Life Drawing with the East London Stripper Collective
I am a terrible drawer. I have no eye for it, no natural flair. I’m really terrible.
As you can see from the above, I’m not joking.
I do enjoy life drawing. I first got into it thanks to Miss Louise Challinor and her ‘That’s Life’ life drawing sessions. She was very encouraging and made me see that what I put on the page didn’t have to be perfect, or accurate, or flattering. It was just my impression and I should have fun with it.
I first read about the East London Stripper Collective a few months ago and decided that these women were right up my street. Strippers challenging accepted norms and empowering themselves. Brilliant.
Stripping is one of those professions that comes with a mountain of preconceptions and mythologies. A lot of these are negative, partly because it is not a profession that most of us will at some point in our lives dip in to. We have less empathy and understanding because it is less likely that we, or someone we love, will experience it. The other reason it is a highly loaded term is because it is one of the professions that revolves around female sexuality. There are of course male strippers, I am referring to our stereotype of the term.
It is part of the reason that I was drawn (excuse the pun!) to this class. I love the idea of stripping being put back where it belongs, next to and part of, art. In today’s society it can sadly be seen as something sordid and cheap. Even destructive. However other forms of dance, for instance ballet, are correctly viewed as performance art. I think the main difference between the two is that stripping is titillating, far more so than ballet. This negative view of stripping is backed up by the legislation surrounding it, leading to women being disrespected and a cycle of exploitation.
The East London Stripper Collective are setting up their own events to help to challenge stereotypes and are hoping to eventually create their own working conditions and make business decisions. A massive undertaking for this group of political activists. It is a huge struggle because female sexuality is something that intimidates a lot of men and women, leading to them attempting to control and suppress it. It is an ocean of psychological power, evoking things in us we do not fully understand and often are not capable of rationalising.
The class was held in the upstairs of the White Horse Pub in Shoreditch. The girl who was posing for us was beautiful (made me regret my beer and burger) and strong looking. The stage area was back lit with a red light, which gave the whole thing a slightly naughty vibe. The class kicks off with some quick poses during a routine, and then as the evening progresses the poses get longer. I loved it. The way everyone there was staring at her, really paying attention to the way she moved, her strength and flexibility. I allowed myself to get caught up in the eroticism of it, and that is part of the magic of the performance.
The drawing element of the event tinted the actions of the girls’ performance and helped the audience see it in a new light. Incredibly stimulating performance art.
If you are London based, check them out and head down to an event to show some love