refuse

Often, when I do a series, I discard many photos.

It’s too disturbing. Or ‘a bit too much’. Or not powerful enough, or whatever. I end up discarding many incredible images.

I found these ones, from my series ‘refuse’, based on many of Foucault’s text on power. In 2014 I went through a black bag phase, fascinated with the nature of the plastic, the way it stretches, they way it’s fragile and can tear easily but at the same time keep things contained.

Here are some images I decided not to put in the series. I like the way my flesh appears super red. The contrast between flesh and plastic.

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object

Let us not make objects of ourselves or others.  Take it down a notch on the selfies. Ok, but is marriage not the biggest producer of objects? ‘Pure’, ‘good’ institution, where possession is the main manufacturer of the object. ‘Stay away from my husband’ and ‘my wife is only for me’. Monogamy’s pious way to look down on objects? Such a strange world.

     

some FEMEN images with foucault text

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“Because they claim to be concerned with the welfare of whole societies, governments arrogate to themselves the right to pass off as mere abstract profit or loss the human unhappiness that their decisions provoke or their negligence permits. It is a duty of an international citizenship to always bring the testimony of people’s suffering to the eyes and ears of governments, sufferings for which it’s untrue that they are not responsible. The suffering of men must never be a mere silent residue of policy. It grounds an absolute right to stand up and speak to those who hold power.”
Essential Works of Foucault (1954-1984), Volume 3: Power

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“There is no glory in punishing”
Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

“Resistances do not derive from a few heterogeneous principles; but neither are they a lure or a promise that is of necessity betrayed. They are the odd term in relations of power; they are inscribed in the latter as an irreducible opposite.”
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“There is no escaping from power, that it is always-already present constituting that very thing which one attempts to counter it with.”
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“Power is not an institution, and not a structure; neither is it a certain strength we are endowed with; it is the name that one attributes to a complex strategical situation in a particular society.” femen-paris-ukraine

“The strategic adversary is fascism… the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.” g_20043

“In a sense, I am a moralist, insofar as I believe that one of the tasks, one of the meanings of human existence – the source of human freedom – is never to accept anything as definitive, untouchable, obvious, or immobile. No aspect of reality should be allowed to become a definitive and inhuman law for us. We have to rise up against all forms of power – but not just power in the narrow sense of the word, referring to the power of a government or of one social group over another: these are only a few particular instances of power. Power is anything that tends to render immobile and untouchable those things that are offered to us as real, as true, as good.”
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“Why am I so interested in politics? But if I were to answer you very simply, I would say this: why shouldn’t I be interested? That is to say, what blindness, what deafness, what density of ideology would have to weigh me down to prevent me from being interested in what is probably the most crucial subject to our existence, that is to say the society in which we live, the economic relations within which it functions, and the system of power which defines the regular forms and the regular permissions and prohibitions of our conduct. The essence of our life consists, after all, of the political functioning of the society in which we find ourselves.
So I can’t answer the question of why I should be interested; I could only answer it by asking why shouldn’t I be interested?”

a feminist appropriation of misogynist and patriarchal texts: angela carter’s the sadeian woman and the bloody chamber.

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A feminist appropriation of misogynist and patriarchal texts: Angela Carter’s The Sadeian Woman and The Bloody Chamber.

By Roxie Drayson, Year 3, Goldsmiths College, University of London

It seems incongruous that a self-avowed feminist concerned with the empowerment of women should find anything of value in the writings of the Marquis de Sade, a misogynist libertine who openly advocated the punishment and control of women through sexual means.  It is a challenge Simone de Beauvoir undertook in her essay Must We Burn Sade?, in which she attempted to demonstrate ‘the supreme value of his testimony’. Like Beauvoir, Sade understood the powers of mystification, and his writing also unmasked the fictions of bourgeois gender constructs.

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When he writes that ‘every man wants to be a tyrant when he fornicates’, he reveals the reality of male desire and it is in this possibility that his importance for Beauvoir and other feminists partly lies. Beauvoir remarks that for Sade, ‘sexuality was not a biological matter, but a social fact’. He did not believe that sexuality was intended only to satisfy the requirements of procreation, and argued, that under the prohibitive social conditions of bourgeois morality, which undermined individualism in favour of an abstract repressive universality, sexual cruelty and violence could provide a subversive political strategy through which to reestablish individuality and passion. Beauvoir comes to view him as a philosopher of freedom, suggesting that ‘it is as a moralist rather than as a poet that Sade tries to shatter the prison of appearances’ by making of ‘his sexuality an ethic’. His work therefore has an exemplary character to the extent that this ethic provides us with ‘insights of surprising depth into the relation of sexuality to social existence’. Beauvoir is able to appropriate Sade for her own ends, weaving her interpretation of his work into an implicit criticism of the conservative morality and hypocritical bourgeois universalism that were employed to undermine female individualism in her own time.

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Twenty-four years later, in The Sadeian Woman, Angela Carter similarly appropriates the writings of Sade to further her own feminist project of ‘demythologising’  hegemonic and essentialist conceptions of female sexuality. Like Beauvoir, she also considers his pornography to be unique in that he used it to reveal rather than conceal the actuality of sexual relations ‘in the context of an unfree society as the expression of pure tyranny’. The source of Carter’s interest in Sade is the exposure of the important role that sexuality plays in maintaining the social status quo: ‘since he is not a religious man but a political man, he treats the facts of female sexuality not as a moral dilemma but as a political reality’. Like Beauvoir, she views him as a philosopher of freedom who ‘urged women to fuck as actively as they were able […] to fuck their way into history and in doing so change it’.  However, published during the early development of the anti-pornography debate that was to divide the feminist movement throughout the course of the next decade, contemporaneous and subsequent feminist critical responses to The Sadeian Woman demonstrated a profound unease with the ethics of any appropriation of Sade by feminism, an imaginative leap deemed by some impossible to make.

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Several critics, such as Susanne Kappeler, have stated that Carter’s use of Sade’s misogynist works did little other than reinforce degrading patriarchal representations of women. Her accusation that Carter is simply ‘playing in the literary sanctuary’ implies a refusal to acknowledge that some pornographic literature may be open to a subversive re-appropriation which could challenge the political and social status quo. Similarly, Patricia Duncker commented in relation to Carter’s use of the traditional fairy tale in The Bloody Chamber ‘that the infernal trap inherent in the fairy tale, which fits the form to its purpose, to be the carrier of ideology, proves too complex and pervasive to avoid. Carter is rewriting the tales within the strait-jacket of their original structures’. It is indeed not coincidental that The Bloody Chamber was published in the same year as The Sadeian Woman, as Carter’s revisionary fairy tales mark a similar attempt to demonstrate how inherited patriarchal discursive structures are not innately monolithic or resistant to appropriation. Carter connects the two texts herself by arguing that Sade’s ‘straitjacket psychology relates his fiction directly to the black and white ethical world of fairy-tale and fable’. If her discussion of Sade’s work stresses its fairy tale abstractions, then her own revision of the classical fairy tale attempts to emphasise the pornographic nature of the representations of women that it circulated. Both texts, like Beauvoir’s essay, highlight the connection that binds sexual and socio-economic relations within a patriarchal society. In her fairy-tale revisions, Carter attempts, just as Sade did in his black fairy-tales, to expose a reality that those tales sought to disguise: that female virginity operates as a token and guarantor of the ruling classes’ property rights. Carter writes in The Sadeian Woman that ‘sexual relations between men and women always render explicit the nature of social relations in the society in which they take place and if described explicitly will form a critique of those relations’.

