Why have there been no great women artists?
Jess McCabe // 23 September 2009
Another interesting screening by Club des Femmes is in the works this week, under the provocative title “Why have there been no great women artists?” It’s a chance to see two feminist shorts from the 1970s and one more recent piece from 1997.
There’s a screening in Liverpool on Friday then another screening in London on
Monday Tuesday (full details below).
“Why have there been no great women artists?” This is how the critic Linda Nochlin famously opened the debate about the way canonical thinking defined and still defines Western art history. For Nochlin, in 1971, in a line of art A-listers that stretched from Michelangelo to Andy Warhol, women artists were notable by their absence.
Nearly forty years on in our post-feminist age, Club des Femmes considers the role of the woman artist and wonders if the debate has ever gone away? Come with us and revisit the seventies, the debate is just starting: it’s time to engage.
Director: Lis Rhodes. UK, 1978, 20 mins, 16mm
LIGHT READING begins in darkness as a woman’s voice is heard over a blank
screen. She speaks of her search for a voice: of presence and absence, of
experience and history. Her voice continues until the images appear on the
screen and then it is silent. In the final section of the film she begins
again – reading the images as these are moved and re-placed, describing the
piecing together of the film as she tries to piece together the strands of
her story. ‘She watched herself being looked at She looked at herself being
watched but she could not perceive herself as the subject of the sentence
…’ (Lis Rhodes).
SEMIOTICS OF THE KITCHEN
Director: Martha Rosler. USA, 1975, 6 mins, video
Martha Rosler is an important contemporary artist and feminist who uses
photography, performance, writing and video to deconstruct cultural reality.
Avoiding a pedantic stance, Rosler characteristically lays out visual and
verbal information in a manner that allows the contradictions to gradually
emerge, so that the audience can discern these disjunctions for themselves.
Director: Elisabeth Subrin. USA, 1997, 36 mins, video
A cinematic doppelganger without precedent, Elisabeth Subrin’s Shulie
uncannily and systematically bends time and cinematic code alike, projecting
the viewer 30 years into the past to rediscover a woman out of time and time
out of joint- and in Subrin’s words, ‘to investigate the mythos and residue
of the late 1960s.’ Staging an extended act of homage as well as a playful,
provocative confounding of filmic propriety, Subrin and her creative
collaborator Kim Soss resurrect a little-known 1967 documentary portrait of
a young Chicago art student who a few years later would become a notable
figure in Second Wave feminism and the author of the radical 1970 manifesto,
The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution. Reflecting on her
life and times, Shulie functions as a prism for refracting questions of
gender, race and class that resonate in our era as in hers, while through
painstaking mediation, Subrin makes manifest the eternal return of film. –
Mark MacElhatten and Gavin Smith, curators, Views from the Avant Garde. 35th
New York Film Festival
LIVERPOOL: Friday 25 September, 2pm
AND Festival, The Box, Fact, 88 Wood St, L1 4DQ, Liverpool
Monday 28 September, 6.30pmTuesday 29 September, 6.30pm
Goldsmiths, University of London
Small Hall Cinema, Richard Hoggart Building (main building)
On the same subject, Feminist Peace Network has a post about a documentary on the Heresies Collective, which produced the feminist art magazine Heresies from 1977-1992. Excitingly, the directors have posted the entire archive of Heresies, which you can download in PDF form…