Naked except for a hood over my head, I crawl across the floor. Spiked fingernails run down my exposed back and a hand slaps my ass. “Sit,” she commands and I obey. “Are you thirsty?” Yesss. She peels back the hood so that I can see her figure tower over me as she drinks from a water bottle. Her dark purple lips dribble the water onto my mouth. I choke instead of swallow. Her light laughter fills the dungeon as my cheeks heat up with embarrassment.
I am here for an exchange with professional dominatrix and artist Kim Ye. We have agreed that I will trade a piece of my art for this experience of being dominated in her dungeon. The exchange is part of a larger project Kim calls Shared Value in which she invites artists to trade their work for sessions of fantasy fulfillment with her. As a performance artist, I trade Kim the video and relics of a performance I call ‘Vaginapop for Kim Ye.’ I leave her dungeon covered in candle wax droplets and exuberant about my acquisition of a professional dominatrix session.
Kim is an artist whose provocative performances, sensual videos, and latex sculptures have intrigued me since I became familiar with her work in 2014. The eroticism in her art, she tells me, is often inspired from her job as a professional dominatrix. While her art may come off as extreme, Kim hopes to put eroticism in normative terms and show that BDSM can be ordinary. For those unfamiliar with this profession, a dominatrix provides her clients with the unorthodox and often masochistic sensations they desire. The sessions Kim creates for her clients involve role-play, fetish play, medical play, bondage, whips, toilet play, the list goes on. Though technically classified as sex work, a dominatrix does not have sex with clients. They come to her with a desire to be submissive and have a powerful female dominate them physically and psychologically.
Kim in her art studio with another Kim she made
Not all of the fantasy fulfillments that artists requested from Kim were BDSM oriented—many sessions took place outside of the dungeon. One artist, she tells me, wanted her to sit with them in traffic. Kim put all the paintings, sculptures, and other art objects that she acquired through these trades in her show Shared Value at Visitor Welcome Center from July 30th to September 3rd.
Kim explores tickle torture with Laub as part of their exchange at the opening of Shared Value at Visitor Welcome Center
This project approaches art dispersion in a unique non-capitalist fashion. Kim acquired a small collection of art without the exchange of money, using instead her ability to fulfill others’ desires through non-monetary routes. David Bell, who runs Visitor Welcome Center, and Kim worked together to acquire and hang a show of work not for sale. This nonchalant dismissal of the market-based art world is refreshing and soft spoken.
Kim and Long Long (Thinh Nguyen) collaborate at the Visitor Welcome Center
Kim flogs a willing gallery visitor at the final Shared Value open event
Kim has created an irregular framework for the movement of art, and it is this procedure that becomes her practice. Kim is interested in using rules to create structure in which people are comfortable to let down their guard. Kim tells me that Shared Value was a practice in honest communication with both the artists she worked with and David. This project, like much of her recent work, lies in the realm of ‘relational aesthetics.’ She negotiates infrastructure with others in which discussions and actions unfold. It is the way that these relationships happen that becomes her work. She ascribes aesthetics to human interactions, asking us to consider them on a higher level. We can experience this work in a multitude of ways. A viewer comes to the gallery and sees the works of other artists and the list of their names on the wall, and learns about her process. Artists engage directly with Kim to negotiate trades of their work for sessions of fantasy fulfillment. People attend the events Kim held at The Visitor Welcome Center throughout the month of the show that were open to public participation. Some will only experience it through reading this article.
I ask Kim who her role models are. She says it is the people around her that inspire and influence her. Shared Value gave her the opportunity to connect with many artists and to form real relationships. Kim uses her practice to connect with people, and to build an open community around the work. This direct contact is exciting in the often ambiguous world of contemporary art.
For more information on Kim Ye check out: kimye.com
By: Lara Salmon