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According to the critic Betsey Hearne, the original eighteenth-century tale of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont – upon which two of Carter’s stories in The Bloody Chamber are based – can be read as a proto-feminist text. Beaumont lived at a time when the archaic tradition of arranged marriage based on social position and wealth was being challenged by the progressive concept of courtly love. In the classic pattern of courtship, Beauty is represented as having a choice. The Beast repeatedly asks for her hand in marriage which she chooses to refuse on several occasions, suggesting that her final decision to wed is entirely voluntary and therefore indicative of romantic love.

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However in truth, when Beaumont’s Beauty first considers the possibility of marrying the Beast, her motivations are primarily those of practicality and gratitude for the generous gifts lavished on her: ‘“Am I not very wicked,” said she, “to act so unkindly to Beast, that has studied, so much to please me in everything? […] It is true, I do not feel the tenderness of affection for him, but I find I have the highest gratitude, esteem and friendship; I will not make him miserable, were I to be so ungrateful I should never forgive myself”’. She is not a woman in love, but someone calmly calculating her prospects and economic obligations. She can therefore be read as a representation of female collusion within the patriarchal exchange system of women.

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Mimicking Sade by adopting the role of ‘moral pornographer’ who ‘through the infinite modulations of the sexual act’ reveals ‘the historical fact of the economic dependence of women upon men’, Carter uses her first revision of Beamont’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ to illustrate the system of material exchange upon which the original’s romantic concept of marriage is in fact founded. In the ironically titled ‘The Courtship of Mr Lyon’, she highlights the construction of the female as a circulating object of exchange by allowing, in a sentence concerning the white rose that Beauty’s father had promised to buy her, a fleeting syntactic ambiguity about what is being bought, Beauty or the rose: ‘not even enough money left over to buy his Beauty, his-girl-child, his pet, the one white rose she said she wanted’. The white rose, signifying Beauty’s status as a commodity, later becomes a token of exchange in a system of private ownership between the male Beast and Beauty’s father. The Beast’s estate bespeaks a materialism reserved for the male patriarch, it is ‘a place of privilege’. Just as Beauty’s father is the proud owner of ‘his girl-child, his pet’, the Beast is similarly accustomed to being the possessor of beautiful and valuable objects. Carter highlights the inexorability of the male-defined economy that structures the original narrative in a sly aside after the Beast’s quid pro quo proposal: ‘and what else was there to be done’. Beauty is represented as aware of, yet powerless to contravene, her position in this system of symbolic exchange: ‘she stayed and smiled, because her father wanted her to do so […] For she knew with a pang of dread that her visit to the Beast must be, on some magically reciprocal scale, the price of her father’s good fortune’.
As a governess, Beaumont was viewed as a progressive thinker in her day who had a ‘reforming zeal for both the status and the education of women in society’. Originally published in a book that tells of a governess reciting different lessons and stories to a group of girls in her charge, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was designed as a sex-specific tale intended to present a suitable model for little girls. However, as the folklorist Jack Zipes states, the story suggests ‘that the mark of beauty for a female is to be found in her submission, obedience, humility, industry, and patience’. Beauty sacrifices her will to that of two men, her father and the Beast, and seeks for her self-effacement to be praised as a virtuous and courageous act. Carter ironises this position by permitting the derisive description – ‘Miss Lamb, spotless, sacrificial’ – to emanate from Beauty’s own perspective. In her passive submission, Beauty is revealed to be a copy of Sade’s Justine, a character whom Carter described as ‘a good woman according to the rules for women laid down by men and her reward is rape, humiliation and incessant beatings […] the living image of a fairy-tale princess’. mr-lyon04

In ‘The Courtship of Mr Lyon’, Beauty expedites her own domination by offering herself to the Beast in desperation, almost as if she fears not being taken otherwise: ‘if you’ll have me, I’ll never leave you’. Carter is evidently impatient with Beauty’s acceptance of her subordinate status and commented that the original tale is ‘an advertisement for moral blackmail when the Beast says that he is dying because of Beauty, the only morally correct thing for her to have said at that point would be, “Die, then”’. However in her own revision, no such rebellion occurs, instead we are left with Mr. Lyon’s self-regarding, complacent self-satisfaction at the appropriation of his latest acquisition: ‘do you know, I think I might be able to manage a little breakfast today, Beauty, if you eat something with me’.
In an interview with John Haffenden, Carter commented that ‘some of the stories in The Bloody Chamber are the result of furiously quarrelling with Bettelheim’, specifically referring to ‘Beauty and the Beast’ as a tale of which her interpretation differed markedly from that of the psychoanalytic critic. While he viewed the fable as an allegory of the successful maturation of the girl into sexual adulthood, in ‘The Courtship of Mr Lyon’, she indicates that within patriarchal society autonomous female growth is in effect stunted. Bettelheim framed his reading of the story entirely within the Oedipal narrative, suggesting that Beauty, due to the incest taboo and her desire for her father, has not been able to see the prince correctly and has imagined him as a beast. Once she is able successfully to sever her Oedipal attachment to her father, she can then see the Prince as he is and has always been. In her second revision of the tale, ‘The Tiger’s Bride’, Carter allows Beauty to escape from the Oedipal narrative, offering an alternative model for the development of female sexual desire.
Carter reverses the child’s willingness to sacrifice all for her beloved father into the father’s own willingness to sacrifice all, including his daughter and wife, to his puerile egotism and frenetic pleasure-seeking. The role of women as objects of exchange in classic fairy tales, adumbrated in ‘The Courtship of Mr Lyon’, is further accented in ‘The Tiger’s Bride’ as Beauty’s father loses her to the Beast in a game of cards. Appropriating the personal voice, this Beauty avatar not only takes control of the narrative, and therefore the patriarchal narrative tradition of the fairy tale itself, but in observing her surroundings from a detached, acrimonious perspective is able to expose the predicament of women within the patriarchal system: ‘I watched with the furious cynicism peculiar to women whose circumstances force mutely to witness folly’. Unlike her twin sister in ‘The Courtship of Mr Lyon’, she does not construct herself as a delicate ‘pearl’ but as a stronger, more resilient ‘woman of honour’ who refuses to play the role of victimized pawn. The white rose, which referred in the previous story to Beauty’s status as cultural commodity, is disdainfully returned by this Beauty to her father ‘all smeared with blood’.

