Photography and Feminism (here we go again)

If there’s one thing different kinds of feminism can agree upon is their will to “empower women”. But, that’s it; once we get started on the meaning of that “empowerment” the apparent cohesion starts to fall apart.

Some co-called feminists think about themselves in such a way because they applaud and promote women’s confidence towards their body. Maybe these so-called feminists go so far as to actively participate in helping certain women feel good “in their own skin”. I can see the importance of this, of course. No man will ever understand what it is to grow up surrounded by beauty stereotypes and how much it can impact your self-esteem – it’s the models in the magazines, the actresses on film, the pop stars and the barbie look, the tv hostesses, the female porn actresses and their big breasts. It’s overwhelming. Some people will consider that empowering women by helping them feel beautiful and sexy is to be a feminist. And, yes, I disagree 100%. I guess what makes this question so problematic is that one easily looses sight of what the feminist struggle is about and although it can be a lot of different things, what it must definitely is not is an individualist struggle that promotes cliches about the importance of owning one’s own sexuality. Feminism is always about the collective. It really can’t be any different. We fight for equality and my victories and losses will have a direct impact on other women and vice-versa.

Feminism is about inclusion, about gaining back women’s parity (yes, in the so called primitive era things were different, and not everything was worst). For that and many other reasons, in its core to be a feminist is to be anti-capitalist, for, in itself, capitalism promotes an economic treatment of everything and everyone and we know how women rank in that economy… (my) Feminism starts by questioning the dynamics of a society that is built upon a patriarchy. Classes, in such a society, will only survive if women continue to agree to be part of a specific sexual dynamic, namely a monogamist one, in which the man is usually the owner (of land and so forth). It’s understandable that these so-called feminist movements who empower women by helping them feel sexy forget that the very idea of what constitutes “sexy” is the doing of men: men who are stylists, men who work in advertisement, men who are writers, men who are directors, men who are photographers, etc. For many years these men have been responsible for objectifying women’s bodies, to a point that women now fail to understand what that objectification is like. One argument is recurrent in this discussion, namely that if women are in control of their body, one shouldn’t speak about objectification, but empowerment. I’m surprised how we still fall for such a false debate, for the question is definitely more complicated. How can one judge other’s information, knowledge, awareness or conscious in order to decide whether they are or are not in control of their bodies? And how do we then deal with sexual abuse if the “victim” is under-aged and willingly goes to her abuser? Recently, in Portugal, I came across a story in the newspaper about a 13 year old girl who went missing from her family for a week and was then found in a house with a sexual offender. They apparently met online, he seduced her and she went to him. He had done that before, meaning he has already abused young women. What is chocking in this story is that  99% of the online trolls were saying that this man had committed no crime, for she went to him of “her own free will”, because young girls “are not as naive as we think”, because “they know what they’re doing”. See the problem?

We could talk about Hollywood, how Scorsese has a lifetime of denigrating women on screen and still everyone loves him; or how the entertainment community legitimates sexual harassment, but what I think could help shine a light on this dilemma is if we consider the roles some women have been playing on screen and how off screen they consider themselves to be feminists, in the context of that very same idea of empowerment we were talking about – because they’re independent, they’re successful, they’re comfortable in their bodies and in control of their sexuality so on. If a female actress spends her years giving life to characters who are treated as objects in a men’s world, could we really consider such actress to be a feminist in her off-screen life? It’s not a tricky question, the answer is a clear no. The promotion of such dynamics between men and women not only legitimate the sort of abusive relations that describe this era of capitalism, but they also infect visual culture in a very profound way. In fact, one shouldn’t be surprised if a younger generation who only watches american entertainment (be it movies or tv series) had a completely distorted notion about what sex is like. For americans, apparently, it’s about 1 minute in bed and the man reaching an orgasm. The consequences of such a misogynist representation of sexual intimacy is unimaginable. Hopefully they’re still watching some “good porn”.

Often, when one discusses “the empowerment of women” one also comes across expressions such as “strong” and/or “fearless“. What these adjectives hide is that in the process of becoming “strong” and “fearless” one usually compromises one’s own femininity, in order to “be more like a man”, but with a skirt and preferably wearing high heels. There’s even a page on facebook called “Project strong Woman”. As expected, it is about empowering women to become their better selves and then go out and celebrate.

To avoid becoming any more cynical, here’s a photographic approach that challenges the very idea of “the male gaze”.

© Petra Collins, from the project ‘The Teenage Gaze’, 2010-2015.
© Petra Collins, from the project ‘The Teenage Gaze’, 2010-2015.
© Petra Collins, from the project ‘The Teenage Gaze’, 2010-2015.
© Petra Collins, from the project ‘The Teenage Gaze’, 2010-2015.
© Petra Collins, from the project ‘The Teenage Gaze’, 2010-2015.
© Petra Collins, from the project ‘The Teenage Gaze’, 2010-2015.
© Petra Collins, from the project ‘The Teenage Gaze’, 2010-2015.
© Petra Collins, from the project ‘The Teenage Gaze’, 2010-2015.
© Petra Collins, from the project ‘The Teenage Gaze’, 2010-2015.
© Petra Collins, from the project ‘The Teenage Gaze’, 2010-2015.

