Objects of Desire in Berlin

Objects of Desire (OoD) is a collaborative project led by sex workers, anthropologists and artists, which pairs an on-going online archive of sex workers’ artefacts with exhibitions of object-based narratives in different cities worldwide. Following the success of our critically acclaimed London debut, in August 2016, we are holding an exhibition at the Schwules Museum from 7 March - 1 June 2019.

We have obtained grant funding from Open Society Foundation, but are now seeking additional support in order to throw a closing party to raise money for other sex work organisations and to cover material budgets and working fees for artists we have invited to respond to the exhibition with creative interventions.

In exploring sex work through object biographies, OoD challenges stereotypes that dominate popular discourse around sex work. In focusing on the personal stories of sex workers and the physical objects involved in those stories, OoD aims to shift conversation from that which centres on the objectification of people to that which explores the social relations of sex work via object-centred narratives. This facilitates an understanding of the everyday practice of sex work as work.

Drawing on well-established practices of object elicited interviews in material culture anthropology, we have conducted over 30 interviews with sex workers in Berlin about objects that hold significance to them in relation to their work. All objects were selected by the participants, and as such, they have personal and relatable meanings, laying bare the intimate stories of relations with clients, other workers, family, partners, the law and the work itself. The objects range from the erotic to the mundane, from the everyday to the bizarre.

Such stories are vital in broadening conversations about sex work, steering them away from abstractions and one-dimensional stereotypes at a time when sex worker organisations worldwide continue to fight for decriminalisation as the best model to secure their rights and working conditions. This is particularly important in the contemporary moment, as debates around these issues – not to mention legislative efforts – often exclude sex workers’ voices.

The objects, along with accompanying stories in workers own words will be presented in our upcoming exhibition at the Schwules Museum. Objects collected so far include a natal chart, porcelain cups, and a bike used by one worker to cycle in high heels to every booking. 

Further to presenting objects, the exhibition serves as a platform for showing the work of sex workers who are also artists. Following an open call for artworks, we have selected seven artists to take part in the exhibition. Their works range from sculpture, to performance pieces, to visual installations. We will use the money from this crowdfund to cover the working fees and budgets for the realisation of these artworks. 

Another portion of the money raised will be used to throw a closing party for the exhibition, which coincides with International Sex Workers Day on June 2. The party will include performances and a closing ritual to end the exhibition, and will raise money for other sex worker rights organizations. 

Thank you for your support! 



“It’s the stories behind the objects that make the exhibition so powerful.” – TimeOut

https://www.timeout.com/london/things-to-do/objects-of-desire-1

“A vital show” – Organ Thing

https://organthing.com/2016/08/10/organ-thing-objects-of-desire-at-red-gallery-a-brilliantly-human-show/

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Organizer

Rori Dior 
Organizer
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