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Strip: That’s not sexy at all!

Yoshie Sakai, Strip (2008), Single-channel video, 3 minutes 33 seconds

Strip: That’s not sexy at all!

Artist Yoshie Sakai confronts our desire for approval by submitting her sexy dance video to a strip club DJ for his critique. She ends up finding empowerment through unlikely means.

Strip (2008) is a humorous and somewhat painful look at one’s anxiety of self-perception and body image and the desire for approval from someone, anyone, whether it be from a D.J. at a strip club (literally) or society in general. In this video the newbie stripper performs to a cheesy strip song while a male’s voice critiques the performance. The critique stands in for the voices in one’s head that act as a constant reminder of one’s own perceived shortcomings. However, the stripper remains triumphant by not catering to the expectations and judgments of others out of fear.

LSB’s conversation with artist Yoshie Sakai

LSB:  Hi Yoshie. I really love this video and especially the seriousness of the dude’s voice. From watching it, I’m guessing that you made the video in private and then showed it to someone who works at a strip club who critiqued it in earnest? I’m so curious about how you got in touch with the dude, how you framed the project to him to get him to participate, and how that whole interaction went down.

Yoshie: Yes, yes, you are correct…. I made the video and recorded the DJ at Sam’s Hofbrau commenting on my performance as I showed him the video. He was critiquing it but I told him he could be as harsh as he wanted, because I think he was holding back in the beginning. The process was really simple: I just called the strip club and told them I am looking for someone to critique my strip performance and I got transferred to the DJ. We arranged a time to meet, and I waited for him after his shift one night and sat in his car as he critiqued my performance. It was really straightforward. I tried another strip club first, but they just looked at me like I was crazy, so I tried Sam’s Hofbrau. For some reason I knew about it because they have a good buffet!

I made this when I was in grad school for my MFA thesis installation. At that time, I was addressing and dealing pretty directly with body image/self-perception based on expectations of the mainstream, mass media, and etc. I still feel like my work deals with expectations of different kinds and from varying sources but it was more specifically about the female body before.

LSB: I love hearing that this piece resulted from you dealing directly with issues of body image and self-perception based on mainstream depictions of the “female form”. Instead of trying to avoid situations where you would be confronted with society’s judgement of your body, you sought them out instead–a powerful way to face your fears. I wonder how the making/viewing of this video affected your perception of your body.  What did it feel like to hear the guy’s critique as you played him the video? What did it feel like to have the final piece exhibited in a public space that was also your thesis?

Yoshie: I’m not sure if I remember him making a direct critique on my body but more about my outfit and dance/pole performance….so maybe that’s why I didn’t feel bad. I think regardless of what he said, I had already made up my mind about my how I feel and how I look in the eyes of others. That’s the reason the stripper just kind of looks straight ahead, not seeming to care. It’s from the years of whatever that has been etched in my brain from the media, and from personal comments from “friends” and ex-partners.

In terms of having my final piece exhibited in a public space that was my thesis, I projected it on the wall through some crystal beads. I felt very empowered that it was presented so large, and it allowed me to make a statement through the stripper.

In the ten years since I made this piece, I feel like the underlying concept of my work is still the same: exploring public and private expectations around body image/self-perception, and the inability to meet them. It is about the struggle but also being able to see the painful humor in them. I still feel like I am interested in the same thing, but am continually refining my language through making the work.

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Yoshie Sakai is a multidisciplinary artist (video, installation, performance, and sculpture) living and working in Gardena, a city southwest of Los Angeles. She attended the ACRE Residency Program (2016), the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2014), and received the 2012 California Community Foundation for Visual Artists Emerging Artist Fellowship. Her work has been shown throughout the United States in film festivals and art exhibitions from Los Angeles to Miami, as well as internationally in Cambodia, Canada, and Japan. She received her BFA from California State University Long Beach and her MFA from Claremont Graduate University.

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