Aug 162019
 

Documentation from my exhibition at Bloc Projects as part of Platform 2019 exhibitions through Site.

Audio recording of performance Two Songs A Capella and gallery talk, on Bloc Project’s website.

Photo Jules Lister
Photo Jules Lister
Photo Jules Lister
Photo Jules Lister
Photo Jules Lister
Photo Jules Lister
Photo Jules Lister
Photo Jules Lister
Photo Jules Lister
Photo Jules Lister
Photo Jules Lister
Photo Jules Lister
Photo Jules Lister
Jan 052019
 

Here are some photographs from the exhibition I recently put together, based around my book, Viewing Pleasure and Being A Showgirl, How Do I Look? Thanks to the artists who took part: Sophie Lisa Beresford, Julie Cook, Nwando Ebizie as Lady Vendredi, Alice Finch, Laura Gonzalez, Lucy Halstead, Sharon Kivland, Britten Leigh, Chloe Nightingale, and Isabella Streffen. 

Sep 202018
 

I had so much fun showing my work at Abingdon Studios in Blackpool. Here’s the documentation. I am so grateful to show my new video work Felicity Means Happiness for the first time in Blackpool.

Photo Matt Wilkinson, Abingdon Studios Project Space
Photo Matt Wilkinson, Abingdon Studios Project Space
Photo Matt Wilkinson, Abingdon Studios Project Space
Photo Matt Wilkinson, Abingdon Studios Project Space
Photo Matt Wilkinson, Abingdon Studios Project Space
Photo Matt Wilkinson, Abingdon Studios Project Space
Photo Matt Wilkinson, Abingdon Studios Project Space
Apr 052018
 
Left to right: Manifesto, 2017, Ascending A Staircase, Library Theatre, Sheffield, 2018, Ascending A Staircase, City Varieties, Leeds

Rowan Bailey put together the first show at the Market Gallery as part of the Temporary Contemporary collaboration between the University of Huddersfield and Kirklees Council and the Huddersfield covered market. Space, Place Action brought together the research staff at the university. I used the opportunity to test out my new series of theatre interior photographs, Ascending A Staircase.

Jan 202018
 

Sean Williams’s exhibition For A Burning Love has transferred to The Old Lock Up, Cromford. 

Contemporary British Painting featured the show in it’s newsletter: 

For a Burning Love

In January ‘For a Burning Love’ moves to the Old Lock Up Gallery in Cromford, a space that, fittingly some might say, used to be a jail. ‘For a Burning Love‘ celebrates and demonstrates the breadth of contemporary painting and includes works by Mandy Payne and Sean Williams. It encompasses highly-detailed realism and gestural abstraction, paintings that are almost sculptures and photographs interrupted by the introduction of paint. In this way ‘For a Burning Love’ questions what a painting might be and so, in turn, questions our fixed ideas about most things. ‘For a Burning Love’ may also offer a clue into why artists choose to use paint over other media to express their ideas and explore possibilities.

The Old Lock Up Gallery
19 The Hill, Swifts Hollow, Cromford, Derbyshire, DE4 3QHJ

Preview: Saturday January 20th, 1 – 4pm
Exhibition dates: 20 January – 25 February
Opening times: Thursday – Saturday 11am – 6pm, Sunday 11am -4.30pm

Jan 162018
 

A chapter I have written on the representation of strippers in the media and contemporary art has been published. It is in the Routledge Companion to Media, Sex and Sexuality by Clarissa Smith, Feona Attwood and Brian McNair.

In it, I write about pop videos, films, popular feminist critical perspectives, academic writing, and activism. I also write about artworks including the Girlie Show by Edward Hopper, Lucky 13 by Philip-Lorca Di Corca, The Politics of Rehearsal by Francis Alys, Abstraction Licking by Christina Lucas, Cosey Fanni Tutti’s collages, Strip by Jemima Stehli, performance pieces Strike a Pose by Kate Spence, and Sister by Rosana and Amy Cade.

 

 

Jul 182014
 

My work will be in Act II and Act III of S1 Member’s Show, Three Act Structure at S1 Artspace, Sheffield.  Act II is open 6th August–23rd August and Act III which is a re-mix of Acts I and II featuring all of the works is open 27th August–13th September.  The opening of the whole show was on 11th July, and now there is a programme of events that will take place during the subsequent Acts.