I once wished I was a man

Yesterday was a special date for all women out there. It’s not a day to celebrate, but to remember where our ancestors once were and how we still need to be active and assume our daily battles in a men’s world. In very different measures, but a bit all over the world, women have to fight their way through life. Whether it’s because we want to have a voice, as citizens, or if we want to be treated fairly, in our work places, we have it much harder than men. There’s a lot one can do in our daily lives that has an impact on a bigger level, namely a public and political one: how we respond to an authoritarian father, for example; how we deal with our male colleagues and bosses at work; how we split tasks with our partners (in case we’re talking about heterosexual patterns), etc. There’s a lot women can do, but they need to keep at it every day of the year and, sometimes, it’s exhausting. 

There are some days one shouldn’t leave the house. I’m sure you all know the feeling. The 8th of March is becoming one of those days for me. Everywhere one goes there’s someone denigrating the meaning of the feminist struggle: either offering you roses, giving you coupons to buy make-up or perfumes, “celebrating” women. It just makes me crazy angry. I can’t see the news, for the same is happening everywhere: the media just puts on the cassette to celebrate historical female figures. Should we not discuss their importance? Of course we should, every day. Should we not discuss our struggles? Of course we should, all the time. But as we all know, when the day is over people go back to their abusive dynamics.

On the 8th of March the crust of this male chauvinist society cracks open and that’s not solely the doing of men. Women continue to be partly responsible for our lack of parity (yesterday I heard a woman say it’s mushy to celebrate women, as if we add equal rights!). Women keep struggling to find their independence, at work, and their autonomy, in their intimate space. In part, it’s a cultural problem: women tend to replicate the way men relate to them in the way they go on to relate to other women.

I once wished I was a man. I once wished I didn’t have breasts, for I hate to be looked at. Do men suffer from this sort of invasion? Although that is now over, what keeps triggering that feeling is the sexual abuse we’re subjected to in our daily lives. It’s everywhere, as if we’re just tits and ass. It’s everywhere, all the time, that’s why I struggle with the sort of feminism that tries to empower women by showing off their bodies. I understand it, I do, but it’s just not my kind of feminism…

≡ the ‘vaginal address’ & the ‘f’ generations artists ≡

kup0rQKMhmr3HMD0Uc3L__2D-_hIttu6Rw2j-r1dEvswy6r4dAwKW2eSa-YPhJBs_RS927RisHmYgU51ciF06oDocumentation of Casey Jenkins‘ performance Casting Off My Womb. Image via http://hyperallergic.com

Casting Off My Womb was a 28-day performance by artist Casey Jenkins, that took place at the Darwin Visual Arts Association. A local television network documented the performance and later made it available on youtube, gathering over 6 million views and triggering hundreds of angry comments


Reacting to the hate mail, Jenkins wrote an article in The Guardian, where she explains that:

My image and work have been consumed, contemplated and commented on by millions across the globe. It’s interesting then, and gives an insight into the performance’s heart, that all of this electronic crackle and buzz has not altered my identification with it at all.  […]

The response to the clip was immediate, massive and, for the most part, negative, marked with fear and repulsion. The word “ick” features heavily, as do “eww”, “gross” and “whyyyy?”. Exclamation points are afforded entire comment boxes, broken only by the odd question mark. Everything comes in for criticism; the menstrual blood used in the work probably cops the most, but viewers have taken swipes at my hair-cut, my eyebrows, my skin, my home-city, my choice of words, my knitting technique and the colour of my shirt. The nature of the response wasn’t unexpected, but the scale of it was and it’s been fascinating to watch.

3bc76b21-92b7-4ad1-b6b0-5b991a4b0b5d-bestSizeAvailableImage via http://theguardian.com

[…] As the deafening response to my work demonstrates, there is a hell of a lot of clamouring noise in society about what a person with a body like mine should and shouldn’t be doing with it. The pitch and volume of opinions can be so overwhelming that it’s difficult to quiet the noise, step back and choose a clear and autonomous path. With Casting Off My Womb I have attempted to do just that by paring concepts about body parts and activities related to women back to their most elemental. Over the course of the month I sat with the steady rhythm of the knitting needles and of my body and created a work that I have complete confidence in, a confidence that thousands of internet opinions have not dinted.

* * *

IMG_9256Documentation of Sofia Magalhães‘ exhibition Retratos (“Portraits”). Image via http://joanabutton.blogspot.pt

IMG_3826Documentation of Sofia Magalhãesexhibition Retratos (“Portraits”). Image via http://isabelpiresdelima.blogspot.pt

Yesterday, by accident, I came across Sofia Magalhães‘ work in a documentary by Luís Hipólito called Diagnóstico: Dinamite (“Diagnosis: Dynamite”). The documentary featured a work of Magalhães that mixes photography and ceramics, something I had never seen before. I then realized I could have seen her exhibition Retratos (“Portraits”), where she displayed a series of old photographs decorated with humorous ceramic elements, but was not aware of the work.

* * *

XENOFEMINISM

manifestoTo continue reading the manifesto click here.

٠ Adrienne Doig and the Cliché ٠

Big_FeministCliche 2013© Adrienne Doig, Feminist Cliché (Dresden Plate), 2012. Patchwork, appliqué and embroidery on linen, 99 x 77 cm.

excerpts from Lynn Berger‘s SNAPSHOTS, or: Visual Culture’s Clichés, published in Photographies Vol.4, No.2, September 2011, pp.175–190.

