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Rethinking the Subject: Feminism and Creative Practice LECTURE THREE Feminism and Creative Practice After/Beyond the Womens Liberation Movement: Undutiful.

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Presentation on theme: "Rethinking the Subject: Feminism and Creative Practice LECTURE THREE Feminism and Creative Practice After/Beyond the Womens Liberation Movement: Undutiful."— Presentation transcript:

1 Rethinking the Subject: Feminism and Creative Practice LECTURE THREE Feminism and Creative Practice After/Beyond the Womens Liberation Movement: Undutiful Daughters? Alexandra Kokoli

2 Lecture Overview Addenda & clarifications –Crafts/quilting; Faith Ringgold The dangers of classifications (reification) The return to the woman artist The case of Tracey Emin

3 Fine Art and/vs. the crafts: QUILTING As old as humankind Driven by necessity, thrift, and superstition ~ memory & commemoration: community and family histories Quilting bees: community events From generation to generation (both skills and objects) Feminist quilting: ambivalence –Validation of female culture –Associations with domesticity – not simply comfort and intimacy but also drudgery, confinement and victimisation –A forgotten fine art: traditional quilting by usually anonymous, almost certainly female makers anticipated many of the aesthetic breakthroughs of Modernist abstraction The telling of minor (hi)stories (women, slaves) Associations with social and political protest The Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt (, since 1985 (Cleve Jones)

4 Quilting as (a misrecognised) fine art Original: anticipated Modernist abstraction (Domestic) crafts as a forgotten part of Modernism (e.g. Sonia Dalaunays tapisseries, Popovas embroidery designs) An art form for the 20 th c.: quilt artists Quilt artists believe they challenge the traditional definition of the quilt. (Paula Mariedaughter, A Brief History of the Art Quilt, BUT: do they also challenge traditional definitions of fine art? Patricia Mainardi, Quilts: The Great American Art (San Pedro, CA: Miles & Weir, 1978) --------, "Quilts: The Great American Art." Feminist Art Journal, no. 1 (1973): 1, 18-23. Reprinted in Feminism and Art History: Questioning the Litany, edited by Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard (New York: Harper and Row, 1982), pp. 331-46.

5 Quilting as an independent tradition Independent because excluded from the exposure but also scrutiny that the fine arts have been subjected to –A very mixed blessing Independent and alternative, but not necessarily as an alternative to other media Rozsika Parker, The Subversive Stitch, p. 215: […] the contradictory and complex history of embroidery is important because it reveals that definitions of sexual difference, and the definitions of art and artist so weighted against women, are not fixed. They have shifted over the centuries, and they can be transformed in the future

6 Quilting beyond the fine art/craft divide: Faith Ringgold, "Picnic at Giverny, The French Collection (1991-93). See also

7 Typologies and classifications: Question, dont follow Many different alternatives (overlapping and/or incommensurable): in Framing Feminism alone, see Mary Kelly, On Sexual Politics and Art; Judith Barry & Sandy Flitterman, Textual Strategies: The Politics of Art Making; Lisa Tickner, The body politic: Female sexuality and women artists since 1970; and Pollock, Feminism and Modernism Typologies often imply hierarchies Typologies always expose the positioning of their authors along the lines of the divisions they set out Janet Wolff, The artist, the critic, and the academic: feminisms problematic relationship with Theory, in Katy Deepwell, New Feminist Art Criticism (MUP, 1995), pp. 14-9: classifications may stand for other tensions and conflicts (e.g. national-cultural)! DONT reify classifications!

8 Reification To reify = to thingify, to to treat an abstraction (e.g. a classification) as a material thing [Daniel Chandler, Technological or Media Determinism, ] In language, inevitable (to a degree) – e.g. society, liberty In argumentation, a fallacy How to avoid it: CONTEXTUALISE!

9 From feminist art to women artists Carol Armstrong, Preface, in Armstrong and de Zegher (eds.), Women Artists at the Millenium (Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2006): […] there is a special need now to retreat from our desire for epic adventures and conclusions. (p. ix) woman artist = more modest, whose womanhood is still a construction woman artist is not similar or symmetrical to man artist: […] like it or not, the woman in the artist colors her experience as an artist with the fact that she is not the normative case, that she does not occupy the position of universality, that she will always be looked at by others, and therefore by herself at least sometimes, as other and outsider, as exceptional, as different by definition. (p. xii)

10 (Re)Turning to women artists PROS Not tied to any historical movement – on-going Giving up the unanswerable question is this/she feminist? Part of the return to real world issues. About all women as a disadvantaged social group –Women artists work still sells for less –Women artist still underrepresented in major museum collections Essentialist? A regression (backlash?): from autobiographical discourses to (raw, emotional) confessionalism –Cf. the role of YBAs CONS Such Qs too easy and pointless. Pollock: what is feminism? Women = not a unified social group. Feminism – and more so queer theory – examines constructions of femininity Feminism interrogates femininity as a cultural and social construct and examines the role of visual culture in how it can be both inculcated and challenged Sophisticated and self- reflective disources on autobiography and embodiment

11 Alison Rowley, Plan: Large Woman or Large Canvas?, in Pollock (ed.), Generations and Geographies (1996) Alison Rowley starts off by using Spence as a representative of old-school politics in art practice – feminist and Marxist To quickly admit the limitations of the comparisons between the practice of contemporary women artists and feminist art: different times, different contexts BUT ALSO: the lack of awareness of feminisms legacies in creative practice = a missed opportunity for both women artists and art critics.

