Visual Currencies: Documenting India’s Red Light Districts
New York-based artist Elahe Massumi traveled to India in 2000 to document the conditions of life of sex workers in New Delhi, specifically those workers most economically and socially vulnerable—children and members of the hijra community. One resulting multichannel video installation, A Kiss Is not a Kiss (2000), reveals the trade in children, bought and sold through bonded labor in the countryside and forced to work in abject conditions in urban brothels. The installation frames the four walls of the exhibition space.1 On each screen, multiple frames scroll past the viewer; in one, the image of sex between a young child sex worker and a john is positioned alongside the image of her shaking her head, refusing the kiss he insists on taking. The juxtaposition of images, like the title of the piece itself, signals that things are not quite what they seem, that indeed a kiss is not a kiss.
KeywordsSexual Violence Sexual Exploitation Visual Currency Transnational Capitalism Sexual Oppression
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