Pilar Albarracín, Spanish, b. 1968, Long Live Spain (Viva España), 2004. Production stills; video, 3 min. 30 sec., color, stereo sound. Lent by the artist. © Pilar Albarracín. Photograph: Courtesy of the artist.
Boryana Rossa, Celebrating the next Twinkling, 1999, 2'45".
This 2'45" videoshort is based on 30 sec. footage featuring the screaming faces of two girls. The sound is made by scratching the image in a DJ style. The modified soundtrack slowly becomes independent of the image. In this constant bouncing back and forth of the image and the sound the feeling of real time is gradually lost and the next twinkling is celebrated as the real progress in time.
Rebecca Belmore (Canada, b. 1960), The Named and the Unnamed, 2002, Video installation with light bulbs, edition of 2; 7’ 4-1/8” x 8’ 11-7/8”, Collection of Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, the University, of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, (Photo: Howard Ursuliak, courtesy of Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada).
Ingrid Mwangi, Kenyan, b. 1975, Static Drift, 2001. Two chromogenic prints mounted on aluminum, edition of 5. Heather and Tony Podesta Collection, Falls Church, Virginia. (Photo: Courtesy of Galerie Anne de Villepoix, Paris)
In the photographic series Static Drift, Ingrid Mwangi experiments with her own body, likening it to an open book upon which her own national and racial lineage is both written and read. Here the artist transposes the borderlines of Germany and Africa onto her stomach by way of a stencil and exposure to the sun. National titles and geographic borders are displaced from their habitual contexts, causing one to contemplate what nationalism, skin color, and ethnic identity mean when physically inscribed on a body—particularly a female body. Within the dichotomy of Mwangi's personal biography (she was born in Nairobi and has lived in Germany for many years), the historical relationship between Germany and Africa, colonizer and colonized, oppressor and the oppressed, is also powerfully evoked.
200 Eastern Parkway
Elizabeth A. Sackler Center
for Feminist Art
Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing,
March 23-July 1, 2007
Global Feminisms, a large-scale international survey of contemporary art, inaugurates a major new exhibition and study center devoted to art created from a feminist perspective. Signaling an intent to take the study of new, often-critical visual expressions in new directions, the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, the first facility of its kind in the United States, ventures far beyond American and European borders for the inauguration presentation.
Global Feminisms assembles works in a range of media by more than 100 women artists, most of whom are under 40 and two-thirds of whom have never before presented work in New York. Some 50 countries are represented, including a good number that seldom figure in the contemporary art discourse, such as Sierra Leone, Kenya, Russia, Yugoslavia, Costa Rica, Afghanistan, Indonesia and Taiwan.
The joint enterprise of two scholars, Maura Reilly, Curator of the new Center, and Linda Nochlin, Lila Acheson Wallace Professor of Modern Art at the New York University Institute of Fine Arts, the survey coincides with the 30th anniversary of the first major exhibition to explore the role of women in the history of Western art. Organized by Dr. Nochlin, with Ann Sutherland Harris, Women Artists: 1550-1950 was presented at the Brooklyn Museum in 1977.
“In Global Feminisms, we are attempting to construct a definition of ‘feminist’ art that is as broad and flexible as possible,” says Reilly. “Linda and I kept asking what it means to be a feminist in radically different cultural, political, and class situations. And we found not one definition, but many; hence, the term ‘feminisms.’”
“Since Woman Artists opened in San Francisco 30 years ago, gender studies has penetrated all ways of looking at art. So even though it is true that many aspects of society have not changed much, or enough, in the intervening years, it is also true that, consciously or unconsciously, people now make work that was impossible before feminism,” says Dr. Nochlin.
Life Cycles / Identities / Politics / Emotions
Despite real differences in the life situations and preoccupations of the artists, several threads of thought emerge as themes in Global Feminisms. One is an interest in Life Cycles that transforms rather sclerotic conventional conceptions of a woman’s life into visual experiences that more closely mirror life as it is lived — and dreamed — today. Among the works featured in this section is a huge photograph by the London-based artist Melanie Manchot, featuring the artist’s mother nude from the waist up, and laughing against a background of sky so blue it could grace a Hallmark card. In another work, a large-scale color photograph, the California-based artist Catherine Opie displays herself as she is, a woman whose appearance is far from the Madison Avenue ideal, nursing her son in a portrait of vulnerability and strength as guileless and true as any example of the Christian “mother and child” iconology in art history.
Dr. Reilly and Dr. Nochlin also found artists around the world exploring Identities, whether it is racial identity, gender identity, or concern with the concept of self. In this section, viewers will find a number of artists skewering notions of exoticism with deliciously hyperbolic send-ups of, for example, the contented Spanish peasant woman (Pilar Albarracín of Madrid); the butch lesbian in a never-ending ritual of binding (Mary Coble, Washington D.C.); and the hot, hip Asian chick doing karaoke as performed and documented for video by Taiwanese-born artist Hsia-Fei Chang. Mequitta Ahuja of Chicago is represented by a huge oil-on-canvas entitled Boogie Woogie (2005) in which an African tribal dancer, a blue-eyed, bearded black man-woman, seems to charge across the picture plane full-tilt — breasts, horns, tail and all.
Nowhere can the incalculable differences among women be grasped more clearly than in the section focusing on the recurring theme of Politics. Regina José Galindo is seen trailing a bloody footprint with each step as she walks from the Court of Constitutionality to the National Palace in Guatemala City, in memory of murdered Guatemalan women, in her performance videotape, Who Can Erase the Prints? (2003). Irani artist Parastou Forouhar’s digital wallpaper is seen to be filled with sketches of figures performing different actions, as lively as those to be found in a Ukiyo-E woodblock; yet closer inspection reveals that these men and women are being acted upon, tortured in a variety of horrible ways. And Tania Bruguera, who lives in Cuba and the U.S., asks the viewer to consider the meaning of a Cuban flag woven of hair from countless anonymous Cubans. She entitled the 1995/96 work, Estadistica (Statistic).
Another theme in Global Feminisms is Emotions. Japanese artist Ryoko Suzuki contributes a mural-sized installation of three photographs in which her face is bound tightly by pig’s intestines — bullied into a kind of mute, anonymous submission. Bulgarian artist Boryana Rossa is among a number of artists represented in this section who wields a wicked humor, appropriating cultural clichés about women’s histrionic emotions and blasting away at these assumptions, as in her video Celebrating the Next Twinkling (1999). In another work, a 2004 video by Polish artist Anna Baumgart whose title translates as “ecstatic, hysteric and saintly ladies,” the female protagonists are shown performing psychological and physical pathologies.
Among the other artists represented in Global Feminisms are Arahmaiani (Indonesia), Pilar Albarracín (Spain), Rebecca Belmore (Canada), Tania Bruguera (Cuba), Lee Bul (Korea), Tracey Moffatt (Australia), Priscilla Monge (Costa Rica), Ingrid Mwangi (Kenya), Patricia Piccinini (Sierra Leone), Jenny Saville (U.K.), Shahzia Sikander (Pakistan), Sissi (Italy), Milica Tomic (Yugoslavia), Adriana Varejão (Brazil), and Miwa Yanagi (Japan). The wide range of media employed in the exhibition includes painting, sculpture, photography, works on paper, installation, video, and performance.