VIII

Blind Spots {Film, Feminism & Performance}

04/Feb/10 — 06/Feb/10, Teatro Julio Castillo
Director: Gabriela Rangel

The SITAC VIII proposes a reflection on those discourses and practices such as radical feminism, film and performance that have generated blind spots on the criticism and theory of contemporary art. Today we wonder if it would be possible for an active artist, regardless of gender, feminist interventions under the danger of being typecast in a ghetto, regardless of the theory or ideas of sexual politics. Can we rely on gender studies to become aware of this stigma registration?

Program

1. BLIND SPOTS (FILM, FEMINISM, AND PERFORMANCE ART)

BLIND SPOTS (FILM, FEMINISM, AND PERFORMANCE ART)

GABRIELA RANGEL

I. Quid Pro Quo

Since it moved from museums, biennials and academic auditoriums to art fairs, auction houses and markets, the discussion on the possible places and actions of resistance of contemporary art as it faces the society of the spectacle seems to be expressed only in cosmetic acts of politics. This is why, when I was kindly invited by the Patronato de Arte Contemporáneo to lead the VIII Symposium of Contemporary Art Theory (VIII Simposio de Teoría del Arte Contemporáneo) it was imperative to radically change the direction of previous editions—especially since this was a forum organized in Mexico, in the threshold of the celebration of 200 years of its independence, and 100 anniversary of the Revolution. “Depoliticizing is perhaps political art’s most ancient function.”1

Although the privatization of culture has globally developed in tandem with the disintegration of the public foundations of the nation-state, and the democratic education project it brought about by creating local communities, the VIII Symposium of Contemporary Art Theory: Blind Spots (Film, Feminism and Performance) offered the diagnosis of a malady—or rather the recognition of a plurality of situations—based on this new paradigm, which is related to visual arts and cultural production in general. Our goal was to take the symptom to analyse a condition and a state, without hyphenating it to another term or to a national plot. And even admitting that criticism to the philanthropic ogre has resorted—on both the left and the right—to timely alliances with the discourse of the margins and the periphery in order to insert narratives of partial visibility and identity that have little to do with specific communities, I started the discussion at the Teatro Julio Castillo quoting an important observation from critic Seamus Deane who prevented us from the dangers of a number of essentialisms:

The recruitment of postcolonial literature to post-Modernity dooms the politics of postcolonial societies to pre-Modernity (…) Postcolonial theory conspires at times with the very essentialisms that it wishes to rebuke; it permits the reintroduction of the “feminized” construct that it took so much trouble to expel, and it is persuaded to do so in the name of “Art.” In a similar but also different way, feminism confronts this issue, wishing to assert for itself a radical independence that is, over and again, rearticulated in the residually essentialist discourse it wishes to erase.2

Haunted by essentialist ghosts, we organized the Blind Spots symposium to broadly discuss a series of problems regarding image politics from the perspectives of non-essentialist otherness. Our aim was to unveil the traps and seductions of politics, which are present in the global discourse of contemporary art. Thus, Carlos Amorales, Vasco Araújo, Kader Attia, Klaus Biesenbach, Sabine Breitweiser, Dias & Riedweg, Rita Eder, Michèle Faguet, Silvia Gruner, Barbara London, Tom McDonough, Lane Relyea, Martha Rosler, Jenni Sorkin and Judi Werthein, were called upon to reflect for three consecutive days on the idea of resistance as a blind spot, as a “stain” or supplement to a group of subjectivities which articulate the relationship of visual arts with memory and time in this seemingly shorter and hastier 21st century.

