4 Saints in 3 Acts – A Decidedly New Opera
Loose AssociationsNew Writing

4 Saints in 3 Acts – A Decidedly New Opera

Our new exhibition, 4 Saints in 3 Acts – A Snapshot of the American Avant-Garde opens this Friday, and in this short essay, Anna Dannemann considers the impact the production had on American culture when it opened in 1934.

White Studio, Photograph of stage set for Four Saints in Three Acts, 1934. © Archives/Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

White Studio, Photograph of stage set for Four Saints in Three Acts, 1934. © Archives/Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

Transpose the picture quite,
And spell it wrong to read it right;
Read Him for her, and her for him;
And call the Saint the Seraphim.
— Richard Crashaw [1]

On 7 February 1934, the doors to a new Bauhaus-inspired building – the Avery Memorial – opened at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut, USA. Described as the ‘ first modern museum ’ by Eugene R. Gaddis in his book about the history of the Wadsworth Atheneum of 1984, it is also the oldest continually operating public art museum in the United States (established by Daniel Wadsworth in 1842). The new Avery building was personally designed by the Atheneum’s then maverick director Arthur Everett Austin Jr., and at its heart lay a theatre space offering opportunities for the public to experience the newest experimental plays and theatrical performances.

On this opening night extravaganza, and in parallel to the first comprehensive USA retrospective of Picasso, guests sat down to see the world premiere of Four Saints in Three Acts. With a cast comprised entirely of African-American performers, a ground-breaking nonlinear structure, a composition by Virgil Thomson, libretto by Gertrude Stein, experimental stage settings, and a ‘ deftly simple score ’ as John Rockwell wrote in the New York Times, the opera came to epitomise a unique avant-garde moment for the institution as well as the US modernist movement as a whole.

Behind Director Austin Jr.’s infamous chain-smoking, cocktail- swilling, well-groomed facade was the work of a serious and well-read ‘ Magician of the Modern ’, writes Philip Johnson, who transformed the way ‘ Americans looked at and thought about modern art ’. As part of the so-called “  Harvard modernists ” he belonged to a group of cultural figures widely credited with remodelling public cultural institutions. Alongside Austin, these included the first director of the Museum of Modern Art, Alfred Barr; architectural historian and professor Henry- Russell Hitchcock Jr.; writer Lincoln Kirstein; architect Philip

Johnson; painter (and Virgil Thomson’s partner) Maurice Grosser, and of course Virgil Thomson himself.

While the often problematic but always affectionate relationship and collaboration between Stein and Thomson concocted the play, it was within this context that Four Saints became both possible and made its unique contribution, achieving its success through the combined talents of many ground-breaking artists of the time.

Edward Matthews as St Ignatius, Four Saints in Three Acts, New York Studio, New York, c. 1933. © Lee Miller Archives, England 2017

Edward Matthews as St Ignatius, Four Saints in Three Acts, New York Studio, New York, c. 1933. © Lee Miller Archives, England 2017

An important figure for the imaginative visual design of the stage was surrealist painter Florine Stettheimer. Another Manhattan modernist, she created innovative designs using colourful new materials like cellophane for the bombastic sets, and silk, taffeta and lace for the costumes. John Houseman – who would later work with Orson Wells and others – directed the opera, featuring the legendary circular movements choreographed by another associate, Frederick Ashton, an international ballet dancer.

Virgil Thomson’s buoyant music was sung by an all African-American cast, brought together by Eva Jessye, the first African-American woman to gain international recognition as a professional choral conductor. Visiting concerts and performances in Harlem, New York, Thomson was enthused by the musical and artistic dynamism of the time – the so-called “  Harlem Renaissance ”.

Four Saints represented a musical and economic breakthrough for African-American singers, Jessye described Four Saints as ‘ quite a departure, because up to that time the only opportunities [for African-American singers] involved things like “  Swanee River, ” or “  That’s Why Darkies Are Born, ” or “  Old Black Joe. ” They called that “  our music, ” and thought we could sing those things only by the gift of God… With this opera we had to step on fresh ground, something foreign to our nature completely ’.[2] More striking still, was that the production later relocated to Broadway in New York, as the first opera to ever be shown there, receiving broad critical acclaim.

The success of the opera and its reverence ultimately goes back to Gertrude Stein’s seemingly nonsensical text, whose genius was to offer no one narrative, but many voices. Especially when produced by in influential gay cultural figures in a new museum, sung by black singers in stage sets created by women artists, her words were anything but nonsense: they allowed for different truths and decidedly queer forms of modernism.[3]

This ‘ most important night of the decade ’, wrote Philip Johnson, was a brave act of liberation for different groups of people that needed to wait for a long time for their truths to be accepted, legalised and cherished. On the evening of the premiere in Hartford, many of the bohemian audience were overwhelmed and clamorous in their praise. Kirk Askew and Julien Levy sat in the crowd and described what they had just witnessed as a glorious and redemptive affirmation of a new national culture stating: ‘ We didn’t know anything so beautiful could be done in America ’.

– Anna Dannemann

Anna Dannemann is a curator at The Photographers’ Gallery.
This essay is available in the new issue of our gallery print publication Loose Associations.

Notes

1. Crashaw, R., 1917. The Flaming Heart, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
2. Watson, S., 2017. “  The visitable past: Four Saints in Three Acts remembered ”. In: 4 Saints in 3 Acts – A snapshot of the American Avant-garde in the 1930s. Ed. Patricia Allmer and John Sears, Manchester University Press and The Photographers’ Gallery.
3. See Hubbs, N. The Queer Composition of America’s Sound. Gay Modernists, American Music, and National Identity. University of California Press, 2004.

A True Thing – Wim Wenders on the Polaroid
Loose AssociationsNew Writing

A True Thing – Wim Wenders on the Polaroid

Our new exhibition, Instant Stories. Wim Wenders’ Polaroids opens this Friday and in the following short essay the filmmaker recalls his personal history with the polaroid photograph, regarding them as the last miracle of the analogue age and a formative tool for his work as a filmmaker.

Wim Wenders, Self-portrait, 1975 © Wim Wenders. Courtesy Wim Wenders Foundation

Wim Wenders, Self-portrait, 1975 © Wim Wenders. Courtesy Wim Wenders Foundation

What a unique thing Polaroids were! Once almost science fiction, now definitely from the past, they occupy a very special place in our relationship to imagery and to photography, certainly in mine.

For a long time (more or less from the late ‘60s to the early ‘80s) they were my preferred photographic medium. I was learning the craft of filmmaking in those years, and Polaroids were a perfect complimentary tool:  as a visual notebook, a quick way of ‘framing’ the world, a verification of my interest in people, places, objects, or simply as a way to remember things.

Then I stopped – almost from one day to the next.   I started to shoot on negative again having (re)discovered printing.  Before, I had never really done that. Handmade prints had been too expensive for me, and I felt industrial ones just looked plain ugly.  With Polaroids, that dilemma never even arose.  When you took the picture, you automatically produced a print – or something very much like it:  a mysterious and unique object of desire. Taking Polaroids always felt to me like a very different act than ‘photographing‘ as such. The camera itself was almost considered a toy, not a ‘serious’ instrument, and taking pictures with it was fun. There was something playful, carefree, almost reckless about the action.  I think it was because the ‘thing‘ in your hand couldn’t be multiplied which made the result somehow ephemeral.

I used all sorts of Polaroid cameras over the years. In the beginning, you could only photograph in black and white, and then colour stock was produced. After I took them, I would stick the pictures under my armpit to keep them warm while they were developing and keep an eye on my watch. Holding them there for too long would produce dark pictures; too short a time would make them look pale, lacking contrast.  I remember doing lots of things, like smoking, writing, driving or talking on the phone with both arms closely held to my body. Then, depending on the type of film, you’d peel off the cover. There was always a certain surprise involved and a heartbeat of suspense.  What was the image going to look like? Was it going to match the expectation? Often, what I had seen with my eyes wasn‘t necessarily what was revealed.

Wim Wenders, Valley of the Gods, Utah, 1977 © Wim Wenders. Courtesy Wim Wenders Foundation

Wim Wenders, Valley of the Gods, Utah, 1977 © Wim Wenders. Courtesy Wim Wenders Foundation

Then the SX70 arrived, a sophisticated little miracle of a machine. You could hold it in the palm of your left hand, pull out its viewfinder with your right hand and hold it at a strange angle to your eye to see your shot. Compared to a car, the SX70 was like the Citroen DS: it had that same touch of design genius.   For a while it was my weapon of choice; no more armpit, no peeling off; you just watched the image appear and take shape out of an amorphous whiteness.  The object you were then holding in your hand staring at while it was actually ‘developing’ (giving that word a whole new meaning) was indeed very special. There was no negative, from which you could make ‘duplicates, no files or any other data except for this ‘real and singular thing’; a little square photograph in its own frame. What you produced and owned was ‘an original’:  a true thing – not multipliable, not repeatable, just ‘solid evidence’, not only of what had just happened, but of your own existence, of existence!

It’s a very different sensation in the digital age.  Holding a small screen in your hand or looking at an instant image on a screen is not the same.  Nothing compared to the Polaroid experience. It was a little magic act each time – nothing more, nothing less.  I don’t think I’m romanticising when I allege that Polaroids were the last outburst of a time when we had certainty, not only in images.  We had nothing but confidence in things, period.

