To view the PDF document of our group presentation, please click the link below:
Object to Subject
Perspectives on the female body in visual culture from the 1970s to today.
Has anything changed?
Through a discussion of perspectives on the female body, this presentation will look at the artwork of Linder Sterling and VALIE EXPORT in direct relation to the feminist theories of Griselda Pollock and Laura Mulvey.
Pollock believes that in a patriarchal culture, femininity is not an alternative to masculinity but its negative, and these are culturally determined positions. Women are objectified by men and expected to inhabit the private sphere, whereas men inhabit the public space. Linder Sterling’s series Pretty Girls can be shown in relation to Pollock’s thinking, compiling images of the female body with cutouts from homeware catalogues. Sterling exposes through her work that women are expected to exist in a domestic sphere, whilst at the same time being sexualised; for example within the pornography industry. Artist VALIE EXPORT’s decision to change her name was a statement against the notion that women are inferior to men, challenging the male-dominated art world and putting it at the forefront of her work. Mulvey’s concept of the male gaze highlighted that in a patriarchal society, men have control over women. The gaze can be adopted by females too, where women view themselves through the eyes of men. The female body has been commercialised to the extent that women are viewed as merely a commodity. Linder Sterling’s 1982 performance in Manchester emphasised this notion of the male gaze by handing out meat wrapped in pornography to the audience, drawing attention to the idea that women are a commodity. In addition, VALIE EXPORT’S 1968 performance, Tap and Touch Cinema, challenges the objectification of women by becoming the active subject with agency, inviting men to touch her breasts. The performance is a clear attempt to reverse the gender power roles, putting the male gaze into question.
The topic of feminism is still a very current issue in today’s society, with artists and theorists continuing to challenge the idea that men are superior to women. To conclude, we question whether any progress has been made to conquer the male-dominated world, specifically in relation to visual culture.
Amal Idris – Valie Export
Eleanor de Wild – Laura Mulvey / Contemporary Society
Evie Lane – Linder Sterling / Martha Rosler
Jennifer Green – Introduction / Griselda Pollock
Tania Cherkez – Valie Export / Sara Ahmed