Indeed, we organized this symposium with a number of difficulties in mind based on a deliberately fragmentary and tripartite discussion: the intersection of film, feminism, gender theory and performance as blind spots that materialize and critically interpret the economy of the debate on contemporary art. More than using a metaphor, Blind Spots tried to recover the reductio ad adsurdum principle used by James Coleman in his eponymous piece La Tache Aveugle (1978-1990.)3 Its allegorical approach pulverizes metaphor in order to recover the immeasurable perplexity implied in every act of perception. For Raymond Bellour, Coleman’s work is produced based on the displacement of the spectator’s place, and on perceptive ambiguity and indeterminacy. These series of obstacles therefore generate an interruption or interference.4 In more concise terms, Coleman’s work has functioned as a framework to locate the theatrical and performative as supplements or languages of difference—both of the spectator and of the author—so as to prove that such difference is not possible.5 The problems and the particular works discussed by historians and critics, as well as the works presented directly by the guest artists during the VIII SITAC suggest that performance, experimental film and trans-disciplinary practices have developed narrative and theatrical modes, and that this does not erode a supposed idea of resistance. In a dérive, the proposed framework for these blind spots sought to question the teleological logic of the most recalcitrant and anachronistic modernism still covertly adopted by institutions, artists, curators, critics and historians that still deny any kind of genealogy to theatricality and narrative, thus unravelling the complex network of interrelationships that link experimental cinema and the hybrid art practices that began at the end of the 1950’s as a consequence of the crisis of representation. Such practices in turn have not feared to keep alive the theatrical conventions so fiercely attacked by the modernist aesthetic. It is no coincidence that Judith Butler has warned that philosophy rarely allows reflections on theatricality, even though it builds its discourse upon acts that establish more than formal relationships of meaning with theories of performance and theatre.6

Curiously enough, contemporary artists frequently express these apprehensions, beyond their terminological aspects. For instance, Tino Seghal, the Anglo-German choreographer, educated in political science, also confirmed the generalized prejudice against all theatrical forms common in visual arts, from Michael Fried to Marina Abramovic. I am referring specifically to the artist’s absolute denial of theatricality in his 2010 solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. There, Sehgal induced a series of “constructed situations” with adults and children, who performed addressing the audience with commentaries on topical socio-political issues, based on certain parameters pre-determined by the artist. Although it is true that the “interpreters” employed by Sehgal to guide and engage with the audience in his “situations” are for the most part philosophers, sociologists, ecologists, artists, and activists with no theatrical training, he employs procedures similar to those codified by 20th century experimental theatre to construct the “situations.”

In 2005, the Guggenheim Museum of New York inaugurated this type of performative events with the project Seven Easy Pieces, where the artist Marina Abramovic re-staged a series of poorly documented performances from 1960 to 1970 in the museum’s rotunda.7 Seven Easy Pieces was a project where these ephemeral works—initially made with scarce resources, for specific contexts and moments, and outside institutional art spaces—were reconstituted years later by a different author, in a “mainstream” museum, and under the conditions of production of the entertainment industry. In this way, Abramovic, indisputable pioneer of the field, changed the historiographical pattern that shaped performance and body art by proving that these kind of perishable works can be presented in different contexts based on the will of an author-performer. Furthermore, Abramovic—who, like Seghal, denies any ascription to any theatrical form—proved that the resurrection of those pieces supplants documentation and modifies the existing mythology, thus making the archive of these pieces an open repertoire, available for infinite reinterpretation. Thereafter, the documentation of the performance would be comparable to canonical scores, whose interpretation facilitates a tradition of newness. Apart from this, Seven Easy Pieces also proved that it is easy to modify the raison d’être of many of those pieces that were defined as gender-specific, as Abramovic rightly indicates in the title she chose for the event.

Judith Rodenbeck has identified the generalized symptom of denial of theatricality in contemporary art as “repressed genealogical propinquity.”8 Despite the obvious theoretical and practical relationships linking happening, performance and body art to a large and diverse tradition of experimental theatre, which includes the Theater of the Oppressed, The Living Theater, Jerzy Grotowski’s Theatre of Poverty, Tadeuz Cantor, the Odin Theatre, not to mention undeniable sources like Berthold Brecht, Luigi Pirandello, Antonin Artaud or Augusto Boal, visual artists insist on denying this influence on their work. It would be interesting to determine the elements of theatricality that Tino Sehgal rejects in his situations and the kind of theatricality Marina Abramovic transfers into and establishes for performance.

