Pauline Curnier Jardin founded the Feel Good Cooperative with the help of photographer and sex worker Alexandra Lopez and architect and academic Serena Olcuire. The cooperative is a space for expression, inspiration, and financial support for sex workers in Rome whose work is linked with the fragility of daily existence.
In addition to drawings by the members of the collective, the exhibition Roman Parties, on view through February 25 at Prague City Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic, shows three films produced over the last few years. The most recent one is a recording of a performance from Christopher Columbus Day in Italy — which is still celebrated today — in which the historical position of the navigator and “discoverer” of the “New World” is subverted through the physical movements of and collective singing by the Feel Good Cooperative. With the intention of taking back power from Columbus, a symbol for colonizers, the members of the cooperative direct attention to themselves as figures worth celebrating and deserving of the attention society directs at problematic men in history.
The “Roman trilogy” continues with The Day We Saw Him Dead (2023), a documentary that follows members of the cooperative as they bid farewell to the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI during the funeral display of his body in St. Peter’s Basilica. This experience was later translated into a series of drawings entitled Death of the Pope (2023), which capture the scenes and impressions from the visit to the Vatican with humor and narrative, blending the worlds of religiosity, mass tourism, female sexuality, and carnality.
The exhibition also features Fireflies (2021), the first film by Pauline Curnier Jardin and the Feel Good Cooperative. The viewer watches the cooperative members at night, in a flicker of shadows and lights along the road where they usually work on the outskirts of Rome, and where real fireflies shimmered through the night in the past. These days, the fireflies are the sex workers who appear at night but are invisible during the day, lacking social recognition and support. The Feel Good Cooperative’s artworks and projects represent sex workers in an emancipatory light as strong, beautiful, and remarkable.
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Roman Parties is organized as a part of the program of the Jindřich Chalupecký Society within the scope of the international project Islands of Kinship: A Collective Manual for Sustainable and Inclusive Art Institutions. The exhibition is on view until February 25 at the House of Photography, Prague City Gallery.
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