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The Birds

Ulla Deventer

Cuba, 2019, ongoing

Supported by VLIROUS Belgium and the ING UNSEEN TALENT AWARD.

My international long-term project on sex work has made me think a lot about how we women are shaped by social norms, especially our sex life. In addition, sex work reflects taboos and longings and the pain of isolation. I wonder what a contemporary family should look like in our restless and shattered world. On the one hand, women no longer need a provider, on the other hand, they still have to (must) live in economic dependence.

To what extent do we fulfil our own lives or the expectations of society?
Is monogamy a lie?
How can binary perspectives on gender be dismantled?

In 2019 I was invited to do research in Cuba. Cuba offers me a complex terrain to explore this theme; It hit me how the country is still today often represented by the seductive “Caribbean Beauty”, colonial images of the male gaze that exoticize women’s bodies and reduce them to an object of desire. You can find several online platforms where men exchange their experiences with Cuban women which complements these visions of male fantasies. The only deliberated voices of Cuban women can be found in independent press whose writers are traced by the Cuban government and risk their freedom.

Based on close relationships I built with local women, I began to wonder how women perceive their position in society that they call “machista”. The understanding and roots of a patriarchal society is elementary for my research, because it leads into a complex global issue which is to be broken up.

What are ideas on independence, love and sexuality?

I intend to challenge our binary way of looking at gender balance with stories of isolation, power and the longing for intimacy and love, illustrating the most primitive human need as the most complex one.

This project is part of TIME-LABS, a collaboration between the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp and the Instituto Superior de Arte de La Habana.

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