A genealogy similar to this kind of repression by attraction or by excessive propinquity is often insinuated and projected in women artists, whose practices suggest or enunciate a relationship with more specific discussions on the visibility and problems of inscription historically articulated by feminism. However, this relationship is frequently denied or simply ignored. And I do not mean contemporary reception of feminism in a given context or limited only to contexts of the so-called third world or the periphery. This phenomenon is also not limited to the depoliticization of consumer and entertainment societies. The veiled or explicit denial of feminism as political field, whose zeitgeist is synthesized in the HBO series Sex and the City, seems to be a residual effect of different negations that occurred even in the context of artistic activism in the U.S. during the 1970’s. You only have to read a survey titled un-skirt-ing the issue made by the Art-Rite magazine, and published in 1974, in which women artists from different generations were asked questions like Do you think there is a shared female artistic sensibility in the work of female artists? And would you describe or dismiss it? 9 Although the question that originated the survey was essentialist, some of the interviewees, whose work is now historically considered part of feminism and art of resistance, refused to adopt an ascription. For example, Nancy Graves answered: No. Gender has nothing to do with art. Art is made by artists. Laurie Anderson challenged the question with a grain of irony: is there such a thing as women’s art? About the only thing I can say about sex and art is, there are men, there are women and there is art. The men and women who put art first are artists, and the men and women who put sex first are sexists.

I wonder if it is possible for an artist or an active critic, regardless of his or her gender, to propose feminist interventions, at the risk of being ghettoized, and without resorting to the theory or ideas of sexual politics. Would gender studies be enough ground to raise awareness of this inscription stigma? This is why I especially invited art historian Jenni Sorkin to contribute to this delicate axis in the XVIII SITAC, in order to establish a framework for a series of feminist topics on representation, difference and the body.

A second reflection by Seamus Deane reminds us that blindness is a condition present in sight. Departing from Luce Irigaray theories, Dean suggests that perhaps the “only recourse” to go beyond the essentialism inherent to the feminist field might be by “going through it in order to come out the other side, or on the side of the Other […]. A stereotype should not perhaps be demolished until it has been re-inhabited.”10

II. From The Symposium to The Book

The differences between the specific materials presented at the debate that took place at the Teatro Julio Castillo in Mexico City, from February 4th to the 6th, 2010, and the ones published in this book stem from an editorial decision. Film, cinematic discourse, constituted one of the thematic axes of the program of the XVIII SITAC. This was addressed in the context of the workshops imparted by Montserrat Albores and Pablo Sigg, at Espacio Petra and during the workshops organized at SOMA by Tobias Ostrander. The participants were Eduardo Abaroa, Kader Attia, Jorge Munguía and Judi Werthein. However, we considered cinema as an imaginary-border-practice and as an alternative to the binary distinctions that classify and divide the image into documentary or fiction in order to explore the deleuzean map of movement-image/ timeimage: the epistemological instruments of time inscribed in reality which show the real as visible or invisible. This theoretical lineage intervenes the matrix consigned by Lenin (in the Soviet Union) and by Leni Riefenstahl (in National Socialist Germany)—the two most effective ideologists of 20th century cinema as a massive vehicle for agit prop.

The genealogy of cinema that we traced in relation with practices of contemporary art was articulated by Pier Paolo Pasolini, who postulated cinema as one of reality’s written languages against the semiological doxa. Like the Soviet theorists of the early 20th century, Pasolini developed his poetics from film montage: “(…) as soon as montage intervenes, we pass from cinema to film (they are very different, just as langue differs from parole), the present becomes past: a past that, for cinematographic and non-aesthetic reasons, is always in the present mode (that is, it is a historic present).”11 Similarly to collage and to ready-mades, montage or editing would constitute a forensic practice that would solve, or at least suspend the subjective dilemma of the narrative continuum: as a text that produces an infinite number of realities that are showed as present so as to become projected in a “historical present.” We have attempted to think about the filmic imaginary as an open system, where memory and time are intertwined in order to reconfigure a reality, despite the blindness produced by indexical evidence. These considerations were the structural core of the problem of the The Exhausted Frame developed and conducted by Michèle Faguet and the Brazilian-Swiss duo, Dias & Riedweg. Although curator Barbara London’s intervention was not included in the final version of the book, at the symposium, she talked about the revision of the local narratives vis-à-vis stereotypes, where Faguet analyzed the parodic operations of Colombian filmmakers Carlos Mayolo and Luis Ospina in the 1970’s. The latter filmmakers coined the term pornomiseria or “porno-misery”, to criticize the postulates of the so-called cinema of political engagement (or Third Cinema.) The function of film in the construction of the self as other is complemented by the peripheral perspectives proposed by the duo Dias & Riedweg’s nomadic ethnography, pollinating segregated communities in the global route of art, including favelas in their hometown Rio de Janeiro.