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When the Beast asks her to undress, she refuses to discharge her father’s debt and submit to the Sadeian one-way pornographic gaze which she believes will objectify and other her. However, just as this Beauty does not represent the archetypal Beauty, this Beast does not represent the archetypal Beast. He is no longer a man with the appearance of a lion but a tiger wearing the crafted, ‘beautiful’ mask of a man, suggesting that identity is in itself an artefact. Beauty is fascinated by his otherness, and she is soon able to perceive that beneath the constructed façade of his social appearance, they share an innate commonality: ‘we could boast amongst us not one soul since all the best religions in the world state categorically that not beasts nor women were equipped with souls’. Both excluded from patriarchal society, their relationship can therefore escape androcentric structures in which sexual relations are governed by male discourses of sexuality. It is the tiger who first undresses, revealing his animality behind his human mask, allowing her, asserting herself, to do the same. Rather than othering its object, the tiger’s gaze instead requires the engagement of another subject, acknowledges ‘no pact that is not reciprocal’. Moved by his restrained ferocity and non-differentiating gaze, she exposes herself to him and in doing so finds her perception of the ‘fleshly nature of women’ transformed.
Reading The Bloody Chamber alongside The Sadeian Woman, Patricia Duncker comments, in reference to ‘The Tiger’s Bride’ , that ‘all we are watching, beautifully packaged and unveiled, is the ritual disrobing of the willing victim of pornography’, believing that Carter has absorbed Sade’s misogyny and can therefore have ‘no conception of women’s sexuality as autonomous desire’. This interpretation undermines the agency that Beauty displays in refusing to allow the Beast to cover himself and in stripping herself. Not to do so would have confirmed the patriarchal view that she has no animal self to expose. In the story’s final moments, the Beast licks away Beauty’s skin, revealing the beautiful tiger beneath. Instead of the male animalistic libido devouring the sexually unmotivated female, Beauty is in fact revealed to possess an autonomous sexual libido of her own. Her transformation from object of exchange into independent subject is solidified when she dispatches her mechanical twin, a clock-work doll, back to her father: ‘I will dress her in my own clothes, wind her up, send her back to perform the part of my father’s daughter’.

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Like Duncker, Avis Lewallen similarly suggests that the tale is trapped in ‘the Sadean framework, fuck or be fucked, both in the literal and in the metaphorical sense’. It is an interpretation rooted in Lewallen’s misreading of Carter’s critique of Sade’s dualistic Juliette/Justine paradigm in The Sadeian Woman. While Lewallen believes that ‘Carter is attempting to promote an active sexuality for women within Sadean boundaries’, Carter’s analysis of Juliette/Justine, the female libertine and the sacrificial victim, stresses that ultimately ‘Juliette’s triumph is just as ambivalent as Justine’s disaster’; she believes that ‘the Sadeian woman does not subvert her society, except incidentally, as a storm trooper of the individual consciousness. She remains in the area of privilege created by her class just as Sade remains in the philosophic framework of his time’. In ‘The Tiger’s Bride’, Beauty is not based on Sade’s Juliette. Moving from clothes to skin to fur, she represents the multiplicity of female identity. Whereas Beaumont’s story emphasises the potential danger of the polymorphousness latent in each individual and tries to castrate and channel it in accordance with the requirements of a fixed social structure, Carter celebrates indeterminacy and liminality as a desirable and excitingly perverse state. In her revisionary tale, Beauty and the Beast are not trapped within the Sadean fuck or be fucked mentality, they are subverting it as neither can be read as predator or victim. Their relationship is modelled on Carter’s concept of reciprocal love in The Sadeian Woman which ‘will not admit of conqueror and conquered’. It is a model which Carter states Sade explicitly controverted as he ‘preserves his ego from the singular confrontation with the object of reciprocal desire which is, in itself, both passive object and active subject. […] It is in this holy terror of love that we find, the source of all opposition to the emancipation of women’. Beauvoir, similarly admonishes Sade for ‘never for an instant losing himself in his animal nature’, and for refusing in his misogyny to acknowledge the way in which the ambiguity of his fleshed subjectivity could open him reciprocally to the female other. Both women situate Sade’s solipsistic ethic of the erotic against their own feminist erotic, one which ‘allows one to grasp existence in one’s self and the other, as both subjectivity and passivity. The two partners merge in this ambiguous unity; each one is freed of his own presence and achieves immediate communication with the other’.
Carter’s dual revisions of the traditional fairy tale ‘Beauty and the Beast’ act as intratextual companion pieces within The Bloody Chamber and exemplify the collection’s textual tactics as a whole. The first version deconstructs the original story by exposing the contrived gender differences and positionalities which inform it. The second reconstructs by permitting the feminine subject to exceed the projected desire prohibited by the patriarchal forces of the classic fairy tale that insist on restricting female sexuality to that of an economic commodity. Employing Sade’s liberatory philosophy strategically, Carter exposes the patriarchal framework that structures such narratives, and reformulates it into a feminist tale of erotic experience. As Marina Warner states: ‘Carter snatches out of the jaws of misogyny itself ‘useful stories’ for women. There she found Sade a liberating teacher of the male-female status quo and made him illuminate the far reaches of women’s polymorphous desires. The effect is to lift Beauty […] out of the pastel nursery into the labyrinth of female desire’. By insisting on understanding Sade, by giving themselves over, through a method of critical sympathy, to the logic of his philosophy, while exposing his misogyny, both Beauvoir and Carter are able to make Sade work for them.

Bibliography
Beaumont, Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de, ‘Beauty and the Beast’, 9 January 2007 <http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/beauty.html&gt; [accessed 14/05/2010].

Beauvoir, Simone de, Must We Burn Sade?, trans. by Annette Michelson (New York: Grove Press, 1953).

Bettelheim, Bruno, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1978).

Carter, Angela, The Sadeian Woman (London: Virago, 1979).

Carter, Angela, The Bloody Chamber (London: Vintage, 2007).

Carter, Angela (ed.), The Second Virago Book of Fairy Tales (London: Virago, 1992).

Clancy, Patricia, ‘A French Writer and Educator in England, Mme Le Prince de Beaumont’, Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century, 201 (1982) pp. 195-208.

Duncker, Patricia, ‘Re-imagining The Fairy Tales: Angela Carter’s Bloody Chambers’, Literature and History, 10:1, (1984) pp. 3-14.

Haffenden, John, Novelists in Interview (London and New York: Methuen, 1985).

Hearne, Betsy, Beauty and the Beast: Visions and Revisions of an Old Tale (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989).

Kappeler, Susanne, The Pornography of Representation (Cambridge: Polity, 1986).

Lewallen, Avis, ‘Wayward Girls But Wicked Women?: Female Sexuality in Angela Carter’s “The Bloody Chamber”’ in Day, Gary and Bloom, Clive (eds.), Perspectives on Pornography: Sexuality in Film and Literature (New York: St Martin’s, 1988) pp. 144-158.

Zipes, Jack, Fairy Tales and The Art of Subversion: The Classical Genre for Children and The Process of Civilization (New York: Routledge, 2006).

pieter hugo

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Cape Town-based photographer Pieter Hugo’s work elicits extreme responses — from criticism for his exoticised representations of Africa to being lauded for reinvigorating photography with the unflinching imagery his large-format camera captures.

There are no ANC-prescribed notions of “prettiness” in his photographs, or any middle ground or easy responses to it.

Hugo’s latest work, the Pirelli-commissioned At Home series of nude portraits of South Africans at home — which features at the Jo’burg Art Fair — is all imperfect humanity, mottled skin, sock-elastic marks on ankles and grotesque testicles.

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It is a visual and intellectual teabagging as one wonders why Carin Bester’s bed is sheetless (laundry day or a break between johns?), or what is behind the indolent, bored scepticism of Fernando Swartz’s gaze.

At Home pursues themes and a vocabulary characteristic of Hugo’s work: a questioning of the context and notions of “truth” in these portraits, the discomfort and uncertainty of not knowing but presuming, the relationship and rituals between photographer and subject. Hugo’s technical preciseness has the nudes in classic poses that are unsettlingly updated and reflect sensitivity to depth and composition. It also strips bare — literally and figuratively — ordinary South Africans, including the viewer, inducing an uncomfortable examination of self and society.

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Corresponding by email from London, where he was short-listed for the Deutsche Börse photography award (which collagist John Stezaker won), Hugo said even though the series “is a typology — in this instance everyone is nude and at home — each image is still captioned with the individual’s name, location and date. It uncovers the singularity of the lived experience among the ready-made spectacle.”