“We use the word “cliché” advisedly. As it happens, the genealogies of the cliché — an “expression or idea that has lost its originality or force through overuse” (American Heritage Dictionary) — and the snapshot go back to the same point of origin: the printing workshops of nineteenth century France. There, cliché was the name of the metal plate or mould on the printing press “from which reproductions of print or design could be made in unending quantity”. Under this mechanical definition the cliché moved into the English language, where it first appeared — or so the Oxford English Dictionary informs us — in Charles Babbage’s 1832 Economy of Machinery and Manufactures. Thus intimately tied to the printed word, its use was later expanded to denote the negative in photography. From the start, then, the cliché was an emblem of the “age of mechanical reproduction” (Benjamin).
[…]

In the nineteenth century, “a growing awareness of mass production in word and thought” (Flaubert) coincided with Romantic pre-occupations with originality and creativity, and in this context the cliché was seen as the linguistic denial of such individual attributes — indeed, as the very antithesis of original thought. According to historian Walter Ong, a “strong disapproval of the cliché is a regular concomitant of the romantic state of mind… subconsciously convinced that what is already known does not require repetition because what is known is stored in books whereas art is necessarily a venture into the unknown.”
[…]

So, here is the parallel: at the end of the nineteenth century, the cliché had become for language what the amateur snapshot would shortly represent for photography: a symbol of the lowest common denominator, an emblem of the boring, the repetitive, and the formulaic.

The cliché is a cultural product of a technological change, with middle-class connotations. The amateur snapshot is the exact same thing. Both are associated with the common man, indeed, both are commonplace. Clichés may vary slightly from one to the next (and to be sure “some variability in the standardization does not disqualify the expression as formulary so long as the expression retains its effective identity”, as Walter Ong has written: Rhetoric, Romance 288), and the same is true of snapshot photographs: “each [snapshot] captures a unique pose, even if that pose obediently repeats million other, very similar poses. They are all the same, but they are all also just slightly different from each other”, Geoffrey Batchen has observed (“Snapshots” 125).
[…]

The cliché is a political phenomenon. Terms like “containers for memory” and “mnemonic devices” may suggest a mere instrumentality and passivity, but clichés and snapshots in turn influence consciousness and perception as well.”

big8© Adrienne Doig, AD Libitum, 2012. Embroidery on tapestry, 45 x 46.5 cm.

٠ Varda’s feminist tableaux (l’une chante, l’autre pas) ٠

urllunechante_01L_UNE-CHANTE-L_AUTRE-PAS-copyright-CINE-TAMARIS-r270Feminist performance, the Engelian way

PAPA ENGELS

La double journée
pauvre maman
c’est bien épuisant
et c’est mal payé

Friedrich Engels l’avait dit
dans la famille aujourd’hui
l’homme est le bourgeois
et la femme est le prolétariat

Il avait raison
papa Engels
il avait raison
car à la maison
l’homme est le bourgeois
et la femme est le prolétariat

C’est papa le chef
pauvre maman
le seigneur du fief
le roi tout puissant

(…)

٠ Varda: Qu’est-ce qu’être femme? ٠

a-woman-a-pipe-a-pullCycles_gladiatornakedgirlwithdollyadposteratal

Each time I see a poster like that,
I think it’s absurd
to constantly see naked women.
It feels like I’m on the poster.
Each time a woman is undressed
to sell a product…
– It’s me they undress.
– Me they display.
– Me they despise.
– Me they desire.
– Me they criticize.
– Me they buy.
– Me they order by phone.
– Me they pay for by check or cash.
Me they offer
as fodder for men’s desire.

– Go on, keep complaining!
Soon we’ll no longer desire you.
How sorry you’ll be!

– I have enough love in me
to be desirable.
I don’t have to be an object.

At the risk of displeasing you
and cutting ties,
dear fathers, husbands, lovers,
bosses and buddies,
we women are taking charge
of our evolution.
And if you still need
women and love,
you will have to change
your habits and some of your tastes.
I am a woman.
Women must be reinvented.

– Then, love must be reinvented.
– We agree.

٠ Harmony Korine’s pop poem ٠

spring-breakers-ski-maskI’ve recently watched Spring Breakers and was very surprised. I was writing down a couple of thoughts when I saw João Henriques’ post about that image with Madonna, so I decided to make a post, since the issues have a lot to do with one another. It’s about pop culture, for sure, about contemporary icons, about guns as symbols of power and masculinity (and about their phallic symbolism of course), but it is also about these female heroines in Korine’s movie and what is happening with the feminist movement or should I jump ahead and call it pseudo-feminism?

First and foremost it should be said that Harmony is his own master. He almost comes forward as authentic. Apart from Kids (1995), which he wrote and Larry Clark directed, his other movies were really far out experimental, subjective and visual trips. But then there’s this.

Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers is a pop poem (in his own terms). I’ll add it is a poem of the best kind, it is art. In being a poem it is not about the words that make its form or its content but about the sound that makes the linguistic understanding once it is read, listened or seen by the receptor’s mind. In “Art, Inactivity, Politics” (2007), Giorgio Agamben asks: What in fact is a poem if not a linguistic operation which renders language inoperative by de‑activating its communicative and informative functions in order to open it to a new possible use?

spring-breakers-sb_mm_03278_rgbSpring Breakers, besides being about that alien-like holidays the americans have while “we” are on easter break, it’s about a rite of passage of 4 girls who, along with James Franco’s gangsta character, Alien, are the main characters of the movie. Selena Gomez plays one of the four, Faith, the one who has a religious education and turns out to be more quiet, afraid ans super-ego friendly than the others. In a scene where she’s at church we can hear someone saying that temptations present themselves with a way out. It seems like her character was enlightened by it.

