Kunsthalle Exnergasse outlines current feminist questions with No More Bad Girls?,
Mag. Hans-Christian Heintschel
May 7th 2010
Opposing the typical white canonical feminism, the Kunsthalle Exnergasse examines issues of migration, exoticism and Islam in No More Bad Girls?, curated by Claudia Marion Stemberger and Kathrin Becker. Becker leads a video collection in Berlin and lived some time in Iran. Stemberger, who finished her research in South Africa, wants the exhibition catalog to be something more than just another coffee table book. She wants to tackle issues of multiculturalism with 17 works from Indonesia to South Africa and Poland to Palestine.
A certain emphasis is put on the position of women's art in Islamic countries. An impressingly large work of the Malaysian Arahmaiani says I love you in Arab writing. Three-dimensional, multicolored, a work which could furnish a small house is several meters long and several meters high. It hangs besides a documentary piece by Newsha Tavakolian. Nine pictures show the ritual of religious initiation of girls in ballet dresses, with plastic wings on their backs ( The Day I became a Woman ). For Becker this work is a counterpoint to the marginalization of women's art from the Islamic countries. She quotes Global Feminisms. New Directions in Contemporary Art, shown in 2007 in New York, as the inspiration for the show.
That childhood can be difficult for girls also in Europe is proven by a Polish artist living in New York. Agnes Janich's My Mom's Diary, accomodated in eleven simple, cheap pine frames, is a collection of family snapshots of a child with comments written on them. The child is herself, and the comments ( A warm little body to make my loneliness go away ) critically examine the mother-daughter relationship. It's a work about a family and a woman looking for herself elsewhere. In Poland the family is something sacred, she comments the work.
Another risky work about freeing oneself is Regina Jose Gallindo's Perra, where she cuts this disvaluing noun in her own thigh. Such irony can be found also in Elodie Pongs' Je suis une bombe and Larissa Sansour's A space Exodus. The first is a caricature of an erotic table dance with the model dressed in a chubby panda's costume. The second is a caricature of Neil Armstrong's taking over the Moon, merely following in the footsteps of a woman. A similar film quote is Elena Kovylina's Carriage, based on famous buggy scene from Battleship Potiemkin. It refers to the vulnerability of a woman and an artist in today's Russia. The work of Andrea Sunder-Plassman is almost that of ethnological research. Her Convertion into a Bird documents the ritual, in a scenery of traditional music and lyrical poetry, of converting Plassmann into a bride in full make-up. A work realized in 2003, during her few-weeks stay in an Indonesian village, it adds another context to the discussion about what it means to be a bad girl.
The result: the consciously curated No more bad girls? exhibition in Kunsthalle Exnergasse offers rich material for dialogue with its lushly illustrated German and English catalog containing informative essays on Feminism and Contemporary Art.