We’re Still Working Artist Interview: Arabelle Raphael

“The Evaluation of Worth”, 2016, Arabelle Raphael. Photo by Chani Bockwinkel

‘The evaluation of worth’ is a powerful piece, what’s the story?

I had started collecting the more intense/interesting hate mail I received. I knew I wanted to do something with it at some point. At first I thought it would be a performance art piece and then the idea morphed itself into photographs. I liked the idea of recreating the vivid, ridiculous or violent imagery of their words. Making people see their own ugliness and what their words really mean.

What is the relationship between the audience and their perceptions that you are trying to provoke?

I want people to know their words and to understand that we (sex workers) are human beings. I want this exhibit to be a mirror into our society’s ugliness when it comes to sex work and race. I want to pull the audience through the screen and immerse them into the complex relationship that sex workers have with social media

By creating a literal interpretation, I bring forth a reality rarely seen civilians but still tantamount to the truths of many people who work in the adult industry. I want the audience to see through the veil of their own perceptions of race, strength, sex, individuality and visual media.

What behaviors of society does this art showcase portray?

The internet has given our society a screen to hide behind and the ability to project ones own insecurities on to others. Mainly onto public figures and especially public sex workers since we make society uncomfortable by merely existing. It takes no effort to send a nasty message to someone and then to move on. Unfortunately the recipient carries it for the rest of the day. In our society we like to hurt because we hate ourselves. We are disconnected from our own actions. We don’t even know or understand the damage that we cause.

What do you see as the relevance of this exhibition in San Francisco today?

So much of the city is changing and many sub-cultures and communities are disappearing. The city has had a long and inspiring history of sex work and the community is still strong. And this is an opportunity to do something that resonates with how we feel; “We’re still here.”

About Arabelle Raphael:
Arabelle Raphael is an artist, porn producer and sex worker living in the Bay Area. Born in Paris, France from Tunisian, French, Iranian and Jewish parents, Arabelle immigrated to the United States as child and as such grew up in a diverse household. In her 5 years of doing sex work she has explored a variety of jobs from performing in pornographic films (earning multiple AVN nominations) to companionship. She is the writer, producer and cinematographer of “La Nuisance”, an experimental art film which explores queer femme relationships. Her work incorporates a multitude of mediums, including poetry, personal essays, painting and diorama. She has done panels for the FPCs and argues Catharine MacKinnon’s work to USF college students every semester.

About the Interviewer:
Tara Chandi is SOMArts’ Communications & Gallery Events Intern. She is pursuing a Master’s in Interaction Design at the California College of the Arts. Her work is focused on designing for sustainable solutions and systemic change.