Art historian Rita Eder, who opened the institutional space for women artists in Mexico in the early 1980’s along with Helen Escobedo, was asked to open up the feminist discussion at the symposium, whose general framework was conceived by Jenni Sorkin.12 During the 1980’s, Eder also participated in activities concerning non-objectual art, organized by critic Juan Acha in Medellín, Colombia. Eder, who is connected in more than one direction with the thematic axes of the XVIII SITAC: Blind Spots (Film, Feminism and Performance), presented a thorough essay on the practices of self-representation, especially emphasizing the work of video-artist and performer Pola Weiss.

The discussion regarding the role of women in art then acquires rich counterpoints in the work of artists of two generations: Silvia Gruner and Martha Rosler, whom were called upon, along with curator Klaus Biesenbach, to answer a question that inverts the order of the feminist motto: are the political and the private still synonymous?13 Using an autobiographical journey to the past, Gruner offered an acerbic account in chapters that show the frail borders of the relationship between personal life, art, and politics. Rosler completes this personal approach with an unpublished text, which was different from her presentation at the symposium. As much an artist as a theorist Rosler inserts the problems of the feminist art movement in post-war U.S.14

In order to develop issues of sexual difference and sexual politics, the section entitled Gender Spaces, brought together Sabine Breitweiser, and artists Vasco Araújo and Kader Attia, who considered the genealogies of power and control from the perspective of their different practices. Araújo introduced travestism, theatricality and self-representation in his exploration of the hyperbolicsuper-staging of melodrama, while Attia presented the longstanding investigation he has carried out in India and Algiers in order to analyse the relationship between otherness and the construction of a politically alternative subjectivity in transsexuals and transgender communities and individuals.

The reflection on performance as a radical practice that dismantles the teleological logic of modernism, together with feminism, reverse the strictly formalist perspective, according to which content comes from form and each medium has a specificity and determination of its own. This is why feminism has used transdisciplinary practices that have contributed to the construction of a visuality that is alternative to the tradition of the Fine Arts, that open circuits beyond museums, and show peripheral realities and subjects. The section

Write Your Own History: Stories on Self-institutionalization explores these circuits, networks and spheres of autonomy and artist-run spaces, with the participation of Sabine Breitweiser and Judi Werthein, who formally withdrew from this publication of her own volition. Breitweiser’s essay focuses on paradigmatic cases from three generations of Vienese artists,—among them, VALIE EXPORT—and their strategies of inscription in History (with a capital H). This section, related to the origins of alternative circuits, also included Lane Relyea as an interlocutor. However, the transcription of his comments has been left out of this book given the autonomous structure of the rest of the published works.15

The absence of James Coleman, who could not travel to Mexico, demanded the modification of the initial section of the symposium conducted by Tom McDonough.16 In this sense, McDonough’s contribution to the book is in dialogue with the presentation-performance by Carlos Amorales, which closed the symposium, since it examines modes of capitalist détournement. Amorales presented the case of the moth, which he used as a motif for an installation, and how the installation was detoured from the art circuit and into a viral route, controlled by fashion and marketing-advertising. For them, we created a section entitled The Performative Body of Advertising that concludes the book.

Both the Blind Spots symposium and the publication that documents most of the debate that took place on February 4-6, 2010 at the Teatro Julio Castillo of the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes in Mexico City materialize the generosity of Aimée Labarrere de Servitje, Osvaldo Sánchez, Ery Camara, Patricia Sloane, Magda Carranza, Boris Hirmas and other members of the Patronato de Arte Contemporáneo’s (PAC) board, as well as that of different sponsors who have shown a true commitment transcending the polemic issues this intellectual project implies in all its incarnations and versions. To all of them I dedicate this effort that I shared with my immediate and extraordinary collaborators Aurora Pellizzi and Gabriela Jauregui. Martha Rosler and Tom McDonough deserve special mention. Both gave us valuable unpublished texts, especially selected for this publication. Special thanks also to generous intellectual contributions of the participating authors: Carlos Amorales, Vasco Araújo, Kader Attia, Sabine Breitweiser, Dias & Riedweg, Michèle Faguet, and Silvia Gruner. Lastly, María Bostock, Clara Rodríguez, Christopher Fraga and Uzyel Karp made it possible to finish this book. We hope its critical reception will contribute to future SITACS.