The last time I took a Polaroid myself is more than 30 years ago. This is time travel for me as well.  In their rock-solid presence as singular objects these old photos are a healthy antidote to contemporary picture taking, on smartphones or on other electronic devices and to sharing them via the Internet, Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook. Polaroids were indeed a truly social medium.  I could take a picture of a person and we’d see the image appear, together, in front of our eyes. (Funny that there are apps today to recreate that sensation…) In their rock-solid presence as singular objects produced in the spur of a moment, Polaroids carry the entire imprint of that instant and can never be altered or forced to show anything other than what they are.

But why make a book of these forgotten pictures (or indeed an exhibition)? Aren’t they just personal memories? Aren’t they more like drawings I made just for myself – a working process that doesn’t really concern anybody?  Don’t all these Polaroids reveal in the end, is that my life very much centered around the films I made and that these films structured my existence in such a way that I can’t tell them apart anymore? It has been an important issue in my life to never cross that fine line from ‘personal’ to ‘private’. But where does one end and the other begin?  And where does fiction come from, better, where do you draw it from?

It is obvious to me now, as a filmmaker and storyteller that the only things worth talking about are those in experience and based on one’s very own knowledge of the world.  And if by exploring what these small objects represent, and if they can shed some light on what we do today, well then it’s a good thing to share them.

– Wim Wenders

Extracted from Wim Wenders. Instant Stories. Thames & Hudson, 2017. This essay is available in the new issue of our gallery print publication Loose Associations.

Eye Candy: An Introduction to the Story of Food in Photography
New Writing

Eye Candy: An Introduction to the Story of Food in Photography

In accompaniment to our exhibition Food For Being Looked At, currently on view on our Media Wall, and to celebrate the publishing of Feast For the Eyes (Aperture, 2017), the book’s author Susan Bright introduces some of the complexities of food’s visual forms and meanings, as we find it in the history of photography.

***

We are what we eat. Food both fuels and shapes our physical bodies from the inside, as well as being an outward expression of our pleasures and our principles. It crosses and transgresses boundaries in every sense. Eating is one of the most base, visceral, and profane of acts, yet it is also caught up in our rituals, religions, and celebrations—it is the most human of needs, both physically and culturally. Food can signify a lifestyle or a nation, hope or despair, hunger or excess. It is the site of protest and control. It can reinforce stereotypes or undermine them. It is given to riot and spoof—as in the ridiculous food fight—but also symbolises the most refined aspects of a culture. It carries our desires and fantasies; it can stand in for sex, be a signal of status, or engage in our politics, betraying our attitudes about immigration, domestic issues, the environment, animal rights, and travel. Ultimately, food is not only about literal taste, but also Taste with a capital T—both the lifestyles we aspire to and the building blocks of culture itself.

And so, similarly, photographs of food are rarely just about food. They hold our lives and time up to the light. As a subject that is commonly at hand, food has been and continues to be widely depicted. Many of the photographers in this book demonstrate that the most obvious of subjects is often the most demanding, and photographs of food—much like food itself—can invoke deep-seated questions and anxieties about issues such as consumption, aspiration, tradition, gender, race, desire, wealth, poverty, pleasure, revulsion, and domesticity. It can be a carrier for all kinds of fantasies and realities, and photographs of food can be complicated and deceptive, touching on many aspects of our lives, both public and private.

In addition, these pictures can be found in all sorts of places—not only in cookbooks, but also in art, fashion and advertising, or as vernacular, industrial, and editorial photography. But despite the ubiquity of photographs of food—or perhaps because of it—these images are rarely written about in their entirety.

Nickolas Muray, Lemonade and Fruit Salad, McCall’s magazine, ca. 1943; from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

Nickolas Muray, Lemonade and Fruit Salad, McCall’s magazine, ca. 1943; from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

Setting the Table

Early photographs of food feature in two parallel histories: that of art and that of cookbooks. But both environments show that photography is the magpie medium, borrowing, copying, and appropriating from other practices with bravura to create something unique. Early nineteenth-century art photographers faithfully followed the traditions of painting, reproducing established genres and calling upon the same strategies and symbolism. Early photographic still lifes, in emulation of paintings, gestured allegorically toward the different states of human existence by depicting certain foods: peaches for fertility, apples as the forbidden fruit, or grapes to reference the Greek god Dionysus, insinuating excess and good living. Early photographers concentrated on the richness of objects, the things that make up our world—turning what was visible into artifacts, and transforming them to resonate beyond mere subject matter

Roger Fenton, Still Life with Fruit and Flowers, ca. 1860; from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

Roger Fenton, Still Life with Fruit and Flowers, ca. 1860; from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

But alongside allegorical meanings and similarities to painting, the photographing of food has also showed photography’s great differences to painting and the insecurities about its own status that have plagued its history. This can be seen in the richly toned black-and-white still lifes by Roger Fenton: the food he photographed may resonate with the history of painting that went before it, but it also works to show the abilities of photography to the fullest. Filling his scenes with rich textures and shapes to heighten the senses and show his skill, he showed great dexterity in illustrating depth on a flat surface—something which painting could do more easily, using colour and the three-dimensional texture of paint. Without an established history within art, photography had yet to prove itself—so the frames of Fenton’s photographs were trimmed to a curve at the top, as if to signal his work as art, rather than mere document. This device of trimming prints to this shape was common among other early photographers such as Julia Margaret Cameron in order to mimic the actual shape of the paintings they were directly referencing. As such, the picture isn’t about what is visible, and what is seen in the world, but more about what is photographed, and what is art.

Photographer unknown, Poularde à la Godard, chromolithographic print from Le Livre de Cuisine, 1869; from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

Photographer unknown, Poularde à la Godard, chromolithographic print from Le Livre de Cuisine, 1869; from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

Like art, cookbooks also tell us about the values of their time, and are no less rich in symbolism and connotation. In addition, they have often traded in stereotypes and assumptions; they, too, are carriers for all kinds of fantasies. Early examples were no different: when photography was first used to illustrate recipes, it did not represent food eaten in the home or recipes passed down through families, but instead food for chefs, representing gastronomy and indulgence. This incredible image of Poularde à la Godard is a chromolithographic print—a technique that was among the first steps to colour photography in the nineteenth century—found in the hugely in influential Le Livre de Cuisine (1869) by chef and pâtissier Jules Gouffé. This book, and his Le Livre de Pâtisserie (1873), had a lasting impact on the evolution of French gastronomy. They are culturally important not only for the food they describe, but also for their many illustrations, wood-cuts, and extraordinary reproductions, which showed the potential and power that colour photographs could have within the pages of a cookbook. The lavish meal constructions speak to sophistication, extravagance, and French perfection, but to contemporary eyes, the elaborate concoctions make a turducken look humble.

However, going into the twentieth century, home-cooking manuals increased in popularity, stemming from a tradition most commonly associated with Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1861). Early examples in the United States, such as Good Housekeeping Everyday Cook Book (1903), Mrs. Rorer’s New Cook Book (1902), and Mrs. Allen’s Cook Book (1917), all included small black-and-white photographs.

The photographs are carefully arranged and tastefully constructed to show tidy homes and tidy lives, but their cultural significance is huge—they paved the way for both the tone and usability of later cookbooks. These books come from the varied standpoints of domestic science, magazine writing, and, in the case of Mrs. Allen’s Cook Book, the making of  “  modern” food, using products such as Coca-Cola and Pillsbury flour. The author of that book was not afraid to advocate for making women’s lives easier by using boxed and canned products; in this respect, she was an important predecessor of the brand-sponsored “ cookbooklet” and the cultural icon Betty Crocker.

But it is perhaps meals as they appear in vernacular photography that tell us the most about our relationship to food. Snapshots of food have increased and asserted themselves over the history of the medium, to the point where they are now part of the contemporary eating experience, captured with smartphones and distributed through image-sharing apps. But holidays and celebrations were being photographed almost as soon as cameras became readily available.

Due to the expense of very early photography, it was mostly the pursuit of the wealthy. Food did appear in nineteenth-century family photographs, but it was more into the twentieth century, as the camera became more accessible, that food often took centre stage. Since then, snapshots have been taken when extended families gather together around the table. Birthdays, parties, and wedddings are often photographed around the cake, and summer vacation pictures would seem lacking without the requisite ice cream cone or picnic shot.

Martin Parr, Untitled (Hot Dog Stand), 1983–85; from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

Martin Parr, Untitled (Hot Dog Stand), 1983–85; from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

All You Can Eat

But the photographs that we now associate with the commercial practice of “ food photography” (as opposed to food in still life, art, or vernacular images) undoubtedly have their roots in the rise of magazines and packaged foods. The interwar period saw an explosion of inventive printing and publishing techniques in photography. No one mastered these methods more than Nickolas Muray, who, while working in Germany, had perfected experimental colour processes while studying photoengraving and working for a publishing company. On moving to America, he transformed that skill into a commercial practice, creating vibrant tableaux for magazines in both advertising and editorial. His photographs of food and homemaking are among his best, bringing a new and daring aesthetic to magazines like McCall’s. These heavily styled scenes of food offered a fantastical escape and a vision of America far removed from the food shortages and anxieties of the war. Due in part to the success of Muray’s photographs, the almost Technicolor results of the three-color carbro process became a staple of American lifestyle and fashion magazines from the late 1940s into the 1950s—despite the fact that the process itself was costly and time-consuming.

