≡ about men ≡

sam-taylor-wood-men-crying-1© Sam Taylor-Johnson, Steve Buscemi, from the series Crying Men.

Excerpts from the article Masculinity Is Killing Men: The Roots of Men and Trauma, by Kali Holloway, fully available @ alternet.org:

If we are honest with ourselves, we have long known that masculinity kills men, in ways both myriad and measurable. While social constructions of femininity demand that women be thin, beautiful, accommodating, and some unattainable balance of virginal and fuckable, social constructions of masculinity demand that men constantly prove and re-prove the very fact that they are, well, men.

Both ideas are poisonous and potentially destructive, but statistically speaking, the number of addicted and afflicted men and their comparatively shorter lifespans proves masculinity is actually the more effective killer, getting the job done faster and in greater numbers. Masculinity’s death tolls are attributed to its more specific manifestations: alcoholism, workaholism and violence. Even when it does not literally kill, it causes a sort of spiritual death, leaving many men traumatized, dissociated and often unknowingly depressed. (These issues are heightened by race, class, sexuality and other marginalizing factors, but here let’s focus on early childhood and adolescent socialization overall.) To quote poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “tis not in death that men die most.” And for many men, the process begins long before manhood.

3_stw© Sam Taylor-Johnson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, from the series Crying Men, 2004.


It is impossible to downplay the concurrent influence of images and messages about masculinity embedded in our media. TV shows and movies inform kids — and all of us, really — not so much about who men (and women) are, but who they should be. While much of the scholarship about gender depictions in media has come from feminists deconstructing the endless damaging representations of women, there’s been far less research specifically about media-perpetuated constructions of masculinity. But certainly, we all recognize the traits that are valued among men in film, television, videogames, comic books, and more: strength, valor, independence, the ability to provide and protect.

While depictions of men have grown more complicated, nuanced and human over time (we’re long past the days of “Father Knows Best” and “Superman” archetypes), certain “masculine” qualities remain valued over others. As Amanda D. Lotz writes in her 2014 book, Cable Guys: Television and Masculinities in the 21st Century, though depictions of men in media have become more diverse, “storytelling has nevertheless performed significant ideological work by consistently supporting…male characters it constructs as heroic or admirable, while denigrating others. So although television series may have displayed a range of men and masculinities, they also circumscribed a ‘preferred’ or ‘best’ masculinity through attributes that were consistently idealized.”

We are all familiar with these recurring characters. They are fearless action heroes; prostitute-fucking psychopaths in Grand Theft Auto; shlubby, housework-averse sitcom dads with inexplicably beautiful wives; bumbling stoner twentysomethings who still manage to “nail” the hot girl in the end; and still, the impenetrable Superman. Even sensitive, loveable everyguy Paul Rudd somehow “mans up” before the credits roll in his films. Here, it seems important to mention a National Coalition on Television Violence study which finds that on average, 18-year-old American males have already witnessed some 26,000 murders on television, “almost all of them committed by men.” Couple those numbers with violence in film and other media, and the numbers are likely astronomical.

The result of all this—the early denial of boy’s feelings, and our collective insistence that they follow suit—is that boys are effectively cut off from their feelings and emotions, their deepest and most vulnerable selves. Historian Stephanie Coontz has labeled this effect the “masculine mystique.” It leaves little boys, and later, men, emotionally disembodied, afraid to show weakness and often unable to fully access, recognize or cope with their feelings.


stw1- 2.ac-3© Sam Taylor-Johnson, Jude Law, from the series Crying Men, 2003.

James Gilligan, former director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Harvard Medical School, has written numerous books on the subject of male violence and its source. In a 2013 interview with MenAlive, a men’s health blog, Gilligan spoke of his study findings, stating, “I have yet to see a serious act of violence that was not provoked by the experience of feeling shamed and humiliated, disrespected and ridiculed, and that did not represent the attempt to prevent or undo that ‘loss of face’—no matter how severe the punishment, even if it includes death.”

Too often, men who are suffering do so alone, believing that revealing their personal pain is tantamount to failing at their masculinity. “As a society, we have more respect for the walking wounded,” Terry Real writes, “those who deny their difficulties, than we have for those who ‘let’ their conditions ‘get to them.'” And yet, the cost, both human and in real dollars, of not recognizing men’s trauma is far greater than attending to those wounds, or avoiding creating them in the first place. It’s critical that we begin taking more seriously what we do to little boys, how we do it, and the high emotional cost exacted by masculinity, which turns emotionally whole little boys into emotionally debilitated adult men.

When masculinity is defined by absence, when it sits, as it does, on the absurd and fallacious idea that the only way to be a man is to not acknowledge a key part of yourself, the consequences are both vicious and soul crushing. The resulting displacement and dissociation leaves men yet more vulnerable, susceptible, and in need of crutches to help allay the pain created by our demands of manliness. As Terry Real writes, “A depressed woman’s internalization of pain weakens her and hampers her capacity for direct communication. A depressed man’s tendency to extrude pain…may render him psychologically dangerous.”

