Victoria Catalina is a 2016 Dublin C4AA Art Action Academy Alumni, and continues to work on sex worker rights through her art and design (above and throughout), photo of Catalina by J. Roy.

How did your story begin as an artistic activist?

While studying communication design at Design Academy Eindhoven I was encouraged to create art around my own interests, so I often did projects which tied in with activist and feminist themes. Having danced in strip clubs I wanted to challenge the stigma held against people in the sex industry. For my graduation project I made a short film that focused on the practical work aspects of the window brothels in Amsterdam. Through that I came in contact with more activists, and the Dutch sex workers union PROUD, for whom I now do creative work. Since then I’ve primarily been working as a graphic designer and illustrator, and I often go back to sex worker rights and other activist themes in personal and commercial projects. This is a recent animation I made with Migle Nevieraite for P&G292, a health organization for sex workers in Amsterdam.

Do you find yourself using what you’ve learned from C4AA’s workshop?

One of the most important things I learned is not to overthink too much, things do not have to be fully planned out in order to have impact. During the workshop we had two days to plan and execute an action. It was so chaotic in the beginning and I had no idea how it would all come together but it did, and we managed to interact with a lot of people from the public who otherwise wouldn’t hear anything about sex worker rights.

What is a specific project that you’ve done that you thought was particularly successful, or a grand failure?

A grand failure: During an internship at a women’s rights organisation in Amsterdam we tried to get money to execute a project through crowdfunding. We put in a lot of hours planning and executing the crowdfunding campaign, but we looked more at what we thought a crowdfunding campaign “should” look like even though it didn’t reflect the project or the organisation. So in the end we not only didn’t get the funds needed, but we also didn’t really enjoy ourselves. After this “failure” we revised the project a bit so that we needed less funds, and tried other ways to get money. We organised an auction which ended up being more like a party and managed to draw more people and money than we did though the online campaign. And we actually had fun doing it.

I know an action is successful if it seems to resonate with the people I’m trying to reach. If the results lead to something new, if it puts me in contact with people that I can collaborate with, and learn something from.

 

What advice would you give someone who has been a traditional artist or activist who wants to get into artistic activism?

I don’t think there is a clear line between the three, so much of traditional art has an activist message. So much of activism uses creative ways to reach people. So my advice would be: look at what you’re already doing and how you can tweak it in order to reach new audiences.

And remember…

It’s always dark and troubling somewhere. People still find ways, however small, of resisting oppression, and use their creativity when doing so.

What are you working on now?

Together with Emy Fem (a sex worker activist and performance artist I met during the C4AA workshop) I am working on a zine where we are collecting personal texts and photos made by sex workers. Last year we held a set of creative workshops for sex workers, and a short film created by one of the participants will be show this October at the Porn Film Festival in Berlin and we want to release the zine in conjunction with that. After that we would love to collect more material which could be made into a book. And I’d love to do more collaborations, you can find me via victoriacatalina.com.

Vera and Chloe from the Sex Workers Opera in T-shirts Catalina designed for PROUD.

 

One day my Utopia will have…

Museums full of femme art (looks fantastic), friendly covens in every neighbourhood (feels welcoming), free health care, housing and pizza for all (smells delicious), harm reduction instead of criminalisation, sex work is decriminalised, gender norms smashed, and straight white cis-men don’t complain after losing all their privileges (sounds great).

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