He added that the Pirelli commission “facilitated” a project he had “wanted to do for a while”. The commission is a departure, in its conceptualisation, from Hugo’s apparent modus operandi, which is usually a response to external stimuli, including media and literature.

A cellphone image posted on the internet inspired The Hyena and Other Men, a series of portraits of itinerant Nigerian performers with their wild-dog co-stars. It, together with the Nollywood collection that profiled the world’s third-largest film industry in macabre, voodoo-style surreality, drew acclaim but also criticism for an allegedly exploitative representation of Africa.

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Hugo has collected his work into six books, including Permanent Error, a terrifyingly post-apocalyptic examination of the graveyard where the world’s outdated computers go to die in Ghana and Pieter Hugo: This Must Be the Place, which accompanied a retrospective of 36-year-old Hugo’s work shown earlier this year at the Hague Museum of ­Photography.

Noah Rabinowitz, writing for the art website Guernica, noted that “although each of [Hugo’s] evocative series asks us to reassess the perceptions of our world, Hugo’s Hague collection questions photography itself: its limits as well as its increasingly complex methods of representation.”

It is a constant preoccupation for Hugo, who believes that “any practitioner should have a healthy distrust of the veracity of the medium they work in”.

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Hugo has also, inadvertently, broken into the world of pop music. Beyoncé appropriated visuals from Hyena Men for her styling in the Run the World (Girls) music video and Nick Cave’s Grinderman project used some imagery from theNollywood series for the Heathen Child video.

A Cave fan, Hugo expressed disappointment at not being involved in that process. Asked about which Cave song he would like to direct as a music video, the artist’s response is telling: the voyeuristic, unsettling Watching Alice from the album Tender Prey.

“It always reminded me of Balthus’s painting of the same title. Perhaps it directly references it. I would create new images and I would draw inspiration from Balthus’s fantastical lexicon,” said Hugo.

Pieter Hugo is this year’s Pirelli Special Project artist at the FNB Joburg Art Fair

First published here


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on education

Foucault delineates the contours of power as a strategy without a subject: ROM locking learning in a box. Its enemy is a tactics without a strategy, replacing the politico-territorial imagery of conquest and resistance with nomad-micromilitary sabotage and evasion, reinforcing intelligence.

All political institutions are cyberian military targets.

Take universities, for instance.

Learning surrenders control to the future, threatening established power. It is vigorously suppressed by all political structures, which replace it with a docilizing and conformist education, reproducing privilege as wisdom. Schools are social devices whose specific function is to incapicitate learning, and universities are employed to legitimate schooling through perpetual reconstitution of global social memory.

The meltdown of metropolitan education systems in the near future is accompanied by a quasi-punctual bottom-up takeover of academic institutions, precipitating their mutation into amnesiac cataspace-exploration zones and bases manufacturing cyberian soft-weaponry.

Nick Land

Meltdown

natalia ll

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Born in Żywiec in 1937 Natalia LL studied at the State High School of Fine Arts in Wroclaw. Her works of art have been exhibited in important galleries in Poland and abroad, together with some of the most important body artists and performers, such as Marina Abramovic, Gina Pane, Anette Messager, Stephanie Oursler, Suzanne Santoro, Carolee Schneemann, Noemi Midan, Suzy Lake, and Orlan in institutions such as the Paris Biennale, the Sao Paulo Biennial of Contemporary Art, and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.

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Galleria upp in Venice is pleased to present The Grammar of The Body, a solo exhibition by Natalia LL (Żywiec, 1937), the 1970s icon of Polish feminism. Thanks to her expressive audacity and the work of PERMAFO Gallery – a space for exhibitions and reflection on the theory/practice of conceptual art which she cofounded in Wroclaw in 1970  – Natalia has made a major contribution to today’s international and Polish art, of which she is an exceptional example. Moving between concept and body art making use of anonymous and ambiguous notation supports such as photography and video, Natalia has taken an active role in the feminist lines of the Polish avant-garde.

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Through the penetration of the subject/object body, Natalia Lach-Lachowicz develops visual archives and photographic series that are radical and direct consequences of an artistic approach built around a forceful feminist personality. Registering a state means, above all, describing relationships and transmitting women’s resistance, power, and infinite nobleness, revealed now as sexually active women. With irony and spontaneity, Natalia LL records and classifies ordinary attitudes and behavior, turning them into new, absolute semantic and morphological structures of signs, making it possible to create and clarify new expressive meanings and focal points. By introducing minimal changes in the structure of signs, she opens artistic perception to the linguistic-grammatical parameters of art itself. Formal appearance and substance collide. Natalia LL’s visual code is built on oppositions.

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In a civil society based on goods, commoditization, and mass production, the body – and sex – with its unique gestures, tics, and spasms of pleasure is a stimulating microcosm in which individual subjectivity can be defined as well as a means through which female sexuality achieves a social and political perspective. In this way, the provocative photographic series Post-Consumer Art (1975) and Animal Art (1977) – shown with some of the latest vintage photographs still on the market at the exhibition opening on Tuesday  28 May 2013 at 6.30 p.m. – reveal their erotic power and stand in favor of the feminist movement and against the Soviet Union and the deeply patriarchal society of the Communist regime. The nudity exhibited and emphasized by the presence of a fur coat as well as the unequivocal sexual implication of common gestures performed by young women (eating a banana, a hot-dog, or some jelly) are courageous representations of the consumption of the capitalist system, then posed to create a new supply-demand regime in Eastern Europe.

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Upp gallery opened in Venice on Giudecca island in June 2009 with the intention to work primarily with young and international artists, trying to explore  the variety and the complexity  of contemporary artistic production, and contemplating also very different research paths. The gallery program alternates projects  ranging for performance to painting, from installation to photography, dealing with social ethic dimensions to more isolated, intimate, and personal positions.

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monologue

In 1975, Schneemann performed Interior Scroll, a Fluxus-influenced piece featuring her use of text and body. In her performance, Schneemann entered wrapped in a sheet, under which she wore an apron. She disrobed and then got on a table where she outlined her body with dark paint. Several times, she would take “action poses”, similar to those in figure drawing classes. Concurrently, she read from her book Cézanne, She Was a Great Painter. Following this, she dropped the book and slowly extracted from her vagina a scroll from which she read. Schneemann’s feminist scroll speech, according to performance theorist Jeanie Forte, made it seem as if “[Schneemann]’s vagina itself is reporting […] sexism”. Art critic Robert C. Morgan states that it is necessary to acknowledge the period during which Interior Scroll was produced in order to understand it. He argues that by placing the source of artistic creativity at the female genitals, Schneemann is changing the masculine overtones of minimalist art and conceptual art into a feminist exploration of her body. Interior Scroll, along with Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party, helped pioneer many of the ideas later popularized by the off-broadway show The Vagina Monologues.

susan sontag on art and beauty

When that notorious beauty-lover Oscar Wilde announced in The Decay of Lying, “Nobody of any real culture . . . ever talks nowadays about the beauty of a sunset. Sunsets are quite old-fashioned,” sunsets reeled under the blow, then recovered. Les beaux arts, when summoned to a similar call to be up to date, did not. The subtraction of beauty as a standard for art hardly signals a decline of the authority of beauty. Rather, it testifies to a decline in the belief that there is something called art.

twelfth year: Mcdonalds burger

I pawned our wedding rings today. It bought us some cell phone credit, vitamins for the kids, a bottle of red wine and a drive thru mcDonalds meal. As I watched in the rear view mirror how the little ones were enjoying their happy meals, I looked out on the harbour and thought how I would pawn the rings again for that very moment. There’s some cetchup on your mustache my dear. What a beautiful day. Happy twelfth anniversary, darling.

mama

“By madly ransacking my life for all the details that suited my mother’s theory of appropriateness and by carefully suppressing almost all the others, I was able to offer her an image of myself that produced in her a feeling of ‘closeness.’ It should be kept in mind that this ‘closeness’ was a ‘closeness’ to her theory rather than to her life but appeal to her didacticism was the only way to give her sufficient satisfaction to ensure the domestic peace necessary to free me for my own affairs. I planned a daily set of conversational openers consisting of carefully chosen stories.”