We have set an unfair and unachievable standard, and in trying to live up to it, many men are slowly killing themselves. We have to move far beyond our outdated ideas of masculinity, and get past our very ideas about what being a man is. We have to start seeing men as innately so, with no need to prove who they are, to themselves or anyone else.

stw_2© Sam Taylor-Johnson, Robin Williams, from the series Crying Men, 2004.

≡ Art produced by men about men (?) ≡

133_kmb-cover2-kleinExhibition catalog, 110 × 165 mm, 272 pages, October 2013.

A post about a group exhibition themed The Weak Sex – How Art Pictures the New Male, held @ Kunstmuseum Bern from 18.10.2013 to 09.02.2014.

alexishunter--masculinity-malexishunter--masculinity© Alexis Hunter, Approach to Fear: XVII: Masculinisation of Society – exorcise 1977.

Excerpt from Preface and Acknowledgments Matthias Frehner, Director of the Kunstmuseum Bern and Klaus Vogel, Director of the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum Dresden:

Those who lived through their childhood and youth as members of the baby-boomer generation in the period of the late nineteen-fifties to the mid-seventies, as we did, received a clear view of the world along the way. It was the Cold War. There were precise dividing lines, and it was possible to completely separate good and evil, right and wrong, from one other. The division of roles between men and women was regulated in a way that was just as self-evident. For many children of this time, it was natural that the father earned the money while the mother was at home around the clock and, depending on her social position, went shopping and took care of the laundry herself, or left the housework to employees in order to be able to dedicate herself to “nobler” tasks such as, for instance, beauty care. Family and social duties were clearly distributed between husband and wife: the “strong” sex was responsible for the material basics of existence and for the social identity of the family. The “weak” or also fair sex, in contrast, was responsible for the “soft” factors inside: children, housekeeping, and the beautification of the home. The year 1968 did away with bourgeois concepts of life. Feminism and emancipation anchored the equality of men and women in law. And since the nineteen-sixties, art has also dealt intensively and combatively with feminism and gender questions.

bild5_export_weibel-web© Peter Weibel with Valie EXPORT, Peter Weibel Aus der Mappe der Hundigkeit (Peter Weibel From the Underdog File), 1969.

Since VALIE EXPORT walked her partner Peter Weibel on a leash like a dog in their public action that unsettled the public in 1968, legions of creators of art, primarily of the female sex, have questioned the correlations between the genders and undertaken radical reassessments. The formerly “strong” gender has thus long since become a “weak” one. “Nevertheless, the exhibition The Weak Sex: How Art Pictures the New Male is not dedicated first and foremost to the battlefield of the genders. Nor is the gender question, which has so frequently been dealt with, posited in the foreground. The Weak Sex is instead dedicated to man as object of research. In what state does he find himself now that his classical role has been invalidated? How does he behave after the shift from representative external appearance to work within the family unit? And where does he stand in the meantime in the midstof so many strong women? What has become of the proud and selfassured man who once signed the school report cards with praise or reproach as head of the family? What has become of the XY species since then is presented— insightfully, sarcastically, and wittily—in the exhibition by Kathleen Bühler.


Excerpt from Stronger and Weaker Sexes: Remarks on the Exhibition, by Kathleen Bühler (Curator Kunstmuseum Bern):

In 1908, the Genevan politician and essayist William Vogt wrote the book Sexe faible (The Weak Sex), in which he examines the “natural” weaknesses and inabilities of the female gender. Intended as a “response to absurd exaggerations and feminist utopias,” since then the catchy title has shaped the battle of the sexes as a dictum. Like Otto Weininger’s misogynistic study Geschlecht und Charakter (Sex and Character, 1903), Sexe faible is one of the texts from the turn of the previous century that justified the legal, political, and social subordination of women based on their anatomical and, according to the opinion of the author, thus also intellectual inferiority in comparison with men. The perception of women as the “weak sex” persisted tenaciously. It is first in recent years that this ascription has slowly been shifted to men, as for instance in the report by neurobiologist Gerald Huther called Das schwache Geschlecht und sein Gehirn (The Weak Sex and His Brain) published in 2009. Polemics has long since yielded to statistics, and the most recent biological discoveries are gaining currency, such as the fact that male babies are already at risk in the womb because they lack a second X chromosome. This genetic “weakness” would apparently lead seamlessly to a social weakness, since males more frequently have problems in school, turn criminal, and die earlier. 4 In addition to the findings on biologically based weaknesses also comes the social, economic, and political challenge, which has for some years been discussed as a “crisis of masculinity.”