Nickolas Muray, Food Spread, Daffodils, McCall’s magazine, ca. 1946; from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

Nickolas Muray, Food Spread, Daffodils, McCall’s magazine, ca. 1946; from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

In addition to magazine editorials and advertising for brands such as Lucky Strike and Coca-Cola, Muray also worked for an ever-expanding range of processed-food companies, as new products needed new photographs. Muray was adept at altering his more active aesthetic to sparser scenarios such as frozen-food packaging, which needed to be more obvious and leave space for text and logos. These products represented something quick and modern in postwar America, available in the new shopping malls that were beginning to appear around the country. Commercial photographers such as Anton Bruehl and Victor Keppler also brought their own modern aesthetic to the homes and lives of Americans through their images of food in their bright, upbeat colourful pictures, all of which suggested an America moving forward, rather than looking back nostalgically to the past.

As advances in colour printing made magazines and cookbooks more affordable, photography became more of a feature. Popular product lines and time-saving gadgets such as pressure cookers, crockpots, and stand mixers produced their own books and cookbooklets; the latter were designed primarily to advertise the brand and incorporated plentiful, vibrant photographs, as can be seen in the examples made for Aunt Jemima, Crisco, and Knox Gelatine. The impact of these photographic and advertising techniques coincided with the fantasy of nationhood and the increased availability of food after the Second World War, especially in the United States. These books had a lasting influence on commercial food imaging, and indeed on the way that a nation ate. Foods such as tuna fish, avocados, and orange juice made their way into kitchens and became family staples due to the success and ubiquity of the promotional cookbooklet.

Harold Edgerton, Milk Drop Coronet, 1957; from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

Harold Edgerton, Milk Drop Coronet, 1957; from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

Betty Crocker is also worth mentioning here. The first of its kind, Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook—or “ Big Red,” as it came to be known—was a guide to home cooking published in 1950 by General Mills. Its famous file system—with heading tabs like “ Quick Breads” and “ Frostings Confections” sticking out from its pages—and decadent colour photos, bursting with American bounty, are a joyful gateway into the nation’s food industry and changing tastes of the time. The pictures, like those in the cookbooklets, are more exuberant than they are appetising, speaking more to tastefulness than to taste itself. They also present a postwar nation of plenty and leisure, which was seen as being in direct contrast to communism.

Such books and the magazines of the time also gave rise to the art and business of food styling. Often shot under hot lights in the studio, food had to be meticulously arranged to last while the photographer worked. Heavily propped and fastidiously set up, food photography from this period relied on techniques that have become somewhat mythic and, of course, made the food completely inedible—such as spraying it with hair spray so it would appear shiny and fresh. Ice cream might be made from powdered sugar, ice cubes from plastic, foam from soapsuds, and condensation with glycerin. But it is not just the food that made a food photograph important; the tableware, tablecloths, garnishing, and props showed mastery in making a scene complete, and were illustrative of the collaborative teamwork needed in commercial photography.

Food For Thought

The 1960s and 1970s saw the increased publication of cookbooks and a shift from postwar ideas about national identity to a desire for armchair travel, a precursor to the multiculturalism of the 1980s. Popular cookbooks with skillful photographs illustrated the advances in colour printing and food styling in North America, Europe, and beyond, reflecting changes and attitudes particular to each nation.

In Australia, The Margaret Fulton Cookbook, first published in 1968 and going on to become a staple for generations, illustrated the impact of European immigration at the time, with the inclusion of Italian and Greek recipes. In the UK, Good Housekeeping Colour Cookery (1968) was as aspirational and unrealistic as many of its American counterparts, but differs in its more international feel. This was represented by lavish pictures of Scandinavian salads as well as a dramatic tableau of “ Ceylon Prawn Curry,” which reflected the wave of immigrants coming to Britain from Southeast Asia. There was also an increase in books featuring foods from a single country, as recipes and accompanying photographs from Mexico, Morocco, India, and Thailand became popular. This was the golden age of jet travel, and Western television began to feature more “ ethnic” chefs. This fascination with the exotic also inspired the American Time-Life Foods of the World series (1968–78).

John Baldesarri, Choosing Green Beans, 1972; from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

John Baldesarri, Choosing Green Beans, 1972; from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

Coinciding with this explosion of cookbooks, the 1960s and 1970s also saw the rise of Conceptual art and, with it, artists who used banal subject matter, mixed high and low culture, and favoured repetition and seriality, both in topographical and typological explorations. They used food for comic effect, as can be seen in John Baldessari’s Choosing Green Beans (1972), Fischli and Weiss’s Wurst Series (Sausage Series, 1979), and Marion Faller and Hollis Frampton’s series Sixteen Studies from Vegetable Locomotion(1975). Marcel Broodthaers’s La Soupe de Daguerre (1975) is more mysterious, however: are these ingredients for soup? Unlikely, as this combination of “ real” fish and tissue cutouts could hardly be cooked. At the bottom is a label that suggests museums and classification. Here, Broodthaers presents food as a puzzle—very much at odds with the bombastic messaging of Pop art, in which food also often featured, and the advertising and lifestyle aims of cookbooks. Perhaps he is parodying oversimplified representations of food and the polarised positions across hierarchies and genres in the artificial divisions between high and low culture.

Marcel Broodthaers, La Soupe de Daguerre, 1975; from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

Marcel Broodthaers, La Soupe de Daguerre, 1975; from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

While much art of this time favoured systems, artists also turned to performance and visual playfulness. Semiotics of the Kitchen by Martha Rosler (1975) does not use food, only the kitchen equipment. In this performance/video piece, Rosler works through the kitchen in alphabetical order—apron, bowl, chopper, dish, egg-beater, and so on—demonstrating each appliance with increasing aggression, in a parody of the growing popularity of cooking shows on TV and the idea that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. Rosler has said of her work, “ I was concerned with something like the notion of ‘language speaking the subject,’ and with the transformation of the woman herself into a sign in a system of signs that represent a system of food production, a system of harnessed subjectivity.”

The theoretical language of semiotics gave artists much-needed linguistic and visual tools to reclaim their work from critics and their value judgments, often to comic effect. Roland Barthes famously illustrated how the tools of semiotics could be applied to the messages and meanings of images in his 1964 essay “ Rhetoric of the Image,” using an ad for the pasta brand Panzani. By deconstructing the scene, he showed (among other things) how “ Italianicity” could be read in it. These systems for the construction of meaning are key to how food is photographed in cookbooks and popular culture, both of which rely on easy readings across a wide audience. Clichés and stereotypes suggest authenticity.

Sarah Lucas, Self Portrait, 1999; from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

Sarah Lucas, Self Portrait, 1999; from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

Another artist who has used food to illustrate its cultural and semiotic connotations is British artist Sarah Lucas. Food can be loaded with a relationship to politics and gender, especially the female body. Three decades after Carolee Schneemann’s performance piece Meat Joy, NYC (1964), Lucas made some of the defining work of the 1990s. In response to the “ lad culture” that had appeared at this time—also apparent in food, with the rise of celebrity chefs such as Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay— Lucas employed food such as bananas, fish, and chicken in both her photographs and her sculpture, to both call out the base language used to refer to women’s bodies, and reclaim it. Food still titillates, but with a very different stance; she refuses to take a submissive position when the joke is about male aggression. Lucas’s art takes the eroticism of food and turns it into sexual politics instead.

Ori Gersht, Pomegranate—Off Balance, 2006; from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

Ori Gersht, Pomegranate—Off Balance, 2006; from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

In Pomegranate—Off Balance (2006), Ori Gersht deals with politics and national identity. “ All my work has a direct connection with my upbringing in Israel, and this idea within the Jewish diaspora of a utopian place we can never quite obtain—the return to a place that doesn’t really have any material presence in the world, and that can never be realised,” Gersht has said. Here, food is used as a carrier for autobiographical ruminations on place and violence, calling upon traditions of Western art and the history of photography. It is painting that the photograph most obviously references—the still life by Juan Sánchez Cotán titled Quince, Cabbage, Melon, and Cucumber (1602) in particular. The quince in the painting has been replaced by a pomegranate, not only for its ability to dramatically explode— immediately bringing to mind the experiments of Harold “ Doc” Edgerton—but also for its symbolic place in Jewish culture, as a sign for fertility and righteousness eaten during Rosh Hashanah. The lighting is dramatic, heightened by the black background, making a stage in which Gersht builds the sculptural scene.

The use of food to create a sculpture is something we see repeatedly in this book—not just in art, but also in commercial photography, most famously demonstrated by Irving Penn. In Gersht’s photograph, the sculpture is a stand-in for calm, balance, and harmony, while the exploding pomegranate illustrates the rarity of this state.

