Agnes Janich

Review 4

Not to mention all of these women

No More Bad Girls, an overview from an exhibition.

Tommy Olsson

Aug 2010

 

Nor to say something about the place, since all too little is said about it. 3,14 foundation is for me not very far from home, but has always struck me as in equal parts an unpredictable and mysterious place. Particularly mysterious considering how little is said about it - but I know that I'm one of those that are supposed to do just that, so I do it now. It's just a coincidence that it is not done frequently. There is rarely any trifles found here, before this muster was an exhibition of artists from South Africa, and before that I remember one or two massive Chinese exhibitions. They have always been very international. This, and both the contrast and the strange harmony with the tourist-ridden part of town it's located in, vis-à-vis the fish market in an old bank with design and art in the first floor. So this is in many ways a place you must actively seek out for, and a little secretive, two steps up from the loud noise. Since I have moved to Bergen, I often stood there in awe. Whether it has been something that really struck me by virtue of being both phenomenal, and until then unknown, or something rare enough that even I have problems relating to it.

 

No More Bad Girls, an overview from the exhibition.

But this is a girls' show, both in the title and in the choice of artists, aimed at the revitalization of the feminist discourse which - once again - has been highlighted. Furthermore, when you walk around among the knitting machines and video monitors pick constantly on one stigma, that of gender, one has to deal with another contex of reality: the culture one grew up in. When we talk about international exhibitions - biennials and that sort - there is usually a given pattern in relation to which nations are represented. This almost never happens within these walls, and certainly not in this exhibition. There are artists in the movement from places as austere as Iran, Guatemala, Turkey and Poland, just to name a few. They are not stigmatized, though, with nationalities, and that in the context of an art public which still relates to the more obvious mainstream and out-out-the-mainstream paradigm.

 

But, what was it I would say, yes, that I myself will decide if I want and like them! No, it was not what I would say - I say that never, actually, though I should perhaps sometimes - but there is a remarkably tough multi-cultural mash-up going on here. The large hall is dominated by I Love You in Arabic, in the form of giant soft pillows of styrofoam. It sets the tone omehow. Too much here is about the clash of civilizations some will read in the political post-9/11 reality. In short, we have to do with a kind of hijab-slapstick, where Western-based artists operate with Muslim clichés, and those with a background in the Middle East act quite the reverse. One can perhaps imagine a point, not so far away, where these strategies can meet, if one is not so little optimistic and keeps it strictly within the given framework. Larissa Sansour came fairly close to an East-West fusion with her Palestinian - and female - astronaut,  in a video that takes all, really all clichés in use. It can be trivial, from my standpoint, for I know this intro to the Kubrick 2001 Odyssey from a generation of film school movies and I cringe every time it's reused again. Hear me, though, I said it CAN be trivialized, but I also say, Fuck my standpoint, since I know I live under a blessing and curse relatively far from the Palestinian territories. So don't say that I in no way want to trivialize my own circumstances, which are real enough, thank you very much.

 

A question that was haunting me as I wondered why this show works and is attractive, while the Museum of Contemporary Art in Oslo has had not one, but two, women's shows that I barely registered the existence of, and certainly have not bothered to put down some time to see. Maybe it's the word bad which makes all the difference? Or the enchanting seconds of a pole-dancing panda, which unfortunately is spoken in pieces ( yes, destroyed ) by the artist - Elodie Pong from Schweiz (!) - immediately after. I am a bomb, she proclaims, among other things. But it's not a bomb that women sometimes talk too much. An average woman uses something like five times more words than an average man in any given day ( I think I've actually read it somewhere, and, with few exceptions, vote based on my experience - which is not so limited.) It says something about women. It also says something about men. Indeed, even if the words are my business is not necessarily that I verbally like using particularly many of them every day. Why should I? My general silence - at least as long as I'm sober - is in this sense perhaps an occupational. But in this cocktail - exhibition we also get a reconstruction and an update of what are perhaps the silver screen's most referenced moments: the staircase scene in Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin, as well as Rainer Maria Rilke recited by an ethereal cross between a thousand and- one-night Princess and a Turkish pop star and a tale of Mosoufolket, a minority in Yunnan province, southwestern China, which since the beginning of time had lived in a matriarchy, the latter produced by Mathilde ter Heijne.

 

The dark side of this playfulness and optimism is, fully present as a parallel course and perhaps most clearly articulated - for better or worse - the video of Regina Josè Galindo of Guatemala. In a live recording from Milan, she cuts with her skirt pulled up to the hip, the word perra (Spanish for bitch) in her left thigh with a scalpel. This bothers me with the same problems as the pamphlets of constantly recycled clichés. The strategy is, gently put, not exactly new, and how easy it is to reject a self-destructive artist for most people? And with what ease could I, from my peripheral based on an above average sexual interest, and in possession of a penis, with a tyrannical laughter dismiss a female artist who cut the word bitch in her own body? I mean, for the generation of the sequence? But as always it's also a trap, since I do not like to think of myself as a bully. Even though I, unlike the vast majority, recall art of ancient times with some blood as well and, also unlike most people, read this in keeping with a tradition I myself fall under, there is something all too overwhelmingly male that comes alive when I'm confronted with this. Rent self-defense, of course, this ooops, it's a little girl and it's going to hurt her . It pops up internally, on the side of all rational thinking, and it could never, never be confused with the instant respect I would have formulated if this had only been a male artist. As I said, a trap. A trap which is obvious when I'm sitting here at the keyboard and reflecting on the fact that the first thing I noted was that she had pretty nice legs. Not only fuck my point of view, but fuck me.

© 2003 - 2018 Agnes Janich