This event is free and open to the public. Prior registration not needed. Seating is limited.
PERFORMING IDENTITY AS INTERSECTIONAL
This year’s theme is the representation of identity as intersectional. Participants explore what it means to perform the body, to facilitate discussions of identity as multifaceted. Gender, race, ethnicity, class, and sexuality are acknowledged to complicate the very categories they construct. Representing intersectional identities frame understanding across difference, and promote political alliances through intersubjectivity. The ways the body is presented and represented can elicit from the viewer a sense of self-identification by supporting conventional relationships to the body or by introducing contradictory interpretations of identities. Strategies include examinations of the intersectional as camouflage, armor, concealment, and bait; and acts of assimilation, subversion and defiance. The panels recognize that feminist art is not strictly concerned with gender, but participates in a larger discourse critical of established power structures.
9:00-9:15 — Welcome and Introductory Remarks
Connie Tell, Director, The Feminist Art Project, Center for Women in the Arts & Humanities, Rutgers University.
Co-organizers: Zoë Charlton, Artist; and Margo Hobbs, Art Historian, Muhlenberg College.
9:15-10:45 — Outrageous Intersectionalities: Colonial Peepshows, Muscular Mess Halls, and Fierce Soldaderas
Chair: Tina Takemoto, California College of the Arts
Respondent: Amelia Jones
Panelists: Nao Bustamante, University of Southern California; Xandra Ibarra, Independent Artist
10:50-12:20 — Women and the Sexual Other in East Asian Art and Visual Culture
Chair: Jongwoo Jeremy Kim, University of Louisville
Panelists: Charlotte Eubanks, Pennsylvania State University; Namiko Kunimoto, Ohio State University; Sasha Welland, University of Washington
12:20-1:20 — Lunch Break
1:20-2:50 — Re-Territorializing Gender: Women Artists and Expatriation
Chair: Linda Kim, Drexel University
Panelists: Tirza True Latimer, California College of the Arts; Saleema Waraich, Skidmore College; Ana Perry, City University of New York.
Respondent: Elizabeth Hutchinson, Barnard College
3:00-4:30 — Two Performances: Candidate and Male Polish
Performers: Danielle Abrams, Independent Artist; Sheldon Scott, Independent Artist
For more information contact:
Director, The Feminist Art Project
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
640 Bartholomew Road
Piscataway, NJ 08854
Documentation for this event is held at the Feminist Art Projects Archives located at Rutgers University.
Symposium Chair BIOS
Margo Hobbs is Associate Professor of Art History at Muhlenberg College, where she teaches courses in modern and contemporary art. Her writing on art, gender, sexuality, and feminism has been published in Art History, n.paradoxa, Genders, and GLQ. She edited a special issue of the Journal of Lesbian Studies on lesbians and art in 2010. Her chapter “The Blatant Image, Lesbian Identity, and Visual Pleasure” was included in the anthology Queer Difficulty in Art and Poetry: Rethinking the Sexed Body in Verse and Visual Culture (Routledge, 2017), edited by Jongwoo Jeremy Kim and Christopher Reed. Her current research interests include feminist photography and erotic art made by and for women. Margo earned her Ph.D. in Art History at Northwestern University, with her dissertation on female body imagery in the feminist art movement. She has an MA in Modern Art History, Theory, and Criticism from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a BA in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College, Annapolis.
Zoë Charlton (Baltimore, MD) creates drawings that explore the ironies of contemporary social and cultural stereotypes. She depicts her subject’s relationship with their world by combining images of culturally loaded objects and landscapes with undressed bodies. She received her MFA degree from the University of Texas at Austin and participated in residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting (Skowhegan, ME, 2001), Creative Alliance (Baltimore, MD, 2003), and Art342 (Fort Collins, CO, 2010). Her recent exhibitions include Conner Smith. (Washington, DC, 2013), Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts (Wilmington, DE, 2009), and Wendy Cooper Gallery (Chicago, IL, 2006). Her work has been included in national and international exhibitions including the Harvey B. Gantt Center (Charlotte, NC, 2015), Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (Bentonville, AR, 2014), Studio Museum of Harlem (NYC, NY, 2012), Contemporary Art Museum (Houston, TX, 2000), the Zacheta National Gallery of Art (Warsaw, Poland 2006), and Haas & Fischer Gallery (Zurich, Switzerland, 2006). She is a recipient of a Pollock-Krasner grant (2012) and Rubys grant (2014) . Charlton is an Associate Professor of Art at American University in Washington, DC. She is represented by Conner Smith, Washington D.C.
