Emergency art for a normalized state of exception
Ukrainian blondes arrive from the East to fulfill men dreams that only money can buy. Other blondes come from Ukraine, amazons who have been risking their lives for years to denounce proxenitism, sexual exploitation, abuse against minorities…
It is said of the legendary Amazons that they cut their breasts to handle the bow with greater skill. For Femen girls, instead, their breasts are weapons. On their naked torsos they write political messages, and with that war paint they burst into Vatican masses, in extreme right-wing meetings (France), in Congress sessions (Spain)… Because their mission knows no borders.
Vincent Gouriou has photographed Femen activists in ways that reporters from mass media would never do, who use reframing and zooming to isolate the most spectacular gestures, the most beautiful breasts bouncing in the midst of an aggressive action. Gouriou captures the girls in intimacy, preparing for an action or talking to each other, and in those interiors we feel that the camera is not a strange body, that they recognize an accomplice in him, not a man with sexist codes.
But Femen is only one of the feminist movements that in the last decade are intensifying all over the world, from the Canadian Slut Walk (the March of the Whores) to the Alfombra Roja in Peru. Before repressive laws that force clandestine abortions, in the face of the indifference of so many deaths of teenage mothers and homosexuals, members of the Peruvian collective lie on the ground forming red tapestries, contaminating the glamor of VIP events with the clamor of the social body.
María María Acha-Kutscher has been collecting visual information about the actions of all these groups of feminist activists that fight against the abuse of power of the neoliberal system towards women and LGBT collectives.
This Peruvian artist transforms press photos into illustrations of pop aesthetics, inspired by the graphic art of the Black Panthers, and in general, by the 70’s underground poster art. With the same spirit and willingness to use means of easy circulation alongside recognizable imaginary, she adds her own strategy to universalize the protest by transforming snapshots (linked to a forgetful present) into extemporaneous drawings, into pieces of art.
Although in recent years cannot be ignored the power that women’s activism is taking, the media and official history have tried to silence their claims for decades, as if public space was exclusive property of men. For this reason Acha-Kutscher also recovers key figures of the struggle for the liberation of women, from Lucrecia Mott to Gloria Steinem.
This series, Indignadas, which the artist started in 2012, can be visited these days at Haifa Museum of Art, within the Dangerous Art exhibition, as well as Gouriou’s photographic series. Women in protest, the refugee crisis and queer performances are some of the sections that integrate an exhibition whose leitmotiv is the reaction of art to the rising violation of civil liberties in spite of the apparent tolerance.
Among the local artists there are those who redefine themselves as artivists, urban art practitioners like Dede, who heals riddled walls with band-aid’s stencils in Tel Aviv or who draw birds as puzzles made with recycled wood.
Also Israeli, in her series A witch who ran out of horses, Neta Harari Navon works with oil based paints showing sinister riot squad that sow destruction as apocalyptic riders. The artist subverts the epic exaltation of the traditional pictorial genre of battlefields. Here the war scenario is blurred, the textures are fraying, reality crumbles before terror. Scenes of sex alternate with equine foreshortenings, violence and eroticism merging as in her contemporary version of Sardanapalo’s death.
In the work of Adi Nes come together two themes treated in this exhibition: the undeclared state of emergency in Israel with which the power justifies the suspension of individual liberties, and the segregation policies applied to sexual minorities.
This Israeli photographer is represented with photographs of his series Boys, like the dark-skinned narcissus looking melancholic in a puddle whose dark waters barely return the refle ion, and the athletic young man lifting a child on his head, an image that knowing the references that usually uses Nes could be linked to an update of Isaac’s sacrifice. Although perhaps it refers simply to the protective role of the older guy.
Sometimes the compositions are ironic winks to mythical press photos or fashion magazines. Homoerotism always underlies in his staged photos, being more explicit in Soldiers, project that drew international attention by offering an atypical vision of the military camp: soldiers sleeping, dancing in the dark, admiring their biceps, enjoying their Last supper (emulating Leonardo da Vinci’s painting) …, but they never fight.
For a gay man, serving the compulsory military service in a country where the social ascent is based on the degree of patriotism can be disturbing. Photography allowed Nes to bring out that inner chaos, through the allegory and the parable.
Figures and passages of the Old Testament are embodied in homeless of Tel Aviv streets or in children of the poorest neighborhoods enhanced by the beauty of framing and contrasted lighting. Caravaggio and his androgynous models of dirty nails are not far away from it, being the italian also an outsider before being claimed by popes and cardinals.
Light deals with darkness in the caravaggist photographs of Nes. It expresses the contrast between the ideal and the reality in the Jewish imaginary, between the Zionist legend and the brutal repression of the Palestinians, between the patriotic duty and the concerns of adolescents living in the cosmopolitan cities of Israel.
Exorbitant eyes and mouths ajar in a gasp, Hollywood stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie scan the horizon from what looks like an airplane window or a ship deck. The binoculars interpose another filter, as if what they saw was a school of sharks sneaking up. From the reverse angle, we see images of boats filled with refugees sinking in the high sea. The hypocrisy and dramatization of empathy against the harsh reality could not be better expressed than in this fast-paced video, Vigil: the warm comfort that the West keeps for itself condemning the rest to the wild inclemency.
Tracey Moffatt presented Vigil in the Australian pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2017, and now can be seen in this exhibition. Australia occupies one of the first positions in the ranking of the most brutal countries in its measures against immigration and asylum request. But, as Chomsky says, the refugee crisis is the moral crisis throughout the West. Thousands of immigrants die every year in the Mediterranean.
In a previous edition of the same Biennial, Vik Muniz installed on the Grand Canal in Venice a huge paper ship, Lampedusa (2015) that reproduced the news published in an Italian newspaper about the recent shipwreck of hundreds of immigrants from Libya. Floating between yachts and vaporettos, the fragile sailboat evokes a truncated childhood dream, warning us about the ominous future that awaits our children if we keep looking the other way. The photographic record of that intervention is also included in this exhibition, in “We refugees” section.
An exhibition that the visitor goes around avoiding riot agents (pieces of the street artist AME72) that seem to have escaped from a Lego construction and reached human proportions, or rather, human excesses, being the man the disproportion of all things.
Dangerous Art – Haifa Museum of Art
cluster of exhibitions
until 14th Aprl 2018
curators: Svetlana Reingold, Limor Alpern Zered, Revital Silverman Grun