Friday, 17 February 2012

F******* Puzzles

Feminism (“a bad word”) Puzzles is a project that follows how the idea and the depiction of the female body have been developed through time by artists or by feminist art in particular, and how the body is associated to politics.

The aim of the project is to revisit the work of key women artists juxtaposed to the work of more marginalised or even male approaches in order to challenge the perception of the viewer nowadays. Feminism Puzzles invite the viewer to find similarities or differences of meaning and visual codes between the two images.

F******* Puzzle 1

Photo 1: Vlassis Caniaris, Untitled, plaster and carnations, 1969
Photo 2: Hannah Wilke, Untitled, latex rubber, c. 1980

Break the silence: The exhibition of Vlassis Caniaris

The exhibition that signaled the exit from the artists' silence came in May of 1969 by Vlassis Caniaris (1928-2011). This historical and much - discussed exhibition took place in New Gallery, Athens and had an intense political and in a way activistic character, as it aimed not only to protest against the Regime but mainly to activate the Greek people. The works displayed included human members and objects in plaster, barbed wire, red carnations, all of them -especially plaster and carnations- with a deep symbolic meaning. The plaster, which morphologically belonged to Caniaris' work (he had already used plaster from 1963-64), was a direct reference to Papadopoulos' famous phrase "Greece is sick. We had put her in plaster. She shall remain in plaster until she recovers."
There was no exhibition catalogue as Caniaris himself had sensored the texts that were going to be published in order to avoid the exhibition from being "targeted" by the Junta. The artist says "My aim was to keep the exhibition from being targeted because then others would have lost their courage, those who were working in the context of the resistance". Instead of catalogue each visitor was offered a red carnation growing in a small plaster cube, also symbolic of the idea that the carnation is growing despite the plaster.
A few days before the exhibition Caniaris had sent abroad three packages containing the small plaster cubes with the carnation, photographs of the works and a biography so that they could be used in case of the exhibition being "targeted" by the dictatorship as he was afraid. The exhibition was a great success -Caniaris had to make another 1000 plaster cubes with carnations for the people visiting the exhibition during the 21 days that it lasted- fulfilling its aim. Even the international press published the story. After the exhibition the artist had to leave the country for Paris because he was in danger of being arrested by the Regime. Eleni Ganiti 
American Feminist Artist Hannah Wilke
Hannah Wilke (1940-1993), is considered the first feminist artist to use vaginal imagery in her work. In the early 1960's she first made her signature vaginal ceramic sculptures, and in the mid 1970's she began to experiment with latex, creating individual pieces and installations of multiple "blossoms". 
"I become my art, my art becomes me... My heart is hard to handle, my art is too. Feel the folds; one fold, two fold, expressive, precise gestural symbols... latex rubber, the loose arrangements of love vulnerably exposed..." (Excerpts of Hannah Wilke Letter in Art: A Woman's Sensibility, Feminist Art Program, California Institute of the Arts, 1975.)
Visual Prejudice has caused world wars, mutilation, hostility, and alienation generated by fear of "the other."... The pride, power, and pleasure of one's own sexual being threaten cultural achievement, unless it can be made into a commodity that has economic and social utility. ... To diffuse self-prejudice, women must take control of and have pride in the sensuality of their own bodies and create a sensuality in their own terms, without referring to the concepts degenerated by culture. ... to touch, to smile, to feel, to flirt, to state, to insist on the feelings of the flesh, its inspiration, its advice, its warning, its mystery, its necessity for the survival and regeneration of the universe. (Excerpts from complete text originally published in American Women Artists, exhibition catalogue, Museo d' Arte Contemporani, Sao Paulo, 1980. Published in Hannak Wilke: A Retrospective, University of Missouri Press, 1989.)