Presenter PAPERS and ABSTRACTS
Panel: Outrageous Intersectionalities: Colonial Peepshows, Muscular Mess Halls, and Fierce Soldaderas
This queer feminist of color panel explores the intersectional possibilities for reimagining scenes of historical violence through erotic and speculative reenactments. Xandra Ibarra revisits Juan Ponce de Leon’s 1493 conquest of the New World by presenting a “colonial peepshow” that reclaims La Malinche as a brazen burlesque temptress and feminist. Tina Takemoto rescripts the wartime incarceration of queer Japanese Americans through a mash up of drag king performance, US propaganda footage, muscle building, and homoerotic bread making. Nao Bustamante pays tribute to the women who fought during the Mexican Revolution by arming her soldaderas with period-specific dresses made of Kevlar© and contemporary combat materials. By blurring boundaries between fact and fiction, these artists engage with the intersectional dimensions of power and vulnerability that challenge existing narratives of war, conquest, and racial oppression in order to forge alternative feminist pasts and futures.
NAO BUSTAMANTE – Body Vulnerable/Body Protected
Bustamante emerges as what José Esteban Muñoz has called the vulnerability artist. While vulnerability proves to be an effective and illuminating lens through which to consider Bustamante’s performance, one must also confront aggression and hostility in Bustamante’s acts of performative self exposure. In her newest work, Soldadera, Bustamante creatively engages with soldaderas (Spanish for “female soldiers”) as imagined figures, and as actual women with their own histories. In this work, Bustamante deploys a methodology she calls “speculative reenactment.” She asks: How can we reach across time to know the soldadera’s experience of the past? How do we bring her into the here and now, to experience her future? The artist’s search for the soldadera’s wisdom culminated in a unique pilgrimage: Bustamante traveled to Guadalajara, Mexico, to meet 127-year-old Soldadera Leandra Becerra Lumbreras, the last survivor of the Mexican Revolution, and notably the oldest person in the world. Their transformative meeting inspired work that will be featured in her presentation, as well as an ongoing documentary project. Bustamante creates hybrid works that hover over the line between fact and fiction, between the past and the future, and engage the soldadera’s capacity, as afigure, to signify vulnerability and violence. The artist places women inside historical scenes from which they are normally elided, and also imagines the soldadera protected by contemporary combat materials. Bustamante’s historically appropriate, period-specific dresses made from Kevlar®. Kevlar is a modern material used in personal protection products such as combat helmets and ballistic vests. The artist fired shots at one of her frocks using weapons and ammunition appropriate to the period of the Mexican Revolution. This artist presentation provides a unique opportunity to view Bustamante’s performative interventions across time and media, making salient the ways in which Bustamante’s live body necessarily arrives as a mediated body historically constructed and one whose survival through mediation ensures its future vulnerability. A selection of works from Soldadera will be on view during the conference at Transformer in Washington D.C.
XANDRA IBARRA – Colonial Peeps
Taking the tired trope of the colonial gaze as a starting point, from Paul Gaugin’s “inspired” encounters with Tahitian natives to Juan Ponce de Leon’s arrival to the Americas, Ibarra explores other modes of critique that might refresh understandings of coloniality, race, gender, and sex. “Colonial Peeps” (2013) renegotiates both the colonial look (white man’s peeps) and the relationality produced by shared collective dehumanization and dispossession (colonized peoples). Through film, performance, and striptease, Ibarra resists the urge to thwart the colonial gaze by emphasizing the numbness and sensualized boredom that undergird the repeated encounters of daily rape and violence that construct colonized women in the New World. The artist traces the buzzing mundaneness of violence in order to shift away from a politics of spectacular recuperation towards one centered in taking notice and formlessness. Although such everyday forms of political and corporeal violence might produce a relationality across populations, or what Lisa Lowe calls the intimacies of four continents, Ibarra critically questions the turn to the relational. This work offers a moment to rethink the relationality that structures a plurality produced within a notion like “colonial peeps.”