In particular there will be a publication and print portfolio launch on Friday 15th August and a screening and performance event on Saturday 6th September.  For the latter I am working on a new performance.

I’ll post more about the up-coming events–it’s a very exciting project to be involved in!

May 012014
 

I instigated a video show collaboratively curated with Megan Cotts, Alexis Hudgins, Ali Prosch & Brica Wilcox shown at SIA Gallery in May.  The show featured ten video works by Alison J Carr, Alexis Hudgins, Ivan Iannoli, Julie Orser & Jon Irving, Ali Prosch, Elleni Sclaventis, Matt Siegle, amy von harrington, Brica Wilcox, that respond to the provocation of Hollywood Forever: the dream, the film industry, the cemetery on Santa Monica Boulevard.  Each takes a different approach to Hollywood—from considering the myth, the geography, the surplus of images it gives us, the imperative to perform, the seduction and the make-believe.

More information about the project Hollywood Forever Bios.

image credit Julie Orser & Jon Irving, from The Viewer

Julie_Orser_Jon_Irving_005

Feb 182014
 

I’ve put together a selection of videos to be screened at S1 Artspace, Thu 20 Feb, 6 – 8pm:

Alison J Carr | Lindsay Foster | Alexis Hudgins | Stephanie Owens | Isabella Streffen | Katy Woods

S1 Artspace is pleased to present You Me You Me You Me, a screening of six short video works which will be followed by a discussion between artists Alison J Carr and Lindsay Foster.

In this screening, S1 Studio Holder, Alison J Carr, selected Lindsay Foster’s The Last Frontier as a starting point alongside which she presents four additional works: Notes on You and Me by Alexis Hudgins, The Pulse of Madame K by Isabella Streffen, Nadia by Katy Woods, and her own A Response to Unmastered by Katherine Angel; inviting Foster to select a final piece to sit alongside her own: Making A Past Present by Stephanie Owens.

The videos take different approaches to reflect on personal experiences and collective memories, on images and language and how we find ourselves formed through our encounters with culture. Across the selection are witty, playful observations as well as sincere enquiries. What is it to be a person?

 

Alexis Hudgins, Notes on You and Me, 2010
Alexis Hudgins, Notes on You & Me, 2010
Jun 172012
 

Andrea Fraser takes up the position of the stripping woman in her performance Official Welcome, in which she addresses an assembled art audience giving an introduction to ‘the artist Andrea Fraser’.  The scripted dialogue, in which she performs ‘artist’ and ‘supporter’ quotes a number of collectors’ and artists’ real introductions and acceptance speeches, all delivered whilst Frasers strips naked and then clothes herself again by the end of the performance:  

Artist: Yeah, the art world likes “bad girls.”  But if you tell the truth and people don’t want to hear the truth.  If you’re honest about how stupid and fucked over life is, you end up in the tabloids.  I don’t go looking for it.  It just comes in a big stinking tidal wave. Removing bra, then shoes, then thong. I’m used to it.  It’s boring. […]  

Supporter: Well, thank you.  Thank you for your dedication, for your vision, for your life.  I think we all must dare, as artists do, to break free of the past and to create a better future, rooted in the values that never change.  That’s the great lesson our artists teach us.

Museum Highlights: The Writings of Andrea Fraser (2005) Andrea Fraser ed. Alexander Alberro




Fraser’s work can be understood within the context ‘Institutional Critique’, as pioneered by the artists Hans Haacke and Michael Asher.  Within this positioning her work takes on an intellectually engaged examination of what we expect a contemporary artist to give us; she subverts what we think art is by conflating the site of the artwork, the museum, the collector, the critic and the performer.  Can we be sure where they all begin and end? 

The project ‘Untitled’ is also really worth looking up.  Fraser’s work is always smart and fearless and I have incredible respect for her practice.  

Jun 172012
 

I feel I shall have to transition from photography and video and into live art and performance practices to really continue this list.  Before I do, I shall just list women photographers who in some way address the Showgirlian.