1 Jacques Rancière, En los bordes de lo político. Editorial La Cebra, Buenos Aires, 2007. p.41

2 Seamus Deane, Critical Reflections, Art Forum, Dec.1993. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0268/is_n4_v32/ai_14890789

3 La Tache Aveugle (The Blind Stain or The Blind Spot) appropriated footage from the science fiction film The Invisible Man (1933), directed by James Whale and based on a novella by H.G.Wells.

4 Raymond Bellour, The Living Dead (Living and Presumed Dead) p.58. In: George Baker (Editor) James Coleman. Cambridge, Massachusetts-London, October Files 5, The MIT Press, 2003)

5 See George Baker (Editor) James Coleman. Cambridge, Massachusetts-London, October Files 5, (The MIT Press, 2003)

6 Judith Butler, Performative Acts and Gender Constitution. In: Amelia Jones, The Feminist and Visual Culture Reader (Londres, Routledge, 2003) p.392-401

7 Performances by Vito Acconci, Joseph Beuys, VALIE EXPORT, Bruce Naumann, Gina Pane, and by Abramovic herself with Ulay.

8 Judith Rodenbeck, Madness and Method: Before Theatricality Grey Room 13 (Fall 2003), p. 56.

9 Art Rite was an alternative magazine that was published during a short period of time in New York, and was connected to the SoHo experimental scene that emerged in the 1970’s. 10 Ibid

11 Pier Paolo Pasolini, Observations on the Long Take. October No.13.(Cambridge, Massachussets, The MIT Press, Summer 1980)

12 Both Eder and Escobedo created a performance and new media program at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico.

13 The slogan appears in the US, circa 1969-70 and is attributed to feminist activist Carol Hanisch. In it she affirmed the private as political: the personal is political.

14 Rosler’s essay was originally written for “Die Andere Avantgarde,” a conference that took place in Brucknerhaus, Linz, Austria, in 1983.

15 Relyea’s theoretical work on social networks and artentertainment is situated in the relational field and determined by the logics of the financial world.

16 Initially, McDonough would have shown and discussed a series of early and little-known works that Coleman did in Italy, with the artist present. Nevertheless, during the symposium, he gave a presentation where he examined everyday practices, as they were visually articulated by Jean Rouch (filmmaker) and Edgar Morin (philosopher) in the film “Chronicle of a Summer” (1961). McDonough contrasted this perspective with the short film “Critique of Separation” by Situationism’s founder, Guy Debord.


2. THE TIRED FRAME

THE TIRED FRAME

THE BENCHMARK OF A NEW KIND OF SUBJECTIVITY. SINCE ITS ORIGIN, FILM IS ONE OF THE FEW FIELDS IN WHICH THE LINEAR NARRATIVE HAS ALWAYS BEEN CONTESTED. FILMMAKERS AS WELL AS ARTISTS HAVE EXAMINED THE EXPERIMENTAL POTENTIALITY OF THE MOVING IMAGE THROUGH VARIOUS FORMATS, IN MUSEUMS, THEATERS, CINEMA, AND THE INTERNET. WHY DOES THE PREVAILING MODEL FOR EXPERIMENTAL FILM CONTINUE TO BE ROOTED IN A DISCOURSE OF NON-NARRATIVE OR MODERNIST EUROPEAN CINEMA? AT THIS JUNCTURE, ARE OTHER PATHS POSSIBLE—NOT ONLY OTHER MODELS OF STORYTELLING, OTHER NATIONALITIES, OTHER HISTORIES—BUT OTHER MODALITIES OF THINKING THAT MOVE BEYOND THIS TIRED FRAME?