TINA TAKEMOTO – Muscles, Mash-Ups & Mess Halls
Takemoto explores the hidden dimensions of same-sex intimacy and queer sexu-ality for Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II. Her project Looking for Jiro Onumais inspired by a dandy gay bachelor who was imprisoned at Topaz concentration camp in Central Utah. Onuma’s modest archival collection contains an array of homoerotic ephemera and some of the only known photographs of adult gay Japanese Americans in wartime detention. Takemoto reimagines a queer mess hall fantasy through a mash up of drag king performance, US propaganda footage, muscle building, and homoerotic bread making. While outrageous reenactment works to expose the unspoken dimensions of Japanese American queer sexuality, it also highlights the ways in which affective attachments to the past can open up feminist possibilities for engaging with queer of color history, postmemory, and the archive.
Panel: Women and the Sexual Other in East Asian Art and Visual Culture
This panel explores women and their encounters with sexual otherness or queerness in the modern and contemporary visuality of East Asia. By closely examining the process of negotiations between the self and its limits, each panelist will consider the intersectional in subjectivity that is always volatile in order to articulate how our understanding of race, class, gender, and sexuality cannot rely on a linear causality: not only can these identity categories become coterminous to disrupt the sequence of cause and effect, but also they can co-produce a recognition of sameness between disparate subjectivities, troubling the notions of boundaries of “I.” “To disidentify,” José Muñoz wrote, “is to read oneself and one’s own life narrative in a moment, object, or subject that is not culturally coded to ‘connect’ with the disidentifying subject.” Each panelist will consider this “disidentification” or any other negotiations of a woman’s becoming herself or “her-selves.” In such difficult processes of identity formations, divergent aspects of transient selfhood become visible and invisible. In works by Japanese artists, Korean TV shows, and other loci of East Asian visual culture, the panel would investigate feminist art emerging in the multi-causal matrix of the social.
CHARLOTTE EUBANKS – Exotic Body, Proletarian Body, Atomic Body: The Visual Performances of Akamatsu Toshiko/Maruki Toshi
Like twentieth century Japan, the artist, activist and memoirist Akamatsu Toshiko (1912-2000, married name Maruki Toshi) performed a life in three acts. In Act I, set in the Japanese Imperial Mandate in Micronesia in 1940, she is a fledgling sketch artist, using her pencil to capture the sensual lines of colonial Yapese bodies. In Act II, set during the American-led Occupation circa 1950, she is an artist-correspondent for socialist newspapers covering the War Crime Tribunals. And in Act III, set in the global protest culture of the 1960s, she collaborates in the production of wall-sized murals showing the irradiated bodies of atomic blast victims. Chameleon-like not only in terms of ideological and temporal setting, Toshi also inhabited the bodies she sketched, undressing herself to perform an exoticized and eroticized Pacific islander Other, wielding a wrench and donning a kerchief as a butch Socialist worker, and stripping herself entirely to perform the bare life of the atomic survivor. In this paper, I examine Toshi’s artwork as a series of visual performances that excavate the various intersecting identities available to Japanese women in the transwar era (1930s-1960s) and that seek to plumb, collectively, the agency of politics as aesthetic embodiment.
