Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? (2009)
“Why have there been no great women artists?” This is how the critic Linda Nochlin famously opened the debate about the way canonical thinking defined and still defines Western art history. For Nochlin, in 1971, in a line of art A-listers that stretched from Michelangelo to Andy Warhol, women artists were notable by their absence. Nearly forty years on in our post-feminist age, Club des Femmes considered the role of the woman artist and wondered if the debate has ever gone away?
This invited programme from curators Club Des Femmes complimented Carolee Schneemann’s exhibition at Tate Liverpool.
Director: Lis Rhodes. UK, 1978, 20 mins, 16mm
LIGHT READING begins in darkness as a woman’s voice is heard over a blank screen. She speaks of her search for a voice: of presence and absence, of experience and history. Her voice continues until the images appear on the screen and then it is silent. In the final section of the film she begins again – reading the images as these are moved and re-placed, describing the piecing together of the film as she tries to piece together the strands of her story. ‘She watched herself being looked at She looked at herself being watched but she could not perceive herself as the subject of the sentence…’ (Lis Rhodes).
SEMIOTICS OF THE KITCHEN
Director: Martha Rosler. USA, 1975, 6 mins, video Martha Rosler is an important contemporary artist and feminist who uses photography, performance, writing and video to deconstruct cultural reality. Avoiding a pedantic stance, Rosler characteristically lays out visual and verbal information in a manner that allows the contradictions to gradually emerge, so that the audience can discern these disjunctions for themselves.
Director: Elisabeth Subrin. USA, 1997, 36 mins, video
A cinematic doppelganger without precedent, Elisabeth Subrin’s Shulie uncannily and systematically bends time and cinematic code alike, projecting the viewer 30 years into the past to rediscover a woman out of time and time out of joint- and in Subrin’s words, ‘to investigate the mythos and residue of the late 1960s.’ Staging an extended act of homage as well as a playful, provocative confounding of filmic propriety, Subrin and her creative collaborator Kim Soss resurrect a little-known 1967 documentary portrait of a young Chicago art student who a few years later would become a notable figure in Second Wave feminism and the author of the radical 1970 manifesto, The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution. Reflecting on her life and times, Shulie functions as a prism for refracting questions of gender, race and class that resonate in our era as in hers, while through painstaking mediation, Subrin makes manifest the eternal return of film. – Mark MacElhatten and Gavin Smith, curators, Views from the Avant Garde. 35th New York Film Festival
Image still from Shulie, Elisabeth Subrin