3. MAKE YOUR OWN HISTORY: HISTORIES OF SELFINSTITUTIONALIZATION

MAKE YOUR OWN HISTORY: HISTORIES OF SELFINSTITUTIONALIZATION

THROUGH THEIR OWN ORGANIZATIONAL INITIATIVES, WOMEN ARTISTS AND FILMMAKERS (COLLECTIVES, JOURNALS, FESTIVALS) ACHIEVED PROMINENCE THROUGHOUT THE 1970S AND 1980S AS EDUCATORS, ACTIVISTS, WRITERS AND THINKERS. HAVING CREATED IMPORTANT PEER NETWORKS AND ORGANIZATIONS, MANY SELFSUSTAINING, WHAT IS THE LEGACY OF SUCH ALTERNATIVE INDEPENDENT NETWORKS OF CIRCULATION AND THEIR MODELS? HOW ARE SUCH MULTIDISCIPLINARY PROJECTS RECEIVED HISTORICALLY? WHAT RELATIONSHIP DO THEY HAVE TO AESTHETIC PRACTICE?

  • From Female Creativity to Practices of Feminism: Several Women’s Initiatives in Austria PDF

4. IS THE POLITICAL STILL PERSONAL?

IS THE POLITICAL STILL PERSONAL?

DURING THE 1970s, WOMEN ARTISTS EXAMINED THE PRIVATE DIMENSIONS OF THEIR LIVES IN THEIR ART-MAKING PRACTICES, USING NARRATIVE, APPROPRIATION, AND IRONY TO CRITIQUE BOTH UNIVERSAL AND SPECIFIC INSTANCES OF EXCLUSION IN SOCIETY. IN FILM AND VIDEO, SUCH PRACTICES HAVE BECOME PERMANENTLY ASSOCIATED WITH A POLITICAL AGENDA, EMPLOYING THESE AESTHETIC STRATEGIES TO EXAMINE OTHER FORMS OF SOCIAL OR CULTURAL REPRESSION. IN AN ERA WHEN AMATEURS CAN BECOME SOPHISTICATED CULTURAL PRODUCERS THROUGH NEW TECHNOLOGIES, CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS HAVE HAD TO ALTER THEIR STRATEGIES ACCORDINGLY, EMBRACING DISTANCING TECHNIQUES SUCH AS THOSE FOUND IN ETHNOGRAPHIC PRACTICES. WHAT DO ARTISTS MEAN WHEN THEY SAY THEIR WORK IS “POLITICAL”?

5. GENDERED SPACES

GENDERED SPACES

GENEALOGIES OF POWER AND CONTROL HAVE NEVER BEEN GENDER-NEUTRAL. IN VIEWING SPACES AS SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED, EXPLORING THE WAYS ARTISTS HAVE SHIFTED CULTURAL PRODUCTION REVEALS A COMPLEX PICTURE OF THE POLITICS OF EMBODIMENT AND SELFHOOD.

6. THE PERFORMATIVE BODY OF ADVERTISING

THE PERFORMATIVE BODY OF ADVERTISING

WHEN RICHARD PRINCE, CINDY SHERMAN AND OTHER ARTISTS OF THE SO-CALLED “PICTURES GENERATION” APPROPRIATED ADVERTISING TO USE IT IN A PARODIC MANNER, THEIR GESTURE WAS INTERPRETED AS A CRITIQUE TOWARDS THE STRUCTURES OF MODERNIST AUTONOMY. NONETHELESS, THEIR CRITICAL STRATEGY HAS BEEN RECUPERATED AND INSTRUMENTALIZED BY CULTURE INDUSTRY IN ORDER TO CREATE ENTERTAINING “CAPITALIST DÉTOURNEMENTS.”

7. STRUCTURE AND REFLECTIONS ON THE SITAC VIII CLINICS BY TOBIAS OSTRANDER

STRUCTURE AND REFLECTIONS ON THE SITAC VIII CLINICS BY TOBIAS OSTRANDER

The Clínicas for the eighth International Symposium of Theory and Contemporary Art were developed as a response to previous additions of the Clinics platforms and in response to the concepts outlined for the overall symposium by the director, Gabriela Rangel. Planning began with informal conversations with several of the organizers of previous Clinics. These workshops began in 2008 as a way to offer younger professionals involved in contemporary art and theory (i.e. writers, curators, artists) a chance to discuss their creative and professional concerns and to make links between their research and that of the formal presentations of SITAC.

I gathered from this initial investigation that much time had been given in the past to each participant’s individual concerns and professional questions within the field. And that this had put forth such a diverse set of ideas and topics, that it was often hard to find a common ground from which to approach the discussion as a group. There was also concern expressed that in the past the Clinics had taken place before and during the days of SITAC, a schedule which excluded the opportunity to discuss and critique the presentations of the symposium itself within these discussion groups.