What’s Cooking

During the 1990s and into the 2000s, the rise of the celebrity chef, foodie culture, and eating out contributed to a rise in the popularity of cookbooks once again. The Western world shifted away from the idea that French cuisine was best, and embraced food from a wide range of countries, fusing flavours with the very best of local ingredients. Once again, a more international approach was accelerated by the availability of cheap flights to countries such as Thailand and Sri Lanka, and South Asian food grew popular in the West. Restaurants were increasingly producing their own cookbooks (such as the famous River Café series), and books by television personalities—such as Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver in the UK, and Mario Batali and Ina Garten in the United States—became more prevalent. Rachael Ray, Jane Grigson, Gordon Ramsay, Martha Stewart, Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, and Anthony Bourdain followed and became household names, many with their own line of cookbooks and wares.

Photography became increasingly dominant in these books, and a much more relaxed style prevailed. The pictures featured food that you wanted to eat—food as it was cooked, rather than overly styled and presented on the table. The styling was made to look somewhat nonexistent, and, most important, photographers were more likely to be credited. Taking photographs for cookbooks became a more credible, legitimate space in which artists could work. Well-known photographers have shot for cookbooks—including Joel Meyerowitz, Adam Bartos, Richard Learoyd, Ron Haviv, and Jason Fulford, to name a few—illustrating the fact that photographs have become more important than the recipes in many instances.

This represents an important shift in how food is photographed for these books. With the rise of the Internet, most people turn to the web for cooking inspiration rather than books. But conversely, the production and sale of cookbooks and food magazines has never been stronger. A cookbook is no longer necessarily something you buy for the recipes; instead it has become more of a coffee-table book. Cookbooks are more collectible, as fetishised objects.

Perhaps this trend started out of necessity: with the rise of digital platforms, printed books needed to rethink their shelf appeal in order to reach consumers, and publishers have reached into the bag of tricks from art and design books. This has elevated cookbooks to become like photobooks; their pictures have become more aligned with still life and art practices. Though the pictures, in some cases, could operate in a proper artbook, in a cookbook they remain connected to lifestyle and taste, continuing to provide an aspirational experience that situates the reader in a very particular time and sensibility. They are for show, for seductive visual pleasure and for longing—all very far away from the labors of shopping, cooking, and washing up, but not so far away from the very earliest cookbooks, such as Le Livre de Cuisine.

Wladimir Schohin, Stilleben, 1910; from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

Wladimir Schohin, Stilleben, 1910; from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

The distinctions between art and commerce that previously defined photographs of food are becoming much finer with the increasing cultural acceptance of commercial food and product photography, as well as a renewed interest in its history and pioneers such as Nickolas Muray. At the same time, fine-art photography has returned to the still life genre with new vigor. No longer at polar ends of acceptability, a crop of up-and-coming commercial photographers—such as Keirnan Monaghan and Theo Vamvounakis, Grant Cornett, William Mebane, Trey Wright, Lauren Hillebrandt, Paloma Rincón, and Stephanie Godot—produce exciting work that is often indistinguishable from art and its recent fascination with still life. Artists such as Maurizio Cattelan and Roe Ethridge also reference the commercial food photography of the 1950s through the 1970s, while Daniel Gordon and Laura Letinsky incorporate lifestyle pictures found in magazines and online into their collaged still lifes.

In short, many artists are turning to deconstruction, collage, montage, and appropriation to comment on the ubiquity of certain subjects on the Internet—food being one of them. Right now, commercial food photography is incorporating the tropes of fine art, while fine art simultaneously comments on commercial and digital practices. This creates a seesaw of taste-making, and the connotations of aspiration, class, and style are up for examination. All the while, irony, deadpan humor, retro styling, and bold statements dominate. Much of it may seem superficial—but at a time of renewed nationalism around the globe, when we are once again grappling with the intricacies of nationhood in the culture at large, photography is an important marker of how food can define who we are.

Roe Ethridge, Fruit, 2011;from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

Roe Ethridge, Fruit, 2011;from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

And yet, despite how food has been photographed in art and commerce, it is how it has been photographed in vernacular imaging that has perhaps had the biggest impact on food as subject matter—and how those photographs are consumed. Photo-sharing on social-media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter have made photography part of the dining experience itself. So many people are taking pictures of their meals that restaurants expect each party to take more time at their table. And for those restaurants, as well as for specialty stores and brands, this sharing, tagging, and geo-tagging of food photos has become a kind of grassroots advertising scheme, in which both the authenticity of the author (and their established connection to the viewer) and FOMO (fear of missing out) might drive others to want the same experience—and it’s all delivered directly into the hands, homes, and pockets of an attentive audience. Photographing your food has never been more popular or encouraged. This may explain why traditional commercial photography has simultaneously become more like fine art—as well as more diaristic, mimicking the “ realness” of social media.

The rise of photographing food has also changed, or at least heavily influenced, the way we eat in the home. The Western breakfast, for example—a historically routine affair of cereal or toast—is now (if we are to believe Instagram) a feast of avocado toast, muesli with a host of berries and toasted nuts, and chia-seed smoothie bowls. Food has become even more of a social currency, and social media provides a space in which to share, find like-minded people, and form communities. It has spawned a host of hashtags to accompany photographs—hashtags that instantly position and self-identify the photographer with a certain group or shared aspiration. These can include the more jovial #nomnomnom, to the more pointed #whatveganseat or #eatclean. On a more serious level, these communities also connect those who struggle with food issues, such as eating disorders, and who have traditionally been outside of the mainstream.

Tim Walker, Self-Portrait with Eighty Cakes, 2008; from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

Tim Walker, Self-Portrait with Eighty Cakes, 2008; from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

Blogs and social media have also spawned a trend in books that promote healthy eating, the shunning of certain nefarious foods, and wellness, often written by young women who have little or no nutritional training. These sites have garnered huge followings and their authors include, most famously, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kris Carr in the US and Ella Mills in the UK, to name a few. The message is simple: eat like me, look like me. Highly constructed photographs of kale salad and quinoa abound.

But platforms such as Instagram can be outlets for more than just aspirational food porn, a term coined to poke fun at the glamorisation and proliferation of photographs of food on social media. Like the book The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady—in which Edith Blackwell Holden provides personal observations from her daily life in 1906 and intricate details of the woodland creatures near her home, along with exquisite paintings—Instagram can also act like a diary or journal, and of course food plays a part in this. Photographs of food in this context can be touching, a way of communicating with families and friends. There are mothers documenting care packages made for children who are away at university, families eating at holidays, and lovely tables, set for celebrations. Food is photographed as it brings people together, as ritual and tradition.

Laura Letinsky, Untitled #49, 2002, from the series Hardly More Than Ever; from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

Laura Letinsky, Untitled #49, 2002, from the series Hardly More Than Ever; from Feast for the Eyes (Aperture, 2017)

Whereas letters, drawings, small gifts, and especially recipes were exchanged between friends and family in earlier times to sustain relationships and show support, photographs have become part of our larger cultural gift economy—one in which our private experiences are made more public, and a wider circle of friends and followers reciprocate their support through likes and re-sharing. Food photographs have often crossed the boundaries between private and public, and are a natural fit for today’s social media. They invite people into our lives on a much larger scale, in an act more akin to publishing than letter-writing.

The smell and taste of certain foods have an evocative power; for some, nothing says home like their mother’s cooking, while for others the opposite is true. For Marcel Proust, as he wrote in his book À la recherche du temps perdu (Remembrance of Things Past), memories were triggered most famously by sweet madeleines dipped in tea. Food can arouse repeated and constant links between perception and memory, and when photographed, it is likewise transformed into a network of comparable connections and associated symbolic orders. Much like literature, photography is a medium closely woven with desire and longing—a vehicle for memory and a generator of metaphor and symbol. It also describes in the minutest of detail.

The photographs here will hand the viewer a key for coding and decoding society, if one is prepared to take the time to really look. They can celebrate, pervert, inform, and inspire. From the banality of the diner breakfast special captured by Stephen Shore to the allegorically dense still lifes of Laura Letinsky, from Roger Fenton’s elaborate nineteenth-century setups to the cookbooks of the 1960s, food—and how it’s photographed—defines how we live and how we value ourselves, and, at its very best, connects us to our dreams and desires.

Susan Bright

Feast For the Eyes, recently published by Aperture, is available in the bookshop at The Photographers’ Gallery.

Susan Bright is a curator and writer. She has authored numerous books including Art Photography Now (Aperture, 2005), Face of Fashion (Aperture, 2007), How We Are: Photographing Britain (2007: coauthored with Val Williams), Auto Focus (2010), and Home Truths: Photography and Motherhood (2013). She co-curated How We Are: Photographing Britain (2007), which was the first major exhibition of British photography at Tate. The exhibition of Home Truths (The Photographers’ Gallery and Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago) was named one of the top exhibitions of 2013/2014 by the Guardian and the Chicago Tribune. She currently lives in Paris.

SUPER. NATURAL.
New Writing

SUPER. NATURAL.

Image: Behind the Scenes Image from Cathedral of the Pines(detail) © Crewdson Studio. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

In this short essay, Clare Grafik considers her first encounter with Gregory Crewdson’s work, in relationship to his new project Cathedral of the Pines, currently on view at TPG. The essay is available in the new issue of Loose Associations, our gallery publication dedicated to photography and image culture. 

