February 29, 2012
I actually was already acquainted with Vanessa Beecroft’s works, but I had never seen any video documentation on it (http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=291_1191213747. A lot of the interviews they did with the artist, the audience and the models were very interesting. I completely agreed with Beecroft’s assertion that although the women, unlike the well-dressed audience, we naked, “they are in a state of tension.” The tension was generated both by the way the women were standing – very upright and uncomfortable – and by the audience’s reaction to the fact that they were stark naked. Nudity added an element of discomfort for the audience. The viewers didn’t know where to look and they seemed to either look intently at the artwork and discussing it in depth – conforming to normal “cultivated” museum-goer behavior – or looking intently away from the women – conforming to social norms of privacy and embarrassment at the sight of bare skin. I really enjoyed listening to what one man had to say about his curiosity to know what the women were feeling in their bodies and thinking in their heads. He asked himself if they felt eyes on their skin, as women are used to being the object of the male gaze. I also thought that one woman’s observation was key: warum nur Frauen? (why only women?). The feeling of the entire piece would change…it would screw up natural male voyeurism. I think that people would be even more embarrassed by the situation because they are not used to looking at naked men, whereas naked women are much more normal in society. Furthermore, men would have tilted the balance of the piece; I don’t think the mass would have been as strong because men and women definitely exude different energies. I think it would have become somewhat comical and too sexually charged. I was puzzled when I heard that the guards were trying to maintain distance between the audience and the performers. I thought that this greatly limited the audience’s interaction with the artwork. If there had been no restrictions, what would have happened? I think that in the museum space provided, no one would have dared to do anything extremely inappropriate, especially while wearing their formal clothes. If I had been there, my first urge would have been to take off my clothes and join the women. I would have wanted the mass to become stronger. I would have allied myself with my own gender, probably out of compassion and the will to support them. I just love the fact that Beecroft threw off the audience so much. Anything unexpected is welcome in my book.
While reading David Hickey’s words on Beecroft, I was interested in the relationship between painting and the body in live performance. I wonder what exactly changes. I did notice in the video that like in Western painting, it is normal for the male gaze to look at the female body, but performance completely changes the dynamics of this gaze. I started to imagine if there were paint on the women. What if the women were the canvas rather than the ones painted on the canvas canvas? (Or sculpted, or photographed…). Would women still remain the subject of the artwork? It seems to me that the female body is too powerful to be overshadowed by paint on it, no matter what is represented within the image painted on their bodies. It is such a powerful symbol that, no matter which medium, whether subject or supporting material, it still occupies the center of attention.
The idea of the mass was reflected in the Kanye West video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7_jYl8A73g. I felt, however, that the two different masses of women presented some key differences. To begin, the ballerinas were much more sexual and orderly. Although they were moving around, they did not seem as disorienting and their movement was obviously very choreograpged. Their use of limbs was what struck me the most; it seemed overtly sexual and exploitative. It is more comfortable to watch ballerinas making pretty, sensual movements with their arms than to watch an army of women facing the audience head-on, with no obvious performative elements. I also did not like that their were protagonists in the mass of ballerinas…there was an obvious hierarchy. It was really hard not to like this video, though. The music drew me in and I of course loved the pretty ballerina shapes.