Channel 4 describes Viktoria Modesta as “inspiring, unique and very hot” with “a difference that sets her apart from the idealised form of a pop artist”. Gemma Varnom asks, can a disabled performer only be noticed or valued if her performance centres on her apparent otherness?
During an ad break in last Sunday’s X Factor final, just after Ben Haenow had flashed his best spaniel-eyes at the camera and reminded us what a normal bloke he is for the 84th time, our screens were apparently “invaded” by Channel 4’s BornRisky initiative.
“Forget what you know about disability,” the blurb in the build-up said. (This, for me as a disabled person, would take a bit longer than your average ITV ad break, but then I am not really the target audience.)
There followed a promo for ‘Prototype’ by Viktoria Modesta, “the world’s first bionic pop artist” and BornRisky collaborator. Modesta, a DJ, model and multimedia performance artist who chose to undertake a below-the-knee amputation at the age of 20, has, according to her website, “a mission of establishing new ideals in the media concerning sexuality and disability”.
In the full-length video, Modesta strides around in several impressive creations from The Alternative Limb Project — including a striking knee-high black spike — as she uses her difference to overthrow a totalitarian regime. A young girl watches a cartoon Viktoria on TV and, enraptured, tears the leg off her doll. A ‘VM’ symbol gives hope to the oppressed. She is subversion. She is defiance. She is the face (and body) of the revolution…
Viktoria Modesta stands on her bionic leg (left) with her right leg bent to the side and a black ballet show on her foot. She wears a black ruffled net/tutu and black mask. Promotional image for ‘Prototype’ single and BornRisky campaign. Red background. Taken from the Viktoria Modesta website. Shared under fair dealing.