Eleanor Antin

eleanor-750-sharpweb

the sacred naked nature girls

SacredNakedNatureGirls_01_body

By the time the Sacred Naked Nature Girls brought their all nude show to Highways in Santa Monica, they were wrapped in wild stories about how, in other locales, irate feminists and horny fellows had joined forces to recast their work as pornography. The gals wanted to censure them—the guys wanted to jack off in front of them as applause. I went to see what all the ruckus was about and witnessed a rare instance of decidedly female energies melded together in a serenely powerful force. New Age neo-primitivists scoot over—here’s another spin on the body and the sacred. Their nudity wasn’t there to shock or offend, it was symbolic of their collective will to break down the barriers of the social and turn emotional vulnerability and personal memory into poetry.

Sacred Naked Nature Girls’ performance piece grew out of improvisational techniques they developed to explore what they call “flesh memory.” An intentionally sketchy script gives free reign to their intuitive and spontaneous method. They work through their views of how women’s bodies are codified in our society, and their use of fantasy to respond to and subvert such strictures. Skits are thematically organized around the pleasures and dangers associated with women’s bodies; they deal with exhibitionism and camp, erotica and violence, interracial sex, and female centered reverence for the body. Their idea, as they themselves put it, is “to create dreamscapes, juxtaposing reality, sensory elements, fantasies, body journeys and unexpressed consciousness.”

For the most part from theatrical backgrounds, the group consists of: Laura Meyers, Danielle Brazell, Denise Uyehara, and Akilah Oliver.

 


Coco Fusco Had you ever performed naked before working with each other?

Akilah Oliver One of the techniques we developed was working from flesh memory.

Danielle Brazell When I started working with Akilah, I was able to find a magic and a spontaneity on stage that I had not felt in any other situation I had been in in the past.

CF How did you decide to work together?

DB Besides sleeping with each other? (laughter)

Denise Uyehara We had worked a couple of times in the studio and then decided to work out in nature. We went to Azuma Beach.

Laura Meyers We went over to an isolated area and spontaneously disrobed and went into the waves and started doing mirror exercises in pairs and then in a group in a circle. And it was very magical because it happened so spontaneously, suddenly we were nude and you couldn’t tell what year it was, what century. That was our first performance. When we turned around there was a smattering of people.

AO And a guy kayaking.

DB The men came up over the hill, appeared out of nowhere.

CF Let me get to the male reaction to your show that came out of these “flesh memories” because those reactions have, to an extent, transformed the work, or at least the original intent. What did you make of the reactions of some men, for instance the ones who wanted to masturbate in front of you, responding to you as if you weren’t there, as if the performance were a porn movie?

LM The development of the piece has been influenced by both male and female reactions.

DU Our experience in discussion is that we’re always drawn straight to the men’s reaction. I’d actually like to talk about what we do before we even thought about the male reaction, because so often when people see the end product they say, “How did you deal with those masturbators?”

LM Over the course of the performance we have learned how to take care of ourselves and how to deal with our audience.

DU One man came up to me after the first series of performances we did at Highways and said, “I’ve never seen a woman move before, I’ve never seen a woman squat or sweat.” He said, “I’ve made love to them, but I’ve made love to them in the dark. They’ve always been an object, this thing. For the first time in my life I’ve been able to see five women move in very beautiful ways, in very harsh ways . . . when you slap your body your body swells. Your body is an organism, you’re alive.”

CF Certain theories of performance maintain that there is a transformative process when a performance takes place in front of an audience. What about the women’s response to your work?

DU It has been very positive. Our piece has some pretty intense moments. We do a piece dealing with rape and rape fantasies. In the second set of performances we did a scene in total darkness. We wanted to create a safe place to empower the women in the audience to speak, to howl, scream, cry out if they wanted to. And the men would not let the women speak. We said we wanted to wait ‘til a woman spoke and there was some silence, and finally some women did.

LM The women were saying that it was not a safe place. And so we said, well come down on stage with us. There were 130 people crowded into a space seated for a hundred and it was 12:30 at night. The men started to get enraged. Four or five of the women came down to the stage. In Boulder there were a couple of women who left very upset after the rape/rape fantasy piece. We were coming in and opening wounds.

CF There are certain schools of feminism that say: Look, there’s no way to deal with sexuality and violent sexuality and violation that isn’t to a certain extent catering to the desire to see women be violated. Therefore, women who are feminists should not represent rape in their work. There are other positions which assert that sexuality is about acting out, it’s better for these things to happen in the realm of the imagination than for them to be suppressed which creates even more desire for them to happen in real life.

DU The rape story evolved out of group improvisations and the associations we each made listening to one another. Danielle was talking about a scenario—going to the beach on a beautiful day and her fear about being raped. And when she did act out the fear as an exercise—she’s talking and telling the story, I was amazed that certain key words she was saying brought up erotic pangs in me. That was very, very scary and made me feel guilty. And I said, let me try to do a simultaneous monologue with you about an erotic situation with similar key things going on. It’s a beautiful day, I go to the beach, and then a man takes me by surprise and instead of rape it’s more like a fuck and we have mad erotic passion. There’s this standard thing that rape is a violation and erotica is when you’re in control and you can do whatever the fuck you want because it’s your fantasy. Danielle was working on a place of fear in rape, while I went into heavy erotica and then pulled myself back and thought wait a minute, what am I doing? If I were raped, how would I ever be able to feel erotic again?

CF At one point I noticed that your bodies seemed synchronized as if to illustrate how fine the line is between pain and pleasure.

read the rest here

 

cecilia blessed/punished

“This is the historical reality of the soul, which, unlike the soul represented by Christian theology, is not born in sin and subject to punishment, but is born rather out of methods of punishment, supervision, and constraint.”
―    Michel Foucault,    Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

DOOP

A blessing with oil at the baptism of our daughter, Armanda,  2006

© cecilia ferreira

utility

“Where the world comes in my way — and it comes in my way everywhere — I consume it to quiet the hunger of my egoism. For me you are nothing but — my food, even as I too am fed upon and turned to use by you. We have only one relation to each other, that of usableness, of utility, of use.“

~ The Ego and Its Own by Max Stirner

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 © cecilia ferreira

the hammer of the witches

The Malleus Maleficarum (Latin for “The Hammer of Witches”, or “Der Hexenhammer” in German) is a famous treatise on witches, written in 1486 by Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger, two Inquisitors of the Catholic Church, and was first published in Germany in 1487. The main purpose of the Malleus was to attempt to systematically refute arguments claiming that witchcraft does not exist, discredit those who expressed skepticism about its reality, to claim that witches were more often women than men, and to educate magistrates on the procedures that could find them out and convict them.

