Photography: the feminist avant-garde shakes up the Rencontres d'Arles

Photography: the feminist avant-garde shakes up the Rencontres d’Arles

In 1975, the German Annegret Soltau photographed herself, her face enclosed in a network of black threads, as if trapped in a huge spider’s web. A black and white photo without fuss and yet striking, where the artist uses needlework to question the confinement and alienation linked to the condition of women. The photograph, exhibited at the Rencontres d’Arles (Bouches-du-Rhône), sets the tone for the collective exhibition “A feminist avant-garde. Photographs and performances from the 1970s from the Verbund collection, Vienna”, which calls out with provocative, raw images, full of sex, cruelty, irony. An indigestible and uneven, but rewarding dive into the heart of these years of conquest of rights, where a series of women artists created punchy works combining art and politics – lovers of polished and elegant photography will spend their path.

The exhibition was born from the initiative of Gabriele Schor, curator commissioned by the Austrian electricity giant Verbund to set up a collection in 2004

The exhibition was born from the initiative of Gabriele Schor, curator commissioned by the Austrian electricity giant Verbund to set up a collection in 2004. After discovering the work of Austrian women such as Renate Bertlmann, Karin Mack or Birgit Jürgenssen, she t realized that none were in the collection of Mumok, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Vienna. “Viennese Actionism was everywhere. While at the time these feminist artists had founded magazines, organized exhibitions and published catalogs… often away from the big institutions, for lack of being accepted there. »

She has therefore centered her collection on feminist photo and video art of the 1970s, constituting a rich collection of more than 600 works, mainly European but also international, including the works of artists who have fallen into oblivion as well as known figures such as Cindy Sherman or Martha Wilson: women who did not know each other but who were working on the same subjects at the same time. Encouraged by the success of the first exhibition on feminist art, “Wack! at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 2007, Gabriele Schor toured the exhibition, enriched over the years, throughout Europe. France had to wait until 2022 to see it. “A museum wanted to exhibit it… but the management opposed it, judging that it was too avant-garde”, notes Gabrielle Schor, who claims this term in order to “to bring these pioneering artists into the canon of art”.

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