Outlaw poverty, NOT prostitution
CODE:RED is a multidiscoplinary,
multimedia, collaboration project, which discusses and researches
the informal economy models, self-organisation, global sex work
and global trafficking. The introductory slogan by Carol Leigh,
a renowned American activist and fighter for the rights of sex
workers, draws attention to the basic characteristics of the
situation into which the sex workers are traped during their
work. Their wok is illegal, however, due to their poverty or
the struggle for bare survival they are often forced to do it.
The economy of sex work is a vital source of income for numerous
segments of the population on all continents, segments that are
excluded from the dominant economy.
When we discuss globalisation,
we most often talk about the hyper-mobility of capital and services,
the influence that new technologies have on the production, distribution
and communication and less about the other side of the same phenomenon:
the new international division of work, the new forms of slavery,
new gender divisions, etc., which are a consequence of the economic
demands that the developed world has from the third world countries.
The occurence of the new international division of work is decisively
dependent on the-so-called womens work, which is closely tied
to migration and the current phenomena of feminising migrations.
In this context prostitution and trafficking in human, i.e. the
numerous forms of slavery, play an important role. A great increase
in this type of criminal activities and the redirection of organised
crime groups ino this fiel point towards the great profit that
these activities create. The globalisation of prostitution, as
well as logistics and communication networks, which surround
the community of migrant sex workers show that we can not expect
any great changes in the migration tendences in the future.
CODE:RED encompases various
forms of joint operation with experts, scientists and activist
groups, from research, activation, self-help to public maniestations,
actions, exhibitions, etc. The project takes place within and
outside the art context. P.A.R.A.S.I.T.E. Museum of Contemporary
Art co-operates at these acttions according to the principles
of teamwork and establishes equal partner realtions with groups
The project CODE:RED actively intervenes in the existing conditions
of things and searches for new ways and forms to change them.
It also opens the artistic space for dealing with the issue and
changing social, economic and political issues.
As far as content is concerned the first four years of the CODE:RED
project could be divided into three phases: conceptual phase
(1999/2000), which inclided the preparation, study, concept,
and similar; activist phase (2001- ), which included public operation,
establishing links, actions and interventions and the phase of
cartography of the global trafficking (2004- ). The short crossing
of activities between the years 1999 and 2004 can be structured
around the following chapters: models of connections, autonomous
media, pulic actions, mobile arhitecture, cartography.
One of the basic questions
is how to survive outside the mechanisms and the frame of global
capitalism, which today strustures the entire civilisation. The
project CODE:RED researches also the issues of self-organisation
of the marginal groups and communities, which take place outside
the dominant social, economic and political frames. As in the
past, there still exists a clear division in the contemporary
society between those groups that are within the society and
those that found themselves on the outside of it. In order to
survive the excluded are forced into self-organisation. The self-organisation
of the excluded is radically different from those, the identity
of whom can enter a "legitimate" social structure.
Models of connections
I. World Congres of
Sex Workers and New Parasitism, Venice 2001 / The Ultimate Sex
Worker Conspiracy Soiree: Conference and Party, New York 2002
The two most complex examples
of connecting were organised in 2001 and 2002 in the form of
"congresses" and "conferences". The I.
World Congress of Sex Workers and New Parasitism was the
first public manifestation of the CODE:RED project. Due to the
excellent organisation the action achieved great attention and
extensive media coverage from the official media. The project
emerged as a consequence of our co-operation with Comitate per
I Diritti Civili delle Prostitute from Pordeon, one of the leading
organisations for the protection of sex workers in Italy.
The I. World Congres of Sex Workers and New Parasitism
took place within the frame of the 49th Venice Biennial, between
6th and 8th June 2001, on a public space at Giardini in a tent,
or the so-called Prostitute Pavilion (Padiglione delle Prostitute).
The list of the participating groups and organisations included
groups, activists and individuals from Taiwan, Thailand, Cambodia,
Vietnam, Italy, Germany, USA and Australia. The congress was
conceived as a creative frame for connections, exchange and informing.
The activists and groups presented the current situation on the
sex market, the strategies of the fight for civil rights of sexual
workers, however, their emphasise was on the presentation of
the principles of organization, education, self-help and protection.
This was performed through conversations, video projects, exhibitions,
documentary publications, performances, activist street theatre,
appearances, etc. One of the main emphasis was oriented towards
Asia, where the sex industry has been experiencing one of the
greatest boosts during the last few years.(4) The Taiwanese activists
from the group COSWAS presented the successful rebellion of Taiwanese
sex workers. Through demonstrations, media appearances and inventiveness
they achieved a victory against the town authorities in Taipei,
who tried to adopt a new restrictive legislation. Apart from
the Cambodian activists (CWDA) and those from Vietnam also a
representative from the Global Alliance Against Trafficking in
Women (GAATW) from Bangkok participated. GAATW has deep roots
in the fight against abusing prostitutes in Asia and heads an
educational programme as well as medical and legal help, etc.
