No Images of Women

This exhibition was a re-visiting of  one held in Bristol last year. Three of the artists included in the original were showing: Tommy Cha, Tassia Haines and me. The exhibition was held in a gallery space up in the roof of The Factory at Porth, Glamorgan. Its a great space. Long and narrow like a railway carriage and  lined with wood; the show was hung to make a meander down its length.

Installation View

Installation View

The two banners from Deceive/ Disclose  came to this show. Their cohort is in the book on the plinth to the right. With highly saturated prints on heavy paper in a luxurious, quilted ‘patent’  binding, this book is inspired by high fashion; but the photographs seem bewitched. Today, our exemplars are not human but manipulated constructs; the normal human body is unacceptable; are our minds bewitched?

Scent ad

Scent ad

Handbag ad

Handbag ad

In conjunction with this show, I ran a collage workshop for some students:

Who do you think you are? – A Collage Workshop

How do we decide what we like and what we don’t; what looks good on us and what doesn’t? It may feel like our individual taste but huge amounts of money are being spent by vast multinational corporations to influence our decisions. We are bombarded with slick images from screen, billboard, and print media.

This is a workshop to have fun deconstructing images from magazines aimed at women. Thinking about the yarns those images are spinning to us and literally deconstructing them with good old-fashioned glue and scissors. They can then be used to construct our own images and be forced them tell our stories.

Collage has a noble history of political agitation and social comment so we can look at historical examples from the twentieth century as well.

Inspired by renewed discussions around what it is to be female, the exhibition offers a number of ways in which women might be portrayed in art – from the textual and documentary to the parodic and performative – as well as the challenges and contradictions implicit in any attempt to depict women within a patriarchal culture.

Are the images presented here ‘a cynical act of affirmation’ of patriarchy; a valid expression of female sexuality, empowerment or ambition; an unostentatious refusal to play to the camera or conform the stereotypes offered to us; or a ‘parodic mode of self-reflexivity’ dependent upon a disruptive mixing of codes that seeks to both exploit and undercut such dominant representations?

No Images of Women alludes to the 1970s writings of feminist conceptual artist Mary Kelley, who questioned the use of  images of women in art. In her view any image of a woman is inevitably drawn back to the subject/object power relationship betweem the observer/observed,  male/female dichotomies.

From pop stars to webcam girls, we continue to generate and be bombarded by objectified images of the female form in magazines, online and on TV, often impossibly stylised models to which we are meant to aspire. But despite the successes of previous generations of feminists in challenging perceptions, recent work suggests that the stereotyping embedded in many widely accepted representations of women have been recast in a contemporary guise that is to a large extent being driven by women as a form of ‘liberation’, self-expression or economic advancement. Against a backdrop of an increasingly contracted spectrum of acceptable femininity, the global rise of violence against women, 2013 was a year in which women once again started to call themselves feminists.

Whore Series, five video clips with audio, Tassia Haines

Whore Series, five video clips with audio, Tassia Haines

Readymade content is manipulated to highlight the mainstreaming of sexism through the popularity of derogatory and offensive words seen as acceptable in describing a woman.

Three Women, video installation with audio. Tommy Cha

Three Women, video installation with audio. Tommy Cha

Video portraits of three young women. The arrangement creates a cross exchange of ideas about femininity, body image, sexuality, sexual chauvinism, exploitation and empowerment.

Selfies, Tassia Haines

The Girls, Tassia Haines

Selfie imitation, Tassia Haines

The Girls, Tassia Haines

Exploring the notion of Identity and self presentation in a society obsessed with material goods.

The Burka Experience, Muhamed

Lady of the Land of Fire, MuhammmidAsarid

Muhamed had bravely dressed in a burqa and walked around Bristol; re-living the forced wearing of this garment as experienced by his mother and sisters in Afghanistan. The installation was made as a confining box so the viewer could have the same experience, the video footage giving the effect of peering out out of a narrow slot

 

 

Inspired by renewed discussions around what it is to be female, the exhibition offers a number of ways in which women might be portrayed in art – from the textual and documentary to the parodic and performative – as well as the challenges and contradictions implicit in any attempt to depict women within a patriarchal culture.

Are the images presented here ‘a cynical act of affirmation’ of patriarchy; a valid expression of female sexuality, empowerment or ambition; an unostentatious refusal to play to the camera or conform the stereotypes offered to us; or a ‘parodic mode of self-reflexivity’ dependent upon a disruptive mixing of codes that seeks to both exploit and undercut such dominant representations?

 

 





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