"Axial time" of feminist performance - late 1960s and 1970s: the sexual revolution, the second wave of feminism, the development of new artistic practices against the backdrop of criticism of the economic aspects of art and the popularity of leftist ideas. This is the time of the texts by Lucy Lippard and Martha Rosler, the keynote article by Linda Nochlin "Why Weren't There Great Women Artists?", The first edition of The Art of Performance by Rosley Goldberg. This is the time of the work and teaching experience of the artist Judy Chicago, who coined the term "feminist art" and, together with Miriam Shapiro, created educational programs, residences and exhibition halls especially for women.
An important caveat concerns the distinction between “feminine” and “feminist” art. The first one is created by women and often touches on "women's" topics, but at the same time it does not problematize or politicize them. The second requires the artist to be a feminist, including outside the workshop. However, there is a point of view that allows for some blurring of boundaries (for example, in curatorial projects) if the artist does not manifest herself as a feminist, but creates works that generate important discussions from the point of view of female self-awareness.
The themes announced by the performance artists of the 60s and 70s are still relevant today: even in developed societies, women's sexuality and corporality, issues of gender, violence and equality remain problems. At the same time, technologies are changing (for example, what the artist Orlan did in the 1990s was simply technically impracticable earlier), feminist theory and performance itself as a genre are developing. Art critic and author of the isqoos Telegram channel, Maria Mikhantieva, talks about vivid performative works about sexuality, body and emotions, created by women artists in Russia and the West from the sixties to the present day.
series of actions "Eye-body"
“Men look at women. Women see themselves as being considered,”wrote art critic John Berger in The Art of Seeing. Carolie Schneemann tried to mix these two positions in the Eye-Body series. The artist covered her body with various substances from honey to plastic, performing sensual dances and explaining it this way: “I wanted my body to become an integral part of the work - its new dimension. I am both an artist and a painting. The body can remain erotic, sexy, desired, willing, but at the same time be an instrument, marked and inscribed in the text of strokes and gestures in accordance with my creative female will."
Later, in 1968-1971, the artist Joan Jonas made several performances in which one way or another appears a mirror and a body reflected in it ("Mirror Pieces"). In documentary and staged photographs, naked Jonas stares intently and at the same time demonstrates herself, choosing different angles and fragments. The result is ultimate objectification, both as a work of art and as a publicly displayed body.
In those same years, the famous "Tactile Cinema" by the Austrian artist Vali Export appeared: she put on a box with a curtain on her chest, through which viewers could touch her naked chest. Exhibiting her body in this peculiar showcase, Export reproduced the situation of sexual objectification - but at the same time she herself exploited those who were involved in the game she started. In 1969, she went further with the performance "Genital Panic", when she appeared at a session at the Munich Film Museum in jeans with a cut crotch and walked down the rows, almost touching the audience with her pubis. The audience, of course, was distracted and embarrassed, demonstrating vulnerability to such an unceremonious display of female sexuality.Subsequently, a poster appeared in public places in Vienna, on which Export was depicted sitting with legs spread wide in those very jeans, a leather jacket, with disheveled hair, a determined look and a submachine gun in her hands.
Her work was continued 45 years later. Bulgarian painter Boryana Rossa, a cancer survivor, was forced to undergo a double mastectomy. In 2013, she presented one of the most poignant works on corporeality - "Deconstruction of the" Tactile Cinema "by Vali Export. Rossa also put on a box with a curtain and also invited everyone to stick their hands behind the curtain - only the audience could no longer grope for their breasts there.
Karen Le Coq
and Nancy Yudelman
Talking about the masculine look, it is impossible to ignore such a topic as the beauty industry and a woman's desire to decorate herself for a man. In 1972, residents of the House of Women, founded by Judy Chicago and Miriam Shapiro, Karen Le Kock and Nancy Yudelman created the "Leah's Room". Leia is a character in the novel "Sheri" by the writer Colette, an aging courtesan for whom beauty is a professional tool. During the performance, Le Coq sat at the dressing table, furnished in the spirit of belle époque, applied cosmetics to her face and washed it, painted again and washed it again, as if dissatisfied with the result, turning the pleasant procedure into a battle for elusive youth.
Rebecca Horn, in her early work, transformed body decoration into transformation with unusual costumes. Due to illness, the artist at some point found herself limited in technical means and could only sew - and sewed all kinds of "additions" for the body, such as an overhead rag trunk or elongated arms. Inspired by the light gait and languid gaze of a classmate, she created for her a unicorn costume ("Unicorn", 1970-1972) - at the same time frank and innocent, reminiscent of purity, the symbol of which is this mythical animal, showing a naked body and complementing it with a new element.
An upright horn makes you keep your posture, resembles a medieval gennin and at the same time suggests phallic associations. She persuaded her to wear the suit for several hours while walking through the fields and forests. The "unicorn" was followed by fan wings ("White Body Fan", 1972), scratching gloves with meter-long "nails" ("Scratching Gloves", 1972), a mask studded with sharpened pencils ("Pencil Mask", 1972), and other objects - either fashion accessories, or carnival costumes, or Freudian hints.
"THE BIRTH TRILOGY"
The topic of female physiology inevitably leads to thoughts about childbirth. So, one of the last performances, which took place in the "Women's House" by Judy Chicago, was "The Birth Trilogy" (1972), reminiscent of a child's play in a trickle: while some artists stood in a close column and symbolically "pushing", others crawling between their legs apart, depicting babies. The "newborns" were taken in their arms, rocked and sang songs that sounded louder and louder, until they turned into an ecstatic "primal cry." Thus, 25 participants in the performance tried to experience borderline states associated with childbirth, freeing them from any cultural aspects.