12 Both concerned with self-examination as a place from which to begin to speak as a corporeal and psychic subjectivity (ibid., p. 92) L: Jenny Saville, Branded (1992). Oil on canvas, 7 x 6 R: Jo Spence, Exiled (n.d.). Photographic print.

13 Jo Spence, photographer (UK, 1934-1992) Early career as commercial photographer Socially engaged documentary work, and womens collective work Explores visual autobiographies, mostly through phototherapy (anti- portraiture that explores identity through various identifications and re-writes an open-ended selfhood) Read: Putting Myself in the Picture: A Political Personal and Photographic Autobiography (Seattle: The Real Comet Press, 1988)

14 Phototherapy (with Rosy Martin & others) As a child, I did everything possible, not to be like my mother. Family Romance? Cinderella, Ugly Sister, Fairy – I tried them all. On the other hand (now using my brains) I still try to please surrogate daddies. Again, I fall. Ageing, angry, alone, ill, I regard the constellation of imaginary selves. Finally, with joy, I picture my dead parents. In memory I can be them, Moving beyond the past I become My own parent. [ibid., p.181]

15 Social Theory for fans of popular culture. Popular culture for fans of social theory. Based at the School of Media, Arts, and Design, U of Westminster (David Gauntlett) The Trading Cards are a pack of 32 online cards featuring theorists and concepts close to the hearts of people interested in social and cultural theory, gender and identity, and media studies.

16 Tracey Emin, My Bed (1998). Mattress, linens, pillows, rope, suitcases and various memorabilia, various dimensions; installation shot, Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York (1999).

17 Tracey Emin in bed at the Ciragan Palace Hotel, Kempinski, Instanbul, photographed by Graham Wood. Cover image, The Times Magazine, 13 November 2004.

18 Everyone I Have Ever Slept With, 1963-1995 (1995). Appliquéd tent, mattress and light, 122 x 245 x 215 cms. Purchased by Charles Saatchi. Destroyed at the Momart warehouse fire, East London, 2005.

19 Tracey Emin, Self-Portrait. Here it is (2000). Monoprint. Reprinted in red on the cover of Mandy Merck and Chris Townsend (eds.), The Art of Tracey Emin (London: Thames and Hudson, 2002). Townsend and Merck, Eminent Domain: The Cultural Location of Tracey Emin legal definition of eminent domain = the power to take something previously conceived as private property into public use (p. 8) Emins life history as confiscated – nationalised? – private property

20 Lorna Healy, We love you, Tracey: Pop-cultural Strategies in Tracey Emins Videos, ibid., pp. 155-171 The essential fans statement […] I love you, Tracey is the appropriate aesthetic judgement (p. 156) Attempts to legitimate [Emins] practice within art history block any effective understanding of what her work does. (p. 157) Why is Emins work still necessary, if e.g. abortion, rape, etc. were treated in the 1970s? –She brings these to the mainstream (p. 171) –Unfinished business: she tries to finish it (ibid.)

21 Rosemary Betterton, Why is My Art not as Good as Me? Femininity, Feminism and Life-Drawing, ibid., pp. 22-39 Identifies only male predecessors and influences Ladette-ish sexuality instead of sexual politics Yet use of quilting reveals awareness of feminist strategies Focus on feminist issues Katy Deepwell: libertarian individualism, rather than liberationist politics The ambiguities and contradictions in Emins work […] lie in this ambivalence and tension between feminine and post-feminist identities and positionings. (p. 38) It is the ways in which Emin deploys the feminine as a site of gendered identification that can be seen both to connect her work to, and to distinguish it from, artists working in previous decades in an explicitly feminist context. (p. 34) A new kind of independent and iconoclastic femininity (p. 38)

22 From Margate to the Venice Biennale: Our(?) Tracey done good(?) (y)Ours? Hybrid ethnic and racial identity Strangeland (2005): the descendant of slaves from Sudan Good? A natural at best Julian Stallabrass: a postmodern primitive (High Art Lite, rev. ed., Verso, 2006) Tracey Emin, International Woman Suitcase (2004). In collaboration with Longchamp, Paris, limited edition. Inscriptions in Turkish, Arabic, French and English.

23 Emin & feminism Emins work may be classed as feminist (not only but mostly) in the negative: It is being misread (i.e. read reductively) following the same sexist and racist interpretative models that allowed critics of 1970s feminist art to reject its poetics of sexual, political and aesthetic dissent as spasmodic and bitter reactions to their exclusion. Yet not rejected – authentic! A massive ideological & intellectual regression The critical reception of TE is one of the strongest arguments that could possibly be made for the continued need for feminist interventions in the art world and beyond.

24 Seminar Task (3) Are feminist creative practice and critical analysis still relevant in the 21st century? Bring in an example of feminist creative practice from the 1960s/1970s/1980s and try to find a contemporary example of art or design that you consider in some way connected or indebted to this early example. Last seminar! Last opportunity to ask questions and get feedback.

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