Elinor Carucci is a photographer by day, but a belly dancer by night.  She’s documented her dancing life in the book and series ‘Diary of a Dancer‘.  A well-observed project in which we see the types of venues, audiences, costumes, dance moves, preparations and the come down following performing.  Its documentary and a diary.  Just through pictures, a complex narrative is told.  With lots of sequins.

Katharina Bosse‘s book New Burlesque is a fabulous collection of portraits of New Burlesque dancers.  The dancers look fabulous in clothes the look like they could be performance costume, or in some cases, sassy day wear.  The pose and flirt with the camera knowingly, in domestic spaces, corners of cafes and deserts – nowhere you’d expect to find them.  They are there, at the beginning of this new movement, carving out a space for themselves. It is a joyous book.

Jo Ann Callis‘s practice spans decades.  I saw an exhibition of her work at the Getty Center, Los Angeles and I made loads of notes as I wanted to review the show for a magazine (I didn’t in the end).  But you know, I almost feel that to write about Callis’s work is a redundant gesture.  I don’t think they need much introduction.  I adore her photographs and I love looking at them.  Much of her work is concerned with femininity and the experience of being a woman.  Just take a browse round her website.  Look out for ‘Woman Twirling’ and ‘Performance’.  She taught me when I was at CalArts, and she was just had so much style, I would wear any of her outfits.

 
Katy Grannan makes portraits of people who respond to her newspaper adverts. Much of her work early photographs were of teenage girls, naked, who had responded to her requests.
Jun 172012
 

To reduce Sophie Calle‘s down to just the work she did stripping is a sin. However, this is what I shall do here and now.  Please go look up Calle’s wider practice if she’s new to you.

 

Sophie Calle’s practice is brave, transgressive, self-reflexive, uses herself. But it’s wider than that, its also about how we perform ourselves, how we connect to other people, how our emotions shape us.  How we look, and how we are looked at.  

Jun 172012
 

Viva, 2009, dir. Anna Biller

In feature film, Viva artist/filmmaker Anna Biller constructed a recreation of a Seventies sexploitation movie.[1]  The film is an uncomfortable mix of camp pastiche and truthful real-emotions storyline, which sees Barbie/Viva going on a journey of sexual emancipation.  The final scene, celebratory and sad, sees Barbie and her friend in a down-market recreation of Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell’s number Two Little Girls from Little Rock from the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.[2]  For Biller, the aim is to negotiate how female desire might be represented and provoked.  Most interesting to Biller are the responses she receives from female viewers in support of the film; women can read the resistance in the film, but she finds male viewers only see pastiche.[3]

[1] Anna Biller (2009) Viva  [film] Los Angeles, CA: Cult Epics.

[2] Howard Hawks, Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Charles Coburn, Sol C. Siegel, Charles Lederer, Joseph A. Fields, and Anita Loos (1953) Gentlemen Prefer Blondes [film] Beverly Hills, CA: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2001.

[3] I talked to Anna Biller about the film in September 2010, LA.

Jun 172012
 

 

Jemima Stehli adopted the position of the stripper in her photographic series Strip, in which she questioned the designation of power in the art world within a voyeuristic framework.  She stands with her back to the camera in front of a seated male who is identified only by his job title, ‘Critic’, ‘Writer’, ‘Curator’ or ‘Dealer’.  A long cable-release is visible in his hand.  In each photograph Stehli is in a different state of undress caught in the act of stripping.  The precise moment the photograph was taken during this private strip is controlled by the seated male, his power doubled through the status of his job in the art world.  And yet, he is the pawn within Stehli’s game.  She has created the scenario; it is her concept, her intellect, her skill, and her body that she chooses to display.  She is active.  The seated male is unable to not look; he must play the stooge.  The photograph registers his level of satisfaction or discomfort: is that us, the viewer, looking at ourselves?

Jun 172012
 

Leigh Ledare represents a transition into the frame, and a new way of approaching the showgirl.  Now, my examples will be about embodying or trying out the showgirl, and thus, the following examples are about what she symbolises, how she can be used, rather than, who is she?

Let’s start with two recent examples.  Liz Cohen and Nikki S Lee put themselves into their photographs and literally embody the woman-as-object, but through that embodiment, we have to deal with the concept of the woman-as-object having a brain.  These approaches bring intelligence into the body. 
 
