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20210409.05

The fight for women’s freedoms: Looking back at history through photography

… this very interesting article in 1854 Photography by Gem Fletcher is deep and rich, unusually so… it discusses a current exhibition, Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency, this from the exhibition web pate:

The Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago (MoCP) presents Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency from January 19 – May 23, 2021. The exhibition explores the psychological, physical, and emotional realities women encounter in the years leading up to, during, and after fertility. The exhibition features eight artists who consider a range of topics including birth, miscarriage, pleasure, the lack of access to abortion, trauma, and the loss of fertility. The exhibition is organized by MoCP chief curator and deputy director Karen Irvine and curator of academic programs and collections Kristin Taylor.

… quoting the article:

Despite the active dismantling of the gender binary and the affirmation of trans lives, mainstream culture is only just beginning to push beyond European standards of beauty historically grounded in the expectations of the cis, white, hetero male gaze. Power and control over women (the use of terms woman and female in this piece is intended to include all cis, non-binary, trans women, and any other person who identifies as a woman) are not limited to the physicality of their bodies, but also their capability and what they can do and express.1

… and:

Long after Susan Sontag referred to the camera as a weapon in Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), the visibility of women continues to be radicalised from the omnipresent sexist policies upheld by social media to the potent visual strategies of the anti-abortion movement. Arguably, matters have barely changed. Sharpened by a global pandemic and a world that embraces more conservative ideology every day, we are left wondering what can photography really do?2

… the article covers significant photographic work on the state of womanhood… Laia Abril’s On Abortion is mentioned…

Through complex visual strategies that borrow from ethnography, journalism and social science, Abril maps how patriarchal institutions have long controlled female fertility.3

'Coathanger' from On Abortion, 2016, © Courtesy Laia Abril & Galerie Les filles du calvaire. Abortion rights advocates worldwide have long used the coat hanger as a symbol of the pro-choice movement, and this method is now seeing a resurgence in the United States, where abortion restrictions are increasingly narrow. Note: photographic reconstruction.
‘Coathanger’ from On Abortion, 2016, © Courtesy Laia Abril & Galerie Les filles du calvaire. Abortion rights advocates worldwide have long used the coat hanger as a symbol of the pro-choice movement, and this method is now seeing a resurgence in the United States, where abortion restrictions are increasingly narrow. Note: photographic reconstruction.

… women photographers who are part of the exhibition: Krista Franklin, Candy Guinea, Candice Breitz, Elinor Carucci, Doreen Garner, Carmen Winant and Joanne Leonard

a conversation between Kristin Taylor and artists Laia Abril and Elinor Carucci

From the series A History of My Pleasure, 2019-20 © Carmen Winant.
From the series A History of My Pleasure, 2019-20 © Carmen Winant.

… Carmen Winant’s History of My Pleasure series:

They present the female body as one able to enjoy sex and hold power simultaneously, in direct opposition to forces seeking to politicise and subdue a woman’s libido.4

… also mentioned in the article: Carrie Mae Weems, Suzy Lake, Renee Cox, Linda Troeller and Mary Beth Edelson

… also, Abigail Heyman, author of Growing Up Female… a collectable photobook…

In Abigail Heyman’s iconic book Growing Up Female (1974), she deals with themes of birth, pleasure, abortion and the everyday complicated and contradictory aspects of being a woman that had rarely, if ever, been acknowledged in the art world.5

… also, Hannah Wilke, wikipedia article on her

Intra-Venus (1991-93) recorded Wilke’s long battle with lymphoma through large-format colour photographs and a multi-channel film piece. Adulterated by illness, she refused to be defined by her body and its appearance.6

… also, Sophie Hackett, curator of photography at the Art Gallery of Ontario…

… and Zanele Muholi

… and LaToya Ruby Frazier

… and Dr. Jennifer Good

… and Laura Mulvey, author of Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema

On a deeper level, Mulvey argues that the history of representation of women’s bodies in this way has been so powerful and ubiquitous that it’s changed women’s self-identification and awareness on a deeper level.7

… this way of representation has extended into the work of women photographing woman, in many cases, or so it seems to me… or at least, i struggle to free myself from my male gaze long enough to see a photograph of a nude woman by, say, Mona Kuhn as anything but erotic to male gaze eyes, yet, i know there is something different that she brings to the work…

It’s this idea that as a cis woman, I have this kind of internalised male gaze within my consciousness. I’m always watching myself. It’s about how those images have changed our subjectivity, our psyche and our sense of being in the world. It’s a type of power that is, in a sense, insurmountable.8

… which is a possible answer to what i note above on Mona Kuhn’s nudes…

… the article argues that progress is being made by art institutions, that “museums are a safe space to have dangerous conversations” but one needs to note that the elevation of any type of culturally significant work to gallery and/or museum spaces risks the absorption of the unsafe point of view into the patriarchal body, thus, neutralizing it…

Beyond redistributing power and providing greater equity for women artists, one of the biggest challenges facing museums is how they confront centuries of bias in art history. This critical task involves pushing beyond inserting women artists into the existing narrative, but more distinctly changing a culture of thinking to reimagine entirely new narratives.9

… one more book to put on my acquisition list…

Ariella Azoulay, The Civil Contract of Photography, PDF

  1. https://www.1854.photography/2021/04/the-fight-for-womens-freedoms-looking-back-at-history-through-photography/
  2. https://www.1854.photography/2021/04/the-fight-for-womens-freedoms-looking-back-at-history-through-photography/
  3. https://www.1854.photography/2021/04/the-fight-for-womens-freedoms-looking-back-at-history-through-photography/
  4. https://www.1854.photography/2021/04/the-fight-for-womens-freedoms-looking-back-at-history-through-photography/
  5. https://www.1854.photography/2021/04/the-fight-for-womens-freedoms-looking-back-at-history-through-photography/
  6. https://www.1854.photography/2021/04/the-fight-for-womens-freedoms-looking-back-at-history-through-photography/
  7. https://www.1854.photography/2021/04/the-fight-for-womens-freedoms-looking-back-at-history-through-photography/
  8. Dr. Jennifer Good as quoted inhttps://www.1854.photography/2021/04/the-fight-for-womens-freedoms-looking-back-at-history-through-photography/
  9. https://www.1854.photography/2021/04/the-fight-for-womens-freedoms-looking-back-at-history-through-photography/

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