A friend of mine got in touch not so long ago to let me know about this up-and-coming exhibition, focused on the topic of ‘Womanhood’. Relevant to my interests as not only a woman, but moreover a feminist, I decided it was something I had to check out at my earliest convenience. Intrigued about how this group of artists would interpret and discuss the topic of ‘womanhood’, I couldn’t help but wonder – what is a woman?
Upon entry to the gallery, viewers are immediately struck by Olivia Robert’s sculptural piece ‘Formation of a Woman’. The 3 dimensional piece uses photography to evoke the image of a cut-and-paste woman, with a paper bag covering the face. The sculpture, inspired by Pablo Picasso and David Hackney (and perhaps Shia LeBeouf?) usurps the male gaze in its anonymity. With the face left blank and the almost pixelated image of the female body, the viewer is turned into the voyeur – self aware of their objectification. Although the image evoked is a woman, she is but a collection of images, nameless. The piece discusses objectification in the digital age as the image of the woman has become nothing more than a prop and mirror.
The topic of objectification is also touched upon in the works of Croatian photographer and artist Marina Joncic (whose work can be seen on the artist’s tumblr: marinamche.tumblr.com). The featured work focuses mainly on the topic of forniphilia (‘the human furniture fetish’). The work uses the female body as a prop in household furniture, a technique that both utilises and critiques the female body being used as an agent in advertisement.
The exhibition also features work by Irina Baltazar entitled ‘Woman: Assembly Instructions’, the title of which presents the idea of woman, incomplete by nature. The piece focuses on the ritualistic behaviours expected and performed by women in order to ‘be’: featuring a freshly waxed leg, the used Bioré strip, a tampon rendered useless via glitter and gold. The make-up laden hands show the process of these rituals, often left invisible in society. The series of photographs force the viewer to ask – is a woman more than the rituals she performs to her body? Can a woman be if she does not adhere?
Other work includes that of Madelayne Hajek whose work discusses the relationships between food and sex, body and beauty products, and blackness and appropriation. Entitled ‘Permanence’, Hajek provides an intersectional take on the womanhood question. Other participators include Emidio Battipaglia, Kat Dlugozc and poet Nikki Kilburn whose poem ‘She’ prefaces the entire exhibit.
Admission is free and the exhibition itself runs from the 9th to the 14th of April at the Whitespace gallery Edinburgh, 25 Howe Street. It is a must see for anyone interested in up-and-coming female artists and their work, and definitely worth a visit if not only to answer the question ‘what is a woman?’ on the flip board provided.
I answered with the only truth I know. I am.