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Zahra Zsuzsanna Stardust is an Australian artist and scholar who writes and practices in explorations of the body, pleasure and labour. Using her body as a canvas, her work examines sexuality, gender and regulation. Her award-winning films and shows have been screened, exhibited, workshopped and performed across several continents, and her writing appears in academic books and journals.
Zahra's doctoral research examines the legal regulation of pornography in Australia, the emergence of alternative pornographies as a social protest and political movement, and the implications of criminalizing non-normative intimacies. This follows on from her Masters research into conventions and counter-practices among erotic performers.
Zahra's most recent work is published in peer-reviewed journals Porn Studies, Research for Sex Work and World Journal of AIDS, and edited anthologies Queer Sex Work, Coming Out Like a Porn Star: Essays on Pornography, Protection and Privacy, and The DIY Porn Handbook: Documenting Our Own Sexual Revolutions (forthcoming).
She has spoken at conferences such as the International Bar Association (Tokyo), Sexual Cultures (Brunel University), Erotic Screen and Sound (Griffith University), Trans/Forming Feminisms (University of Otago) and the Feminist Porn Conference (University of Toronto), and has guest lectured or presented at the University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, University of Technology, Curtin University and University of Queensland.
Over the past decade Zahra has worked in policy and research capacities on human rights projects for NGOs, community organisations, academic institutions, corporate law firms and United Nations bodies, in Australia and internationally.
During this time she worked in areas of HIV prevention, health promotion, safe migration, anti-discrimination, LGBTIQA+ rights, sexual and reproductive health, gendered violence, sexual assault, refugee status determination, homelessness, stolen wages and native title.
Renowned for her artistic, provocative and political films, Zahra’s work playfully engages with authenticity, performativity, stereotype, censorship and sexual labour. As both a performer and director, she has appeared on festival juries and her films have screened in Berlin, Paris, Vienna, Zurich, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, New York, San Francisco and Toronto.
Appearing on panels in Canada, Netherlands, Germany and Australia, Zahra has spoken in discussion with industry professionals about stigmatised labour, women in film, community building, obscenity law, capitalism and sexual representation.
She delivers radical sex education workshops in collaboration with colleagues and has featured in numerous magazine covers and centrefolds.
With a literal body of work that spans performance, photography, print, installation and mixed-media, Zahra is interested in body fluids, spillage and social commentary. Her art vacillates between a playful engagement with stereotype and striptease culture, to raw, vulnerable and intimate accounts of stigma, burnout and self-care.
Zahra has been part of projects that speak to human rights, gentrification, politics, documenting community, queering the maternal, and capturing bodily diversity. She has spoken on artist panels and at exhibition openings and enjoys creating work that is participatory and interactive.