Skye Wellington - 08/04/2016
“Casting Off My Womb,” Casey Jenkins
Performance art has always been a bit out there as an art genre. But when the term Vaginal Knitting was coined recently, the world seemed to take notice. Knitting needles, wool and a vulva are not items regularly grouped together, at least not in public, so we could be forgiven for gawking. In fact, perhaps a statement like that is worth a good hard stare. Since so much performance art seems to involve getting your gear off, it’s intriguing to discover that it’s not really all about sex…
Nudity is nothing new, of course, and on that score, two dimensional art can be shocking too. The confrontational gaze of the prostitute in Manet’s Olympia caused a scandal when it was first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1865. But the naked form in real time can be used to agitate and question our innermost beliefs and prejudices in a way that is different to a static naked body in a picture. Perhaps, because it can answer back, take action and manipulate other objects.
If you’re thinking that performance art sounds similar to activism you could be right. The Melbourne-based artist that inspired the Vaginal Knitting phrase to be coined, Casey Jenkins, calls herself a craftivist. The piece she performed in 2013 entitled, Casting Off My Womb, involved the artist sitting in an art gallery for 28 days and knitting a scarf from wool that she pulled from her vagina. She hoped that by producing something associated with cosiness and comfort, from a place that some people view either as source of arousal or disgust, the public might soften any preconceived notions and finally accept women’s bits as natural. Not to mention making a metaphor about female genitalia being a wholesome source of creativity for their owner rather than simply a source of sexual pleasure for others.
You would have thought that the ability to pop out a baby should be the ultimate proof of womanhood as creative. The Brooklyn based performance artist, Marni Kotak, even went so far as to give birth in a gallery in 2011 for her, ahem, labored work entitled, The Birth of Baby X, to prove the point. But the notion that we have a collective inability to unite all the functions of our nether regions and celebrate them whole, has been providing female performance artists with fodder for decades. Clearly, we’re still evolving, and slowly.
Back in 1975, the American performance artist Carolee Schneemann performed her work, Interior Scroll, where she pulled, you guessed it, a scroll from her vagina and read from it in an effort to demonstrate that lady parts are a site of knowledge, not a cause for exclusion. In doing so she started a conversation about women reclaiming their bodies from idealized notions of what it should be. And the chat hasn’t stopped since. Jenkins is simply one of the latest in a long line of artists who is talking about defying our ick factor and accepting that a woman can give birth, have sex, masturbate, and menstruate. In fact, Jenkins knitted right on through her time of the month just to make the point.
When it comes to the other ‘m’ word that just slipped in there, it’s still anything but acceptable to utter in polite society, much less admit to doing. Taking control of your own pleasure and eschewing shame about it was the idea behind Christine Cha’s 2013 Rub Out art mission. No, this did not involve a bunch of women masturbating together in public, but a public service announcement type of invitation to touch one of 1000 squares on a wall at Kraine Gallery in New York City. This probably seemed a more poignant method of getting the point across, because it would be easy to mistake a woman masturbating in public as pornographic rather than proving that women are entitled to have ownership over their own bodies. So, the performance art aspect of this piece seems to lay in the call to action activism and the audience participation, instead of getting naked and creating a spectacle.
In 2015, Mirabelle Jones did use herself as a spectacle when she made her passionate statement about catcalling in her piece, To Skin a Catcaller. The artist and activist got so fed up with the prevalence of this type of harassment on the streets of San Francisco, and the associated risk for women, that she stripped to her underwear and stalked in a display window for 8 hours while recorded yet real sexual heckles, played non-stop (“Nice tits honey”, “Stuck up bitch”, “I’m going to follow you home and f**k you in your sleep”). Nice. Despite drawing attention to the fact that it’s still common that a woman walking down a street minding her own business can be casually commented upon without invitation, apparently the point was still lost on some – one man stood and licked his lips at her for a full ten minutes.
“To Skin a Catcaller,” Mirabelle Jones
So, the conversation continues. Performance art is still addressing the theme of the objectification of women, because it’s still current. What was shocking about women’s bodies in the 70’s, still seems to be shocking today. When we get over it, performance artists might just put their clothes back on. Until then, why not just join the cause to naturalise our nudity…. In 2015, the National Gallery of Australia, in the nation’s capital of Canberra, offered visitors the opportunity to get their gear off and take a tour naked. Why? Because we all share the same humanity. It’s time to be the art!
Photograph: Christo Crocker. Source: National Gallery of Australia
“And then, and then, and then, and then, and then…..(Yellow Jelly)” by Takashi Murakami, 2008
Our artist of the week: Takashi Murakami
It has long been said that the greatest artists are not merely “people pleasers”, but are also unafraid to challenge convention and cause controversy by proposing new ways of being and doing things of which not everyone may necessarily approve. By that measure, the man long dubbed the “Warhol of Japan” can certainly be assured of legendary status.
