Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Sexual Activist & Her Photography

“I believe sex should be free, but it doesn't mean you can't accessorise.”
Samantha Roddick

In 2013 The European Union banned the sale of sale of cosmetic products and ingredients that have been tested on animals. It was a campaign started by the owner of the world wide chain of cosmetic stores The Body Shop, Anita Roddick in 1996. Whilst she didn’t live to see the culmination of her activism her daughter Samantha Roddick did. About the EU’s decision the younger Roddick told London’s Telegraph newspaper  “Everyone knows my mother as the 'queen of green’ and the doyenne of responsible business, but I believe she’s still underestimated as a pioneer who took political campaigning by business beyond the particular concerns of that business and mobilized her customers to fight for change on a bigger scale.”

The younger Roddick is an apple that didn’t fall far from that tree. Dropping out of school at 16 Roddick spent some time as an apprentice to the Russian Orthodox painter Mara Amats before her activist genes kicked in. For the next six years Roddick traveled the world espousing causes concerned with the deforestation of the Amazon and the rights of indigenous people. Along the way she also taught art in a Vancouver school and created the youth magazine Cockroach.

In the mid 1990’s, after reading the book A History of Whores Roddick embraced sexual politics and in the first year of the new century she opened Coco Der Mer, taking retail erotica from the back streets to the high street of London, New York and Los Angeles. Adopting the business principles of her mother Roddick’s sexual emporium had an ethical ethos that underpinned its operation. As she explained to the Guardian newspaper’s Hannah Pool “There is only one rule within sex, and that rule is simple: consent. Without it, you're talking about emotional torture and physical brutality.

In 2011 Roddick sold Coco Der Mer to the British sex toy retailer Lovehoney allowing her more time to concentrate on her activism. The latest incarnation of which is the photographic exhibition Hidden Within.

After the death of the Italian architect Carlo Mollino a treasure trove of over a thousand erotic Polaroid’s were found amongst his effects. Depicting female models in seductive and submissive poses they had been accessorized and directed to suit Mollino’s particular taste. As Roddick told How to Spend It’s, Nicole Swengley ““Mollino’s images are very sensual, but he objectified the women by controlling their poses… The poses are flattering to every body type, but also very unnatural, as if he was sculpting their bodies. And I feel this echoes our own society’s obsession with female perfectionism.”

Roddick recreated 12 of Mollino’s photographs and combined them with the religious iconography she learned during her apprenticeship with Mara Amats. As she explained “I wanted to get inside Mollino’s psychology because I feel his visual expression holds a mirror to our own cultural attitudes to sex.”

Hidden Within is on show at London’s Michael Hoppen Gallery until the 1st of May.

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