*

I first came across Gregory Crewdson’s work in a catalogue of the now seminal MoMA exhibition Pleasures and Terrors of Domestic Comfort by Peter Galassi in 1991. This exhibition and book featured establishment figures from the American photographic scene such as Lee Friedlander and William Eggleston, alongside artists including Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons, Nan Goldin and the emerging figures of Philip-Lorca DiCorcia, and Crewdson himself. The dynamism of Galassi’s curation, which juxtaposed works across genres and contrasted established and experimental practices, was formative for a new generation of photographers. Pleasures and Terrors… also excavated a subject which would continue to fascinate and inspire Crewdson in particular: the contemporary state of the American Dream and the dark underpinnings of the suburban psyche.

Crewdson’s early images, which utilised maquettes of small town streets and off-scale taxidermy animals, were striking surrealist dioramas. However, it was his two subsequent series Twilight (1998-2001) and Beneath the Roses (2003-08) that would identify him as a groundbreaking image-maker. Using production crews, lighting experts, actors and meticulous post-production processes, his photographs were cinematic in both scale and subject – relating more closely to the work of American filmmakers or painters such as Edward Hopper than to photography. Crewdson cites David Lynch’s 1986 neo-noir drama Blue Velvet and Spielberg’s earlier science fiction masterpiece Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) as particularly influential. However, Crewdson’s meticulously constructed mini-dramas deliberately hint at a narrative which never unfolds.

Behind the Scenes Image from Cathedral of the Pines © Crewdson Studio. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

Behind the Scenes Image from Cathedral of the Pines © Crewdson Studio. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

It is interesting to know that Crewdson’s father was a psychoanalyst – the artist recounts eavesdropping as a child on his father’s sessions with clients from the floor above. We can imagine how snatches of incomplete conversations about the most intimate fears, obsessions and foibles of ordinary people may have influenced his creative interests and outlook. In his images, the streets and interiors of small-town America are settings for photographic incarnations of the uncanny, stage sets for not-so-subconscious alienation: a figure sits alone in a car at a cross roads, the driver has disappeared and left the door wide open; a woman stares into the middle distance as she sinks (floats?) in water which threatens to engulf a disassembling living room; figures stand impassively across a disused railway track watching a local house disappear in flames.

Crewdson’s most recent series Cathedral of the Pines (2013-14) is fascinating for both the similarities and differences to previous projects. Emerging from a period of creative and personal crisis, he states ‘It was deep in the forests of Becket, Massachusetts that I finally felt darkness lift, experienced a reconnection with my artistic process.’ Here subjects pose within the small rural town of Becket, Massachusetts, and its vast surrounding forests, including the hiking trail from which the series takes its title. Despite retaining a characteristic cinematic feel, these new works have a deliberate “ hyper” naturalism – where subjects are no longer seen drifting through tarmacked streets but, rather, gaze from claustrophobic cabin interiors out onto frozen lakes or are dwarfed against the vertical architecture of the forest. His most personal work to date, these images offer us a landscape which both dominates and reflects the brooding impassivity of the human psyche made more striking in its inhuman scale.

—Clare Grafik

Clare Grafik is Head of Exhibitions at The Photographers’ Gallery

To Know The Beast Intimately
Digital ProgrammeNew WritingThe Digital Image

To Know The Beast Intimately

Above image: Morehshin Allahyari, She Who Sees the Unknown: Ya’jooj Ma’jooj (video still), 2017. Courtesy the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery

Before it is won through conquest, what “ holds ” the invader is what lies ahead.

— Edouard Glissant, The Poetics of Relation (1990)

When hostility towards marginalised people heightens, resulting in blatant forms of fascism, the realm of representation is quick to be studied. Our knee-jerk reaction to the lack of representation or misrepresentation of minorities is predicated on notions that more “ good” representations of minorities will bring more empathy and prevent discrimination. While so much of the discourse on representation circles around questions of visibility, invisibility and hypervisibility, representing minorities in “ casual everyday situations” is in essence an effort to render them legible.

Representation has historically played a crucial role in the way minorities have gained rights through visibility. As minoritarian artists and writers, how do we discuss the inherent shortcomings of representation-as-tactic, and resist the exceptionalist tendencies it inevitably gives rise to? Instead of demanding the basic rights (to life, mobility, welfare and justice) for all, it is often the “ goodness” of the subjects that is used to argue against unjust and biased actions and discriminatory laws. Why should a deserving working engineer, college student, law-abiding citizen, father, mother, or any player of a recognisable and acceptable societal role (generally based on the Western heteropatriarchal understanding of humanity anyhow) be banned or discriminated against?

On the human-monster axis, legibility decreases as we slide from the human to the monster. The barbarian, the alien, the terrorist, the mysterious weirdo ought to evolve into (the late-capitalist version of) the human to become comprehensible: the one that consumes, whose attention span is shorter than a goldfish’s memory, who goes to sleep digesting data and wakes up looking at a screen.

Morehshin Allahyari, She Who Sees the Unknown: Ya’jooj Ma’jooj (video still), 2017. Courtesy the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery

Morehshin Allahyari, She Who Sees the Unknown: Ya’jooj Ma’jooj (video still), 2017. Courtesy the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery

Legibility and visibility, although not mutually exclusive, are neither in direct causal relation to one another. More visibility does not necessarily render a subject more legible and vice versa. Empathy — any attempt toward peace that emphasises the “ similarity” and “ unity” of all humankind through representational means — operates on the basis of legibility.

If mainstreaming, as a mode of resistance, attempts, through art, popular culture and journalism to render a people “ normal” and “ peaceful”, Morehshin Allahyari’s Ya’jooj and Ma’jooj raises the question of how these notions of “ normalcy” and “ peace” are constructed. Instead of encountering a “ good” or “authentic” representation of a people, in Ya’jooj and Ma’jooj we find ourselves leapfrogging from the human towards the monstrous: the jinn.

In western orientalist representations, jinns are often depicted as either powerful male slaves who can make three wishes come true (think Aladdin) or subservient yet problem-solving females; predecessors of sorts to Siri or Alexa (think I Dream of Jeannie). Like everything else, jinns are also reduced to more tangible creatures for the western orientalist imagination: male jinns are racialised servants with superhuman capabilities but limited agency; female jinns are desirably naughty yet docile. Their gender is binary and, like “ us”, jinns have heteropatriarchal desires.

My upbringing was full of stories of Jinn-o-Pary[1] (Jinns and Fairies). Because jinns were invisible, fluid creatures anything one might need to be alarmed about would involve a jinn’s interference. Devil, the infamous jinn, was the shape-shifter who could manipulate you by “ getting under your cover” and entering your body. When getting close to danger — the edge of a cliff, a river or fire — it was Devil that would push you over, to fall, drown or burn.

Imam Ali Conquers Jinn, unknown artist, Ahsan-ol-Kobar, 1568

Imam Ali Conquers Jinn, unknown artist, Ahsan-ol-Kobar, 1568

Morehshin Allahyari, She Who Sees the Unknown: Ya’jooj Ma’jooj (video still), 2017. Courtesy the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery

Morehshin Allahyari, She Who Sees the Unknown: Ya’jooj Ma’jooj (video still), 2017. Courtesy the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery

According to the Quran, angels are made of light, jinns of fire and humans of clay (soil and water). Like humans, jinns have agency, while angels are not capable of wrongdoing; they’re purely good. Devil falls because he refuses to bow down to Adam, God’s magnum opus of a life in creation. Devil’s refusal to bow down to Adam was his refusal to accept the human’s superiority. In the quranic version, although Devil originally disobeys God, he remains in competition with Man’s power and stature for the rest of his life, not God’s:

And [mention] when We said to the angels, “ Prostrate to Adam,” and they prostrated, except for Iblees. He was of the jinn and departed from the command of his Lord. Then will you take him and his descendants as allies other than Me while they are enemies to you? Wretched it is for the wrongdoers as an exchange.[2]

Jinns look like humans until they are discovered; their identities revealed by their feet — animal like and twisted backwards. These moments of recognition when the human could tell they were enamoured, seduced or deceived by something not human, such as a jinn, were the climax of many of my childhood stories. What did the protagonist do once they realised the community or the person they were interacting or living with (sometimes for years) was jinn, not human? Once the jinn’s feet were revealed, what remained there to be seen? Was this moment of revelation one of immediate transformation, where from then on the human saw nothing but jinn? This is where all the stories ended, but where an exploration of Morehshin Allahyari’s Ya’jooj and Ma’jooj might begin.

Morehshin Allahyari, She Who Sees the Unknown: Ya’jooj Ma’jooj (video still), 2017. Courtesy the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery

Morehshin Allahyari, She Who Sees the Unknown: Ya’jooj Ma’jooj (video still), 2017. Courtesy the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery

Ya’jooj Ma’jooj: A tale of survivalism

Dhul-Qarnayn, a good fella, was asked to defend the people against Ya’jooj and Ma’jooj (Gog & Magog), the mystical mass embodying corruption, perversity, debauchery and immorality. A monster depriving the people of peace, spreading pure chaos. According to the Quran, Dhul-Qarnayn built a wall out of pieces of iron, and welded them together with melted copper. Perfectly sealed, the wall was not to be penetrated or climbed by Ya’jooj and Ma’jooj, keeping them at bay as the people inside lived on happily ever after in isolated peace. In this tale, then, what Dhul-Qarnayn built was more than just a wall that he claimed he could destroy on God’s order; what he constructed was the idea of the wall as deterrent. The people from then on lived with the knowledge of a deterring technology called “ wall”.

