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Women Artists: Feminism In The 80s And Now

3 Jan

Symposium, Saturday 3rd December 2011

Goldsmiths University, Ben Pimlott Building.

[This symposium is a collaboration between The Women’s Art Library (MAKE) and Brixton Art Gallery Women Artists Group (BAG Women) to coincide with the Brixton Calling! exhibition at 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning (28th Oct-21st Dec 2012).]

I attended this symposium primarily as part of my research for my Major Critical Project which explores the work of a number of women artists working in 1980s Britain. This came at a time when I was feeling a bit worried as to whether I would have enough research to write the project. The purpose of the symposium was to bring a cross-generational audience (and speakers)  to examine the legacy in Britain that had been left by women artists in the 80s in the light of current feminist practices. It aimed to not only recall feminist practice in the 80s, but, to look in depth into their thinking, debates and campaigns and discuss their relevance today for a the new generations of women artists and feminists (which I identify myself as both an artist and a feminist).

For me, one of the reasons I decided to research into 80s feminist practices was due to the often contradictory debates that I have encountered (specifically at a feminist art lecture I attended at the ICA led by Katy Deepwell) as to whether the 80s have been forgotten in feminist history, with the 70s being the glory decade, or as to whether they have been parodied, re-enacted and emptied out of content or whether it has created ongoing tension between past and present generations of feminists. I simply do not have an extensive knowledge of the decade as I do of the 70s, where my influences lie. So for me, it was only natural that this be the topic for my MCP.

The running question we were met with both at the beginning and end of the day was:

Drawing from 80s feminist aesthetics, ethics and practice, how can we today develop a critical and relevant feminist art practice?

Towards the end of the day we convened in the lecture room and identified two of the re-occuring themes/topics of the day:

Body Politics (Performativity, identity formation, race, sexuality)

Public Sphere (Community engagement, education, places)

We broke off into smaller discussion groups with a key speaker into the following groups:

  • Body Politics/Aesthetics
  • Education
  • Public Sphere/Archives
  • Collectivity/Collaboration/Inter-generational resistance

(I decided to participate in the body politics/aesthetics group as it relates directly to my own practice.)

KEY QUESTION: Is there a feminist aesthetics today? If so what is it?

At first we asked ourselves “What is feminist art?” but then realised that it many of us do not have a clear answer and perhaps the reason why that is could be that we sometimes automatically assume that an art work is feminist due to the artist being feminist so the question here is “Is art feminist because the artist is feminist?”.

I guess you could say that there are particular attributes to ‘feminist’ art such as a consciousness of material or the use of a feminist sensibility but is it to our benefit to

Paris is Burning – Drag Realness

2 Mar

YouTube – Paris is Burning – Drag Realness.

Jessica Lagunas, Art Work by Jessica Lagunas

28 Feb

Jessica Lagunas Para Acariciarte Mejor, 2003 Digital C-Prints (4 photos) 16 x 20 inches each, framed in Perspex frame, framed size: 42 x 52 inches Edition of 5

essica Lagunas Para Besarte Mejor (The Better to Kiss You With), 2005 Single-channel digital video 57 minutes, 37 seconds, edition of 5

Jessica Lagunas Para verte mejor (The Better to See You With), 2005 Single-channel digital video. Edition of 5 57 minutes, 37 seconds Photo Credit: Production stills from video-performance. Photo by Roni Mocán. Image courtesy of the artist and ROLLO Contemporary Art

Jessica Lagunas Retorno a al Pubertad (Return to Puberty), 2005 Single-channel digital video 58 minutes, Edition of 5


Contemporary Art Gallery, Women’s Art Exhibition, London – The Body in Women’s Art Now: Part 1 — Embodied Retorno a al Pubertad (Return to Puberty) by Jessica Lagunas

28 Feb


Contemporary Art Gallery, Women’s Art Exhibition, London – The Body in Women’s Art Now: Part 1 — Embodied Retorno a al Pubertad (Return to Puberty) by Jessica Lagunas.