The Malleus Maleficarum was published in 1487 by Heinrich Kramer (Latinized Institoris) and James Sprenger (also known as Jacob or Jakob Sprenger ). Scholars have debated how much Sprenger contributed to the work. Some say his role was minor while others say there is little evidence for this claim.

In 1484 Kramer made one of the first attempts at a systematic persecution of witches in the region of Tyrol. It was not a success, Kramer was thrown out of the territory, and dismissed by the local bishop as a “senile old man”. According to Diarmaid MacCulloch, writing the book was Kramer’s act of self-justification and revenge. Some scholars have suggested that following the failed efforts in Tyrol, Kramer and Sprenger requested and received a papal bull Summis desiderantes affectibus in 1484. It allegedly gave full papal approval for the Inquisition to prosecute witchcraft in general and for Kramer and Sprenger specifically. Malleus Maleficarum was written in 1484 or 1485 and the papal bull was included as part of the preface. The preface also includes an approbation from the University of Cologne’s Faculty of Theology. The authenticity of the Cologne endorsement was first questioned by Joseph Hansen but Christopher S. Mackay rejects his theory as a misunderstanding. The Malleus Maleficarum drew on earlier sources like the Johannes Nider’s treatise Formicarius, written 1435/37.

The book became the handbook for witch-hunters and Inquisitors throughout Late Medieval Europe. Between the years 1487 and 1520, the work was published thirteen times. It was again published between the years of 1574 to 1669 a total of sixteen times. Regardless of the authenticity of the papal bull and endorsements which appear at the beginning of the book, its presence contributed to the popularity of the work.

Ancient pre-Christian beliefs in reality of witchcraft had been denied by the church in earlier centuries; the first Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne had specifically outlawed the old practice of witch burning “in the manner of the pagans”. By the 15th century belief in witches was once again openly accepted in European society, but they typically suffered penalties no more harsh than public penances such as a day in the stocks Persecution of witches became more brutal following the publication of the Malleus, with witchcraft being accepted as a real and dangerous phenomenon.

The Malleus Maleficarum asserts that three elements are necessary for witchcraft: the evil-intentioned witch, the help of the Devil, and the Permission of God. The treatise is divided up into three sections. The first section tries to refute critics who deny the reality of witchcraft, thereby hindering its prosecution. The second section describes the actual forms of witchcraft and its remedies. The third section is to assist judges confronting and combating witchcraft. However, each of these three sections has the prevailing themes of what is witchcraft and who is a witch. The Malleus Maleficarum can hardly be called an original text, for it heavily relies upon earlier works such as Visconti and, most famously, Johannes Nider’s Formicarius (1435).

Between 1487 and 1520, twenty editions of the Malleus were published, and another sixteen editions were published between 1574 to 1669. Popular accounts suggest that the extensive publishing of the Malleus Maleficarum in 1487 launched centuries of witch-hunts in Europe. Estimations of deaths have varied widely. According to MacCulloch, the Malleus was one of several key causes of the witch craze, along with popular superstition, jealously of witches’ knowledge from humanist scholars, and tensions created by the Reformation. However, as some researchers have noted, the fact that the Malleus was popular does not imply that it accurately reflected or influenced actual practice; one researcher compared it to confusing a “television docu-drama” with “actual court proceedings.” Estimates about the effect of the Malleus should thus be weighed accordingly.

Download “The Hammer of Witches” here

nostalgia ( jean baudrillard & prison lanscapes by alyse emdur)

” This would be the successive phases of the image:

– it is the reflection of a basic reality

-it masks and perverts a basic reality

-it masks the absence of a basic reality

-it bears no relation to any reality whatever, it is its own pure simulacrum.

In the first case, the images is a good appearance – the representation is of the order of sacrament. In the second, it is an evil appearance- of the order of malefice. In the third, it plays at being an appearance – it is of the order of sorcery. In the fourth, it is not longer in the order of appearance at all, but of simulation.

When the real is no longer what it used to be, nostalgia assumes its full meaning.”

Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation

“Prison Landscapesis a monumental collection of photographs of prison inmates representing themselves in front of visiting room backdrops. Such backdrops, often painted by talented inmates, are used within the prisons as portrait studios. As inmates and their visitors pose for photos in front of these idealized landscapes they pretend, for a brief moment, that they are someplace else. The photographs are given to these visitors as gifts to take home and remember the faces of their loved ones while they are incarcerated.

Prison Landscapesexplores this little known and largely physically inaccessible genre of painting and portraiture seen only by inmates, visitors, and prison employees. Created specifically for escape and self-representation, the idealized paintings of tropical beaches, fantastical waterfalls, mountain vistas, and cityscapes invite sitters to perform fantasies of freedom.

Prison Landscapes offers viewers a rare opportunity to see Americas incarcerated population, not through the usual lens of criminality, but through the eyes of inmates loved ones. The collection was inspired by a photograph I found of myself at age five posing in front of a tropical beach scene while visiting my brother in prison. Since discovering this first portrait in my own family album in 2005, I have invited hundreds of prisoners to send me photographs for inclusion in this collection.”

Alyse Emdur

unleashing the beast by hugh urban

“The battle will rage most fiercely around the question of sex….Mankind must learn that the sexual instinct is…ennobling. The shocking evils which we all deplore are principally due to the perversions produced by suppressions. The feeling that it is shameful and the sense of sin cause concealment, which is ignoble and internal conflict which creates distortion, neurosis, and ends in explosion. We deliberately produce an abscess and wonder why it is full of pus, why it hurts, why it bursts in stench and corruption.” -Crowley

Read this fascinating text here

when we write

I am not where you are lying in wait for me, but over here, laughing at you. Do not ask me who I am and do not ask me to remain the same: leave it to our bureaucrats and our police to see that our papers are in order. At least spare us their morality when we write.

Michel Foucault ,The Archeology of Knowlege

miwa yanagi (globalized feminism by ben davis)

Japanese photographer Miwa Yanagi (b. 1967) is something of an artistic rags-to-riches story. Her big break came unexpectedly, in 1996, when conceptual photographer Yasumasa Morimura was looking to create a pastiche of himself as a character from a Yasujiro Ozu film, and asked to use her Kyoto house as a set. Spotting some of her photos during the shoot, Morimura contrived to have Yanagi invited to a group show he was participating in at the Shirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt. Still new enough to the life of an international art star that she literally rolled up one of her seven-meter photos and carried it on as luggage to Germany, Yanagi made her international debut alongside Japanese power players Morimura, Nobuyoshi Araki and Miyako Ishiuchi, as well as Cindy Sherman, Sam Taylor-Wood and Jeff Wall. Since then, she has been in group shows, including the Brooklyn Museum’s “Global Feminisms,” and her work has also become a collecting priority for the Deutsche Bank Collection, the holdings of which constitute her current solo exhibition at the Chelsea Art Museum.

The three series on view are quite distinct. The consensus is that what holds them together is a feminist sensibility — Anne Tucker’s thesis in the show catalogue is that “Miwa Yanagi has fabricated three distinct series that confront and disrupt traditional perceptions of women.” Such a formless feminist statement is typical artspeak, and also a pretty thin hook to hang a career on: both Araki and Sherman “disrupt traditional perceptions of women,” obviously to very different ends. To make this statement mean anything, it’s worth getting an idea of what, specifically, Yanagi’s feminism disrupts, and who it represents.

