Pussy riots and free the nipple campaigns, let’s face it, it’s a nasty woman’s world. Though there’s always room for more equality within the art world, we owe our progress to these five bold, performance artists.
And if you’ve ever felt a shortage of strong female artists, you’re always welcome in our house, The Public House of Art.
Carolee Schneemann: Interior Scroll. 1975
This list would not be complete without Carolee Schneemann’s iconic piece, Interior Scroll, in which she emphasised her vagina as the source of artistic power. The penetrating message of the piece saw Schneemann extracting a feminist discourse from ‘within’ and reading it to the audience; guess it’s not always about girth. Not all art can be made by man!
Marina Abramović: Imponderabilia. 1977
In 1977, Abramović and long-term partner, Ulay stood naked to erect a ‘physical frame’ that confronted patrons to pass through their symbolic ‘birth canal’. As the pair stood opposite, the streaming line of subjects flowed through with varying physical reactions. The constant: unavoidable, physical contact.
"Imponderable. Such imponderable human factors as one's aesthetic sensitivity/the overriding importance of imponderables in determining human conduct."
Rocio Boliver & Begoña Grande. Balancing on the Edge/Age. 2014
Balancing on the Edge/Age is an arduous piece performed by Rocio Boliver and Begoña Grande. To combat societal views about menopause and aging, the two naked artists endured an exhaustive connection. Translucent strings hooked at their faces, thighs, underarms and labias bounded them together in a “bloody ballet-like tug of war”.
Alternating atop a balancing board, their swaying weight revealed the malleability of their sagging and stretching skins. Diving deeper into grotesque lengths that challenge societal pressures on women, they commenced the piece with a cut on the side of their hand from which they applied the blood to each other’s faces like make up.
“Tearing, yanking off the mask of that great lie created by man, that putrid way of communicating with one another. Disgusted by everyday lies, by the acceptance of hypocrisy as a passport. I vomit on everyone, I shit on their faces, I scare them and make ’em suffer, I put ’em between a rock and a hard place.”
Vanessa Beecroft. VB70. 2011.
Vanessa Beecroft is not only known for the Yeezy fandom she’s helped create, but it’s her large scale performances that stand as existential encounters between models and audience that send us to the high heavens. Uniform in execution, the art of Vanessa Beecroft provokes questions surrounding identity politics and voyeurism. The shelf life of her performative works become transcendent as she takes photos and videos in an evolution into separate, self-sufficient pieces.
Deborah de Robertis. Mirror of Origin. 2014.
An homage to Gustav Courbet’s The Origin of the World, Deborah de Robertis transforms the two-dimensional work to manifest in a physical space. The impetuous artist sat before the masterpiece with her own ‘origin’ on display for the Musée d’Orsay.
Though she was arrested for her “impulsive act”, she firmly stands behind her position of revealing, “the eye of the vagina, the black hole, this concealed eye, which, beyond the flesh, refers to infinity, to the origin of the origin.” Meta, what?