VAW11_Eroeffnung_Reflecting_Reality_11© Gelitin, Ständerfotos – Nudes (Standing Photos – Nudes), 2000.

(…) After various exhibitions in recent years were dedicated to gender relations, gender imprinting, or the social latitude in performative stagings of gender, the exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Bern focuses exclusively on men in contemporary art for the first time. It brings together the points of view of male and female artists who deal either with their own experiences with men and/or being a man, or with an examination of the images of men that are available. This exhibition has been long overdue. Nonetheless, what first needs to be overcome is the perception that “gender” themes are a woman’s matter and that only marginalized positions have addressed their social gender. Hegemonic male types—thus men who, according to general opinion, embody the dominant masculine ideal most convincingly—have only been reflected in public through media for a relatively short time, even though the male gender is also a sociocultural construct, just like that of women, transgender, or inter-gender individuals. What comes to be expressed here is the invisibility of norms. As is generally known, it is those social groups that hold the most power that actually expose their own status the least.

sarah-lucas-smoking-from-self-portraits-1990e280931998-web© Sarah Lucas, Smoking, 1998. From Self Portraits 1990-1999.

bild4_urs_lc3a5thi-web© Urs Lüthi, Lüthi weint auch für Sie (Lüthi also cries for you), 1970.

┐ Heather Cassils, this is what a durational re-performance looks like └

Cassils2-776x1200© Heather Cassils, Day 1, 02-20-10, 2011

Cassils1-776x1200© Heather Cassils, Day 140, 07-20-10, 2011.

HomagetoBenglia© Heather Cassils

“There are two constants in my life: art and exercise. Art started first, then after a serious childhood illness I discovered my body through lifting weights. I am now a visual artist and a personal trainer. My brush with mortality is something I see in the clients that come to me on a daily basis. Whether it’s recovering from heart surgery or bringing news of a brand new osteoporosis diagnosis, many of these people have come face to face with the limits of the mortal body.

Cuts: A Traditional Sculpture consists of a two-channel video installation, a pin-up, a photographic series and a zine. Last year I was asked to become an artist researcher by Los Angeles Goes Live (LACE). They were mounting an exhibition called Los Angeles Goes Live: Performance in Southern California 1970- 1983. I was commissioned by LACE to create a new artwork that spoke to the rich history of performance in Southern California. I hungrily delved into their archives and chose two works to guide me: Eleanor Antin’s Carving: A Traditional Sculpture, 1972 and Lynda Benglis’s 1974 Artforum magazine intervention advertisement. I wanted my new work to interpret these feminist pieces, which take on gender, power and the body. I project these works into a context exploring what it is to be transgendered in today’s society.

Antin photographed herself while dieting as a take on how Greek sculptors found their ideal form by discarding unnecessary material from their marble blocks. Rather than crash diet, over 23 weeks I built my body to its maximum capacity. I did this by adhering to a strict bodybuilding regime constructed by master bodybuilding coach Charles Glass. David Kalick, a nutritionist specializing in diets for sports competition, designed a diet where I consumed the caloric intake of a 190-pound male athlete. I also took mild steroids for eight weeks of the training.

I documented my body as it changed, taking four photos a day, from four vantage points. I collapsed 23 weeks of training into 23 seconds, creating a time-lapse video (part of the two-channel installation Fast Twitch Slow Twitch). Juxtaposed against the speed-up of the time lapse are painfully slow motion scenes that depict moments from my training — a raw egg dropping into a mouth or a face as it “maxes out.” The audio in the installation is by San Francisco-based band Barn Owl. The music’s sonic layering echoes my body’s growth.” Heather’s statement

lbenglis-untitled1329005660326© Lynda Benglis, 1974 Artforum magazine intervention advertisement

eantin-carving1329005949795© Eleanor Antin, Carving: A Traditional Sculpture, 1972

Cassils3-800x533© Heather Cassils, Installation image of Advertisement (Homage to Benglis), 2011

More about the issue of Re-formance can be read in the article Re-performance: History as an Experience to Be Had, by Megan Hoetger

Heather’s website here

┐ Tranimal – Hybrids before Photoshop └

Young_IMG_7333machine-20project-berkely-20art-20museum15_tranimalhammermuseumaustinyoung15_tranimalhammermuseumfadedraall images © Austin Young, from Machine Project, Hammer Museum.