Soon in the narrative we know the girls are badass, since they robe a store to get money to go on Spring Break. While on holidays, partying hard, smoking, drinking, doing drugs, they get arrested. They wear bikinis thru out almost the entire movie, even when they go to court. Alien bails them out. He is a proper gangsta with golden teeth and all, big house, fast cars, lot of cash, lot of guns, babes, and he even has the ATL twins working for him. Except for Faith, the other 3 girls stick around and then Korine’s fantasies come to life. He puts the 3 in bikinis and wearing pink ski masks (Korine’s iconic take on pussy-riot, no mistake here), holding big guns, standing next to Alien at a sunset-side piano and singing Britney Spears’ ballad “Everytime”. It’s fucking unforgettable! It’s hyper-stylized! It’s superficial! It’s about hipper-aestetization and superficiality, about the look of things, about the idea of power, how easy it is to grab someone’s attention and make him/her feel submissive, as if the one giving the statement is always in a higher moral position to lead the way.

Being that the theme is superficiality, lets go ahead and introduce the simplest idea ever of what feminism is by repeating what the majority of the media are saying: that chicks with guns is an exercise of female empowerment. Could it be more literal? Yeah, yeah, the guns stand for the guys cocks, so it’s like they’re holding their weapons which, per se, should be read as saying that the only important thing in a man is his sexuality and that a woman isn’t good enough if she is not in control of her own body and his. Gender equality? Forget it. Just see Feman. Feminism, so they should think, is not about gender equality in social, political, emotional, private and public opportunities and affairs, it seems to be about showing that women are the greatest. As I see it, that’s what Madonna stands for. Unfortunately for them, things are much more complicated and this is getting too big. Just watch the movie if you can, it’s a breath of fresh air to say the least.

┐ If the erect penis is not ‘wholesome’ enough to go into museums it should not be considered ‘wholesome’ enough to go into women └

Louise-Bourgeois-8_pics_809© Robert Mapplethorpe, portrait of Louise Bourgeois, 1982

“Nearly a decade later, Fillette would figure prominently in a photographic portrait of Bourgeois by Robert Mapplethorpe. The portrait, in which the (then-) seventy-year-old artist smiles mischievously for the camera while carrying the sculpture in the crook of her arm, was commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art as the frontispiece to its catalogue for Bourgeois’s 1982-83 retrospective. What MoMA printed in its catalogue, however, was a tightly cropped detail of the portrait focusing on Bourgeois’s face. Fillette was excised from the image altogether.14 By placing Mapplethorpe ‘s 1982 photograph (and its cropping by MoMA) in dialogue with Bourgeois’s prior appearance at the New School, we can begin to see Fillette within a wider history of sexuality, censorship, and cre- ative subversion. Mapplethorpe ‘s role in the culture wars of the late 1980s and early 1990s both contributes to and complicates that history.”

source: “Artists sometimes have feelings”, by Richard Meyer

artists sometimes have feelingsAnita Steckel, The Librarian, 1 963, oil on found photograph

Hitler-Reagan© Anita Steckel, Hitler & Reagan,Signed Print, 1983

“We assert that sexual as well as any other subject matter is entirely the artist’s concern and that museums have no right to impose their puritanical and sexist – unbalanced, therefore unhealthy – timidity and coyness upon us all and upon future generations and we demand that sexual subject matter, as it is part of life, no longer be prevented from being part of art. And since the woman has traditionally been exposed in her full nakedness and sexuality in all the great museums of the world, so should the male be uncovered, as sexually on display as the woman; the erect penis therefore, as it is part of life, will no longer be prevented from being part of art. If the erect penis is not ‘wholesome’ enough to go into museums it should not be considered ‘wholesome’ enough to go into women. And if the erect penis is ‘wholesome’ enough to go into women then it is more than ‘wholesome’ enough to go into the greatest art museums.”

excerpt of statement by Anita Steckel (woman artist), distributed to other women artists on March 8, 1973 in NYC.

┐ Contemporary housekeeping or How to stumble on a stove └

planta© Catherine & Harriet Beecher, in American Woman’s Home, 1869

bat copy© family archive

IMG_7183roxana© Erica Brejaart, Untitled, from the series Portraits of Mothers and Housewives

IMG_7112roxana© Erica Brejaart, Untitled, from the series Portraits of Mothers and Housewives

“In the Divine Word it is written, “The wise woman buildeth her house.” To be “wise,” is “to choose the best means for accomplishing the best end.” It has been shown that the best end for a woman to seek is the training of God’s children for their eternal home, by guiding them to intelligence, virtue, and true happiness. When, therefore, the wise woman seeks a home in which to exercise this ministry, she will aim to secure a house so planned that it will provide in the best manner for health, industry, and economy, those cardinal requisites of domestic enjoyment and success. To aid in this, is the object of the following drawings and descriptions, which will illustrate a style of living more conformed to the great design for which the family is instituted than that which ordinarily prevails among those classes which take the lead in forming the customs of society. The aim will be to exhibit modes of economizing labor, time, and expenses, so as to secure health, thrift, and domestic happiness to persons of limited means, in a measure rarely attained even by those who possess wealth.


