If you’ve been on Instagram at all in the last year, you’ve seen the name @scientwehst—and if you haven’t, well, I’m not really sure what to say. Mixing pornography and architecture, the 27-year-old artist, whose real name is Giulia Marsico, makes feminist digital collages that are equally subversive and sarcastic. Through her work, the Brookyln-based Marsico explores censorship and sexual identity in the internet age, using female nudity (and a little bit of cheekiness) to redefine the male gaze. Though her pieces aren’t technically NSFW, they keep getting deleted from Instagram. So even beyond their sex positive ethos and reclamation of the female form, it’s just the fact that she’s doing them, that makes her work radical. And duh, we’re into it.
BULLETT caught up with the artist to talk social media and sexuality, both online and IRL. Read our interview and view an exclusive series, below.
Describe your work. What inspires it?
I started creating my collages in response to censorship on social media. So, in a way, social media has ‘inspired’ me to create my work—not in an extraordinary or fantastical way, but in a ‘This is insane, and fuck you.’
What themes do you like to explore?
Mainly the exploration of censorship with a focus on social media, but also female sexuality and subverting the male gaze.
Do you consider your work feminist?
I consider myself a feminist, so yeah, my work is, too.
How’d you get into collage?
Everyone at some point has created a weird paper collage, old-school style with Elmer’s glue and shitty magazines—I was so terrible at it. But I started working digitally back in college after I took some Photoshop classes. The first collage I created was for a class assignment, a really stupid project by the way—I think it was cutting Obama out of a picture and pasting him onto a new doc with Michelle. But for some reason, I felt liberated and working in Photoshop really clicked with me. I was like, ‘Holy shit, I can literally create anything I want.’
What do you get out of this medium that you don’t get out of other, more traditional mediums, like painting or photography?
Probably convenience. All I need is WiFi, my computer and a place to sit. I can be anywhere and work without having to go into a studio or be on set. However, it’s difficult to look at pornographic content in public without shifty eyes.
How do you find the images you use?
It’s really similar to how you would do paper collages, just digitally. Usually, I have an idea of what type of architecture I’m looking for, then I’ll type in keywords and scroll around until I find something striking. Depending on the overlaying image, I’ll look up specific categories for body positions, race and body shapes. It’s difficult because the overlaying architectural image determines the body positioning I need. I try and keep it balanced but it can be difficult. My goal for the future is to save enough money to produce a project where I can hire models to pose for my work, or have someone take photos of me—that way, I’ll have more creative control.
Your art is part of a new wave of sex-positive, feminist art, a lot of which has gained popularity through Instagram. Is there something specific about the platform that makes women feel more comfortable sharing their work?
Instagram is not a safe space for sex-positive, feminist artists to share work—we do not feel comfortable sharing it on this platform. In fact, we’re on high alert, waiting for our posts to be removed or our account deleted—it’s happened to almost every sex-positive feminist artist I know! This is because we don’t fit their mold—a.k.a. their ‘guidelines’—and we’re seen as a threat, so they want us to feel shame toward our sexual liberation. I think the only comfort I have is the solidarity between me and other like-minded artists/people—knowing that someone else understands.
Seeing as though Instagram constantly censors it, why do you think more feminist art has gotten so popular over the last few years?
Feminist art has always been around and has always been important. But I think it has a lot to do with the advent of social media and the internet. Social media makes it incredibly easy to share others work and spark conversations. Also, art that lives mostly online isn’t controlled by institutions, so expression is more fluid.
Would you call your work ‘digital art?’ There’s a lot of biases and misconceptions in the art world about ‘internet art.’ Why do you think that is?
I think artists get defensive and protective over their work and practice, and I don’t blame them—art can be very personal. But to be honest, I haven’t been following this conversation at all. I’m sort of unconventional when it comes to occupying the art space—I never had formal training, I never actively read art news, I never went to art school, I don’t even consider this my career. If my work is sparking important conversations, good. If it’s contributing to a bigger dialogue, good. I’m not too concerned with semantics—they don’t really cross my mind.
Your work is fascinating for so many reasons, one of which is the way you’re able to simultaneously desexualize the naked female body, while also sexualizing inanimate objects, like a staircase. How does that work?
At first glance, I think people see something explicit—especially men. Men see a naked woman, posing for them. But after taking a few seconds to digest, they realize they have totally sexualized an inanimate object, like The Iglesia de San Pedro church or Florida Polytechnic University, which I find hilarious and quite productive when working against the male gaze.
Why do you focus so heavily on nudity? Is there a reason behind it?
Besides the fact that we can’t show nudity on Instagram, I have such a strong appreciation for the human body—I just think it’s so beautiful, especially a woman’s body.
You describe your work as ‘brazenly feminine.’ What does that mean to you?
I think it takes a lot of guts as women, even today, to create art based on our bodies and our sexuality. Erotic art from a woman’s perspective makes people uncomfortable—when women talk about nudity or sex, it makes people uncomfortable. To be ‘brazenly feminine’ is to be an unapologetic woman who is unabashed in her sexuality—I strive to embody that in my work and my personal life.