Participants in Laura Lima’s Controversial Show at ICA Miami Claim Abuse

The rope is meant "to merge with a female body."

Laura Lima's installation. Courtesy ICA Miami.

Two women who answered a call for participants in Brazilian artist Laura Lima’s exhibition at the ICA Miami claim they have been “misled” by the language of the casting call and, by the time the artist’s directions had been fully explained, felt pressured to perform a sexual act using a nylon rope at the museum, the Miami New Times reports.

“The Inverse” consists of a mammoth bundle of industrial nylon rope that wraps around the museum’s support beams. “Enormous at one end, the braided material dwindles in size until it seems to merge with a female body,” reads the show’s description on the ICA’s website.

“Each participant has the freedom to decide how she will perform the work and has been explicitly told this during the preparatory meetings,” a spokesperson for the museum told artnet News in an email. “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.”

Artist Kayla Delacerda and another woman who wishes to remain unnamed, told the Miami New Times that penetrating oneself with a rope was not mentioned in the $15-per-hour job description. When Delacerda became aware of the artist’s intentions, and the fact that finger cots and lube will be made available to performers, she decided not to participate. The wording in the announcement, published in mid-May, read, “[participants are required to] 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.”

Laura Lima with her installation. Courtesy ICA Miami.

Laura Lima with her installation. Courtesy ICA Miami.

The other woman told the paper she felt pressured to perform on June 3, the show’s opening night, as another participant was not going to make it to the museum on time. She describes to the paper that “she violated herself under the museum and artist’s direction and has been suffering emotionally since.”

Ellen Salpeter, ICA’s director, told the Miami New Times that the museum did not put any pressure on participants and that deciding whether or not to vaginally insert the rope was up to the performers.

Brazilian artist Laura Lima performs "Ascenseur" at Unlimited, the Art Basel's pioneering exhibition on June 14, 2016 during the preview day of Art Basel. Courtesy of FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images.

Laura Lima performs Ascenseur at Unlimited at Art Basel on June 14, 2016 during the preview day of Art Basel. Courtesy of FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images.

“The artist and ICA Miami set up a thorough process to inform potential performers about the nature of the work and what was and was not expected of them. This included two in-person, group meetings between the performers, the artist, and ICA Miami staff in advance of the opening as well as one on one conversations between ICA Miami staff and the performers,” a spokesperson for the museum told artnet News.

The artist, who often employs the female body in absurd or vulnerable situations, such as her 1997 work Doped/Dopada, where a sedated woman in a white robe connected to “a red crocheted ornament that is attached to the wall” sleeps on the gallery floor, made her US live-work debut at Performa 15 last year. The participatory performance titled Gala Chickens and Ball, involved “ornamental chickens, adorned in specially adhered Carnival feathers,” at a space in Lower Manhattan. The artist also made waves at Art Basel Unlimited this year, with Ascenseur, where a disembodied arm stretches out from under a wall to grasp a set of keys.

Laura Lima with her installation. Courtesy ICA Miami.

Laura Lima with her installation. Courtesy ICA Miami.

Lima currently is in a group show at Pace Gallery in New York, titled, “Blackness in Abstraction,” curated by Adrienne Edwards, which “trac[es] the persistent presence of the color black in art.”

When asked why she didn’t participate directly in the performance herself, a museum spokesperson told artnet News “Lima views The Inverse as a hybrid of performance and sculpture.”

Laura Lima: The Inverse,” at the ICA Miami is on view June 3–October 30, 2016. 

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