London Art Fair, Photo50: Feminine Masculine. On the Struggle and Fascination of Dealing with the Other Sex
Each January, London Art Fair, the UK’s leading modern British and international contemporary art fair, dedicates exhibition space to photography, inviting a curator to select 50 images along one common idea. The 2016 edition of Photo50 at LAF was curated by Photocaptionist founding director Federica Chiocchetti and her team. Entitled Feminine Masculine: On the Struggle and Fascination of Dealing with the Other Sex, the exhibition took place between the 20th and the 24th of January 2016 at the Business Design Centre in Islington, with a strong attendance of approx. 24,500 visitors.
In 2015 the theme ‘women in photography’ has been the focus of high profile photography exhi-bitions, publications and events over the world. It was at the heart of the recent exhibitions ‘Qui a peur des femmes photographes? 1839 à 1945’, organised by both the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée de l’Orangerie, as well as the Tate Modern ‘Fast Forward: Women in Photography’ confer-ence and the Photoworks Annual Issue 22, ‘Women in Photography’. Focusing on gender identity and feminism, the aforementioned initiatives left men out of the discourse. ‘Feminine Masculine’ continues this debate exploring a somewhat overlooked aspect within the realm of photography exhibitions: the dynamics between women and men, which ap-pear to exist beyond the camera’s reach.
Feminine Masculine plays with the challenge of representing the mysterious, ineffable and immaterial dynamics between women and men, boys and girls in an age in which heterosexuality, monogamy and long term relationships – the heteronormative triad – appear to have become an almost obsolete concept. It is loosely inspired by Jean-Luc Godard’s 1966 film, Masculin Féminin, where the male/female discrepancy between speech, thought and reciprocal understanding emerges in all its restlessness. The exhibition navigates the relations between the opposite sexes from rigidity to flux, via obsession and boredom to question their obstinacy to photography.
Presented with a specific feminine narrative voice, it features the work of contemporary artists that offer subtle variations of the theme. It sets out on an allusive visual journey into the struggle and fascination of dealing with the other sex, mixing satire, sadness, romanticism and exploring clichés. The jumpy narrative structure of Godard’s film Masculin Féminin and Centre Pompidou’s 1995 major exhibition fémininmasculine: le sexe de l’art loosely inspired the division of this exhibition into five intentionally random and somewhat schizophrenic sections, whimsically entitled: ‘He loves me, He loves me not’; ‘Till death do us apart’; ‘Ennui and obsession’; ‘Carrying-on without them’ and ‘Wrap thee with fluctuant winds’.
The idea is to imagine it as a psychoanalytical session between a rather bourgeois and heterosexual – yet self-deprecating – woman and her therapist, as she ‘vomits’ her thoughts and taboos about men and relationships in her heteronormative world, going off on a tangent. In ‘He loves me, He loves me not’, an intentionally whimsical title that questions clichés around male supremacy and female lovesickness, works are arranged as a ‘daisy game’ on the walls, focusing on the nuanced and often imperceptible metamorphosis of relationships, from the phenomenon of ‘love at first sight’ to broken hearts, power dynamics and adultery. Needless to say the emphasis on the ‘he’ rather than ‘she’ is intentional and sarcastic. ‘Till death do us apart’ challenges the romantic solemnity of the phrase with its morbid, threatening premonition, musing irreverently on heterosexual marriage, sex, failure and death. The sections ‘Ennui and obsession’ and ‘Carrying-on without them’ play with various cinematic elements. Video works and film stills examine concepts of boredom, infatuation with sex-symbols, the female orgasm and the role of cinema in constructing belief systems and misogynist stereotypes around pornography, love and relationships. Finally, ‘Wrap thee with fluctuant winds’, a verse from ‘The Masque of the Elements’ by Herman Scheffauer, considers and celebrates flux, liquidity and liberation.
Laia Abril, Ekaterina Anokhina, Jo Broughton, Natasha Caruana, Elinor Carucci, Francesca Catastini, Martin Crawl, Discipula, JH Engström, EJ Major, Timothy Prus, Maya Rochat, Paul Schneggenburger, Francesca Seravalle, Maija Tammi, Mariken Wessels.
“It is absurd to divide humanity into men and women. It is composed only of femininity and masculinity.”
Valentine de Saint Point
‘Manifesto of the Futurist Woman in response to F. T. Marinetti’, 1912
“In the end every definition of male and female is personal, and it’s that idiosyncrasy we value, need and hope to encourage. Who do we think we are? A work in progress ♂♀”.
Vince Aletti, ‘Male Female’, 1999
Feminine Masculine has been kindly supported by Genesis Imaging.
This exhibition is currently available for hire, touring exhibition pack available upon request.