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Getting Your Gear Off and Vaginal Knitting: The Purpose of Performance Art

- 08/04/2016

Casey Jenkins

“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.

Mirabelle Jones

“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!

NGA

Photograph: Christo Crocker. Source: National Gallery of Australia

Ben Allen: The obsessive surfer and skateboarder who learned his own trade

- 27/03/2017

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).

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Hush: The Power, Innocence, Beauty and Cunning of Feminine Sexuality

- 20/03/2017

“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.

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Jeff Gillette: The man who “Banksied” Banksy – and how!

- 13/03/2017

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.

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Chill Homie, Billy Ma’s Booda Brand Is In Da House 🤘

- 07/03/2017

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…

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Sara Pope: Pop art lips with a hint of disintegration

- 06/03/2017

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?

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Talkin’ ‘Bout A “Hollis Carney” Revolution

- 03/03/2017

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…

 

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“Now looka, I say looka here.” – Foghorn Leghorn 👀  🐓  🐓  🐓  👀

- 27/01/2017

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…

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I Don’t Know Exactly What I Mean By That But I Mean It ☺

- 09/01/2017

Happy New Year Addictees!

2016 was a tough 12 months for many, but that’s behind us now and we have a shiny new year to play with.

With this in mind, 9 January 2017 is a date we at Addicted will treasure as we get to live our groupie dreams. The stars have aligned; no celebrities died this week and now, we’re working with one of our favourites.

We’ve been beside ourselves with excitement and making squeaky sounds (they just fall out). The reason? The Connor Brothers – who are not brothers nor are they surnamed ‘Connor’.

What they are is two super talented lads from London and the proud owners of a skyrocketing career which is going from strength to strength.

As always, we encourage you to do your own research but here are some highlights to get you started…

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A. Selvaraj: The Sensuousness of Dance

- 12/12/2016

Happy Ladies” by A. Selvaraj, 2006

Our artist of the week: A. Selvaraj

Many an artist down the decades – or even centuries – has likened their practice to the art of dance, but that influence is perhaps no more indelible and carefully considered than it is in the work of Chennai, Tamil Nadu native A. Selvaraj. Although one would not necessarily look to his paintings and immediately pick them out as those of an actual dancer, there is nonetheless a sense of fluency from the artist’s consciousness that would seem to give the game away.

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Keep Calm And Get Your Ho Ho Ho On! 🎅  🎅  🎅

- 05/12/2016

Well jingle our bells Addictees!

As you’re all very well aware, December is here – and it got here faster than a turbo charged Rudolf.

This year, we’ve talked golden toilets, rock marrying artists and a host of other arty goodness – and our mums still don’t understand street art… Challenge accepted!

Addicted has had a huge year! We recently turned one and although we’re feeling a little like we just turned 85, we’ve loved every minute of it.

Throughout it all, Hercules, son of Zeus, famous for his strength and far-ranging adventures – and also our not so fearless toy poodle – has been by our side (literally) the whole time, cheering us on, farting his enthusiasm and loving us no matter what. Except when there’s cheese – then he only loves the cheese.

We thought we’d end 2016 with some fun fluffy (emphasis on ‘fluffy’) goings on. So, for the last time this year, let’s check out what’s been happening in the art world…

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Art as a Community Service

- 28/11/2016

When life gives you potholes, make Baywatch and pothole-pasta, Image Source: MTL Blog

Once upon a time, a certain idea widely prevailed of the artist as the isolated genius – the mercurial figure who was somehow set apart from the rest of society. That image, alas, was a leftover from the Romantic era of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, a time that has now passed.

Today, the greatest artists, far from detaching themselves from everyone around them, arguably do the direct opposite, plugging themselves into their local communities and making those communities better places to be, in more ways than one.

Confused? Here are a few examples of what we mean.

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“Question everything” – Shepard Fairey

- 21/11/2016

Eye Alert” by Shepard Fairey, 2010

Our artist of the week: Shepard Fairey

It may not be quite accurate to describe the 46-year old South Carolinian known as Frank Shepard Fairey as the father of street art, but he is nonetheless one of the figures in the modern movement who is most looked up to by many of today’s fledgling urban creatives. That is in large part due to his creation of such enduringly iconic images as “Andre the Giant Has a Posse” and the now-immortal Barack Obama “HOPE” poster, but it also has much to do with his steadfast philosophy to simply “question everything”.

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