By The Bennett Sisters
Reading time 5 Minutes
In this homage to International Polyester, the fictional magazine referenced in Bob Clark’s She-Man: A Story of Fixation, Rémy and Kelsey Bennett celebrate the B-movie tradition of creating art that revels in deviations from conformity through a photo story entitled Slave To Suburbia.
The Bennett sisters share a love for playfully vulgar imagery and collaborate on photographic character portraits that personify a transgressive irreverence that recalls the cult genre films that have resonated with them since childhood. The tone of Bob Clark’s early exploitation work plays into the sensibilities that both artists have cultivated through their life-long love of filmmakers such as Russ Meyer and Herschell Gordon Lewis, and their work often re-imagines these transgressive cinematic realms through their own contemporary lens.
Slave To Suburbia is a celebration of subversion in the visual tradition of cheap 1970s fetish magazines, and is executed with the four basic features of camp in mind as defined by film critic Jack Babuscio: irony, aestheticism, theatricality, and humor. The playful abandon of the characters depicted is an expression of an anarchic attitude that challenges the norms and expectations of suburban respectability that have defined sheltered enclaves of American life. The choice of a sunny suburban location for the photo story was an exercise in challenging the boundaries of public and private that are so strongly drawn in the upwardly mobile, cookie cutter neighborhoods throughout America.
As stated in the trailer for She-Man: A Story Of Fixation, “any facet of our lives that is left unexamined is a potential source of danger,” and this work is a meditation on that statement in its approach to depicting a provocative display of sexual play that liberates the stigmas of fetishism from the shadows of assumed perversion.
The casting choices for the three subjects in the photo story were equally deliberate, each performer being an artist in their own right who often incorporates non-normative representations of sexuality and violence into their own art. Panteha Abareshi who plays Poppy Python is a prolific illustrator who creates self-reflective portraiture of women that explores the nature of pain and “the hell of intimacy”. A mission through her work is to “reject all modern notions of romance” with imagery that is at once extremely violent and vibrantly colorful. Abareshi identifies as “anti-romantic” and she challenges gender stereotypes in relation to the expectations of women as people primarily craving love and intimacy who are scrutinized and valued based on their physicality and sexual prowess. The other two performers, Dina Silva and Alexander Justin Gonzales are writers and actors who experiment with boundary-pushing satire and use humor in their work as a tool for political disruption. Gonzales recently produced and starred in the controversial indie film Guadalajara based on the true events of the young trans teen Guadalajara Bustamante and Silva has been devising and playing a gender non-conforming masked serial killer in a slasher film series inspired by William Lustig’s 1980 film Maniac. The sensibilities of each performer created a synergy when executing the photographs that culminated in a collective vision that both photographer and subject contributed to and shared.
Slave To Suburbia is an exercise in aggressive and joyful uninhibitedness that revels in warping the limits of acceptability which each creative participant has felt driven to perpetuate within their own lives and the culture at large. Their creative choices are also indicative of a philosophy and attitude that manifests in a kind of festive vulgarity. Paying homage to exploitation films from the past that were formative in this artistic movement is a celebration of the radical acts of beautiful weirdos that those films birthed.
The Bennett Sisters are Rémy and Kelsey Bennett, a NYC based creative team who collaborate on photo, film, writing and art curations. They have shown work in NYC, Los Angeles, Miami and London. They have contributed to VICE, Playboy, Bust, Interview, W and New York Magazine. Their latest short documentary, Under Her Skin, premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival and was also featured at Marfa Film Festival. They are currently in production on their first feature length documentary, which focuses on female-driven activism based in the American South.
Layout by Mike Malloy