Her early work involved performances in which she would hire other women to perform various rituals — her first photo series, “Elevator Girls,” grew out of a performance she staged at an art gallery in Kyoto, hiring models to stand with a fake elevator dressed as “elevator girls” (i.e. hostesses who greet shoppers in department stores) for two weeks. From there, Yanagi went on to create large, ambitious, Vanessa Beecroft-ian tableaux featuring groups of young, attractive Japanese women in matching uniforms. They look as blank, stylish and homogenous as Japanese Barbie dolls, and Yanagi uses digital manipulation to augment the sense of homogeneity. The groupings are set in empty, vaguely sci-fi surroundings that resemble vast mall complexes or airport terminals.

In Japan, the development of Yanagi’s practice coincided with Takashi Murakami’s rise — Murakami founded his “factory” in Tokyo the same year as her unexpected international debut. And in “Elevator Girls,” there is an echo of Murakami’s dictum that Japanese artists must openly embrace commercial forms and ambitions. The sterility and enforced uniformity of the images have a critical edge, yet it is hard to be too affected by this angle because of the clear esthetic investment in the costumes and sets. “I am critical of this aspect of Japanese society,” Yanagi herself has stated, “but I am also ‘comforted’ by it because I am used to it.”

Consider White Casket (1998), a series of four images. The first features three women in matching red uniforms thrown dramatically on the floor of an elevator, seen from above; the second repeats the same image, only the bodies seem to be melting into a nail-polish-like red goo that is the same color as their uniforms; the third features the same elevator filled only with the mysterious liquid; and finally, the last image features just splashes of red on a pristine white background, one of which is stamped with Yanagi’s Westernized signature. If there is a critical angle to the idea of the “Girls” melting away, the whole thing also looks unmistakably like a fashion spread (Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf did a series on liquefying models for the New York Times Magazine not so long ago). The artist’s signature looks like a brand. This “disruption” is also really an adoption.

Most writers find in Yanagi’s next series, “My Grandmothers” (begun in 1999), a programmatic reversal of the claustrophobic world of the “Elevator Girls.” Based on interviews the artist did with a variety of women (including some of the models from “Elevator Girls”), she created photographic scenes depicting their ideas of themselves 50 years in the future, complete with elaborate old-person make-up and occasional futuristic touches. Each is accompanied by a text, a sort of capsule internal monologue for the character depicted. In Japan, reproductive roles are an explosive topic (even this year, a government official touched off controversy when he referred to women as “baby-making machines”), and if Yanagi’s earlier series depicts young women existing to serve the desire of others, the new series depicts women projected beyond their reproductive years and very much liberated by this fact.

Thus, Yuka centers on a woman with wild red hair in the sidecar of a motorcycle, being raced across the Golden Gate bridge by her much younger lover (he is almost cropped out of the photo, emphasizing his disposability), while Regine & Yoko shows a lesbian couple — one German, the other Japanese — playfully embracing while cleaning up the remains of what looks to have been a lavish dinner party. Sachiko and Mineko both feature lone women in airplanes, the former a first-class traveler taking a vacation, the latter at the helm of her own glider. Yanagi’s own self-portrait, Miwa, depicts her elder self racing adventurously across an ice flat.

Aside from the recurrence of lone, in-charge women, the key theme is international travel, hinting at the material basis for the transition between the two series. When she started making art, Yanagi was full of ambition — the eye-grabbing panoramas of the “Elevator Girls” leave no doubt about this — but had no promise of successfully finding an audience, because Japan has no real contemporary art market; her critique of confining gender roles thus coincided with a sense that her artwork itself was confined. Her unexpected encounter with the international scene opened up the possibility to plug her own artistic fantasies into the circuits of the global art market, at the same moment as it provided a concrete exterior to the sexual politics in her native land. This confluence is the subtext of “My Grandmothers.”

The result, however, is that Yanagi’s gender politics shade into what Naomi Wolf dubbed “power feminism,” the notion that women’s liberation means becoming affluent and succeeding in business rather than resisting male-dominated structures (Wolf: “enough money buys a woman out of a lot of sex oppression.”) Indeed, a photo like Hiroko is a kind of “power feminist” limit case — a younger woman sits on a bed in a luxury hotel room, getting made up, as a severe older woman in a kimono lectures her. The accompanying text indicates that in this future, prostitution is legal and safe, and while the “discrimination and unfair laws” of the past are mentioned, apparently the basics of the profession have not changed — our protagonist is instructing her granddaughter via some pretty standard-looking pornography on a nearby TV (featuring blond, Western actors). The more unpalatable things about this quintessential exploitation of women seem to have dissolved into history now that granny is in charge.

This ambition sits uneasily with a more longing, romantic side of Yanagi, on view in works like Ai, Ayumi and Mika. All of these have a kind of magical realist vibe, depicting their subjects’ visions of themselves as mildly fantastic figures — indexing the failure of these young women’s dreams to place them in reality, perhaps. Both sides come together in Minami, showing a woman in an office overlooking an enormous theme park, served by two secretaries. The text tells us that Minami helms an entertainment empire that rivals the Walt Disney Corp., with locations in Hawaii, Los Angeles and Paris. She is clearly an eccentric, reclining in the costume of her company’s signature character, “Little Milky,” a pink, fuzzy space alien. Here, being CEO of a Disney-like corporation means that you have the liberty to broadcast your personal dreams far and wide, not that you are a soulless corporate hack — a stance that probably best touches on Yanagi’s Minami-like self-perception as fabricator of idiosyncratic fairy tales for a global audience.

All of which brings us to “Fairy Tale.” This, Yanagi’s most recent series (made between 2004 and 2006), consists of slick black-and-white images staging scenes from classic folk stories, often with a Gothic, horror movie vibe, as in Gretel, which features a little girl nibbling erotically on the withered claw of a witch who reaches through the bars of a cage. These works are a synthesis of the concerns of her previous two series, focusing on the interplay of girls and old women in these iconic narratives — the arty touch being that the old women in the scenes are also played by young girls wearing “hag” masks, incongruous amidst the otherwise impeccable production values. It is as if the fantasy elements of “My Grandmothers” have been amplified, highlighting the uneasy, out-of-joint feeling in these images of youth and age.

Whatever the mise-en-scène, however, the key thing about “Fairy Tale” is the choice of subject matter itself — with a few exceptions like her picture based on the Japanese folk tale Wandering Dune, Yanagi seizes onto the most recognizable of Western tales: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, etc. One might argue that this is intended as a critique of Disney-style colonization of these fantasies, except the images are too clearly meant as examples of Yanagi’s own sensibility. There is, rather, an underlying, Disney-esque ambition: adopt fairy tales for their universal familiarity, then stamp them according to the house brand. In this way, the recourse to fairy tales dramatizes Yanagi’s self-consciously international aspirations. One result is that, while “Elevator Girls” was at least superficially about a certain role real women occupy in a male-dominated culture, in “Fairy Tale,” the explanation for constricting roles has become diffused into a general, mythical structure — the “feminist” element becomes a sort of intellectual garnish on top of the seductive set-ups.

Surveying all this, it becomes clear that the connecting thread in Yanagi’s work is less a straightforward, unapologetic feminism than it is a sort of uneasy circling between a sense of being thwarted by the system, on the one hand, and a sense that success can be had by adopting its terms, on the other (with the latter running slightly ahead of the former). It’s a deadlock that Yanagi has repeated on an ever greater scale, but not resolved. It makes her work at once intriguing and poignant, and slightly stilted and equivocal.