Liz Cohen turns a Trabant into an El Camino, and herself from mechanic to bikini clad model posing on the car.  Two kinds of body transformation.
 
Nikki S Lee goes native in particular social groups.  The documented results show her passing as one of the gang.  Amongst the groups, she’s become part of where exotic dancers. 

It’s worth pointing out, that these practices would not exist without a number of female photographers, whose work engages less with a Showgirlian impulse, but women-in-representation.  So, look up, if you don’t already know:
Claude Cahun
Hannah Wilkie
Cindy Sherman
Renee Cox

Jun 172012
 

Time for something more contemporary!  Here are four male image-makers (they work in photo & video) who are using the figure of the stripper as a site of exploration.  They show a fascination with the stripper but also work to expand our understanding of who she is and what she does.

Philip Lorca DiCorcia creates portraits that reinvigorate the form.  He does more than portraits, actually, and his photographs always command my attention.  He created a series of photographs of pole-dancers in action.  I sense Lorca DiCorcia’s admiration and attempt to fathom the pole-dancer’s milieu in the photographs.

 

Tom Hunters photographs tell stories of contemporary life.  Inspired by newspaper headlines, sensational reporting and more Pre-Raphaelite compositional tropes, among other things, Hunter’s photographs are complex, full of detail and place our contemporary context into a historical one.  And his photographs are (say it quietly) beautiful.

Mainly using video Francis Alys explores social constructions.  He’s used a stripper combined with audio from a singer’s practicing exercises, to explore where a (public) performance begins and ends.  Here, he employs the stripper’s performing, moving body, with it’s techniques and expertise, and yet this is not directly the subject of the work, rather, the stripper is used to construct something new in the artwork.

Ok, so now things are getting really interesting.  Leigh Ledare‘s work is just amazing and mind-blowing (and I’m jealous of his practice, not to mention the way he always finishes the work is such a sophisticated way).  I’ve blogged about his work before, here.  One day Leigh visited his Mom’s and she opened the door, naked, having just got up from sex with a younger man.  Thus, she announced her sexuality to her son.  Mom had been a ballet dancer, exotic dancer and placed ads looking for men to look after her.  She approached Leigh to document her sexuality.  Leigh does so, in an intelligent, sensitive and self-reflexive way.  Never leaving Mom to be the subject of a forensic, pathologised study.  His practice has included photographs of Mom in flagrante, her posing for him, sometimes he is in the frame, sometimes they are having innocent fun together, other times something more erotic is inferred.  Also, handwritten notes from Mom, from his younger self further contextualise their relationship.  Mom resolutely takes an active role in the images.  Her challenging unrepentant gaze frequently looks out at us.  And Leigh’s newer works trace Mom’s actions, but using himself, by placing his own ads in papers and soliciting women to make photographs that objectify him.  In Leigh’s work, subject-object politics is always complex.  

 

 

Jun 172012
 

Another approach taken has been for documentary photographers to observe the porn industry.  Their photographs serve to deconstruct the usual image-constructions of pornography and create quite mesmerising images.  However, as with all documentary images, we must remain alert to the fact that the documentarist positions himself outside of what he sees, as a neutral observing.  Its a position of privilege to suggest that the author-position is neutral and objective.

Larry Sultan’s project ‘The Valley’ is an exploration of the porn industry
Timothy Greenfield-Sanders porn portraits

Jun 172012
 

Edward Hopper’s haunting paintings recreate Modern city life in the sparest terms.  He empties out all details that do not create the narrative he is after and what’s left in his composition have become archetypes.  The film ‘Pennies from Heaven’ consciously quotes his painting scenes to mesmerising effect.  
However, a little known photo ‘Girlie Show’ is why I’m listing Hopper.  He created the painting after visiting a burlesque show, and restaged the entrance of the dancer with his wife.  Thus, the painting is a composite of the memory of a theatrical encounter, and an homage to his wife with whom he had a complicated sexual relation. 