At the head of this chapter is a sketch of what may be properly called a Christian house; that is, a house contrived for the express purpose of enabling every member of a family to labor with the hands for the common good, and by modes at once healthful, economical, and tasteful. Of course, much of the instruction conveyed in the following pages is chiefly applicable to the wants and habits of those living either in the country or in such suburban vicinities as give space of ground for healthful outdoor occupation in the family service, although the general principles of house—building and house—keeping are of necessity universal in their application–as true in the busy confines of the city as in the freer and purer quietude of the country. So far as circumstances can be made to yield the opportunity, it will be assumed that the family state demands some outdoor labor for all. The cultivation of flowers to ornament the table and house, of fruits and vegetables for food, of silk and cotton for clothing, and the care of horse, cow, and dairy, can be so divided that each and all of the family, some part of the day, can take exercise in the pure air, under the magnetic and healthful rays of the sun. Every head of a family should seek a soil and climate which will afford such opportunities. Railroads, enabling men toiling in cities to rear families in the country, are on this account a special blessing. So, also, is the opening of the South to free labor, where, in the pure and mild climate of the uplands, open—air labor can proceed most of the year, and women and children labor out of doors as well as within.


In the following drawings are presented modes of economizing time, labor, and expense by the close packing of conveniences. By such methods, small and economical houses can be made to secure most of the comforts and many of the refinements of large and expensive ones. The cottage at the head of this chapter is projected on a plan which can be adapted to a warm or cold climate with little change. By adding another story, it would serve a large family.


Fig. 1 shows the ground—plan of the first floor. On the inside it is forty—three feet long and twenty—five wide, excluding conservatories and front and back projections. Its inside height from floor to ceiling is ten feet. The piazzas each side of the front projection have sliding—windows to the floor, and can, by glazed sashes, be made green—houses in winter. In a warm climate, piazzas can be made at the back side also.


In the description and arrangement, the leading aim is to show how time, labor, and expense are saved, not only in the building but in furniture and its arrangement. With this aim, the ground—floor and its furniture will first be shown, then the second story and its furniture, and then the basement and its conveniences. The conservatories are appendages not necessary to housekeeping, but useful in many ways pointed out more at large in other chapters.”

Catherine & Harriet Beecher, in American Woman’s Home, 1869

┐ Caitlin Rueter └

How To Be is a series of exercises that revisit and reimagine early 19th century primers for “young ladies.”


I stumbled upon these manuals while researching 19th century etiquette books. Most include etiquette but only as part of a more comprehensive course of education. They were intended for upper-class girls and women who had few opportunities for formal schooling. Instead, girls took their lessons from these books, serials and pamphlets and from their mothers or older sisters at home. The manuals include subjects ranging from etiquette and fashion to archery and riding, from botany, entomology and mineralogy to painting, dancing and embroidery. Each was meant to help a young woman navigate society and to keep her occupied, to battle the boredom that could lead to rebellion or other transgressions.


How To Be uses these young ladies’ manuals to address themes of gender, class, and the dialogue between personal and political histories, identity and space. I methodically select and execute lessons from the primers, consider them in their historical context, then reconsider and reconceive them in the context of my own history. The first three exercises in the series are currently on exhibition at O’Born Contemporary. Lesson I: Ablutions, Lesson II: Moral Deportment, and Lesson III: The Cabinet Council, introduce central themes of the project.


Lesson I: Ablutions (9 works)
Ablutions takes as its starting point early 19th century instructions for developing a sense of “style.” I have paired self-portrait photographs with illustrations of period hair arrangements and headdresses taken from one of the young ladies’ manuals.

94_ablutions12web© Caitlin Rueter, Ephemeral Fashion and Personal Peculiarities, 2012

94_ablutions181920web© Caitlin Rueter, A Moderate Share of Popularity, 2012

Lesson III: The Cabinet Council (9 works)
The cabinet is “a secret receptacle, a repository… a small private chamber or room… a room devoted to the display of works of art; a gallery” or “the council-chamber in which the inner circle of government meet.” A bedroom can be all of these things, a microcosm of the home and a safe, autonomous space.
In this exercise I have captured images of girls’ bedrooms from television shows that I watched as an adolescent; shows that purported to guide their audience toward specific ways of being. I have removed the figures from each of the stills and inserted images of objects that form my own private spaces.

93_caitlin-004web© Caitlin Rueter, Exquisite Specimens of the Different Styles to Which They Belong, 2012

93_caitlin-006web© Caitlin Rueter, Let Us Resist All Euphonious Temptations, 2012

more of Caitlin’s work here

┐ Sabrina Gschwandtner └

© Sabrina Gschwandtner, Hula Hoop, 16 mm film, polyamide thread, 2010.

Watch & See exhibition, Gustavsbergs Konsthall, Sweden, 2009.

© Sabrina Gschwandtner, Quilts in Women’s Lives (left) and What is a Dress (right), 16 mm film, polyamide thread, cotton thread, 2009

“My quilts utilize film footage from early Feminist documentaries. I re-work these narratives by sewing them into new configurations and adding in my own footage.

The source of the historical footage is the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), which recently de-accessioned the 16 mm films in their library. Anthology Film Archives took some of FIT’s films into their archives and gave the rest to artists who work with found footage. The short, educational documentaries I received are dated 1952 – 1982, and focus on textile crafts such as crocheting, knitting, sewing, fabric dyeing, and quilting.

After watching the movies, I cut them up and sew them together with my personal film footage. I bleach, dye, scratch, and paint some of the film.