My talks with Gabriela Rangel involved her articulation of the concept and focus for SITAC VIII and the range of artists, theorists and thinkers she was planning to bring and what discussion topics might emerge from this content. Her project Puntos ciegos/Blind Spots, sought to reflect upon recent radical discourses involved with feminism, cinema and performance; and how these discourses have created ¨blind spots,¨ of critical reception within the history of mainstream theory and museums practice. Rangel and myself were interested in having the Clinics be contexts where these ideas might be discussed and reflected upon by a younger generation in Mexico and to confront cultural stereotypes and aversions to these subjects, particularly to the term ¨feminism,” with this term often viewed as an essentialist discourse and practice in Mexico, one belonging to a 1970s past or continually re-iterated in terms of a stagnant, binary gender difference. Rangel and myself were also interested in de-centralizing the site of these workshops, which had taken place in the past at the Museo Tamayo in 2008 and at Tlatelolco in 2009, where the conference had been held. We were interested in giving visibility to smaller institutions and alternative spaces by having the talks take place at these kinds of cultural institutions.

With these concerns in mind, I invited six artists, curators and theorists, chosen in pairs, to develop three separate Clinics. Each would involve activities both prior to and after SITAC itself. I decided to ask each of the Clinics leaders to choose a specific film and a specific text to present before the initial discussion. These films and texts would serve as the common ground or objects of study that each group would use to generate discourse around questions of film, feminism, gender and performance. Each pair of discussion leaders developed between themselves the topics for the sessions. In Clinics I and II, two films were shown prior to the first session, with a second workshop taking place after SITAC. With Clinic III the leaders presented an extensive film program prior to a single night of discussion after SITAC. The films, texts and discussion topics of each Clinic were publicized approximately a month before the initial sessions and each Mexico City-based discussion leader selected the participants for their group. Groups averaged around twenty participants.

For the discussion leaders, I paired in the first Clinic, Jorge Mungía, a Mexico City-based curator, architect and cultural producer with Kader Attia, an artist working in Paris and Algeria. The sessions were held at the Museo Experimental El Eco. Both Munguía and Attia actively engage architecture and its cultural significations in their work and they developed their workshop around questions of gender, space and architecture. For the second Clinic, held at the art school SOMA, I invited Mexico City-based critic, writer and artist, Eduardo Abaroa to work with Buenos Aires and New York-based artist Judi Werthein. Both artists are specifically involved in art pedagogy, as well as strongly informed by film theory. They developed their discussions around notions of the ¨Fake¨ as it applies to gender and transvestism on the one hand, and around questions of how violence relates to the construction of Western male identity, on the other. I invited the directors of the Mexico City alternative space, Petra, Monserrat Albores and Pablo Sigg to design the third Clinic, held in their own space, which discussed a specific lecture by Gilles Deleuze titled Qu’est-ce que l’acte de création?

Each of the Clinics had a strong attendance and I feel that the films and texts that were presented aided the discussion and gave interesting points of departure for diverse reflection on how gender, feminism, film and performance may be understood and used theoretically in contemporary creative practices. One disappointment was the departure of Judi Werthein, who after igniting a dynamic discussion with Eduardo Abaroa in the first discussion session of Clinic II, left unexpectedly after SITAC itself and did not participate in the second discussion. But in general the talks were active and productive, critical of both the materials presented and of the SITAC conference and the various examples and conflicts it presented.

I have asked each of the Mexico-based discussion leaders to describe their Clinics and reflect on their ideas, the content expressed and the level of quality of discussion generated. Their reflections are presented below.

Clinic I: The Simulacrum, Enacting Masculinity

Led by Judy Werthein and Eduardo Abaroa

Each instructor selected a few texts and chose one film.

Judy Werthein chose extracts from Severo Sarduy and the film F for Fake by Orson Welles. Eduardo Abaroa chose the texts On Violence by Hannah Arendt, the short story The Door and the Pine by Robert Louis Stevenson and the film Funny Games by Michael Haneke.

The clinic addressed the themes of the simulacrum and violence in the formation of masculine identity through films and texts.