NAMIKO KUNIMOTO – Katsura Yuki and Bodies of Resistance
This presentation examines the work of Katsura Yuki (1913-1991), a Tokyo-based painter and assemblage artist. Katsura enacted political resistance by representing contentious issues such as self-sacrifice in times of war, the United States Castle Bravo nuclear test, the representation of gay lovers, and the status of women in Japan. This presentation will focus specifically on her illustrations of the James Baldwin novel, Another Country, that were featured in the Asahi Journalin the 1960s.By experimenting with the visibility and invisibility of the body, I argue Katsura enacted what Jacques Rancière terms political “dissensus.” Rancière sees genuine art and politics as those that create new relations between the visible and the invisible, liberating bodies from their assigned places and breaking with the ‘natural’ order of the sensible. Similarly, by experimenting with the visibility of the Othered body Katsura reoriented aesthetic-political sensibility and opened up a space for a wider discourse on gender, sexuality, and race in Japan.
SASHA WELLAND – Queer Temporality in Shi Tou’s Performative Oeuvre: Artist, Actor, Activist
The Chinese artist Shi Tou was one of the first women to move into the Yuanmingyuan artist village on theoutskirts of Beijing, an unofficial collectivity that contributed to post-1989 artistic experimentation. She is arguably more well known for her public role as a tongzhi (comrade/queer) activist. She was the first lesbian who came out and discussed same-sex relationships on national television. She played a leading role in Li Yu’s Fish and Elephant (2001), China’s first lesbian feature film. Shi Tou blurs art and activism in works such as her films Dyke March (2004) and 50 Minutes of Women (2005) and recent paintings and photographic work. In this paper, I build on Fran Martin’s analysis of cinematic aesthetics in Fish and Elephant as an expression of critical presentism that breaks from the “backward glance” or mournful paradise lost memorial frame that characterizes filmic and literary representations of Chinese female same-sex love from the early twentieth century on. How does Shi Tou queer straight progress narratives of movement toward liberal, Western-style identity politics through her Yuefenpai poster series? In these photographic stagings, she and her partner Mingming re-perform the paired modern girl beauties of commercial calendar posters from 1920s and 30s Shanghai. How does her blurring of performative public roles, artistic media, and dis/identificatory connections across time and space open a queer feminist horizon beyond binaries of art-activism, East-West, male-female, queer-straight?
Panel: Re-Territorializing Gender: Women Artists and Expatriation
Despite or because of their complex positions on the sliding scale of citizenship, many women artists selected to emigrate and permanently settle in another country. This panel hopes to complicate the history of women and transnational movements by insisting on the importance of different racial, economic, and sexual positions within and among women artists. How did women of color, for example, benefit from these transnational border crossings? How did lesbians or women who opted for unorthodox sexual and domestic arrangements benefit from these transplantations to new homelands? What were the limits of enfranchisement (cultural, economic, sexual) afforded by this mobility? The panel will also include discussions of the maintenance of links and allegiances to former nationalities, for the reason that many women artists living in exile were never completely deracinated, as they continued to address audiences at “home,” suggesting their emigration marked their gendered and professional identities in new yet familiar ways. Papers will analyze these complex processes of identification and disidentification in expatriate women artists’ careers. Finally, the panel will also consider how women artists’ occupation of new national zones may have disrupted certain gendered essentialisms, while strategically mobilizing others, such as the essentialisms behind what it means to be “French” or “Pakistani” or “American.”
TIRZA TRUE LATIMER – Foreigners Everywhere: Interwar Paris’s Lesbian Expats
The lesbian, a figure emerging in the popular imagination and on the streets of Paris between the two world wars, represented a sort of symbolic end-point in the feminist struggle for autonomy. Many who openly identified as sapphists were expats—escapees from the surveillance of biological families. Both figuratively and literally, lesbians played dramatic and usually disruptive roles in period debates about gender and sexuality. “The Lesbian” appeared, for better or worse, as the inevitable end logic of female emancipation. One of the themes that emerges in works of art and literature, scientific discourse, and popular culture produced by and/or about lesbians is that of alien identity. This paper examines the ways that lesbianism, feminism, and alien identity intertwined in Paris of the early twentieth century.