Finally, this trajectory is symbolized by two video works that bookend the show: the exhibition’s earliest piece, Kagome, Kagome (1994) and one of the most recent, Girls in Her Sand (2004). The first, drawing on the imagery of “Elevator Girls,” features young women in a hall of elevators, wandering back and forth robotically, as the landscape morphs to become an airport corridor filled with stewardesses, before cycling back again to the first setting. The second, an offshoot of “Fairy Tale,” has the viewer watch a cryptic black-and-white landscape where girls in old woman masks dig in the sand, before the landscape shifts, and a figure veiled in a weird canopy costume approaches slowly in the distance, before the whole phantasmagoria starts again, cryptically. Perhaps symbolizing the internal paradox of Yanagi’s practice, both depict a kind of circling limbo.

The development between the two is in the works’ sense of their audience. Kagome, Kagome is displayed in a small, almost hidden, mirrored compartment — an image held at bay that you inspect, as if from a distance. Girls in Her Sand is projected on the curtains inside a large, carnival-tent-like canopy that you can step into, suspended in a darkened basement space; the girls in the film approach the camera, as if to stare in at you, implicating the viewer in the film; the canopy resembles the costume of the character who approaches at the end of the piece, so it is as if you are invited into the action — all aptly symbolizing Yanagi’s transition from a more resigned and discrete to a more confident, but also more global and abstracted, approach to her work’s animating contradiction. As if to give still more evidence of this evolution, in a catalogue interview, Yanagi suggests that her next project might be to design a building, in China.

blogged from here

200 booths, X confessions, august 2011

2011: Hundreds of thousands of young people descending on Madrid this week for the Catholic church’s World Youth Day – which features processions, group prayers and a mass with Pope Benedict XVI – are to get a “special” concession.

Church leaders have ordered that anyone confessing, during this event, to having had an abortion – a sin punishable by excommunication – will be welcomed back into the church.

“Normally, only certain priests have the power to lift such an excommunication, but the local diocese has decided to give all the priests taking confession at the event this power,” said the pope’s spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi.

Two hundred white wooden confession booths have been set up in Madrid’s Buen Retiro park for the event, which started on Tuesday and runs until Sunday.

At a time when church attendances in Europe are dipping Lombardi denied the deal on abortion had been dreamed up to attract waverers back to the church. “With so many young people attending there may be those who have had problems of this kind and it makes sense to reach out to them.”

The driving force behind the deal is the archbishop of Madrid, Antonio María Rouco Varela, who persuaded the Vatican to offer women who had had abortions access to “the fruits of divine grace that will open the doors to a new life”.

After his popemobile ride through Madrid on Thursday, the pontiff will sit in one of the booths Saturday morning to hear confessions from three visitors, before holding a mass for up to 6,000 seminarians.

The pope’s visit throws into relief the divisions between old Catholic and new liberal Spain. About 140 organisations, including Indignados (a mainly youth protest movement against Spain’s government), dissident priests, secular groups and gay rights groups, are expected to demonstrate in their tens of thousands against the papal visit, on both political and economic grounds, as the country experiences an austerity drive.

In offering to lift the threat of excommunication for women who have had abortions, the Vatican is treading sensitive ground. Abortion is a delicate issue in Spain, but with 112,000 legal abortions performed in 2009, it is clearly a choice many Spanish women are prepared to make. A new law came into force last year giving the right to abortion up to 14 weeks’ term.

Another issue the pope is expected to speak out against is same-sex marriage, which became legal in Spain in 2005. However, on this issue as well, public opinion is more liberal than the rest of Europe, with 5.7 in 10 in favour, compared with an EU average of 4.2.

On the other hand, about 1.5 million pilgrims will descend on the Madrid during the World Youth Day celebrations.

Pope Benedict last took confession from the public at an event for young people held at St Peter’s in Rome in 2008.

Young Catholics making the trip to the Spanish capital will also gain a plenary indulgence – effectively a reduction in the time believers spend in purgatory after confessing and being absolved of their sins. These concessions were once sold by priests, but now the indulgences are granted on special occasions.

Lombardi said he was not concerned at reports of protests over the estimated €60m (£52m) cost of the papal visit. “It is normal that people with objections should demonstrate. As long as they don’t impede an event which will give great joy to a larger number of young people.”

Image

the righteous mind by jonathan haidt

Andres Serrano´s Piss Christ is a photograph is of a small plastic crucifix submerged in what appears to be a yellow liquid. The artist has described the substance as being his own urine in a glass. The photograph was one of a series of photographs that Serrano had made that involved classical statuettes submerged in various fluids—milk, blood, and urine.The full title of the work is “Immersion (Piss Christ)”.The photograph is a 60×40 inch Cibachrome print. It is glossy and its colors are deeply saturated. The presentation is that of a golden, rosy medium including a constellation of tiny bubbles. Without Serrano specifying the substance to be urine and without the title referring to urine by another name, the viewer would not necessarily be able to differentiate between the stated medium of urine and a medium of similar appearance, such as amber or polyurethane.

Serrano has not ascribed overtly political content to Piss Christ and related artworks, on the contrary stressing their ambiguity. He has also said that while this work is not intended to denounce religion, it alludes to a perceived commercializing or cheapening of Christian icons in contemporary culture.

” Here’s a thought experiment. Are you deeply offended by works of art such as Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ, which depicts Jesus as seen through a jar of urine, or Chris Ofili’s The Holy Virgin Mary, which shows Mary smeared with elephant dung? So offended that you think they ought to be banned and the galleries that display them prosecuted? No? OK, then try replacing the religious figures in these pictures with the sacred icons of progressive politics, people such as Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. How would you feel if you walked into an art gallery and saw an image of King submerged in urine or Mandela smeared with excrement?

Many people are likely to feel torn. Liberals know the reasoned arguments for freedom of expression and the importance of being consistent on matters of principle. On the other hand, it would be surprising if they did not also feel disgusted and affronted. How dare anyone pass off such gratuitously offensive images as works of art?  Shouldn’t they be stopped? Jonathan Haidt, who gives a version of this thought experiment in his provocative new book, wants us to know that reason and instinctive outrage are always going to co-exist in cases like this. What’s more, in most instances, it’s the outrage that will be setting the agenda.

The arresting image Haidt gives for our sense of morality is that it’s like a rational rider on top of an intuitive elephant. The rider can sometimes nudge the elephant one way or the other, but no one should be in any doubt that the elephant is making the important moves. In fact, the main job of the rider is to come up with post-hoc justifications for where the elephant winds up. We rationalise what our gut tells us. This is true no matter how intelligent we are. Haidt shows that people with high IQs are no better than anyone else at understanding the other side in a moral dispute. What they are better at is coming up with what he calls “side-arguments” for their own instinctive position. Intelligent people make good lawyers. They do not make more sensitive moralists.

Where do these moral instincts come from? Haidt is an evolutionary psychologist, so the account he gives is essentially Darwinian. Morality is not something we learn from our parents or at school, and it’s certainly not something we work out for ourselves. We inherit it. It comes to us from our ancestors, ie from the people whose instinctive behaviour gave them a better chance to survive and reproduce. These were the people who belonged to groups in which individuals looked out for each other, rewarded co-operation and punished shirkers and outsiders. That’s why our moral instincts are what Haidt calls “groupish”. We approve of what is good for the group – our group.”

Read the rest of Runciman´s text here