Morehshin Allahyari’s video, She Who Sees The Unknown: Ya’jooj and Ma’joojshows the 3-D scanning of a Ya’jooj and Ma’jooj sculpture the artist previously made, intertwined with text she has written and collected from different sources. While there are numerous Quranic, as well as Biblical and Toratian allegorical and historical interpretations of Ya’jooj and Ma’jooj, Allahyari’s rendition is one that takes a curious look at the monster that was created. Allegorical figures, like jinns, are temporal embodiments of human desires and emotions. The beast comes into being to tell a story about good and evil: the people and their invader, the land and its defender. Once the story is told, what remains of the beast?

Allahyari’s Ya’jooj Ma’jooj departs from this tale of survivalism to look at life on the other side of the wall, where creation is a site of simultaneous decadence and becoming. Ya’jooj and Ma’jooj, the plural that is also singular, the unit that embodies multiplicity, is constantly “ rendering,” yet never fully formed or legible. The ten-minute video is an extended gaze from when this encounter happened, when the people, Dhul-Qarnayn and Ya’jooj and Ma’jooj stared into each other’s eyes and began to see beyond the “ defended,” the “ invader” and the “ deterrence technology” of the wall. The moment of recognition is that of infinite reflection where one finally sees themselves in the other, yet one will not see the reflection until one stops to see through: ‘she to whom the image clung like a mirror‘.

—Gelare Khoshgozaran

Morehshin Allahyari’s She Who Sees the Unknown: Ya’jooj Ma’jooj, continues through 16 July on our Media Wall. A video interview with the artist produced by our Education team can be watched. For more information on the subject of the the digital image and the ethics of representation, visit our online platformUnthinking Photography. Book tickets for our upcoming event Trafficking of Cultural Goods: 3D Modelling and Digital Colonialism.

Gelare Khoshgozaran گلاره خوشگذران is an interdisciplinary artist and writer working across the mediums of video, performance, installation and writing. Born and raised in Tehran and living in Los Angeles, she envisions the city as an imaginary space between asylum as “ the protection granted by a nation to someone who has left their native country as a political refugee” and the more dated meaning of the word, “ an institution offering shelter and support to people who are mentally ill.” Her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions at the Queens Museum of Art, Museo Ex-Teresa Arte Actual, Malmö Konsthall, LACE, The LA Municipal Art Gallery, Southern Exposure, Human Resources, Interstate Projects and Thomas Erben Gallery, among others. Gelare was the recipient of the 2015 California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Artists, the 2015 Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant, and the 2016 Rema Hort Mann Foundation Award for Emerging Artists. She is the co-founder and editor of contemptorary.org.

Notes

[1] جن و پری

[2] Sūrat l-Kahf, The Cave. Chapter 18, verse 50, Sahih International Translation.

An Incomplete Dictionary of Show Birds: Interview with Luke Stephenson
New Writing

An Incomplete Dictionary of Show Birds: Interview with Luke Stephenson

Britain and its national psyche are at the core of London based photographer Luke Stephenson’s work. For over a decade he has been photographing subjects that, for him, epitomise British eccentricity and culture, including puppets, the iconic ‘99’ ice cream and the World Beard and Moustache Championships.

In 2009 Stephenson discovered the peculiar and insular world of show bird competitions and began to immerse himself in the subculture of ‘bird fancying’. He has spent the past seven years tracking down and gaining access to ever more exotic species to photograph, inadvertently becoming an avid collector of these prized birds himself.   

In this interview, Alexandra Olczak discusses the newest works in the series An Incomplete Dictionary of Show Birds with the photographer, which is currently on view in our Print Sales Gallery and at Selfridges, London, as part of a new display In Fine Feather. By combining his unique style of photography with the formal language of studio portraiture, the artist lends his feathered subjects an affectionate and often human presence.

***

Alexandra Olczak: Your previous series, for example 99 x 99s (2014), which documents 99 types of 99 ice creams across various British seaside locations, have led you to be considered a ‘portraitist’ of sorts. Do you think this is an accurate description of your approach to photography?

Luke Stephenson: I think it’s a very interesting idea that someone can take a picture of an object or thing, and that in doing so it gives an audience some sort of insight into the person who made it. With the 99 project, I wanted to see the various differences between ice creams from around the country, but as I looked at them – and maybe I’m the only one to see this – I noticed particular differences specific to certain counties. I suppose in a strange way this could be classed as a quasi-portrait of Great Britain through its ice cream!

With the Show Birds project I took the decision very early on that I didn’t want to take portraits of the people who owned and bred the birds, as I thought they would be showing themselves through the animals. For many of these breeders these birds have been a life’s work, so to show their achievements in that respect says something about them. I think it’s always nice to not give the viewer too much information, but allow them to join the dots.

Bearded Reedlings #1, 2016 © Luke Stephenson

Bearded Reedlings #1, 2016 © Luke Stephenson

AO: How did you figure out the best way to photograph the birds?

LS: Well, there was quite a bit of trial and error. When I first photographed some budgies back in 2006 I naively thought they would calmly sit on their owner’s finger but soon realised this wasn’t the case; I discovered you needed to use some sort of cage or box.

There was a photographer called Dennis Avon who was a very prolific in bird photographer, and I learnt he had a box that he photographed the birds in but had very little information as to how it was made.

My dad helped me make various boxes; the first was made with chicken wire but the birds hung on to the sides and rarely sat where I wanted them to! So after a few more failed versions, someone told me that a bird will generally sit at the highest point and I finally came up with a wooden box which only gives the bird one place to sit (which is exactly where I need them to be).  My bird ‘studio’ is constantly evolving as I think of ways to improve it. I very much enjoy the DIY nature and challenge of photographing something that isn’t a typical portrait subject.

AO: As I understand it, there are several stages to producing these stark and detailed close-ups: tracking down new species, gaining permission from the breeders, travelling to different locations with your bird studio, testing different backgrounds, and editing the resulting images to find the best shots. Which parts of the process did you find most enjoyable or challenging?

LS: Yes there are many elements as you say… I’m lucky to have met some lovely people along the way who have been happy to share their knowledge. During the first part of this project I met a former policeman called Alan, who bred canaries and was very active in that scene. He was happy to vouch for me in case anyone had any reservations – there can be a bit of suspicion in the bird world due to past bird thefts. That helped a lot in gaining access to the birds. More recently, I’ve been looking for more exotic and native breeds to photograph, and have travelled to Europe to meet some keen collectors who’ve been invaluable in their help.

I think the most satisfy part of the whole process is when I’m looking though the lens at the bird in my box, and all the planning has worked and I press the shutter and just know I’ve got a beautiful shot.

Luke Stephenson, Installation view, In Fine Feather, Selfridges, London

Luke Stephenson, Installation view, In Fine Feather, Selfridges, London

AO: What’s the furthest place you have travelled to for a photo session? Have all your pursuits been successful to date?

LS: As I mentioned, I travelled to Europe recently as the hobby is still very popular in Belgium, Germany and Holland. I visited a bird show outside Eindhoven, which is very highly thought of and was very different to any other bird show I’ve attended. They spend a week or so building very elaborate habitats for exotic species that various members own – it was better than most zoo collections and very impressive to see. I spoke to a few people while I was there and met a helpful guy called Rick; he helped put me in touch with some of the members and I then got permission to return to Holland with my bird studio to capture some wonderful birds.

Generally because of the research I do before a shoot I usually come away with some good pictures, but sometimes I don’t always select the right colour backgrounds and that can often make or break a shot, which is annoying.

I once drove for two hours to visit a breeder in the borders of Scotland! He had, amongst other species, a Pekin Robin, which I had wanted to photograph for some time. As soon as I arrived I realised I’d forgotten the lights for my box – which are crucial – so couldn’t get any shots that trip. I was invited to return the following week but by that time the Pekin Robin had sadly died, which was a real shame… it took me another 3 years to track another one down.

AO: You once said that your initial collection of avian portraits for this series started with budgies, as they were “ accessible, familiar, and wonderfully beautiful.” Apart from new species, how does this new collection of birds differ?

LS: As well as travelling further afield and discovering more diverse species, I’ve also managed to photograph a lot more native British birds. They tend to be my favourites as they’re so familiar.

I think I’ve matured a lot as a photographer and have learnt so much through the project. Since publishing a photo-book in 2012 I have been living with the pictures and looking at them a lot – you start to learn what works in the images and what doesn’t after a while, so I think the latest work is a bit more refined thanks to that.

Paradise Tanager #1, 2016 © Luke Stephenson

Paradise Tanager #1, 2016 © Luke Stephenson

AO: In a way you could say you have become somewhat of a photographic “ collector” of these birds – have you ever owned a show bird yourself? Would you consider yourself a bit of a show bird connoisseur thanks to this project?

LS: Yes, I would say a lot of my work is based around collections of things; I enjoy getting deeply involved in a subject and learning about its various elements.