ANA PERRY – Exiled from Nowhere: Situating Marisol Escobar between Alienation and Observation
Marisol Escobar’s ambiguity and mystery dominates the narrative that surrounds her work. She has been described as “a sphinx without a riddle” or a “beautiful enigma” and critics have worked tirelessly to find the truth behind her characteristic elusiveness. Contemporary scholars have noted the gendered implication of Marisol’s mystery. They complicate the ways in which she is positioned as a feminine counterpoint that reinforces Pop arts cool, detached masculinity. However, few have delved into the way Marisol complicated her own femininity by performing an ambiguous ethnicity. By refusing to elucidate her biography, or speak about her nationality, others were tasked with the struggle of placing her within an understood national identity. Reviews of her work become a curious conglomeration of ethnic descriptors ranging from primitive, indigenous, and Spanish, to Egyptian and exotic.This paper will explore the ways in which Marisol expanded upon this confusion throughout the earlier part of her career. Between the masks of her face she placed on her sculptures and her masked appearances on panels, Marisol performed multiple ethnicities that challenged notions of self-identity as rooted in place. Marisol’s silence complicates her marginality by refusing to answer questions about identity and, through this, highlights the efforts with which critics would go to place her. In addition, I will argue that Marisol’s mythical exoticism further distinguishes her from her female contemporaries to create multiple levels of tokenism within the 1960s contemporary art scene.
SALEEMA WARAICH – Between Lahore and New York: Liminality in Contemporary Miniature Painting
This paper examines three contemporary female artists who trained at the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan and subsequently moved to the United States. All presently reside in New York City. While sharing certain experiences in common, each artist negotiates issues related to migration and marginalization in distinctive ways. For example, two of the artists who relocated to the U.S. found opportunities for exploring and showcasing their work; for the third, moving to the U.S. meant losing the status and opportunities she enjoyed in Pakistan. All three artists trained in the “miniature” painting style, an artistic practice associated with several centuries of courtly painting in the South Asian subcontinent. The temporal and regional specificity of their practice often results in demands placed upon them to represent and produce “authentic” Pakistani art for audiences in the US and in Pakistan. Rather thanchoosing the terms of their marginalization, these artists as a result have faced multiple forms of alienation and even exclusion. I position their lives and work as increasingly layered and variously textured, as signifiers of thresholds (that is, “betwixt and between”), and as spaces for interrogating popular and essentialist attitudes toward Muslim women and “others.”
Performance: DANIELLE ABRAMS- Candidate
Candidate is a participatory play that exposes the behind-the-scenes dialogue that takes place when Danielle Abrams applies for a job as Executive Administrator of the Cultural Council for Transdisciplinary, Intersectional, and Divergent Processes of Post-Structural Creative Production. A hiring committee of cardboard puppets that include African-American art world notables and politicos, Barack Obama, and a pair of Jewish grandparents debate over Abrams’ suitability for the position. Suspicions arise about her mixed race heritage. Some of the puppets are suspicious about how Abrams’ phenotype has privileged her career. Others believe that Abrams could be a cultural ambassador in and unite the races. The committee member’s myriad viewpoints reveal deeper intraracial conflicts pertaining to tokenism, radicalism, class, and expression. Within a tragedy of fractured ideologies, the hiring constructs a wider and nuanced dialogue about being biracial and black in America.The play will be staged with six volunteers from the audience of the Day of Panels. Volunteer performers will be provided with a puppet to wear and a script with their lines highlighted. The performances allow for intersections where the actors play characters of a race, ethnicity, and/or gender different than their own. There will be time after the performance to discuss the experiences of the actors and the audience.
Performance: SHELDON SCOTT – Male Polish
“Male Polish” interrogates the transactional nature of femininity and the effeminate through the lens of male-desired, gender normativity.The performance is sourced from the longest period of my life where I felt un-present in my own body as a cornerback on my 7th grade football team. It was in those four months of gender-based psycho-displacement where the rules of cis-gendered performance were violently, emotionally and physically, made aware to me.The installation will be based on 45-minute football practice, with practice drills and physical conditioning. During the performance, the body will examine the power, pain and presence of the feminine in spaces explicitly designed against its own expression and the attempted exorcism of feminine qualities from male bodies.