SPEAKING TO LAS VEGAS IN THE LANGAGE OF LAS VEGAS
For this piece, I chose to mimic an everyday activity on the Las Vegas Strip – I recreated the act of passing out “Hooker cards”, the advertisements for illegal prostitution that are distributed on the Las Vegas Strip. I created my own hooker cards, rented a truck with a banner advertising my phone number and website, and hired workers to give out my cards to passerby.
In this action, the decision was made to illustrate key differences between the authentic activity on the Strip and the one created for this project: the depictions of available sex workers were illustrated, not photographed; the “card flippers” were Caucasians instead of Hispanic day laborers; actual sex workers were depicted on the cards instead of using appropriated pornography. Beyond the experience on the Strip, when a participant utilizes the telephone number/website advertised, they are invited to reverse the traditional interaction between sex worker and client by listening to interviews with the women featured on the cards.
These collections are my way of categorizing the areas of desire in Las Vegas. Hooker cards are passed out in both private and public spaces. In the public space of the Las Vegas Strip, the cards are mostly false representations of sex workers – appropriated or stolen pornography with fake names, nipples and vaginas barely covered by Photoshopped-on stars. The phone numbers and website addresses give the impression that there are hundreds of agencies operating in Vegas, when in fact there are less than a dozen.
The cards passed out in the private spaces (such as taxicabs) are different – removed from the restrictions of public view, the cards tend to represent sexual desires not apparent on the Strip. Ethnicity as fetish, erotic desires outside of the mainstream, real sex workers pictured without the stars as a barrier to access.
PLEASE WALK A MILE IN MY SHOES
In February 2009, the Las Vegas Review Journal published a front page story on the “50 Most Prolific Prostitutes in Las Vegas”, illustrating the story with the mug shots of 24 women who had been arrested for “trespassing” at the Strip casinos. “Trespassing” is the Las Vegas Metro Police Dept. default charge when they do not have an actionable case, but wish to remove an individual from the Strip. Casinos know that hookers operate on the premises, and often will invite sex workers to VIP rooms and suites to be available for “whales” or important customers. The issue is not that these women were prostitutes, it’s that they were the wrong prostitutes.
These women were not charged with or convicted of prostitution, but the newspaper had no problem with publishing their personal information on the front page, along with their photos. I have decided to be more circumspect with their right to privacy, and added the black bars before including them.