The formal logic of my sewn designs are derived from popular American quilt motifs including log cabin squares, octagonal stars, and “string quilts,” wherein long, thin fabric scraps left over from other projects are cut and sewn together. The works are hung like curtains in the windows of exhibition spaces, or displayed on gallery walls via light boxes.”Sabrina’s statement

More of her work here

┐ Cara Judea Alhadeff └

© Cara Judea Alhadeff, Lost Valley, from the conscious dream project

© Cara Judea Alhadeff, kunst-stoff, from the conscious dream project

© Cara Judea Alhadeff, Exploratoreum, from Gestation (singles)

© Cara Judea Alhadeff, south american tropical room, from gestation project

© Cara Judea Alhadeff, art and revolution’s wailing women heads, from gestation project

“As a Deleuzian nomadic feminist, my photographic work explores a dynamic disequilibrium. My photographs play with inter-relating imbrications—concurrent, multiple, contradictory tendencies.My pedagogical and art-based research explores the possibilities of radical citizenship by actively cultivating vulnerability through corporeal inquiries. Irreducibly allusive corpo-visual language unfolds as embodied rhizomatic vulnerabilities. My project is intricately rooted in the potential of a rhizomatic uncanny—”reducible neither to the One nor the multiple” (Mille Plateaux 22). I ground my theoretical investigations within narratives of personal experience —sexual becomings and analog photography. As a strategy to elucidate my theoretical queries, I refer both to my philosophical underpinnings and the international public reception of my photographs—which frequently has led to censorship. In doing so, I practice an embodied theory that advocates a politics, philosophy, and pedagogical commitment rooted in everyday behavior and interaction. A commitment to this heterogeneous embodied thinking has the potential to rupture cultural assumptions. It explores the cross-fertilization of Deleuze’s enfoldments as disarticulated membranes. This awareness awakens the possibility of fully inhabiting our bodies—bodies that pulse with the multiplicity of the ‘I’—as inherently interdisciplinary. Revitalization of both individual and social bodies produces enfoldments of psyche-somatic consciousness. No hierarchies survive these monstrous, heterogeneous, multiple entwinings of body intelligence and wisdom. The body becomes a condition for participatory democracy—a lived erotic politics.

(…)

My intention is to play with relationships amongst actual, liminal anatomical characteristics, and not to create artifice. Zizek tells us that “…Deleuze’s Spinoza is the Spinoza of the real, of ‘anarchic’ bodily mixtures” (Zizek188). The relationships among the “objects” within my photographs play out a process of continual de-centering and excess. I hope this language of critical imagination becomes an erogenous life-affirming power, breaking up predetermined taxonomies of knowledge, suspending what we think we know: “…the uncanny is destined to elude mastery, it is what cannot be pinned down or controlled. The uncanny is never simply a question of a statement, description or definition, but always engages a performative dimension, a maddening supplement, something unpredictable and additionally strange happening in and to what is being stated, described or defined” (Royle 16). This Deleuzian language of the uncanny cannot be taxonomied, classified, binarized.

How can we challenge, personally and collectively, our socialized fear and distrust of self-doubt, what comes out of our bodies, and what goes on inside them? For the past twenty years, these questions have compelled me to collaborate on cross-disciplinary projects with choreographers, composers, architects, philosophers, anthropologists, and geographers. Although I am a photographer, I experience my work as sculptural, cinematic, and performative—a two-dimensional manifestation of dance, sculpture, poetry, sociological investigation, and philosophical engagement rather than solely as “photography.” I shoot my still images with an analog large-format SLR Hasselblad camera. This is one reason why collaborating with artists from other disciplines is critical to my working process. This visual improvisation requires that each of us give up ownership and entitlement and enter a rhizomatic field of vulnerability, a surrender to dialogic self-sacrifice. This surrender becomes a dialogic relationship in which collaboration thwarts binary, reductive thinking. This self-sacrifice, not only in the sense of release of entitlement and ownership, but also as precisely the openness of vulnerability, if used consciously can become an explicit and emancipatory strategy for erotic agency. What evolves, then, is a recognition of our species’ de-centrality—deterritorialization establishes this new community— as an ever-unfolding statelessness of Becoming. Within this field of vulnerability, we are embedded in an interdependent rhizomatic dialogue. A dialogic self-sacrifice, inherent in the erotics of the uncanny, becomes a practice of the abject, which provokes terror because it shows, demonstrates, monstrifies how we are all connected. This sacrifice invites collaborative citizenship in which “the experience of oneself as a foreign body” (Royle 2) is paramount. Congruently, Spinoza’s “feeling” of surrender occupies the real. This self-sacrifice, inherent in uncanny rhizomatic vulnerabilities, becomes a practice of the real, of being open to the raw exposure of participating in unknown territory.”

excerpt of Practicing the Abject: Deleuze and the Analog Uncanny, in Rhizomes » Issue 23 (2012). continue reading here

see more of Cara‘s work here

┐ roots & fruits #7 – Inês Beja └

© Inês Beja, The Roaring

© Inês Beja, Untitled #3, from the series Jumping at Shadows

Inês is a chameleon or, as she puts it, a shape-shifter. From my point of view what she is now is a creative force: obsessive, eager to learn, aiming for the perfect tool, the perfect dress, the perfect light, the perfect shot. I believe these are arguments enough to keep an eye on her and see where all this passion (borderline destructive force?) can take her.

Her work made me think of a written piece of work, so instead of dragging on parallels between her work and that of self-portrayed women in the history of photography, here it is:

“(…)The initial idea that images contributed to women’s alienation from their bodies and from their sexuality, with an attendant hope of liberation and recuperation, gave way to theories of representation as symptom and signifier of the way problems posed by sexual difference under patriarchy could be displaced onto the feminine.(…)and while feminist critics turned to popular culture to analyse these meanings, artists turned to theory, juxtaposing images and ideas, to negate dominant meanings and,slowly and polemically, to invent different ones.

