As an artist I spent many years looking for inspiration and a higher purpose for my actions. In 2012 I hit the bottom because the government pulled back a lot of funding for artists and I was literally told that “there was no more space for art”. I was looking for motivation to continue and stumbled on pictures of protests by FEMEN. I was instantly attracted to their fierce performance of femininity and courage to act against the establishment. They offered me the inspiration I craved and provided a higher purpose: feminist activism.
Although I disengaged from FEMEN in 2014, I consider myself an engaged feminist maker. I have written an essay in which I elaborate what this title entails for me that is published in this issue. I connect my affiliation to feminism and performance to Foucault’s concept of parrhesia: truth telling. In the article you can find references to works of several iconic artists such as Joseph Beuys and Marina Abramovic who paved the way for my generation of artists. The essay provides a deeper insight into my artistic practice.
The necessity to call myself an engaged feminist maker in this day and age is not just based on my personal experience. The pressing involvement of religion in politics, such as the alliance between Russian Orthodox Church and Vladimir Putin that resulted in harsh treatment of Pussy Riot by the Russian authorities, or the incarceration of FEMEN activists in Tunisia for a topless protest, is disturbing and testifies for the need to resist. In the face of the international rise of sexism accompanied by Donald Trump’s notorious remark “Grab them by the pussy!” and threat of the right to have an abortion in Western countries, there is an urgency to defend the women’s standpoint. The rise of international Women’s Marches and art exhibitions organised by Nasty Women are outcomes of this feminist awakening.
The idea for this publication was born out of this spirit of the time. It was also triggered by a visit to a local art fair. During ART Rotterdam I found only one work of art that was visibly made by a woman, Trine Sondergaard, although there were a lot of women around me at the event. This made me realize that female subjectivity is underrepresented in mainstream art. As a reaction I decided to focus my attention on producing and presenting the kind of art that I want to see.
I wanted to create a platform with a focus on female subjectivity and give a voice to emerging female artists. The defining feature was to be able to include female nudity without being policed by the public. Through my experience with online platforms and their community rules I realized that the internet is not necessarily a place for female expression. For example female breasts are often censored. Even body hair and suggestive pictures for empowerment purposes can cause public outrage. There are also numerous trolls (mainly men) that leave negative comments and cause content to be banned, that results in policing of female expression. I realized that I should look into possibilities to create a space that does not police and allows freedom of expression for women. That led me to choose the format of a magazine with its own website.
During my research I discovered many alternative women’s magazines and realized that there is a niche for innovative publications that target young women. That raised the questions: How can I innovate? What can I add? The magazines I found stand out through experimental content and focus on production of collectable issues. I decided to adapt this blueprint and created my own concept.
The title of this publication, BODY ISSUE, is a word-play referring to a problem with the body and a magazine edition. The personal is political. There is nothing more personal than the body. Inhibiting a body raises the issue of gender performativity. However our pronouns are attributed to us at birth and the World shapes us accordingly. How does this influence women and the art they create?
I chose to feature work of emerging female artists accompanied by an interview that provides a deeper insight into their artistic practice. The goal is to explore their strategies and philosophy.
I decided to feature the work of my peers because they offer a fresh perspective. I wanted to know why they use their body as an artistic medium and what issues they encounter in doing so. This publication engages with the debate about visibility of women in art and their role as active makers of culture.
Male artists like Salvador Dali and fashion designers like Charles Frederick Worth used to have female muses whom they represented in a certain idealised way. In the 1970s female artists began to reclaim the female body and became active makers in stead of staying passive muses. Their work made a lasting impression on the art world and paved the way for new generation of female artists. A retrospective of The Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s was held at Hamburger Kunsthalle in 2015. Works from that exhibition, pulled from the Sammlung Verbund Collection in Vienna by curator Gabriele Schor, are now available in book format as Feminist Avant-Garde. The fashion world stayed behind and still largely operates in the framework of creator and muse/model.
I am wondering how fashion would look like if female designers used their own body as starting point in the tradition of female artists. This led me to talk to German/Macedonian but Arnhem based Klaudia Stavreva about her approach to fashion design. She talks about how her ethnic background constructs her idea of femininity and how she translates this into fashion. Significantly she chose to present her latest collection with a performance. She explains the necessity to do this.
Furthermore I discovered a scene of female performance artists in Rotterdam. In this issue I talk to Mette Sterre about the influence of the grotesque in her work. Nikki Rosa Ootjers talks about the absurd as an artistic strategy and a life path. I talk to Samantha Thole about her relation to concepts of femininity in classical art and the ways she comments on them. In addition Lotte Bovi talks about the construction of femininity in classical opera and her development into a performance artist.
Originally British but Amsterdam based Izabella Finch propagates a healthy relationship to sexuality and the body. Madiha Sebbani offers an insight into the life of a female performance artist in Morocco. She talks about performing in public space and the issues that come with the territory. While originally American/ South African but Groningen based Nokukhanya Langa and Amsterdam based Fleur Ouwerkerk offer their perspective on the politics of hair and ethnicity in their artistic practice.
With this publication I hope to provide an insightful resource for people who are interested in female subjectivity in art.
Enjoy and stay engaged!