Wow is the word. WAXCHICK is the name of the new revolutionary video clip produced and performed by talented English artist Vasilisa Forbes. This provocative video is a perfect mix of sexuality and violence, and reveals to a well-informed public how women are advertised in the media.
We met with this 23 years-old artist. This is what she told us:
Could you explain to us a little more about your background?
I finished studying in 2012 and graduated from Camberwell College of Arts in South London. Then, I used to work for different magazines. I interned at Super Super magazine, and starting becoming their music contributor editor, and did some photography too. That helped me develop a certain kind of aesthetic and visual style. Then, I went and contributed to different magazines across London, such as iD, who were also dealing with music, writing, and journalism. But, I didn’t really enjoy Camberwell very much. The thing is, I wanted to study photography, but I studied illustration instead, which is quite different from what I expected. But, the good thing is that it helped me develop a multi-media field for me in the arts.
How would you describe yourself best: a producer, filmmaker, or both?
Well, it’s quite open. I’d say kind of an artist in different fields, like multi-media. I don’t just do films or photography, but quite a mixture. But now, I have become more like an art director because that’s why people are hiring me. Sometimes, I do make films and music video as well. I’m quite a self-thought woman in fact!
When did you get the idea of WAXCHICK?
I started doing the WAXCHICK project last summer – in 2014. I did the first photo-shoot for it around September, and since then, it was the main focus of my artwork. This project helped me find what I really wanted to say.
Where did you get the idea for this project?
Basically, WAXCHICK is artist and photographer Allen Jones’s reaction from his work. I made my own work as a comment of his. However, I was a bit angry because his work is not feminist, and looks more submissive, as a “sex-toy woman.” I love his artwork aesthetic, but I don’t like the message it’s giving out. I think Allen Jones catches his fetish and fantasy, and that he’s not trying to empower women. That’s not his aim.
Who or what inspires you?
I’d say sculptor Lynda Benglis. She made this really cool advert that is really powerful and provocative too. She wanted to prevent her artwork in this kind of way. Also, she was so confident for the 70’s, to do this kind of a thing. She’s definitely one of my inspirations. Also, an interesting thing about her was that her husband (or perhaps her boyfriend) did a similar advert and was in a S&M outfit. No one really cared; people didn’t even notice it, and it was not even remembered. Her artwork was noticed and remembered! So, it’s interesting to see people’s reactions, which are totally different here.
How would you characterize your art style?
Well, I like the 60’s, but I’m not retro. I like this period and style because of the aesthetic way; graphic design started to become quite minimal. I prefer the design over the clothes! That’s the other aspect of the artwork that I’ve done: making this over the top female character like a cartoon. The WAXCHICK is like a character, a cartoonish kind of a woman. She’s meant to be strong and sexy.
We saw billboards of your project in London. Why are you using this to promote your work?
Well, I met an art dealer and he loved art in public, like at bus stops. So, it was he who gave me the idea to do the billboards, and he commissioned it. I wanted to do something with advertising and make it a little more like an advertising as well. The idea was that I wanted the artwork to actually look like an advert, but also like a work of art. So, you don’t really know what it is. A lot of people are wondering “Is it an advert or not?” The point is: it’s meant to look like an advert that you would see anywhere!
So, how did people react through that?
The point is, I wanted people to look at it and think that it was meant to be an advert. And it was quite interesting to see what people said at the billboard – because people don’t know me – just to see what they’ll think about it. Also, I wanted to do a survey, where I could have recorded people talking. And there were some results, where people said it was “quite vulgar” or “too aggressive.” Others thought that it was really “powerful.” So, it was a mixture of ideas with two extremes!
Why use this provocative and shocking way?
I chose a provocative way because I wanted to be powerful, and I think it has to be provocative to be powerful. I also wanted to be empowering, and it’s in the message. If it’s not immediately shocking or exciting, people won’t get the message directly. The association of fetish that is in the picture, is supposed to make someone’s body more exciting. I could have done things softer by using simple clothes, but it wasn’t the message.
Do you think people would have been more receptive if you had done that?
I’m not trying to make people react. I do actually want them to react for the right reasons, not just because it’s shocking. But, I do also think it’s a way to get a message across. Basically, I wanted to show powerful female characters, and I think sometimes allowing a certain kind of female nudity in our society is a good thing. This is what I wanted to encourage. We’ve seen a lot of female nudity before and for the wrong reasons – like razor adverts depicting legs shaving, to name but a few. And I don’t see why this should be banned.
Would you like to change people’s mentalities through your work?
I‘d love to change people’s mentalities; it was basically the reason behind my artwork. I wanted to sort of take away that kind of power, male artists have in depicting women. And I wanted to give some of that power back to women. I want to give back more power to the female artists!
Would you like to spread WAXCHICK worldwide?
Definitely. I’d like to have my billboards in countries such as France, Germany, in Europe in general. I’d like to make it international, and now, I’m trying to vend and get a loan to be able to put these things abroad. I think they’re kind of useful, and I think they’ve a good message and meaning. I’m also going to do street art, and do stick up posters and stickers. The next step is the street art. People are responding more to that; I think they like it more than the advert, because it feels “punk.” I just really want to push the project more!
Do you have a team, or do you work alone?
I’ve friends, and colleagues who helped me in my work, so I’m not really working on my own. I’ve really great people to work with. I’m so happy that so many people want to be a part of my project. I’ve also met someone who wants to make a sculptor of me. So there will be more to come with the WAXCHICK!
We would be happy to know what’s your upcoming work?
For the future, I’m going to carry on about WAXCHICK. I’m going to do some more, new kind of images and videos. I’m definitely going to stick with this project.
Do you consider yourself as a feminist?
I definitely am a feminist. But, it doesn’t mean that I’m extreme in whatever way. I like men and most of my best friends are men. But, I do believe in girl power! I don’t believe equality exists in every way because everyone is different. We’re not all the same and so there’s no such a thing as equal. However, I do believe in fair. Like treating people fairly, with respect. People don’t believe you can be a sexy feminist. They think you want to be a man! This is also something I’m trying to challenge, because feminism can be sexy. I can get naked and that’s feminism too. People get confused about feminism. But I think it’s empowering.
How would you describe your work?
My work is about feminism. I wanted to make work like this, but from a woman’s perspective. I guess, it’s easier for men to make this kind of artwork about women. But how true can they really be? Probably, if I was making an artwork about men, you will judge me, because I won’t entirely know it all.
Yes, with this advert! I think it’s funny how things have changed. “Hello boys” in the 90’s was showing this blonde model, in a black and white image. Quite simple for the time. It wasn’t shocking at all, but apparently people were like crashing their cars! It was voted to be one of the most iconic adverts of all times.
If you could give us one adjective to describe yourself, what would it be?
I’d say “wild,” because I’m kind of like this inside. I feel I’m wearing a latex shell and inside there’s a wild animal! Because my art is definitely a representation of what I’m on the inside.
To know more about Waxchick, please visit the website by clicking here.
Words: Nathalie Bhoyrub