“Karma Mural”, Belgium, Brussels, 2014
Our artist of the week: Anthea Missy
Just like Wall Street, when it comes to street walls, men dominate. That is to say, a fair whack of the spray paint that’s out there came out of cans held by blokes. Of course, female street artists are definitely on the scene, but there’s few that own it. Trying to forge a fresh voice under the watchful eye of old school subscribers who have strong opinions on technique and subject matter is hard to pull off. Harder still if you don’t appear to uphold all the tenets of street art culture.
April (eek!) is the fourth month of the year in the Gregorian calendar, the fifth in the early Julian calendar and the first month of the year to have 30 days… it is also the month we introduce you to feisty, French, firecracker Anthea Missy.
Our artist of the week: Alan Aldridge
When the news filtered through to us in February of the death of the man formerly dubbed “Beardsley in blue jeans” or – to use John Lennon’s epithet – “His Royal Master of Images to Their Majesties The Beatles” – we couldn’t help but reflect on another sad sign of the passing of the ‘60s and ‘70s creative guard.
What are we talking about? Well, the English graphic designer, artist and illustrator was a central force behind much of what we associate with the culture of those decades: the pop, the psychedelia, the subversion and so much more besides.
For over 200 years, prints have been put up on walls and used to announce, inform, to advertise, to protest, and to provoke. Now, Billy Ma is turning the form on its head and producing exquisite fine art prints with a message instead. This Taiwanese-born, Canadian-raised, Italian-influenced (Billy grew up in a predominantly Italian immigrant community which has led to him to “still talk with my hands too much”) and Singapore-based illustrator, painter, sculptor, designer and art director has been producing iconic artworks under his label, Booda Brand, since 2009, and collectors can’t get enough of them.
“Hope Series No. 12” by Ben Allen, 2012
Our artist of the week: Ben Allen
Not every successful artist, of course, actually attended art college. For every alumnus of Goldsmiths College, Rhode Island School of Design or the National School of Fine Arts in Paris, there is that improviser, that freestyler – that trailblazing creative who overcomes the supposed limitations of not having been formally taught, while embracing its freedoms.
One fine example of such an artist is Ben Allen, the well-travelled Brighton native who, it’s fair to say, is as good at resisting pigeonholing as he is at performing ollies (yes, he’s an avid surfer and skateboarder, and yes, it may appear that we have just pigeonholed him – but bear with us).
“Fantasy For Naughty Boys (Mini Print Series)” by Hush, 2008, Source: Assini-Thomson Collection
Our artist of the week: Hush
The creative now known around the world simply as ‘Hush’ was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK in 1976 and has since entrenched himself firmly into the North East of England’s rich grassroots art scene. However, his oeuvre is also an unashamedly outward-facing one, drawing upon a wealth of international influences, as part of a career that has taken him around the world.
“Disney Sign Destruct” by Jeff Gillette, 2015
Our artist of the week: Jeff Gillette
One glance at Detroit-born art teacher Jeff Gillette may not leave you with the impression of one of the most influential creative practitioners of our times – an article in the London Evening Standard last year having described him as “a dead ringer for a lesser-haired Jeff Lebowski”. However, as those of us in the art business know, initial appearances can be more than deceiving.
Hold onto your knickers Addictees!
We are delighted to announce our partnership with painter, sculptor, designer and illustrator, Billy Ma. We’re so excited we could pee rainbows – promise we won’t, just saying we could…
Born in Taiwan, raised in Canada and now living in Singapore with his lovely Mrs – Amy – Billy, boss of Booda Brand, is sharing his beautiful, limited edition prints with us. Click here for Mr Ma’s bio.
Addicted already has many happy Billy clients with pieces hanging proudly throughout Singapore and scattered across the planet.
We have lots of images to stimulate your eyeballs with so we’ll keep our ‘blah blah’ short and let the work speak for itself. This will keep our blog from getting ‘bigly’ (is this how you use it?). It’s going to be ‘yuge’! Sorry, couldn’t help ourselves…
“True Love” by Sara Pope, 2016
Our artist of the week: Sara Pope
How much depth can there genuinely be to the work of an artist who, to the un-attuned eye, seems to do little more with her practice than simply paint pairs of lips again… and again… and again?
Fiona Carney (artist name: Hollis Carney) is a London based multi-media artist.
Fiona has always been inspired by street art, graffiti, architecture and nature’s own designs. Looking beyond what we are shown, and all that is ‘pretty’, Fiona blends images of times, places and people to express her view of the world around her.
Let’s get up close and personal with the lady herself…
Gong Xi Fa Cai Addictees!
It’s the Lunar New Year – year of the Fire Rooster – and apparently, if you’re a single Rooster: “You singles may meet many opposite-sex friends but you will be unlikely to have a relationship with them since you will not have good luck with the opposite sex in this year.” That was direct and to the point…