With the Show Bird series it has unexpectedly grown into a large collection that has taken me a number of years to amass. Having met so many enthusiasts over the years, you can’t help but pick up various bits of information and it sometimes surprises me when I’m chatting about birds how much I actually know! In that respect I suppose I have become a bit of a connoisseur, but there’s always more to learn with something like this.

My wife actually bought me a yellow canary for my birthday a couple of years ago. He was called Bobby and was lovely to have in my flat – he would sing all day and keep me company. I kept his cage door open for him so he could fly around my living room whenever he wanted and go back to his cage at night to sleep. Sadly he’s no longer with us, but I’ve been thinking more and more about getting another bird lately… maybe something a bit more exotic. I enjoyed the sound of him singing all day.

Luke Stephenson, Installation view, In Fine Feather, Selfridges, London

Luke Stephenson, Installation view, In Fine Feather, Selfridges, London

AO: Your countrywide road trip for the 99 ice cream series lasted 25 days, whereas you’ve been photographing show birds over the past 7 years now. Did you ever expect this to be such a long-term project? Do you think your ‘Dictionary’ will ever be complete?

LS: It has been a long process, and not something I ever imagined doing when I first photographed some budgies! I like the way these long-term projects evolve and change as you get to understand the subject matter more and more. There are still so many birds I’d like to photograph and so many variations of each species I don’t know if it will be ever finished! I’m going abroad to other countries and learning how they do things, so that could be a way of expanding the collection in the future.

Luke Stephenson (born in 1983, Darlington, England) lives and works in London. Since graduating in 2005 and winning the Jerwood Photography Prize the same year, Stephenson has been working as a freelance photographer focusing on eccentric British hobbies and exposing fascinating “ archaeological layers of English culture” hidden from the mainstream. His work has been published in a variety of publications including The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, Dazed & Confused, Foam, Art Review and Wallpaper*.

Alexandra Olczak is print sales gallery co-ordinator at The Photographers’ Gallery.

Sex and Sequence: Carolee Schneemann’s Fuses (1965)
New WritingOne Image

Sex and Sequence: Carolee Schneemann’s Fuses (1965)

Image: Carolee Schneemann, Fuses, 1965 (film still)

Alongside our current exhibition Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s: Works From the Verbund Collection, this essay considers the representation of the female body in Carolee Schneemann’s notable film workFuses (1965).

***

In Fuses, Carolee Schneemann documents herself and her boyfriend of the time, James Tenney, sleeping together in a number of situations within the couple’s home, observed by their cat, Kitch. The Gaze is posited in the female eye. Fuses hence demonstrates an attempt to debunk traditional modes of representation regarding the framing of female sexuality on camera.

Schneemann’s textured and subtle filming methods run through her work. The artist originally trained in painting, and has continued to identify herself as a “ painter” despite the interdisciplinary nature of her projects and their convergence with film and performance. In the opening sequence of Fuses – as the camera is directed across the body of Tenney under a hue of red light – Schneemann effectively draws the eye of the spectator across a richly textured painting. Her visuals are not explicit in this regard; rather, one must uncover, and feel their way through, the ambiguous physical forms exposed by the focus of her camera.

In the film Schneemann’s body becomes an instrument by which the artist, operating the camera, invites reflection upon the politics surrounding female sexuality. As discussed in her essay The Obscene Body/Politic, Schnemann uses the “ battleground” of the female body to address the notion of female ownership with regard to the representation of bodies. Through the reclaiming of her own body in Fuses, Schneemann protests against the exclusion of female perspectives in film: her body – the object of contestation – becomes her chosen medium to interrogate this conflict.

In The Obscene Body/Politic,Schneemann imagines female performance as the physical enactment of the female nude stepping out of the canvas and forcefully removing the paintbrush from a suggested, male painter. For Schneemann therefore, using one’s own body becomes a form of protest against the conventions of representation: the body transfigures into the canvas, asserting autonomy and directing its own visuality.

In Feminist Avant-Garde, this notion of female performance is reiterated throughout the exhibition. It is made clear that this form of bodily protest was not exclusively utilised by Schneemann, but was embraced and adopted by a community of women artists making work at the same time. The show explicitly recalls a movement that sought to re-imagine the female body through the artist’s physical “ reclaiming” of their own bodies. Like Schneemann in Fuses, Ana Mendieta, Cindy Sherman, and Hannah Wilke similarly frame their bodies as the object of subjection within their work. Through the utilisation of their physical selves, the artists within the exhibition bring focus back to the body through explicit images. This decision to use one’s own body does not identify as an act of vanity, but rather conveys a direct expression of the important struggle undertaken by women artists over the visual representation of their own bodies.

Schneemann’s work somberly harks back to the persisting conflict regarding the aesthetic of the female body and its relationship to female sexuality. Fusesstill feels revolutionary in terms of current lived female sexual experience: it can be seen as a violent attack on a societal force that continues to censor female sexuality today.

In Schneemann’s work and the exhibition, the concept of authority over one’s own body is framed as an essential liberator with regards to female representation. The relevance of both Schneeman’s Fuses and Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s remains, suggesting that this “ battleground” which Schneemann and her contemporaries visualise through their respective art practices, is in actuality, very much still being fought over.

Katrina Millar

Katrina Millar is an Art History postgraduate student, with a BA in Classics, both from UCL. Her line of research follows the relationship between sex and violence in American art post 1960. Recent research has led Katrina to interrogate the politics surrounding Yvonne Rainer’s performance artwork. After completing her MA, Katrina hopes to pursue further academic research and art criticism on the subject of the body politic in feminist art. 

References

Schneemann, Carolee. ‘The obscene body/politic’. Art Journal 50.4, 1991, pp 28-35.

Papenburg, Bettina and Marta Zarzycka. Carnal Aesthetics: Transgressive Imagery and Feminist Politics. IB Tauris, 2012.

The feminist legacies of Birgit Jürgenssen’s Nest
New Writing

The feminist legacies of Birgit Jürgenssen’s Nest

Image: Birgit Jürgenssen, Nest, 1979

For the exhibition Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970sat The Photographers’ Gallery, the acclaimed writer Ali Smith was commissioned to write a short story for the gallery’s publication Loose Associations, in response to Birgit Jürgenssen’s photograph Nest (1979). From the perspective of the woman in the photograph, Smith’s protagonist experiences her genitalia metamorphosing into a nest which incubates two delicate eggs. This transformation reveals the biological power of her body to procreate, and more importantly the reproductive metaphor the nest evokes – suggesting that maternity is not just simply a beatific phenomenon in this story, but is also disturbed by various other signifiers that allude to the ways in which femininity is constructed.

Jürgenssen’s image suggests that an ideological possession is enacted when people operate in compliance with prescribed gender roles. She implies that one’s gender is performatively constituted in the same way that one’s choice of clothes is curtailed, perhaps even socially and contextually predetermined. Moreover, this woman’s femininity is compromised of the imperfections written on her body. The nest itself is redolent of a mass of unkept public hair which women often feel obliged to shave off or hide from public viewing. Jürgenssen’s feminist deconstruction of femininity is further infiltrated by the subtleness of the ladders in the tights. The rips are reminiscent of the perils of womanhood and indicate an inner battle; unveiling the constraining obligation to be and act feminine and the limits this has in articulating one’s own sense of authenticity. Jürgenssen’s clothing analogy can be applied to illustrate and simplify Judith Butler’s conception of gender performativity, discussed in the writer’s groundbreaking publication Gender Trouble (1990)

René Magritte, Elective Affinities, 1933

René Magritte, Elective Affinities, 1933

Smith might have just as easily responded to René Magritte’s painting Elective Affinities (1933). I want to suggest that this painting – as it depicts an oversized egg trapped in a constrictive cage – effectively articulates the physical and ideological alienation women experience in the ways femininity is variably constructed. Magritte’s work could have had feminist intentions akin to Helene Cixous’s, reflecting upon the idea that “ there are no [feminine] grounds for establishing a discourse”, and that some women, bound to normative social identities, lack the means to discuss and challenge their prescribed gender roles. An entrapped egg shows the painful constraints the patriarchal order has on the female psyche. Yet, Magritte has appropriated the egg symbol to represent an existential crisis: that a person lacks free will in the world due to external forces out of their control. This, however, has some alignment with gender performativity, confirming how cis-females are ‘hatched’ into a capitalist society and thusly enclosed by an ideological imperative to maintain the normative order of childbirth.

Sarah Lucas, Chicken Knickers, 1997

Sarah Lucas, Chicken Knickers, 1997

It would seem appropriate to claim that Sarah Lucas’ Chicken Knickers(1997) refers to, or is at least influenced by, the lesser known photograph Nest. The feminist significance of the eggs have hatched in Lucas’s image, proving that the egg does indeed come before the chicken. Lucas presents the female genitalia as a headless plucked chicken, replacing the innocence of delicate egg imagery with carnal meat, traditionally associated with patriarchal and familiar food consumption. Meat has connotations to masculinity, wealth, and virility; to replace the female genitalia with a plucked chicken, then, effectively draws parallels with contemporary feminist theories such the male gaze, which demotes the subjectivity of the female. Lucas illustrates a brutal reductionist return to female body parts through chicken imagery, demonstrating how the ‘masculine’ consumption of meat is related to the sexual consumption and objectification of women. Again, a symbol to represent femininity (this time more vulgar) is attached to a garment worn by women. The increased crudeness of the symbol is matched to the intimacy of the garment, this time a private pair of knickers. Moreover, the nest which previously symbolised pubic hair is now a red raw chicken. Imagine how constraining it would be to wear a pair of ‘chicken knickers’ under ‘nest tights’. These constructed garments entrap female sovereignty, illustrating how women may sacrifice comfort and authenticity for the sake of being, or acting, feminine.

