Words: Anna Tehabsim
Photography: Carlota Guerrero
Photo assistant: Fran Rios
The day of her birthday in 2017, María Forqué decided to take a naked stroll through Madrid. “I had never done it before,” Forqué says. But the adventure only lasted five minutes. “Because some people started shouting at me aggressively, like, 'Bitch!’ So I had to stop.”
Walking the streets of your hometown naked might be an unusual way to treat yourself, but Forqué doesn’t see it that way. By now, the musician and artist is used to public nudity, which has a deeper meaning in her work. In her time as a visual artist in New York, Forqué played with constructions of femininity and sexuality as a ‘living installation’ at galleries: suspended from the ceiling in Japanese shibari bondage rope; pouring fake blood over herself, often wearing nothing but heels.
Now reincarnated as Virgen María, she performs her high-intensity sound, a mix of holistic hardcore and ASMR she refers to as electronic dance meditation, perched on top of decks, covered by little more than a long cascade of hair. It’s certainly grabbing people’s attention. A$AP Rocky flew her out to DJ at New York fashion week, she’s performed at MoMA, sold out her show at Barcelona’s Razzmatazz, and even walked the runway for Vetements.
But for Forqué, public nudity is more than a provocative stunt. “Society dictates that being naked is bad, that you should be ashamed of your body,” she explains. “I suffered a lot when I was a teenager – I had eating disorders, I was very judged because of my body. So one day I decided to take my clothes off and express myself. This is my body, there's nothing sinful about it. It's powerful.”
As Virgen María, Forqué’s body is a temple – and it’s also God. Inspired by the Virgin Mary, the project is a heady blend of music, sex and spirituality. She claims to be 1,000 years old, and her tracks borrow from both rave sensibilities and meditation techniques to carry her message: she wants to “bless your sex”, or “blex” you. “For me Virgin Mary is a symbol of life, because she's like the mother of God. Sex is what creates life. There is nothing closer to God than that.”
This idea is taken to futuristic extremes in her visual world. On Instagram she’s a divine sexbot-meets-wellness guru, either working out (yoga and pole dancing), channelling some holy light, or contorting into impossible configurations like a digital art deity. One image features an extra breast superimposed on the middle of her chest, with all three nipples censored to comply with Instagram’s infamous guidelines. It's likely a pointed move: Forqué herself has been stung by the platform’s controversial rules before, having had her page deleted numerous times.
“When an app like Instagram bans you, it feels like you are a criminal and you have done nothing wrong,” she says. Forqué’s work could be seen as a clapback to the increasingly draconian landscape of online censorship in 2019, as the internet becomes a battleground for sexual freedoms. Tumblr recently banned all explicit content from its site; the US’ Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act continues to target consensual sex workers by clamping down on their online communities; and soon in the UK you’ll even need ID to watch porn – age checks are to be introduced on pornographic websites as part of the Digital Economy Act.
Sex-positive activists and sex workers are often at the sharp end of these changes, their voices buried deeper in the shadows in a society that commodifies sex one minute then vilifies it the next. “Censorship has been more and more extreme and people, mainly women, have to wake up and fight,” Forqué claims. “It's creating a movement.”
While not everyone’s sold on the gospel of Virgen María, Forqué does have a formidable crew of collaborators who are on the same page. She’s a fixture of the Spanish underground scene, where she initially formed her love for gabber and reggaeton as a teen. On Virgen María’s G.O.D EP, largely co-produced by perth Daijing of London’s Perth Records, a mix of gabber, trap and hardcore underpins her steps to tapping into a higher consciousness. “Each song is a journey, but it's danceable.” Like Yoga, which is “a yoga class in a song that puts you in a very meditative state.” According to Forqué, the music works its magic live. “In my sets, it's always a meditation with the people. I don't move, I'm like a statue. At first people just stare at me, they can't even dance. It's a mix of being a DJ and a theatre show, because people are listening, but they don't stop looking at me. It builds a very strong connection.”
Naturally, Forqué is a Hentai goddess in the EP’s artwork, created by surrealist photographer Filip Custic. Custic is one of her many high profile visual collaborators, including Barcelona photographer Carlota Guerrero, who chose to recreate Forqué’s fateful ‘birthday suit’ stroll for Crack Magazine’s photoshoot in Madrid. This time, “there were no eccentric reactions,” Forqué recalls. “Everyone was very accepting. Since I have started being naked in real life and on social media, a lot of people write [to] me: 'Seeing you naked made me feel more free.' Helping people to acknowledge that their body is nothing to be ashamed of is something that I'm really proud of.” After all, for Forqué, being naked is life at its most pure. “It’s nature, just like a flower.”
The G.O.D EP is due 26 April via Perth Records. Virgen María appears at Sónar Festival, Barcelona, 18-20 July