In 1996 GAATW adopted the so-called Dutch model, which understands
sex economy as an industry in which all participants have the
right to legal protection by their syndicates.
The main purpose of The
Ultimate Sex Worker Conspiracy Soiree: Conference and Party,
which took place as a part of the CODE:RED USA project in the
bar True in New York was to connect and create a direct reaction
towards the local, national and international problems of sex
At the conference representatives from various organizations
from New York, Baltimore, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles
participated. The conference was organised in co-operation with
organizations that fight for the rights of sex workers (PONY,
COYOTE and SACRD), homosexuals (HOOK) and transsexuals. Through
mutual co-operation between the groups that fight for the right
of different sexually oriented and operate within all branches
of the sex industry a very positive co-operative and solidarity
atmosphere was created. Due to its criminal status in USA sex
work and prostitution are experiencing a special transformation,
for they are moving from the social public space into the virtual
space. Following the terrorist attacks in September 2001, the
sex workers were exposed as a fairly suspicious and problematic
group and the city major practically gave them the same status
as terrorists. The Ultimate Sex Worker Conspiracy Soiree:
Conference and Party was organised in co-operation with the
most important activist groups and held over 20 speakers. The
theme of the short dicsussions and round tables, which were attended
by experts, scientists, activists and sex workers were the following:
the rights of sex workers, gender and sexual identity, race and
class in sex work. The performances and short appearances, which
deal with the sex industry were contributed by writers (among
others also Tracy Quan and David Sterry), poets, actors, artists
and the radical activist unit.
The homepage CODE:RED USA / Sex Worker newspaper / A Monument
to the Unknown Prostitute, Ljubljana 2002
The homepage CODE:RED USA was
conceived as a basic informational and communication tool of
the project, for due to its anonymous nature (formal legislation)
the information as regards the actions was not mediated through
the public media. The homepage was officially accessible to the
general public on the Internet from midnight of 15th April 2002
CET onwards, i.e. 6 am New York time.
The homepage included the basic information on the project, the
most up-to-date announcements of actions and interventions, a
public forum, the project history and links.
During the Congress in Venice
the first thematic issue of the Sex Worker newspaper was published.
The newspaper was distributed free of charge to all passers-by
and the public of the A+A Gallery. In it one could find the official
manifest of the P.A.R.A.S.I.T.E. Museum of Contemporary Art and
Comitato per I Diritti Civili delle Prostitue, information on
the congress programe, the participants, etc. The second themativ
issue of the newspaper was published at the project CODE:RED
Sector Zagreb and dealt with the issues of global migrations
and presented a new arhitectural model of mobile architecture
intended for independent sex workers.
The Monument to the Unknown Prostitute was set up between 1st
and 5th February in the centre of Ljubljana. It was set up within
the frame of the Agent of Change project in the INternational
Centre of Graphic Arts. The Monument to the Unknown Prostitute
was accompanied by the round table Globalism and New Exclusions
and the public unveiling, which summarised all the elements of
the symbolic opening ceremony.
The form of the »temporary monument« deals with the
issue of the public space, a specific location and the idea of
monumentality, The »temporary monument« is fragmentary
and heterogenous. It emerges spontaneously, non-lineary and subjectively.
At its construction it uses recycling, collages, direct information,
participation and everyday, used or cheap materials: one say
that it follows the ethics and aesthetics of the everyday and
Red Umbrellas March,
Venice 2001 / Golden Shoes of Times Square, New York 2002 / Stripping
with Narx, Berli 2002
The Red Umbrellas March is
an example of a manifestation march, which actively and publicy
demonstrates its presence in city. In order for it to be better
heard and seen it uses requisites, such as megaphones and red
umbrellas, thus loudly drawing attention to its situation and
not differing from the usual forms of political demonstrations.
The march with the Congress participants, local organisations
and accidental sympathisers starte dat the Congress tent and
went to the A+A Gallery, going through the city centre on its
way. The march crossed the city in order to cause an interruption,
a sound and visual disturbance in the routine and continuity
of the city panorama. Apart from the realistic, manifestation
side it also ha dan important symbolic side.