(…)The juxtaposition begins to refer to a ‘surface-ness’, so that nostalgia begins to dissolve into unease.An overinsistence on surface starts to suggest that it might be masking something or other that should be hidden from sight, and a hint of another space starts to lurk inside a too plausible facade.(…)The sense of surface now resides, not in the female figure’s attempt to save her face in a masquerade of femininity, but in the model’s subordination to, and imbrication with, the texture of the photographic medium itself.

(…)For Freud, fetishism is particularly significant (apart, that is, from his view that it ‘confirmed the castration complex’) as a demonstration that the psyche can sustain incompatible ideas, at one and the same time,through a process of disavowal. Fetishistic disavowal acknowledges the possibility of castration (represented by the female, penis-less, genital)and simultaneously denies it. Freud saw the coexistence of these two contradictory ideas, maintained in a single psyche, as a model for the ego’s relation to reality: the ‘splitting of the ego’, which allowed two parallel, but opposed, attitudes to be maintained in uneasy balance.(…) This ‘oscillation effect’ is important to postmodernism. The viewer looks, recognizes a style, doubts, does a double take, then recognizes that the style is a citation, and meanings shift and change their reference like shifting perceptions of perspective from an optical illusion.

excerpt from Laura Mulvey’s article A Phantasmagoria of the Female Body: The Work of Cindy Sherman

Inês’s portraits can be seen here

┐ Sarah Maple └

© Sarah Maple, ‘Self portrait with Fried Eggs’, C-Type Print, 2008

© Sarah Maple, ‘I’ve got status anxiety (text)’ – Acrylic on paper collage

© Sarah Maple, ‘I’ve got status anxiety’, C-Type Print, 2009

Sasha: When told that the theme of the current No More Potlucks was Ego, you quickly responded, “I have a lot to say about that bastard.” Please tell me what you meant by that. In other words, when you hear the word ego, what or whom does it conjure up in your mind?


Daniel MacIvor: Ah, Ego. Makes a great fuel but a shitty engine. It took me a long time to come to terms with how I could use ego without ego using me. Ego is that “more, now, again” thing that wants to suck the life out of today in an effort to get to tomorrow for more “more, now, again.” On one level Ego is like an entity we carry on our backs with its teeth sunk into our jugular. It is happy to kill us so it can keep living – it is so caught up with itself it doesn’t realize that once we’re dead it’s dead too. On the other hand Ego is the thing that makes us stand up and speak up; the thing that convinces us that what we have to say is worth finding a stage for. Without Ego we would be happy to commune with nature and evolve; Ego places the human above nature – so the struggle is to let Ego feed us and to manipulate the energy it gives us and use it to commune with one another and still maintain evolving as the point. Which is difficult because to really evolve, is to lose Ego.


S: You are entrenched in two practices that are preoccupied with the ego: Shambhala Buddhism and theatre. Tell me how the concept of ego in Buddhism informs your work as an actor and how the concept of ego in theatre informs your practice in as a Buddhist. Or do these things intersect at all?


DM: Yes, I think they interact greatly. The Buddhist practice asks that we release Ego – to live in a “letting” way not a “wanting” way. Ego is all about want. And in the theatre the first question that any director or playwright or actor or dramaturge asks about a character is “what do they want?” Ego is the oxygen in the world of theatre. Even as an audience we participate in theatre in order to see ourselves represented somehow – this is in part our Ego looking for reflections of itself. There is a battle in these two ways of thinking. But if one recognizes the power of theatre to expose Ego – to make us face it and its desire to control us – we can use that recognition, that insight, as a way to control Ego.

excerpt from an interview to Daniel MacIvor, conducted by Sasha, from No More Potlucks

Sarah’s web place here

┐ Cabello / Carceller, II └

© Cabello / Carceller, Off Escena: If I were…, Madrid 2011

Gender Issues1

“How can we explain a term which is in itself so complicated, but which most of society is determined to simplify? How can we explain that the majority prefer to appear not to understand its diversity? And what is it that makes this pretense possible? Why do gender differences still exist as bipolarized and insurmountable categories? Who benefits from the continuation of this binary split? Why is it indispensable to pathologize those who transgress gender boundaries? Why do most of the transgender representations existing in the collective imagination end up appearing exaggerated, as though from a pantomime? What is it people are so afraid of? The prescriptive division of gender leaves us standing before an undisputed frontier, whose existence we not want to recognize in case we find ourselves disputing it. Those who cross it at best begin to sicken … at worst they can be assassinated for “moral reasons”; either way it is clear that the mere fact of crossing that frontier confers a special status on us and converts us into a political problem which demands the intervention of the public authorities. On the other hand it is perfectly clear that if the boundary is not crossed completely and one decides to live undefined, the problem becomes more serious, partly because there is no room in society for these possible new hybrids. We say “new” not because the issue did not previously exist but because, as we have already said, there is no will to discuss this matter in a down to earth and effective way. We can describe it as a new theme because it was not relevant, because its existence was marginalized on the whole deliberately, because it has been insistently dealt with as a subject associated with sexuality, thus reducing its political magnitude. The discussion was postponed until it turned into the last question, to be faced only once the rest of the problems affecting our society were resolved; when it comes down to it, they said, it is just a minority problem. They are right, because the majority of citizens cannot or will not face the fact that one of the principle variables marking their lives and driving their way of interacting with others is something imposed on them, just as they cannot face the fact that they themselves have turned into what is called the “gender police,” a force of law and order which judges others, takes action, and forces them to maintain the current categories. And they do it frequently in daily life, through apparently insignificant gestures, boring conversations, and attitudes which are so assumed they pass unnoticed. The gender police are present when employees are hired, in schools, and at the doctor’s, when tax returns are presented and in the queue for the public toilets … How then can we consider ourselves free when we have naturalized gender and turned our bodies into prisons of identity?