So after having made my “Mons Pubis” video I discovered the artist Jessica Lagunas who made an identical performance video to mine. She is shown plucking her pubic hairs with tweezers.

It’s like a blow to the head, I can’t believe that I made an identical video to another artist without knowing about it. Maybe we read the same book about the Bakitara, I don’t know, maybe we just think alike. I was quite upset at first, it one thing to interpret someone’s art work and use it in your own work but another thing is to copy that work. I guess I was naive to think that no one had created anything like it but turns out I was a fool. But she is not an internationally known artist, she’s not a big name. I stumbled across her when a friend of mine said she was going to Rollo gallery to see an exhibition by a female performance artist Regina José Galindo. I had never heard of the gallery or the artist so I went on the website to see the exhibitions and saw a past exhibition that celebrated women’s art and Jessica Laguna’s work was presented in the show.

There are some differences between our videos, mine is very stylised in black & white and hints at fluxus and perhaps is more minimal so that what is clearly viewed is the action. It was meant to be minimal in order to focus on the act of plucking the hair rather than any theoretical or political ideal behind it. This artist’s video is shot in colour which means that you can see how brutal it is to pluck pubic hair, you get see her bleeding as the piece progresses, mine, as it’s black & white , dismisses the bleeding completely so the viewer’s experience is not affected by other emotions such as pity. Yes you can sense how painful it is and when I showed my piece in an exhibition at college people winched and had to look away but I think that had they seen the after effects such as the bleeding or scabbing then they would have focused more on that rather than the action taking place. I guess this is another way of referencing the fluxus movement with their happenings…this is my happening, my action.

I do like her work though, I need to look more into her.


Bidisha on Gender Politics | FiveBooks | The Browser

16 Feb

click on photo for direct link to the article

Bidisha on Gender Politics | FiveBooks | The Browser.

Bidisha comments on five books on gender politics including Germaine Greer’s ‘The Whole Woman’.


“Bidisha is a British writer, feminist, critic and broadcaster. She presents Night Waves, an arts discussion show, for BBC Radio 3 and The Strand on the BBC World Service. She appears regularly as a guest on BBC radio and television arts discussion programmes. She is a columnist on social issues for theGuardian and the Independent on Sunday and she judged this year’s Orange prize for women’s fiction. She is the author of three critically acclaimed books, including Venetian Masters, a memoir of Venice published in 2008.”



10 Feb


This is going back to the idea that Ney Matogrosso presents a savage man as a new type of man. He is presenting a new form of male sexuality that’s raw and feminine. To this day he is still very androgynous and very feminine, he has always been rumoured to be homosexual but he is in fact married and has children. The idea here is not to defy what should be masculine but to allow for one to choose how to express oneself, going back to Flàvio De Carvalho and the idea that identity is an individual experience and that sexuality is made of countless ‘experiences’.  For sure Matogrosso was not the only one to think this way, there were many figures in the Tropicàlia movement who were also very androgynous and transgendered i.e. Caetano Veloso, etc.

YouTube – Mulher Barriguda e 3 Caravelas – Ney Matogrosso – Vivo 1981

10 Feb

YouTube – Mulher Barriguda e 3 Caravelas – Ney Matogrosso – Vivo 1981.

He reminds me of Carmen Miranda.

YouTube – Secos & Molhados with Ney Matogrosso – Amor

10 Feb

YouTube – Secos & Molhados with Ney Matogrosso – Amor.

I absolutely love the costumes!


YouTube – Secos & Molhados – Rosa de Hiroshima (1974)

10 Feb

YouTube – Secos & Molhados – Rosa de Hiroshima (1974).

YouTube – Secos & Molhados – Flores Astrais – Clipe na íntegra

10 Feb

YouTube – Secos & Molhados – Flores Astrais – Clipe na íntegra.

Ney Matogrosso and his band.