Photos: All images copyright and courtesy of the artists and MARTINETZ, Cologne
I’m just a girl, take a good look at me / Just your typical prototype Oh, I’ve had it up to here / Oh, am I making myself clear?
I’m just a girl, I’m just a girl in the world / That’s all that you’ll let me be
(No Doubt, 1995)
Ever since feminism became sexy the ‘girlie’ has been stuck in a dilemma between self-confident empowerment and commercial exploitation. In the 1990’s protagonists of the punk scene (e.g. Riot Grrls) used offensive appropriation of girlie clichés as a subversive feminist strategy in order to expand women’s scope. Their militant call for ‘girl power’ was then adopted by mainstream pop, in turn complicating the situation: is Miley Cyrus’ feminist statement an emancipatory act or a marketing strategy? In their 1999 pamphlet ‘Preliminary Materials for the Theory of the Young-Girl’ 1 the French author collective, Tiqqun, described how the ‘Young-Girl’ developed to form a central role in a capitalist consumer and media driven world. Equipped with a limited set of ‘girlie styles’ and behaviours, the ‘Young-Girl’ functions both as a target audience and as a role model. Her youth is a contradiction, on the one hand it is an adolescent phase of immaturity striving towards a more ‘perfect’ existence (‘How to reach your full potential!’) and on the other hand it is an external state that is to be preserved for as long as possible. Ideas associated with the ‘Young-Girl’ are, under the guise of lifestyle, deeply embedded in our society and have become an authority that spans gender and now applies both to women in their 50s and to 25 year old boys. Despite the ‘girlie’ rebellion often being prematurely dismissed as mere coquetry, it seems however, to be yet again ready for battle as it interferes with social discourse on hierarchies, gender roles, consumerism and body cult. Even in art, the debate ties in with tradition. The ‘girlie’ represents a counter position to the prevailing cliché of the white, male genius and therefore still retains its fruitful potentiality.
1. Tiqqun, Preliminary Materials for the Theory of the Young-Girl, (Semiotexte: 1999)
The exhibition presents works by artists that claim the ‘Young-Girl’ as a strong, subversive and complex role, from neo-naive girlie-girls to femme-machos and sassy bitches. They play with stereotypes, turn sexism on its head and bend conceptions of what is appropriate, in order to free the ‘Young-Girl’ from her limited role.
Zuzanna Czebatul‘s (1986, Miedzyrzecz, PL) work deals with the structures and dynamics of hierarchy. Her series ‘Gentle Reminders’ utilises classical aesthetics. In Ancient architecture relief tondi were used as decorative elements and served the dignified representation of portraits and busts. Here the outline of the erect penis, however, looks indecent, like an adolescent doodle. The term pornography originates from antiquity and refers to an exclusive area of eroticism to which only men with a certain social position had access.
Magdalena Kita (1983, Debica, PL) uses classic methods of icon painting in order to create fabulous scenes in which shameless women show off their bodies, take possession of men and tear each other apart. Her drawing style, with its characteristic use of girlie pastel colours, tells stories of uninhibited women, at times their toy-boys are also depicted, however, only ever in the role of an extra.
KLITCLIQUE (G-Udit and $chwanger, Vienna, AT) rebel, with their installations and performances, against cultural male dominance. On their path to the golden matriarchy macho rappers and white genius painters are medially and verbally castrated. Their attitude is punk on trappy hip-hop beats and is based on scenes that have emancipatory potential but that still exclude and marginalize women.
Alex McQuilkin’s (1980, Boston, MA) performative video works deal with women’s roles. For the piece ‘Magic Moments’ she stings together short sequences from commercials, films and videos that depict radiant ‘all American girls’ to the beat of the American national anthem. The individual women with their laughing open mouths, pirouette with flying hair and together with their uniform gestures, they melt into a single cliché.
For Mary-Audrey Ramirez (1990, Luxembourg) hacking represents one of the last creative and revolutionary means. Her girls move around in virtual space and, heavily armed, they fight against sexist trolls. Despite virtual space being a place where gender and physical characteristics are actually irrelevant, it is a scene in which women have long since been over-sexualized and suppressed. Mary-Audrey Ramirez uses the naivety of the ‘girlie’ as a defence mechanism and an ambush.
Grace Weaver (1989, Burlington, VT) utilises offensive cuteness as a visual strategy. She depicts scenes that play between the gym and the bedroom, the smartphone and the vanity mirror. Her girls and boys pose and play in a permanent soap opera of flirtations and friendships, self-portrayal and external assessment. Similar to social media, a superficiality and banality is staged within the adolescent over-evaluation of the everyday that grace Weaver then exaggerates and satirizes like a caricature.
Opening: Thursday, June 7th 2018, 5 – 9 PM
8 PM: Perforemanzipative Show1lage by KLITCLIQUE
Exhibition until July 20th 2018