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Performer in Laura Lima’s Miami Exhibition Alleges She Was Pressured into Sex Acts

According to Jess Swanson of the Miami New Times, two women who responded to a casting call for Brazilian artist Laura Lima’s exhibition “The Inverse,” at Miami’s Institute of Contemporary Art, said they felt “misled” when they arrived at the museum and realized that the artist wanted them to penetrate themselves with the end of a nylon rope.

The two women, artist Kayla Delacerda and another young woman who wished to remain anonymous, said that performing sexual acts with a rope was not listed in the $15-an-hour job description. Delacerda decided not to participate. Swanson reports that the other young woman said “she violated herself under the museum and the artist’s direction and has been suffering emotionally ever since.” The ICA told artforum.com that it was not aware of the complaints until the Miami New Times’ called to ask for a comment. The museum has attempted to arrange a meeting with the individual after she emailed the institution, but has not heard back.

For the piece, women lie down on the floor and place their legs through a semicircular hole in the wall so that their legs are partially visible in an adjacent gallery. The performers are asked to position the end of a rope, which snakes around that gallery, in between their legs. In a statement, Lima describes what’s expected of the work’s contributors: “The legs are folded slightly open in a comfortable pose . . . the coupling between the rope and the participant will be made directly by the participant.” Finger cots and lube were also provided.

ICA director Ellen Salpeter said that Lima was asking people to wear dresses that the artist had made and remain in a room for four hours. She said that the museum did not pressure anyone into vaginally inserting a rope and that finger cots were made available “in case the performers elect to use them.” She added that “Laura’s work empowers the performer to make decisions about how they will participate.” All performers are required to sign a form in order to contribute to the piece that states: “ICA Miami and the artist do not require or recommend the placement of certain physical objects in the contractor’s body and any decision by the contractor to do so is entirely by the contractor’s own free will.” According to the museum, each woman involved in the performance was extensively briefed through meetings with ICA’s staff and the artist before they were asked to participate.

Lima, who was surprised by the complaint, often uses the body and naked performers in her work. The casting call, which went out in May, said the “only requirement is that [participants] remain relaxed over the course of a four-hour period and engage passively with the sculpture, which will be attached to them, at their comfort.”

In a statement to artforum.com, the institute said, “‘The Inverse’ is a beautiful, thought-provoking and provocative piece of sculpture and performance that calls into question the relationship between art and the body. Lima’s practice and ‘The Inverse’ in particular belongs to a history of seminal art works—including those by Marina Abramovic and Vito Acconci, among many others—in which performers make decisions about how to represent the body in public. ICA Miami strongly believes in the importance of Laura Lima and her work, and we continue to present ‘The Inverse’ with the participation of four rotating performers.”

The exhibition, which is on view until October 30, will rotate female performers every four hours from 11 AM to 7 PM.

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