what does intimacy mean in this context? While OnlyFans has been criticized by many people, others consider it a social and economic opportunity: for example, the Berlin-based artist Sarah Julia Sabukoschek believes it even has feminist potential, as it enables women to control how their bodies are presented and autonomously earn money this way. She is of the opinion that female nudity should not automatically be associated with sex; this notion stems from the permanent sexualization of women in the media. In a similar way, OnlyFans (2021) references internet imagery and online networks and their contentious position between emancipation and over-sexualization. At the same time, Yakovleva places a visual emphasis on vulnerability, a quality inherent to all intimate representations regardless of their forcefulness.
As well as her paper cuts, Yakovleva’s work with the KVTV artists’ collective radically highlights things that most people would prefer to leave confined to the bedroom. She considers herself a feminist who seeks to disrupt established visual viewpoints and narratives. “For me, feminism is associated with radicality,” she said in an interview with Monopol about her work with KVTV, for whom she now comments on and curates exhibitions. This notion of shedding light on the concealed is continued in Good Vibrations, not only in terms of Yakovleva’s visual worlds but also in a physical sense. This is especially evident in the final room of the gallery: repurposed as a black box, spotlights literally cast light onto the artist’s collaged narratives. Pornokino (2021), a monumental papercut work depicting various sex-positive activists and sex workers (including Candida Royalle, Erika Lust, and Annie Sprinkle) in black on a pink background is set against intimate portraits housed in two enclosed booths. This final room, darkened and fitted with carpet, functions as an extension of the presented images, while the narrow spaces within the space, separated by curtains, reinforce a sense of simultaneously revealing and concealing intimacy.
Text: Sonja Maria Borstner
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