Artist: Christopher Radcliffe
COLLECTION: The Rubber Ball
My Rubber Ball images weren’t conceived recently. I am simply remembering what it was like when I ended up at a fetish party in London by accident.
It was 1998 and I was on the guest list for a "Trees for London” fund raising event, under the arches near Kings Cross. I was running late, so I jumped in a cab to save time. I wasn’t sure where the party was exactly, so I didn’t question the cabbie when he told me not to worry, because he’d been taking people to that location all night. When we arrived at the venue, I was completely blown away by all the beautiful dolly birds dressed in latex and leather. It was as if I’d died and gone to hell. I was curious, but uncertain about where I was, so I paid the cab fare and joined the back of the queue. It wasn’t long before everybody around me realised that I wasn’t into S&M. However, the bouncers agreed to let me stay for a while and I even got to wander inside for a quick nosey around. Mind you I had to buy a couple of expensive drinks for the two cockney girls from the queue and that’s when one of them said…
"It can often be difficult to get into a latex outfit and it feels like a second skin, all tight and oily. But if you love fetish parties and you’re really into kinky shit, then you should try it.”
Kinky shit? I’ll never forget that night.
The next morning, while my mind was in a drunken haze, I began to dream about kinky girls in rubber outfits and 8 inch high heels. But then all of a sudden I saw an MP walk into the frame, with a few other famous people off the television…then I began to laugh and giggle…and then I woke up. I spent the rest of the day telling everybody in my local pub all about my mad capers and how amazing the women in latex looked. Then I joked about how hilarious it would be to go to a Rubber Ball and see all of the world’s most powerful leaders in fetish gear…a kind of perversion of power or the power of perversion…you get my drift.
It was actually Brexit that inspired me to pick this up again and all the Donald Trump stuff…I mean, how could I resist? So I began to put the pieces together in 2016 and I still haven’t completed the series, as I can’t decide what outfit to put Boris in. I welcome any suggestions.
Any suggestion of power the world leaders might carry is subverted by the passivity of the shiny soft rubber and tightly stuffed bodysuits, which provide the viewer with a sense of submissiveness. This is a hidden side of world leaders that we never get to see. The title of the collection reinforces the reading of disempowerment: Rubber Ball, in the language of play, means soft and bouncy. The men are trapped by their femininity, only to be knocked around and dominated by the masculine skill of their mistresses and queen.
A lot of my work focuses on challenging gender stereotypes or political correctness through a play on satirical representation and tongue in cheek, specifically through the language and media of popular culture and comic books. The title of this collection suggests a lewd fetish night out or perhaps even a masculine victory in a sexual world war III context. But the characters expressions, their tight rubber forms and outrageous costumes provide a comic antithesis to the traditional idea of a political summit. If sexual femininity has been objectified, then it’s the process of objectification and both the comic and ridiculousness of the situation, which turns the object into something completely undesirable.