Artist EKATERINA BAZNEHOVA Brings a Female Gaze to Bondage with Her Videos for FLEET ILYA

Made in collaboration between Central Saint Martins alumnus Resha Sharma and designer/trained saddle-maker Ilya Fleet, FLEET ILYA is well-crafted bondage wear that takes itself seriously. Rather than gentle “bondage-style” fashion replicas, the brand designs real restraints made for play. Their cuffs, collars, and harnesses are fetish done the way it should be: high quality, tactile, solid, and made for evoking dirty thoughts.

Multimedia artist—and master of unconventional eroticism—EKATERINA BAZNEHOVA was a perfect match for the harness-makers. Shooting for magazines like Pop, Husk, and Interview, she often uses deliberately unbalanced composition and blurred portraits to achieve a delirious effect. Working with video, she loves borrowing audio from feature films as it can engender an unpredictable emotional encounter when words meet image. Her work is filled with feelings of distance. It operates in the headspace of desire, through the wickedness and uncertainty of foreplay.

In part two of her three video series from Fleet Ilya, Bazhenova explores how desire manifests itself in the private and public spheres. Bondage footage from inside an apartment is coupled with audio from David Cronenberg’s cult classic Videodrome in which two characters discuss the politics of sexuality in mass media. The video is voyeuristic, but the subject is free from shame. Bazhenova’s girls are always objects and subjects in one. Her heroine is fastening her restraints with her own hands. Submission has become an act of empowerment.

ANASTASIIA FEDOROVA spoke with Baznehova about her recent series of videos for Fleet Ilya:

Video still from EKATERINA BAZNEHOVA x FLEET ILYA (Part 2)

Video still from EKATERINA BAZNEHOVA x FLEET ILYA (Part 2)

What was the initial idea behind the collaboration?

I wanted to show my perspective of how these pieces by Fleet Ilya work with female body and how they could be applied in real life. Ideally, I would like the viewer to experience the sound and the smell of the pieces as well, but unfortunately video has its limitations, so I had to create a simulation.

Bondage comes with a good deal of visual clichés. Was there anything you tried to avoid?

My intention was to not make it look sexual, especially sexual from a man’s point of view. The design is already really masculine, powerful, and restrictive, so I wanted the model to put all the pieces on by herself, the way she wanted to wear it, to feel comfortable with it.

As a woman making erotic videos, do you have a special approach to your female subjects?

I think aesthetically my videos are not that pleasing from a male perspective. It’s really close up, the body is not perfect, the skin is how it is. I find it beautiful, but it’s probably not that aesthetically pleasing for men who are used to the glossy magazine standards of beauty. Men are used to images of perfect women, but they have no clue what it takes to be perfect.

How do you make the models look less like objects and more empowered?   

I try to observe and study every model I choose. I probably treat their body as an object, because it’s a very material thing. But even though you don’t see her face, or know her name, it’s still very much her. All the things girls do in my videos, they do it for themselves.

Video still from EKATERINA BAZNEHOVA x FLEET ILYA (Part 2)

Video still from EKATERINA BAZNEHOVA x FLEET ILYA (Part 2)

The Fleet Ilya pieces in your video look very solid, almost like sculptures. Was that intentional?

Yes, absolutely. Ilya’s objects are very 3D, he always draws inspiration from sculptures, and his father was a sculptor. From the very beginning, I focused on pieces for ankles, wrists, and waist—to add additional volume, highlight the outline of the body, and create this new collaborative shape.

As a voiceover you used an extract from Videodrome by David Cronenberg.  Did you have it in mind from the beginning?

I was obsessed with it from the very beginning when I started working on those videos. I adore Cronenberg in general, and Videodrome is a really personal film for me, as it was released the year I was born, 1983. I believe it predicted the Internet, the situation when you can find anything and watch it easily without any shame. If I showed this video in a gallery, I’m sure hardly anyone from the male audience would be comfortable with it, but watching it on your screen involves no shame. Anything could happen on the screen these days and we have no feelings about it.

For more information on their new collection, visit Fleet Ilya’s website.

Bondage 1
David Cronenberg
Ekaterina Beznahova
Fleet Ilya
Video 12