Jun 172012
 
How does art respond to and extend our understanding of the showgirl?  I have put together some examples that explore woman-as-object (my interest is in showgirls, but this list is broader than that).  The idea for putting this together came to me whilst reading Katy Pilcher’s article ‘Performing in a Night-Time Leisure Venue: A Visual Analysis of Erotic Dance’.  In the paper, Pilcher uses photographs to elicit attitudes and opinions from the subjects of the photographs.  It reminded me of the approaches taken by artists: sometimes their works suggest a co-authoring between the subject and object, sometimes the subject in the work is further objectified, sometimes the role of the subject is embodied.  I have put this list together to try to show this breadth of approach.  The time period in which the works are created plays a role and I also noticed gender was a significant factor in the type of approach taken.  I shall start by presenting male artists.  I’m using the term ‘artists’ somewhat loosely, as there are practices here that belong to a photographic tradition rather than something more conceptually and critically engaged (that also reflects conversations in image-making, as the time-period of production also bears on the work made).
 
 
I love Walter Bird and I went to see his photographs at the archive in the National Media Museum in Bradford.  His photographs create an undisputable, enchanting glamour.  Sometimes I find myself wanting to reject all objectifying images made by men of women, but then, I see Walter Bird’s photographs, that are so powerful, respectful and glamorous and I cannot maintain that critical position.  Something complex more complex is going on.  Of course, in Bird’s photographs, Hollywood films of the 1930s and the associated film star portraits, women are constructed as glamorous goddesses in lieu of power either in the narrative or in society (see ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema by Laura Mulvey).  However, this construction of woman-as-image now is a very different thing – can we create a new context for the images and reject the related powerlessness women represented at the time?
 
I’m not going to add them to the list, but the other image-makers that fit into this Walter Bird category of, shall we say, glamorously subjectifying women are: Guy Bourdain, Helmet Newton and Howard Hawks.  All worth looking at.
Jun 212010
 
Review of Leigh Ledare: The Confectioner’s Confectioner, 16th April – 5th June, Pilar Corrias, London
 
Leigh Ledare’s ongoing photography work generously reveals the relationship he has with his mother.  In the recent solo show at Pilar Corrias fragments from his childhood, notes written by Tina/Mom and himself make explicit some elements of their relationship.  Tina/Mom’s thoughts on models is a beautiful ode to the creativity of the photographer’s model, her informal hand-written will expose the love and trust she places in Leigh.  A narrative develops through the notes; the relationship with Dad ended, and Leigh, in some way become Mom’s man/boy.  She talked to him, revealed herself emotionally and physically.  As a ballet dancer, she was trained to be invested in her body, her artistic tool.  This is the back story.  One day, Tina/Mom asks Leigh to photograph her, to record her aging, vulnerable body now, before it is too late, before the flesh decays into an unphotographable state; before it can no longer be the object.  And so Leigh dutifully does.  Complicit in this recording, he is the third person in the room whilst Tina/Mom gets it on with Leigh-substitute boys.  Her acts performed for Leigh, a performance for his benefit.  Does she want to arouse Leigh?  Make him jealous?  Or push him to reject her out of repulsion for her sexuality, her aggressive exhibitionism designed to ensnare Leigh in an Oedipal game.  Does she want him to throw down the camera and fuck her, pushing aside his replacement?  Sometimes she is naked and alone, still enjoying her sexuality, but without a partner, less performed.  If Leigh did not record this, if he did not have his camera in the room, how would he have reacted?  How did he react, used as Tina/Mom’s sexual documenter?
 
Which answers the question, how can a sexually explicit photograph of a woman present without question the subjectivity of that woman, before or even preventing the objectification of that woman?  Through the Oedipal narrative, Leigh becomes less the exploiting photographer and more an equal participant with the subject.  The two locked into their fixed positions.  The captions with the photographs, descriptively position the image contents.  But even without such contexts, within the image frame, the faint silvery traces of stretch marks on Tina/Mom’s stomach testify to her mother status and jar with her version of maternal she is therefore enacting.
 
Leigh reaches beyond this project to challenge his own position from outside this mother-son courtship.  Understanding the plane of representation as ‘the site of the trauma’, the place in which his Mom revealed herself to him, but in a sense foreclosed other possibilities of their relationship, he places himself in Mom’s position by re-enacting her fantasies by being the fantasy for other women.  Leigh becomes women’s object, the Leigh-object: a gift for mother?  Leigh-photographer becomes Leigh-model relinquishing the responsibilities of the lens.