Masculine or feminine. Apparently we have to accept this simplistic choice. It would seem that according to our political systems only predictable persons can be emancipated/emancipable; that is to say, only predictable persons can be social beings with rights. Unpredictable persons—to use the terminology of Carla Lonzi2—are not politically useful, they are instead potentially dangerous, and for this reason they should be relegated to being an invisible caste. In societies based on communication, invisibility ends up being the greatest punishment, as it has as its consequence the loss of effective political rights. This is why the de facto powers have to hinder the possibilities of representation for those who do not wish to take an active part in the social network, and above all, those to whom it wishes to deny—as it is currently doing—their civil rights. Nowadays, presence in the collective imagination is indispensable to gain a voice in the social network; without that visibility one cannot even declare oneself part of the political body or be understood as a part of it.

If we agree with Judith Butler that gender constitutes an imitation without an original, which “imitates the myth of originality itself,”3 building the illusion of an existence of a primary and internal gender, or parodying the mechanism of the aforementioned construction, we can understand that there are many possibilities for the corruption and transgression of the established gender divides, divisions which are fictitiously presented as “natural” from the perspective of the dominant heterosexual. In the field of representation, and more specifically in that of visual representation, the spaces for the construction of possible identities which hinder the ruling assignment of gender are a priori multiple; identities which would distance us from the insistence on the illusory creation of that stable and sexualized self that Butler associates with the management of a regulatory hetero-normative fiction. This regulation however is perfectly in force and deeply anchored in various societies and cultures. If we interpret representation as an action of “presenting oneself again”—of re-presenting oneself in an indefinite postponement of the stability and unity of the generically regulated and ordered presence—we would have in it an apparent ally which would allow us to play with its possibilities and we would make the most of its important impact on the contemporary social space. However, images created from resistance to the hegemonic view and established categories are displaced and interpreted with the help of a spectacular and histrionic key; they are distanced from spaces where a genuinely plural and impartial imagination is being constructed. The receptive echo of these possible images in the critical discourse places them in closed compartments, by which their variables of interpretation are reduced and the opportunity for them to access open readings denied. A redundant order of gender, whose structure remains hidden under the cloak of neutrality—which is in reality impossible—looks after the promotion of all those images which fit into the aforementioned order without flagging, while it condemns the exhaustion caused by any kind of nonconventional imaginary.

As artists we considered the possibility of working with what we denominate “arte degenerado” as early as 2000. In the first place, “Degenerate Art” (Entartete Kunst) was the concept chosen in 1937 by the Nazi regime in Germany to classify and insult productions of avant-garde or modernist art. Secondly, degenerate also means an “individual with an abnormal or depraved mental and moral condition, commonly accompanied by a peculiar physical stigma”4 and has been widely used to refer to individuals with sexual “perversions” (a classification which enfolds in the same concept people who use violence, such as rapists, and people who are on the receiving end of violence from the dominant group, such as homosexuals). Thirdly, despite institutional opposition, in Castilian Spanish the word género has taken root as the literal translation of the English concept of gender. This was the basis on which we decided to use the term degenerado additionally in the sense of genderless in cases where affiliation to a normatively valid feminine or masculine gender was absent. Fourthly, in Castilian Spanish, the word género also relates to the usual classification of the various artistic disciplines: photography, painting, sculpture, video … (in English, the term corresponds to the word “genre”). In all these senses, arte degenerado5 could, as a minimum, cross four frontiers: political, sexual, and social frontiers, and that of destabilization of conservative artistic language.

Can one really jump over the gender barrier? What we do know is that this has scarcely been examined. During the moral revolution that took place in some Western countries in the second half of the last century, the question really was posed as to whether the supremacy of the female and male element had to be equalized; but no one asked about the need to transcend the permanence of this symbolic order, whereby the possibility of upsetting the normative gender was limited only to the field of entertainment, pathology, or adjusted marginalization. It is true that changes have only just begun, and, by simply looking around us (a look that includes, of course, the art world) we realize how far we are from that judicial, economic, and political equality (if any of these categories can be used separately from the others) among those necessarily masculine biological men and those necessarily feminine biological women who constitute the ideological majority. But maybe we are asking the wrong question, because the answer is obvious: we currently lack that freedom, and in the public sphere we are still being identified as a part of one gender or the other. That is to say, it is not a problem that should be analyzed within the private sphere. It is a public question about power relations. Our assignment of gender is, in our identification, documents, which are almost more important than we are, as their possession conditions our mobility through the world; in fact its absence puts our very existence into question. Race is not stated on them (at least not in Spain); neither is economic class (although to show solvency the documents should be accompanied by credit cards). Nor is our religion stated … but the need to know the compulsory gender to which we have been assigned is almost obsessive. Why? Let us go back to the beginning. Who benefits from the continuation of the binary split?”

1 / This text is connected with the text “Archive” in this volume by Cabello/Carceller.
2 / Carla Lonzi, Escupamos sobre Hegel, Editorial Anagrama, Barcelona 1981. Originally published as Sputiamo su Hegel e altri scritti, Rivolta Femminile, Milan 1972.
3 / Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, Routledge, London 1990, p. 38.
4 / Real Academia Española, Diccionario de la lengua española, Espasa-Calpe, Madrid 1984, p. 447.
5 / In English it would be a sort of mix between Degenerate Art and Degenderate Art.

source: Atlas of Transformation