With the joint walk the new geographic points of the city were
defined, the points that are otherwise forgotten. This is the
geography of the social history of sex workers, from the famous
Venetian courtesans Veronica Franco and Gaspara Stampa right
THe action Golden Shoes of Times Square was carried out on 1st
May 2002 on Times Square in New York. Similar to The Red Umbrellas
March this action also took advantage of walking, but in a different
way. In this action walking was in itimate act and the action
took place only for the attentive passer-by, for the actor was
lost amidst the masses of visitors and tourists. The walk took
place at a slow pace and in silence. The actor walked around
the entire square, and while doing so he pulled a pair of golden
womens shoes behind him on a string. The Times Square location
was was not not chosen by chance. This is an important symbolic
location of New York sex industry, which was in the second half
of the 80s changed into a symbol of its criminality and in the
beginning of the 90s into a symbol of its disappearance. Since
1985 the city government has started to publicly incriminate
peep shows, theatres acinemas that showed films with sexual content.
All of this was performed in the name of »safety and health«.
In 1990 the mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani (with the help of
the Walt Disney corporation) »cleared« the city centre
with a series of new restrictive laws.
In his work Times Square Red, Times Square Blue Samuel R. Delany
states that the decision that the Times Square should be »cleared«
had little in common with the true struggle for public health.
It was mainly based on corporate greed. At the same time it announced
the victory of the new repressive mentality currently governing
New York, which in the name of hygiene forbids social contacst
and communication between people of various races and classes
on an urban public space.
The public performance Stripping
with Marx was conceived within the frame of the project Ostensiv:
Free Art of Eastern Europe, in the great entrance hall of the
Humboldt University in Berlin, in front of a staircase, which
carries the famous quote by Karl Marx: »Die Philosophen
haben die Welt nur vershieden interpreziert, es kommt aber darauf
an, sie zu verendern.«
A local stripper performed in this performance. For his performance
he used a number of costumes. From a monster (the unknown, evil)
he changed into the figure of male film and literary heroes,
who stereotypically present power, goodness and natural, i.e.
Superman and Tarzan. The University location (reproduction of
knowledge), quote (demand for action and the change of the situation)
and sex worker (representation of male stereotypes) created an
interesting triangle of meanings and divisions.
Working Unit Z 01,
»What does the placement
of exclusively economic zones in the centre of Zagreb really
Working Unit Z 01 is an architectural
plan, which arose in co-operation with the architect Anja Planiscek
within the frame of the project CODE:RED Sector Zagreb. With
the co-operation of the historian Petra hoblaj and the International
Organistaion for Migrations (IOM) we prepared a round table on
forced migrations, which are very common inthe territory of the
Through the model Working Unit Z 01 we (for the first time) dealt
with the housing problem of a marginal group. The new model of
mobile architectur should function as a basic module, completely
adjusted to the independent work of sex workers. The camper Working
Unit Z01 can be easily assembled, is mobile and adjustable. It
enables simple transport and simple inclusion into the existing
energy sources and sanitary pipelines or can be adjusted for
self-provision systems. A nuber of linked units can form larger
units or even well rounded urban solutions. The interior of the
basic module is composed from five zones: the hygiene zone, the
reception room, the lounge, the kight zone and the working zone.
It is furnished with functional furniture, a barthroom, video
and audio appliances and a security-communication system, which
enables a direct link with the police.
For the first prototypes we selected three potential urban and
suburban locations in Zagreb and its suburbs, where we also developed
this model. In most aspects they were in line with the functional
demands and parameters (accessibility, safety, infrastructure,
autonomy) for the setting up of the first complexes of working
The Working Unit Z 01 module was insired by numerous (utopic
and real) urbanistic and architectural models from the late 60s,
for example the concept of the Plug-in City by Peter Cook or
the diametric concept of the New Babylon, which were conceived
as collective, social projects and operated predominantly as
a specific projective frame for creating new situations.
MONAPOLY A Human
Trade Game, 2004
In the early 70s Oyvind Fahlstrom
created works that invited the spectator to reach into them,
to actively change them. Amongst the best known was also the
Monopoly series (CIA Monopoly, World Trade Monopoly, Indochina
Monopoly). These were all remodels of the original game, whic
critically dealt with the American foreign policy, global trade,
the arms industry ad the topography of American military interventions
throughout the world.
The game MONAPOLY is also a remodelling of the most famous capitalist
game. Visually it follows Monopoly and the basic scheme of the
game, but the contents are completely new. While playing the
players obtain new information on the global sex work, important
loctions, activist organisations, organised crime gangs that
organise the white slave trade, etc. The players can finance
the constuction of a safe house, support the operation of groups
that are fighting for the rights of the sex workers and their
programmes or can save a sex slave from Moldova.
MONAPOLY is a new cartography of sex work and white slave trade.
Instead of accumulating capital, it explains to the players the
geopolitics of sex work in the period of global capitalism and