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Gender Battle

Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea CGAC, Santiago de Compostela

This exhibition focuses mainly on art representations that were brought to life during the seventies. These experiences fundamentally attempted to put on canvas the macho patriarchal society of this era. A historical project backed by more than 50 artists and a considerable number of works. Lectures, theatre and debates about the rules of gender, sexuality and the impact of feminism in the art.

comunicato stampa

Curated by Juan Vicente Aliaga

As the title may well indicate this exhibition focuses mainly on discussions, debates and essentially art representations that were brought to life during the seventies. These experiences fundamentally attempted to put on canvas and at the same time invalidate the macho patriarchal society of this era.
In order to get to know this period it is essential to explore a diversity of situations as well as the social, political and cultural contexts within which feminism, in its distinct forms and variants, emerged, and consequently lead to a profound turnabout for both the mind and the body. The Gender Battle includes artistic works (photography, performance documents, videos, paintings, etc.) produced by women; since women were the parties interested in denouncing the sex oppression of the times. But amongst them some male voices also mortgaged the rules of the ruling virility game.
This project attempts to examine feminism's contributions, during the seventies, brought to light and served as a platform to launch a series of approaches, without which it would be impossible to understand the present. Without denying the pioneering character of the many proposals that sprouted in the United States, The Gender Battle goes a step further. It addresses the problematic of the egalitarian policies emerging in countries like France, Spain (during the years of dictatorship and transition to democracy), Great Britain, Austria, including some individual figures worldwide, especially Latin American, Africa and Asia.
A historical project, the one presented by the CGAC, backed by more than fifty artists and a considerable number of works. It is structured around theme sections that address some of the fundamental issues covered in the seventies (in some cases even a few years before) concerning feminine and masculine associated values and concepts. Said sections are not presented as immovable categories but more like flexible conceptual groups, and therefore changeable and modifiable. With these we wish to make a statement: some works may be read from different points of view and perspectives and at the same time they could well be included in other sections.

On Womanhouse: Activism and performance in feminist art is a section where works from some performances and installations that took place, in 1972, in Los Angeles under the driving forces of Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro. This was a true community initiative that aired and brought to light a great number of issues, at the time considered insignificant, such as sexual harassment, physical abuse, alienating home chores, women's sexual desires, and menstruation. Contributions made by Faith Wilding and many other artists clearly paved the way to the idea that personal aspects also had a political dimension.

On rape and other forms of social violence. This section looks into what was totally invisible until the beginning of feminist movements: the mistreatment of the female body, by man, even to the unsuspected limits of violation. Ana Mendieta brought it to light in her work Rape Scene: when she learnt about the case of a Iowa University student that was violated and assassinated. The British artist Margaret Harrison analyses the origins, in the history of art, of the idea that women were simply at the service of man. Semiha Berksoy's pieces, painted in Turkey, allude to the disarticulation of the body and the tortures suffered by women. This section includes the collective works of Nil Yalter, Nicole Croiset and Judy Blum La Roquette, prison de femmes (1974) is based on an unknown and ignored reality: the convicts' fate narrated by a Paris prison ex-convict.

Nature: feminine essence? The title of a problematic issue that portrays some artists' desire to seek in the natural environment a natural correspondence, both visual and in form, with women's morphological anatomy, particularly the vagina's genitality. This was the purpose behind the works of artists like Judy Chicago and Faith Wilding, who during the seventies were considered essentialists as they defended a transcendental art. The Swedish painter Monica Sjöö also positioned herself within a similar line of thought: where feminine authority is associated to past deities that draw their strength from the worship of ‘Mother Earth’.

Relations between ethnicity race and gender. This section aims at bringing to light identity policies considered by the feminism movement, although less so was the racial issue. If white women had been used by men as objects of desire and consumption, black women and women from other ethnic groups were not even represented. Faith Ringgold brought this fact to light. From another perspective the Brazilian Anna Bella Geiger highlighted the importance of identifying herself, even if only on a temporary basis, with the activities and ways of life of the discriminated indigenous communities.

Gender in action: on performativity, masque and identity. This is one of the key themes of this project, a feature that distinguishes it from other projects of similar characteristics. The works of a series of artists – men and women – show that clothes and physical appearance, gestures and postures do not simply emerge as a result of simple constructions or social beliefs. There is nothing natural in the fact that one person behaves in a certain manner, or wears the so-called women or men's clothes. The pieces included in this section stress the fact that human behaviour stems from a series of imitations and copies for which there is no original. The social standards that mark and determine what is feminine and what is masculine, as an inseparable binomial, are simply mere fictions and hence changeable. The German artist Jürgen Klauke proclaimed it by producing provocative photographs. Carlos Pazos, influenced by the glam-rock look, went away from the stereotype image of the heterosexual male and embraced the emerging cosmetic of the Spanish post-Franco era. In Chile, Carlos Leppe dressed up like an opera singer to attack the existing dictatorship. The North Americans, Adrian Piper and Cindy Sherman, displayed postures and clothes considered to be manly.

The centrality of the body. Sexualities discovered. The objective of the section is to make a statement about one of the strongest feminist struggles: the attempt to rescue the female body from colonisation and male exploitation, in environments as diversified as pornography, prostitution, press, advertising or education. The works of Hannah Wilke, disputed by Lucy Lippard, fought to vindicate the idea that it is possible to combine beauty and system criticism, without falling into the sexist objectification trap. The British Cosey Fanni Tutti experienced in her own flesh the ins and outs of pornography while the Austrian VALIE EXPORT defended without taboos the right to an orgasm. In this context it is also important to take a look at how some men, like Juan Hidalgo, mocked the phallocracy while other artists gave life to the lesbians' sexual realities (Tee Corinne and Barbara Hammer), normally marginalized by society.

