October 2018 Imagine if Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were lovers, or if Henry Kissinger was engaged to Angola’s minister of petroleum, or if Jimmy Carter was a high-heeled lover to an Arabian oil politician. Well, stop imagining it because it’s stickily real in Sheida Soleimani’s photographs and videos.
The Iranian-American artist casts actors as pivotal figures in the international oil trade. Wearing masks of notable politicians, they spank, screw and stroke each other in a greedy quest for the ultimate orgasmic high: profit.
Soleimani’s metaphors aren’t subtle. International trade relationships are reimagined as abusive sexual interactions, football and mineral companies are chips to be traded. Sure, there’s a part of you that worries that homosexuality is used as a punchline here but she’s used queer actors of all shapes and colours to help deal with that. And despite all the copulation going on, it’s not hard to see that the only characters really getting screwed aren’t in shot at all: it’s the populations being humped to death by corrupt, greedy governments.
A tent in the middle of the space houses a video showing more of the same idea: oily hands playing snap with cards emblazoned with military figures, their faces getting ever more obscured by the oil.
For all the high-flash, digi-collage, hyper-lols of Soleimani’s aesthetic, this is actually potently angry, cynical, confrontational art. Soleimani is hollering her viewers awake with shock, silliness and bare-breasted bravado. It’s kinky and stupid, but also very, very serious. Soleimani is railing against corruption, subjugation and the failures of capitalism. Basically, she’s pulling out your ball gag and taking off your latex blindfold.