Nevertheless, Lucy Lippard lamented that the artists working with performative practices rarely address the topic of pregnancy - either because they are too young and simply do not have relevant experience, or because motherhood is still surrounded by all sorts of taboos, and a woman struggling for the right to be an artist, one has to stay away from such an obvious reminder of the "female destiny".
VIDEO "TAKE OFF"
If Export showed aggressive sexuality, literally offending others, Susan Mogul approached this topic with humor.In 1974, she presented the video “Take Off” - a remake of Vito Acconci's famous performance “Seedbed” (1972), during which he lay in a gallery under a specially built ramp, masturbated and voiced his erotic fantasies about visitors to the exhibition through a loudspeaker. Mogul also masturbates, but does not hide his face and at the very beginning of the video even introduces the viewer to his vibrator, telling his story. This work was a continuation of her research into the representation of sexuality by artists and painters and a response to the male gaze, which she believed to be the embodiment of Acconci.
"SOS, Starification Object Series"
However, sometimes the body is not subject to our will - which the artist Hannah Wilke had to face. She began with sculpture (terracotta figurines, the shape of which simultaneously resembled traditional Jewish baked homentash and female genitals) and performances, during which she first flirted shirtless in front of chewing gum spectators, and then covered her body with this gum like ugly warts (“SOS, Starification Object Series, 1974).
Lucy Lippard, theorist and the motor of feminist art of the 60s and 70s, even scolded her for being too frank: Wilke, who exploits a glossy image, blurs the line between criticism of objectification and objectification itself, “confuses the roles of a beauty and an artist, a girl of easy virtue and a feminist” … The ease ended when Wilke was diagnosed with cancer; the story of the fight against the disease was her last work. Intra-Venus (1992–1993) can hardly be called a performance - more like a year-long happening, from which there are still photographs and videos depicting the gradual disintegration of the once attractive body and the extinction of the artist, deprived of her main instrument. This tough streak was supposed to be called "Cured", but Wheeke lost.
One of the loudest statements about the existence of a female body was Carolie Schneeman's work "The Inner Scroll" (1975) - a scroll with a keynote speech about the transformation of a woman from a model object into a creator, the artist removed from her vagina: “I stood naked in front of three hundred people not because I wanted to have sex, but because I experience my gender and my work so harmoniously that I have the courage or the courage to show my body as a source of varying emotional Power … In a sense, I gave my body to other women: I gave our bodies back to ourselves."
"THE REINCARNATION OF THE HOLY EAGLE"
Orlan went further, starting to change her body with much more radical methods. The project "Reincarnation of Saint Orlan", which began in 1990, consisted of a series of plastic surgeries, during which the artist first reincarnated into the heroines of classical paintings, and then took up the deconstruction of the canons of human beauty - for example, she implanted implants to augment her cheekbones under the skin of her forehead. The operations were performed under local anesthesia; The eagle, dressed in magnificent clothes, remained conscious - everything was furnished as solemn rituals of overcoming nature.
An unstable psyche is another stereotype strongly associated with the theme of female physiology: women are often ascribed to “heightened emotionality,” as opposed to male rationality. Perhaps the best image of “a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown” is succeeded by Elena Kovylina, who stood up with a noose around her neck, invited the audience to a real boxing match and set off on the waves on a fragile boat, repeating the feat of Arthur Kravan.
Rebecca Horn, who taught at her University of the Arts in Berlin, admitted: “She was a little crazy. She had this performance with vodka, as a result of which she fell almost dead, thank God, there was a doctor there and pumped her out - if she died, I would have lost my teaching position! " Speech about the work "Waltz" (2001): Kovylina invited the audience to dance, and after each round she would put an order on her chest and drink a glass of vodka.In the end, the partners had to be pulled out of the crowd by force - no one wanted to spin to the music with a completely drunk woman, and what at first seemed like a pleasant pastime turned into a disaster.
"Birth of Baby X"
Perhaps the most famous work on the topic of pregnancy and childbirth is the performance / action "Birth of Baby X" (2011) by American Marnie Kotak, who first "twisted" a cozy nest in New York's Microscope Gallery, and then gave birth to her son Ajax right there. Initially, there was no feminist perspective in Kotak's work: the main pathos of her work is concentrated in the transformation of everyday life into an object of art (for this purpose, Kotak, for example, imitated her own birth and loss of virginity). However, the notorious physiology suddenly added a social dimension to this story: in 2014, Kotak announced that she had to be treated for postpartum depression and that her next performance would be a public cancellation of drug therapy to overcome withdrawal symptoms.
“Isn't it because female destructiveness is considered so disgusting that it is impossible to control us at this moment? What if we transfer this experience to the space of art and, honestly looking into the eyes of our own impotence, turn it into a weapon? " - wrote the artist Mika Ela about her performance "Scene" (2014). Pronouncing a text about the feelings of a woman who is not satisfied with the fact that she does not exist except for the Eighth of March, the artist hits the plates, reconstructing the "scene" - a stereotypical hysteria, a tendency to which is often attributed to women. The work examines female destructiveness in the context of conventionality: on the one hand, women are often considered hystericals who are only breaking dishes and are able to express their thoughts and feelings, on the other hand, a woman is supposed to be restrained, non-aggressive, balanced. Mika Ela asks the question: "What am I?"
Photos: Amazon, Womanhouse / California Institute of the Arts Institute Archives (1, 2), Orlan, MoMA