Meret Oppenheim, My Nurse, 1936

Meret Oppenheim, My Nurse, 1936

Before the creation of both these artworks, the Surrealist Meret Oppenheim created an object-sculpture which she named My Nurse (1936). Over forty years prior to Nest and sixty years prior to Chicken Knickers, Oppenheim displaced the feminine connotations of a pair of stiletto heels for a meaning more provocative. In the work, shoes are tied together with string, bound to a silver platter, and decorated with paper crowns, traditionally used to embellish chicken roasts when they are served. By comparing feminine conventions to the plight of a butchered chicken, Oppenheim subverts this strong, seemingly natural connection to femininity using constraint, immobility and subordination – though this is not to discredit or dispute the sexual pleasure women may gain from bondage. Oppenheim’s critique of the feminine predicament interacts with debates instigated by Carol J. Adams in her book The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory (1990). In this fascinating study, which engages feminism, animal activism, vegetarianism and literary theory, Adams posits that meat eating, violence and oppression against women are interconnected. The killing of the animal that haunts the presence of meat on our plates becomes an absent referent, she writes, hence the language used to describe animal flesh-laden diets obscure its socio-political origins. In a similar way, she argues that a woman is routinely reduced to little more than “ a piece of meat”, and subsequently treated as such: “ The woman, animalised; the animal, sexualised. That’s the sexual politics of meat.”

Stephanie Metz, Chicken Legs, 2004

Stephanie Metz, Chicken Legs, 2004

In conclusion, I’ll take this analysis out of the 20th century and bring it into the contemporary moment by focusing on the less well known artist Stephanie Metz, who deserves more recognition. The above photograph, Chicken Legs (2004), shows Metz’s soft sculpture, which presents the female body as a headless plucked chicken with wings for arms, human shaped legs and painted red toe nails. This chicken-female is positioned on a chopping board, a platform that crudely mimics an eroticised model strutting on a fashion show catwalk. ‘She’ is presented as meat to be butchered and sexually devoured, articulating the disturbing effects of bodily objectification on female subjectivity. Not only engaging with the feminist debates that Lucas and Oppenheim anticipated, the mise en scène of the above photograph exhibits uncanny similarities to Chicken Knickers and My Nurse, in which symbols of femininity are centred and spotlighted in the darkness. Consider the ways in which the chopping board compares to the silver platter in My Nurse; both staging femininity as something to be served and consumed.

The artists I have discussed here all produce works which conjure a brutal reductionist return to the biological essence of the female body, by way of crude images that symbolise the vagina. They respond to, and satirise, the dominant hegemony which constructs the female body as meat to be consumed through the masculine eye, by extrapolating the male gaze to its logical extreme. These artworks are in dialogue. Through the use of clothing and other domestic objects, these artists question the female obligation to dress according to a fixed gender role (the higher the heels does not necessarily entail the more feminine the woman). With this in mind, one might consider how uncomfortable it would be to wear Chicken Knickers or Nest tights.

Rachel Ashenden

Rachel Ashenden is an English Literature undergraduate at the University of Exeter, hoping to further her studies in Art History after completing her BA, and break into the realm of academia and art criticism in the future. Her primary research interests include the dialogue between Surrealism and feminism, and the reclamation of female artists and their artwork from phallogocentric art movements. Alongside her studies, she is the News Editor for the University’s official newspaper,Exeposé.

References

Adams, Carol J. The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory. London: Bloomsbury. 1990.

Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble. New York: Routledge. 1999.

Cixous, Hélène. ‘The Laugh of Medusa’. In: Signs, Vol. 1, No. 4, pp. 875-893. The University of Chicago Press. 1976.

Smith, Ali. “ Nest of all”. In: Loose Associations, Vol. 2, Issue IVLondon: The Photographers’ Gallery, 2016.

How do you visualise a woman in the 21st century? Aura Satz
New Writing

How do you visualise a woman in the 21st century? Aura Satz

Image: Aura Satz, Joan the Woman – with Voice (detail), Duratrans print lightbox with sound, 2013

Alongside our current exhibition Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s: Works From the Verbund Collection, the new issue of Loose Associations takes feminism as its subject. In this short text and single accompanying image – which is available along with other writing and images in the publication via our shop – Aura Satz responds to the question: How do you visualise a woman in the 21st century?

***

Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake, accused of hearing voices, of having a voice, of stirring up the voices of her countrymen. Cecile B. deMille’s silent feature Joan the Woman (1916), ironically starring opera singer Geraldine Farrar, is mostly monochrome except for the culminating flame sequence in which Joan of Arc is burned for heresy. Joan’s hands are only just discernible from the dense abstraction of smoke, flame, and colour. She is a voice that does not fit her cross-dressing body, a voice straining to be heard, to materialise in the realm of the audible and visible. And yet she glows through the smoke, resilient, a voice that has become louder over time. She has been reclaimed as a martyr, canonised as a saint, declared a national symbol, an icon of feminism, a voice so powerful yet protean it has come to stand for contradictory ideologies – both fascists and the resistance.

In the future our voices will rise and burn, shape-shift, remember and dismember.

Aura Satz

Aura Satz is a Spanish artist based in London.

With thanks to Club des Femmes for providing the question, ‘How do you visualise a 21st Century Woman?’ from an ongoing project, which also formed the basis of a studio activity during the exhibition, Feminist Avant-Garde of the 70s.

How do you visualise a woman in the 21st century? Linda Stupart
Loose AssociationsNew Writing

How do you visualise a woman in the 21st century? Linda Stupart

Image: Linda Stupart

Alongside our current exhibition Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s: Works From the Verbund Collection, the new issue of Loose Associations takes feminism as its subject. In this short essay – which is available along with other writing and images in the publication via our shop – Linda Stupart responds to the question: How do you visualise a woman in the 21st century?

***

Two things sit at the intersection of a response to this question:

1) Two days ago I posted a request on my Facebook ‘wall’. It reads:

“ Hi friends could people please use they/them pronouns for me and ask other people to do the same also I really don’t want to talk about it tbh thx”.

The image is accompanied by a low res. 3D modeled blob GIF – one of my own. It spins slowly in space.

In Testo Junkie Paul Preciado writes:  

“ How can I explain what is happening to me? What can I do about my desire for transformation? What can I do about all the years I defined myself as a feminist?

What kind of feminist am I today: a feminist hooked on testosterone, or a transgender body hooked on feminism? I have no other alternative but to revise my classics, to subject those theories to the shock that was provoked in me by the practice of taking testosterone. To accept the fact that the change happening in me is the metamorphosis of an era.” [1]

2) An hour ago, I posted a request on my Facebook ‘wall’. It reads:

“ Please can we make a better word for being triggered in bodies of PTSD; one that is harder to speak, that shudders off of mute tongues; a word filled with blood and bile and vomit and shuddering and a word that is petrified in resin.

The word would be something like death, except that it happens over and over again.

A word that says ‘only your rage can save you.”

As a foreword to Motherlines, Suzee McKee Charnas’ wonderful 1978 sci-fi novel imagining a separatist lesbian utopia where women have sex with horses to procreate, Elizabeth Cady Stanton is cited:

“ When I think of all the wrongs that have been heaped on womankind, I am ashamed that I am not forever in a condition of chronic wrath, stark mad, skin and bone, my eyes a fountain of tears, my lips overflowing with curses, and my hand against every man and brother!”

I have always loved this quotation and had never bothered to discover who Elizabeth Cady Stanton was. Today I find she was a suffragette. I scan her Wikipedia page for racism – I know it must be there – and find she is perhaps the worst of the racist suffragettes, blocking the black man’s vote, and citing women’s ‘education’ and ‘culture’ as reasons they (we) should get to vote ahead of former slaves. This is the history of white feminism – of visualising woman as whiteness (virgin) and blackness as threat (whore). This is the violence of images.

In conclusion: I visualise a woman with objects and with words, which are a type of object. I visualise a woman with a dick or with a cunt or with breasts or without breasts and always bleeding. I visualise a woman as a body that has nothing to do with ‘the female body’, which does not exist, and I visualise a woman in the 21stcentury as breaking out of her brown and powerful skin and sliding through membranes, and pixels, and weeds under the earth, and out of ‘woman’, maybe, altogether.

—Linda Stupart

Linda Stupart is an artist, writer and educator from Cape Town, South Africa. They live and work in London and have recently completed a PhD in the Art Department at Goldsmiths College with a project engaged in new considerations of objectification.

With thanks to Club des Femmes for providing the question, ‘How do you visualise a 21st Century Woman?’ from an ongoing project, which also formed the basis of a studio activity during the exhibition, Feminist Avant-Garde of the 70s.

1. Paul (Beatriz) Preciado, Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era , Bruce Benderson (trans), New York: The Feminist Press, 2013 (2008), p. 23.