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#Uncensored - Send Nudes, by Chloe Lidchi

This month we spoke with Chloe Lidchi, a Cape Town based artist seeking to rewrite the traditional narratives that demean and disempower female bodies. Her 2019 photo series ‘Panty Project’ daringly addressed the issue of sexual violence inflicted on young women. Her work exposed us to haunting, uncensored images of female underwear strung up and embroidered with quotes from assault victims. Chloe as an artist, lays bare a truth to the world that is so often brushed under the carpet in modern patriarchal society.

We were lucky to catch her just one week after the launch of her most recent project ‘Send Nudes’, which she describes as ‘a body of digital work that examines the female nude as a live, personified figure within the contemporary, technological age.’ The minute-long video that accompanies the ‘Send Nudes’ project exports us into a digitalised world where women celebrate ownership of self, and full control over the presentation of their bodies. What resonated so much with us was the idea of reclaiming the female nude as a self-directed art piece as opposed to being a product of coercion and submissiveness. Catching up with Chloe we were able to get a deeper insight into the ideas behind her work and learn why she will always seek to reclaim narratives through her art.

Why was it important for you to feature yourself within the "Send Nudes" project? Why was the process of creating it liberating for you?

The inclusion of myself within the Send Nudes narrative was fundamental to the project, I wanted to prevent any distance between ‘creator’ and ‘muse’, where the somewhat invasive and personal expectations of the models needed to be something I experienced too. I wanted to create a safe physical and virtual space that allowed for the exploration of one’s own sexuality, myself included. While I don’t typically allow others to photograph me- repressed by my own insecurities- I found it incredibly liberating to photograph myself in my own curated space where I had the freedom to delete, share and manipulate the images. I loved the sense of control that these new age self-portraits allowed for.

How did you want the ‘Send Nudes’ piece to resonate with young women?

Send Nudes confronts the topic of sex, sexuality and identity politics through the female nude. Here, the project takes on the contemporary, digital nude in a way that directly engages with the women featured, normalizing the act of taking and sending nudes, sex work, and the complex relationship between ‘self’ and sexuality. The intention of the work is to promote a liberated manifestation of female sexuality devoid of stigmatization. Simply, I want this work to resonate with women in its relatability, allowing those who featured and those who view it to feel comfortable and understood. Since the project’s release, I have received many messages from women who have had similar experiences which they were initially silenced by, but now felt liberated through the message of this body of work.

You’ve used film photography in previous projects but why was it important for ‘Send Nudes’ to be shot largely with an iphone? Was it primarily to make the project accessible or were there other reasons for using that format?

Just as I re-interpreted the traditional nude in presenting the digital body as belonging to a high caliber within the creative sphere/industry, I wanted to elevate the medium of cell-phone photography in challenging that which is considered ‘art’. This body of work is essentially comprised of real experiences where the cellphone is the device used. The women featured all happened to have iPhones (myself included) of different models and in varying conditions. This shift in camera ‘quality’ is something I wanted to emphasize throughout the video.

What initially prompted you to work with the theme of the nude?

The naked body has always fascinated me and somehow finds a way into all of my work. I was interested in the notion of ‘female’ being synonymous with ‘nude’, which I wanted to explore within a new context, using a medium which I believe to be both greatly unsung and most appropriate in the context of this time.

You mention the process allowed you to realise the importance of having safe spaces for women to explore and talk about their sexuality. If a space was created for this purpose what format do you think it would take? Could it exist within the digital world given the dangers that the digital world already imposes on women? To be honest, I don’t know if a completely safe space for women, more specifically the naked woman, will ever exist. Send Nudes is essentially a safe virtual space to present these bodies as it’s one that I created with the specific intention to do just this. In light of this; a magazine, blog or any privately-run platform which prioritizes this safety and outlook on the female body is somewhat a safe space. Although outdated, Playboy was created for men to explore their ‘sexuality’ and successfully destigmatized the topic of sex. While Playgirl was released, it didn’t quite hit the ‘emotional g-spot’ for women – so to speak. I do believe that a strategically curated/produced magazine that explores sex and the female across literary and visual mediums would allow for a safer space than the digital world typically allows for. In this case, it would be of the utmost importance that the female body is curated by other femme bodies in actively rejecting the phallocentric dominance which clouds the female portrayal in media.

Clearly a lot of your projects are to do with shifting power narratives and reclaiming identity and ownership. Without pressuring you to reveal any plans for future projects, do you intend to keep the theme of reclaiming narratives at the heart of your work?

As a woman and an artist, the fate of my identity and sex is inescapable, where the need to reclaim an empowered narrative in navigating the world will remain integral to everything I make and do. I am drawn to the subjects of women, sexuality and sex , which will inevitably form part of any future work.

- Eleanor Hurley

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