Veil Machine (Sybil Fury, Niko Flux, MJ Tom)

Rapid Response Fellow 2020 - 2020

Sybil Fury is a fantasy born from the imagination of a PhD student, sex worker, curator, and community organizer living in NYC. Drawing on classical anthropology, feminist theory, and psychoanalysis, her work explores how a political vision that starts from a sex worker perspective can imagine gender, labor, and technology in radically new ways. She is the cofounder of sex/art project Veil Machine and is a collaborator with Kink Out. She is also a clown, and enjoys causing mischief around town with her clown-wife.

Niko Flux is a persona born through sex work, destined to make art. She explores intergenerational lineages, queer surreality, and subterranean other selves. She is the co-founder of Veil Machine, an ongoing collaboration that relational and intimate art practice to explore problems of power, erotics, and identity in sex/art work. Her work has appeared at Leslie Lohman Museum (2019), Chinatown Soup (2018), and Wild Embeddings (2018). She performs with the sex worker art collective Stigma Unbound. Her curatorial debut was Blood Money (2018).

MJ Tom also known as Empress Wu, is an artist and producer raised in Houston, TX and based in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a BA in Art History and International Relations from the University of Texas and an MA in Arts Politics from NYU. She enjoys exploring alternative modes of kinship made possible via digital landscapes, queer sadomasochism, and sex work. She and her work have appeared at the Leslie Lohman Museum for Gay and Lesbian Art, Performa 19, and MoMA PS1, among others. Her explicit alter ego lives online at empresswu.net.

What do you plan to do during Phase 1 of Rapid Response?

FLUX: Our project is a protest platform called E-Viction. For 24 hours, the site will thrive as a virtual hub for sex workers, artists, clients, and allies. Visitors will log on to a digital whorehouse/art gallery, browse through sex workers and artists performing in real time, book private time with performers, and tip them in exchange for sexual/art labor. Sex working artists will make art and sex live on cam, blurring the boundaries between them. E-Viction imagines a world where sex workers are not constantly under threat, but have the space to build together as performers, radicals, and innovators. In doing so, we are also creating a new form of digital riot; a political gesture that exceeds passive consumption even though it occurs online.

How does your work relate to the theme of the open call?

FURY: E-Viction takes on Eyebeam’s challenge to build digital art technologies for a post-surveillance and post-gentrified internet. E-Viction is especially timely in the age of COVID-19 when in-person protests pose health risks but the internet lacks a public sphere. Sex workers realize this more acutely than most, as we are the canaries in the coal mines of internet censorship. We take seriously the call for democracy and accessibility by creating a space for those who are systematically excluded from internet platforms (sex workers) that at once resists/violates current internet regulations and imagines an internet that is otherwise.

TOM: My collaborators and I are working on a digital event entitled E-viction, a sort of online arthouse whore gallery that acts as a central hub of commerce as an act flagrant protest. COVID-19 has heightened a problem that’s already existed, which is the corporatization/privatization of the internet and the absence of a real, public sphere. In driving all labor online, sex workers need to carve out autonomous space of existence/celebration for themselves.

What does the future look like to you?

FURY: Creating a new world starts in the present, and the world I am working to build is one rooted in community practice: horizontal and ever-circulating exchanges of resources and care; experiences of self and other rooted in difference and the collective rather than identity and singularity; and a world in which we have the collective ability to determine the labor we engage in and tools we use to sustain ourselves and others. To build this world there must be no prisons, no police, no bosses, no borders.

FLUX: The future looks like an unrelenting dystopia. In my sex work and artwork, I am always trying to find a small pocket of autonomy and beauty within the systems of power that we live under. That little space of possibility is what I will defend and build on, with my co-conspirators.

What is your grounding ethos?

FURY: Effective, radical politics emerge from the point where empathy, magic, and difference meet.

FLUX: I do what feels real and good to me. Often, I break my own rules.

TOM: The entire world is contained within the words used to construct my agreements.