It was October when Lucy Sparrow exhibited Madame Roxy’s Erotic Emporium and it was back then when I visited it. Now listen, I am really embarrassing. Totally, totally, embarrassing and I don't like embarrassing myself. So do you know how I behaved when I visited Madame Roxy’s Erotic Emporium? That's right, I refused to make eye contact with anyone, hid my camera in the bottom of my bag and vomited in my mouth at the thought of asking Lucy Sparrow if I could take photos.
I am just the coolest, aren't I?
I did love Madame Roxy’s Emporium. It's felt! It's all so impressive and big. I love big artworks, I love big installations. (You all knew this though).
Madame Roxy’s Erotic Emporium was set up for a grand total of ten days, making those that did get to see it very lucky. Lucy Sparrow's first show, the felt corner shop made the public aware of her and her practice. When I visited Madame Roxy's I heard Sparrow discussing on the phone how although the corner shop was a success, the goal was always going to be a felt sex shop. It reminded me that we have to work up to things, that we have to explore other possibilities first at times.
The artwork discusses the gentrification of Soho, which is real and scary. Ten years ago now I made my first visit to the seedy backstreets of Soho and strip clubs on a Wednesday lunchtime instead of dutifully looking at art in the Tate Modern. (It was a college trip and 17 y/o me was a teenage anarchist, apparently). Ten years ago I felt seedy for saying I'd visited Soho, it felt just the right kind of naughty, a place where sex and our sexuality was celebrated.
Now, not so much.
Madame Roxy's raises so many starting points for discussions on sex, porn, how we relate to these things and sex work. When someone finds a nipple offensive we have to question how we're relating to each others and our own bodies.
In an article Lucy Sparrow draws parallels with artists and sex workers in a quote which resonates with me deeply:-
"To be honest, I thought nothing of going on stage naked and dancing—but the fear that courses through me on the opening night of an exhibition is immense. That's when you're really naked and vulnerable."
I have never danced naked on a stage, but if I think of doing that verses opening a solo show I'd be taking my clothes off before you had time to blink. Whilst at university I did exhibit a photo of yours truly naked, and it wasn't the (possible) critic of my body that had me in palpitations. Sparrow's felt sex shop demonstrates that we need spaces, safe spaces where we can explore parts of ourselves, be it through art or through sex or a conglomeration of the two.
With the ideas of gentrification and regeneration on my mind I can't help but think back to Madame Roxy's, I can't help but think about how art encourages us to be aware of issues we may of previously glossed over. I am thankful that there are artists out there such as Lucy Sparrow and many others raising awareness of these issues and creating super art in the process.