Werthein was interested in the simulacrum, and the figures of the falsifier, the avant garde artist (Picasso) and the filmmaker as such (in the figure of Welles). Individual personality was diluted in a game of constant mirroring between original and falsification, between a concrete person and his legend, and between the artifice of cinematic narrative and montage. Sarduy’s texts added a peculiar consonance to the film, since they addressed themes such as miming, cross-dressing, tattooing and body paint, among others.

In Abaroa’s case, the selection had to do with the use of the simulacrum as an element of power, and specifically of masculine power; whence Arendt’s critique of Fanon’s radical violence and the subtle, homicidal contraption in Stevenson’s tale. Haneke’s film analyzed intense violence through the banal simulacrum and repetition as a counterpoint to the violence of slasher films in their function as an expression of masculine fantasies of domination and destruction.

The participants also broadly discussed the presentations at SITAC and the intense controversies that emerged around the representation of gender violence. Discussion was at times impassioned, though Judy’s departure took away some of the impulse that characterized the earlier sessions of the clinic.


Clinic II: Interiors, Exteriors and the Construction of Gendered Spaces

Led by Jorge Munguía and Kader Attia

In the sessions that focused on questions about gendered spaces there was great interest in discussing their meanings and how at different moments in history the theme of gender has had spatial implications, both in politics and social movements as well as in questions of function and efficiency.

The meetings, led by the artist Kader Attia and Jorge Munguía, included presentations of work, films and architectural references that presented the dichotomies of interior and exterior, light and shadow, the public and the private. Conversations among participants were enriched by the diversity of their backgrounds and experiences, as well as by the reading material, which included historical and critical texts from different contexts and historical moments. The sessions ended with the opening of different lines of inquiry into the relationships between and implications of gender and spatiality.

For reference materials, this clinic used the films Red Desert by Michelangelo Antonioni (1964) and The Battle of Algiers by Gillo Pontecorvo (1966), and the articles “Architecture from Without” by Diane Agrest, “Gender, Space, Architecture” by Jane Rendell, “LeCorbusier, Orientalism, Colonialism” by Zeynep Celik, and “Le Corbusier et le mirage de l’Orient” by Alex Gerber.

Clinic III: Goddamned Films 1, 2

Led by Montserrat Albores and Pablo Sigg

Goddamned Films 1 and 2 were two events that were carried out in Petra and conceived as a reflection on the Deleuzian notion of film as resistance.

Goddamned Films 1 consisted of a ten-hour-long film cycle with a series of works whose only point in common was the problem of cinematic space as a limit: from La chambre (1972) by Chantal Akerman, in which the camera becomes a prisoner of the space it records—and not vice versa—through a ten-minutelong circular shot of Akerman’s room, to Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel, in which the film’s characters are the absurd prisoners of a space without limits, to Andy Warhol’s Screentests, whose only condition was to record not a face (in that sense they are not portraits, as Warhol himself thought) but rather the space occupied by a face. All this seemed to us to illustrate an aspect of Deleuze’s reflection: certain films, Gilles Deleuze explains, deliberately limit their own space in order to deterritorialize the world. That is, cinema is only possible insofar as it delineates its spaces, insofar as it splits itself off from the world.

Goddamned Films 2 was a private event with approximately twenty-five invited participants. It began with the projection of the conference Qu’est-ce que l’acte de création? in its entirety, held on March 17, 1987, by Gilles Deleuze in the FEMIS. The project consisted of generating a single question at the end of the projection: what is implied by speaking of film as resistance, in a Deleuzian as well as a non-Deleuzian sense? Among the participants were Jenny Sorkin, Tom McDonough, John Mennick, Martha Rosler and Francis Alÿs. Following the discussion, after a shot of mezcal and with a Nirvana record playing in the background, Martha Rosler said: “Petra is one of the strangest things; something some of us lived and thought at the end of the 60s, something deeply domestic—that and something else that I can’t define…”


Perticipants

Publicación

Patrocinios

Programa de acompañamiento

17/Nov/18

Clínica 1: El simulacro, actuando la masculinidad - Judy Werthein y Eduardo Abaroa Clínica 2: Interiores, exteriores y la construcción de espacios de género - Jorge Munguía y Kader Attia
Clínica 3: Goddamned Films 1,2 - Montserrat Albores y Paglo Sigg