Maternity, labour exploitation and other forms of oppressions under this concept are exhibited works that attempt to escape the romantic vision of maternity and question the ‘maternal instinct’ fallacy, by concentrating mainly in the labour and economic aspects of child upbringing. Artists like Mary Kelly went away from the merely corporal readings of maternity and the British Jo Spence attacked the macho system and the disinterest shown by her country's government during the establishment and installation of child nurseries. The Catalan Eulàlia, nearing the conceptual practices, widened the spectrum of discriminations against women, by classifying roles and social expectations according to gender.

The section The feminine continiuum and psychoanalysis attempts to bring together two interlinked issues. On the one hand, there is the notion that femininity exists out of history, in a continuum which brings together separate generations, as was the case with the Brazilian Anna Maria Maiolino. On the other hand the work of those who preyed into the Freudian ‘I’ ideas to adequate it to the standard, a question that Michel Journiac attempted to ridicule by being, within the French artistic sphere, a true lash to the family responsible for the heterosexuality paradigm.

The constraints of beauty and other cultural educational and media stereotypes. Cultural and media stereotypes. Modern societies, like the traditional ones, have based part of their structure and power in diffusing clichés that drastically separate the feminine from the masculine. However, in modern times the media have been used to diffuse culture and educate the masses. Artists like Eleanor Antin, Ewa Partum or Sanja Ivekovic attempt to demolish this destructive influence. The Catalan Fina Miralles established a comparison between the process of dressing a girl and the common places regarding the femininity portrayed in magazines, adverts and television, by building new constraining ideals.

Marked spaces: the administration of the public and the private in an attempt to underline the feminist criticism of a false dividing line between both spheres. The public and the private are politicised areas due to the fact that the tasks carried out in each one of these have been historically different due to the notion of gender. Martha Rosler mocked the supposed benefits of kitchen work, considered a feminine preserve, while the French-born Argentinean Léa Lublin and the Austrian VALIE EXPORT go out in the street with their firm presence. On the other hand, Mónica Mayer carried out a survey amongst the feminine population of Mexico D.F. to bring to light and criticize in a modern art museum the verbal and physical abuses of the male population of her own country.

Macropolitics: war and gender is the name of a section that takes an in-depth look at a taboo issue: the war phenomenon, conventionally seen as male territory, which also interests and affects women. The works of the American artists examine this issue: crudely, as in the works of Nancy Spero and, subtly, as in Martha Rosler's photo-settings, introducing the war horror into a supposedly peaceful home atmosphere.

Finally, the section titled Between Myth and History dissects a fundamental issue: the majority of the world's myths, be they religious or not, have a male imprint. But, images that were given priority and visibility in modern and avant-garde art also do. The egalitarian view attempted to change this. Ulrike Rosenbach investigated the iconography of Hercules passed on from the classic mythology to the cinema by putting her female voice to it. Mary Beth Edelson changed the faces of the apostles and Christ, in the Last Supper, by those of well-known feminist artists. Carolee Schneemann brought to live feminine deities that dated back to archaic times, Artemisia Gentileschi and the Japanese Shigeko Kubota made fun of the macho artist par excellence, abstract expressionism painter Jackson Pollock with a brush tied to her vagina created traces, lines and forms: giving rise to a new world.

"Gender Battle. Lectures, theatre and debates about the rules of gender, sexuality and the impact of feminism in the art of the seventies"

25 September, 17:00
In the first lecture, María Laura Rosa, a teacher from Buenos Aires, will take a look at the specifics of art and feminism in four countries in Latin America, namely Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Mexico. In some ways it will be a closer look at the valuable contributions of different practices in art and cinema (María Luisa Bemberg in particular) in relation to social proposals for equality in turbulent times and contexts for politics.

The round table involves Martha Rosler (United States), Sanja Ivekovic (Croatia) and Ulrike Rosenbach (Germany), and aims to share not only the four artists' individual experiences that gave rise to works of great signficance in the seventies, but also to show the diversity of artistic options and different ways of approaching feminism.

26 September, 17:00
The talk by French essayist Elisabeth Lebovici will be focused on a highly symbolic year in France -- 1975, when various different feminist groups came to light and both collective and individual artistic problems with different ideologies arose. The specifics of the Womens' Liberation Movement will be analysed together with the rise of homosexual groups that criticised heterosexist orthodoxy.

Present at the round table will be Carmen Navarrete, Jesús Martínez Oliva, Chelo Matesanz and Assumpta Bassas. The goal is to carry out a critical analysis of the art linked to matters of gender that existed in Spain in the seventies, based on the professional and research experience of four Spanish University lecturers (from the Universities of Valencia, Murcia, Pontevedra and Barcelona).

27 September, 17:00
Amelia Jones' talk is based on the relative surprise that the recent interest in feminism shown by the market and art galleries and centres has caused in this North American essayist, who is also a lecturer at the University of Manchester. This is in marked contrast to the usual disdain shown over the decades by institutions to art that is openly feminist.

Talking at the round table will be Beatriz Suárez Briones, Raquel Osborne and one of the main figures of the feminist movement in Spain, Empar Pineda. They will look back on the struggle for emancipation and equality of rights and the role that feminism played in Spain towards the end of the dictatorship under General Franco and in the transition to democracy.

Press Conference: September 13, 12h. / Opening: 20h.

Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea
Rúa Valle Inclán s/n
15704 Santiago de Compostela Galicia -Spain

Two exhibitions
dal 3/7/2014 al 11/10/2014

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