“Tranimal…Young’s new endeavor – a collaboration with Squeaky Blonde and Fade-Dra, is infused with the artist’s high voltage underground creative energy. Tranimal is a big and bold project. It incorporates video, photography, and interactive sound design. And its taking performance art to an operatic level. (…) Participants are put through an assembly line where Squeaky Blonde, Fade-Dra , Young costume them, make-them up and turn them into a cast of glamorous, genderless creatures. Mark Allen, director of Machine Project, makes light sensitive circuitry boards that are sewn into theor costumes. The boards have knobs that the performers use to change the sound frequencies, creating musical score with light and movement. Juliana Snapper, an opera singer and performance artist, guides the players to find the vocal expression of their new identities. The particpant-performers become collaborators in a musical performance. Then Young shoots formal portraits and video of the end result.” source: Phil Tarley, Fabrik LA

More of Austin’s work here

┐ Tarrah Krajnak and Wilka Roig └

© Tarrah Krajnak and Wilka Roig, Object of Investigation (from Hysteria Collection), 2006

© Tarrah Krajnak and Wilka Roig, State 5 (from Hysteria Collection), 2008

“In Hysteria Collection we look back to the beginnings of the representation of women, to the constructed documentation of the sick Victorian woman. This simulated hysterical condition and the constructed image of the sickly woman was devised to prove an invented feminine affliction. We perform the hysterical body drawn from its historical context and place it in a contemporary context to resurface the historical reference as well as uncover the formulas that yield the recurring contemporary images of women.
As “collaborative / women / minority” artists, we continuously explore the sameness and difference within the construct of identity, and the role and meaning of signifiers. We work with self-portraiture addressing issues of gender, body, and representation within various sociological contexts, engaged in the process of photography as performance. We investigate the role and identity of the artist, and that of photography, within the socio-cultural context and the art world.”

Full statement here

║ Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons ║

© Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Backyard dreams #5, 2005

© Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Replenishing, 2003

“Magdalena Campos-Pons works with themes of identity (female and racial), familial ties, and the friction of having a home in Cuba and a home in the United States. Compos-Pons works with 20 x 24 Polaroids that create brilliant in color. She works with costumes to address her thoughts on identity. She often places herself in her photographs with an altered identity. She weaves extravagant hair extensions, constructing nests or tentacle-like braids that twist and entangle the artist, while other objects are in her nest of hair.”

source: schneider gallery

║ Lise Sarfati ║

© Lise Sarfati, Gina #23, from the series She, 2005

© Lise Sarfati, Sloane #12, from the series She, 2005

© Lise Sarfati, Christine #04, from the series She, 2005

“The people in Lise Sarfati’s pictures never seem to be doing much of anything. They hang out, smoke cigarettes, sit on their beds, pour themselves coffee. They are usually alone, and most of them are women. They seem to be waiting. Will something happen to amuse or interest them?
Sarfati has said: “Perhaps adolescence is the only true time of life.” She has also stated: “I like doubles, like mothers and daughters, or sisters, or reflections. This represents my research in women’s identity. . . . I am interested in fixing that instability.” What Sarfati calls her photographic “research” into the “instability” of women’s identity has evolved in the course of three distinct projects, conceived as a totality. The first project, Immaculate (2006-07), looked at the rarefied world of Catholic girls’ schools surrounded by gardens (“like Eden,” Sarfati notes). The children who attend these schools are protected in a kind of cultural bell jar; they seem strangely, even disturbingly untouched, and separated from the concerns of the world outside.
Sarfati’s current project, She, in a sense doubles the stakes of her investigation into familial pairings: it revisits the two sisters, now a few years older, alongside their mother, Christine, and her sister, Gina. Sloane and Sasha no longer live with their mother; now each girl shares an apartment with other roommates in Oakland. Gina too lives in Oakland, while Christine lives in Los Angeles, pursuing a singing career. Sarfati is careful to point out that though her two last series share two subjects, they are different projects. Here, no one is photographed with anyone else; everyone is seen alone, in her own space. Sarfati is interested in the implied drama enacted here between the two younger women and two older women. The mood of these pictures, in less expert or sensitive hands, might recall the emotional level of a soap operaone has the sense that the issues are ongoing, as they are on TV dramas. Though there are anxieties and real competitiveness manifested in the way they all dress and comport themselves, we also sense an emotional cohesion among these four women. They look as though they belong to the same tribe, will stick together, are conscious of one another, worry about one another.”

excerpt of Sandra Phillips’ article “Lise Sarfati, She”, published in Aperture Magazine 194 Spring 2009

To see more of Lise’s work click here

║ Maritza Molina ║

© Maritza Molina, Cutting the Pattern,  2009

© Maritza Molina, The test of purity,  2009

Maritza Molina´s work is a self-portrait exploring phases of her life’s encounters, discoveries, and changes. She stages herself in her images, as well as other people and objects. Her artwork derives from a personal experience or standpoint, and reflects how she occupies the world, and how the world that surrounds impacts her life. Allowing these constructed realities to translate into symbolic meanings is an intuitive process, one which she allows to guide her.

║ Helen Chadwick ║

© Helen Chadwick, Wigwam – 5 years, from the series Ego Geometria Sum

© Helen Chadwick, Bed – 63/4 years, from the series Ego Geometria Sum

More of Helen’s work can be seen here