Art or Queen..already the title posed inquisitive thoughts and an endless conflict. Art of Queen? Something to really tickle one with a need digest and respond. I wanted to know the answer. How do some women artists see themselves as artists or queens? What other questions are there to be answered?
So to get my answer I went along to the opening of Kunst oder Königin, a huge extravaganza of artistic input, rock and roll expressions and women being queens for the night, curated by artist, filmmaker, musician, and event promoter amongst a big line of titles, Danielle de Picciotto. This exhibition was held inside a new space dedicated to contemporary art at ARENA, MAGAZIN. It was a flare. The poster already alerted my curiosity: an impressive female with lady like posture, draped inside an innocent teddy bear coat but with the machine gun at her feet, revealing her dangerous nature, mission or position?
Everywhere one looked, MAGAZIN held artworks from 30 women artists of international reputation and origins. As Danielle mentioned in her press release she invited women who were not merely just visual artists but had double lives as performers, musicians, filmmakers, cartoonists etc, her aim being to disperse the stereotype image of the female artist as being: ‘helpless, dreamy, broke, desperate as they are often depicted in novels or in films’. She wanted to show the opposite and collected works from thirty power queens who plunge their talents in plenty creative arenas.
So walking into the Magazin I didn’t feel alienated by its majestic size, yet drawn to the artworks straight away. It felt like being inside a large spaceship or even better, a shopping mall; the space transformed into an arena of dialogues, performances, and socialising. The works on the wall or on the open floor or behind curtains, stood tall, towering over people’s chats and cigarette smoke. I browsed from one creation to another while pondering about THE artistic link that held this exhibition together (beside the gender thing). I hope I won’t shoot myself in the foot with the feminists’ when I say that women possess a fiercer curiosity than cats while so sensitive to their world. But that is the bonus that breeds unparalleled creativity.
All these female protagonists asked questions: Gudrun Gut’s photography ‘records her life in pictures and then filed under abstract, environment and family titles but there are others that pose questions such as “where does work end and private begin?” Angela Dwyer’s large” irregular squares” canvases ask questions that arise through the process of painting. Chinese artist, Veryyu’s work demands:”Aren’t we all a little supra transitorical?” while Dahlia’s black and white evocative images explore sexuality and identity. Questions, which are ardent in our lives that need to have answers, we can all relate to. As I mentioned previously, women are very sensitive to the world around them and emotional about their position and roles. They are hoarders that can’t let go. They are good at reshaping and reclaiming. These sentiments were best expressed by Isabel Ott’s work of found objects from beaches after stormy nights and urban industrial ruins. Laura Kikauka’s queen sized collages addressed femininity and beauty through toys, printed material and found objects. Diana Dart’s dolls are not depressing or demonic. Their faces bear the rock and roll lifestyle and and are shaped by the tabloid stories that soil our media. Wee Flowers designs showed attractive glamorous ladies, with a strength that can’t be matched. Selda Asal’s dark paintings offered turbulence after she personally experienced bombing in her area in Istanbul 2003. She is lucky to be alive and one can see this layered in her macabre works. In Katy Beale’s paintings I saw loneliness and love for nature. One look at a painting of a tree pushing its roots towards the surface, sparked a conversation between myself and some stoner about home grown smoking plants.
Women artists respond skilfully to the technological drab of today’s world, very well depicted in the experimental sculptures, robots and puppets from Breeda C.C. Her mechanisms of power, perversion and mutation pay homage to another world of beings, a secret yet a fragile world of androgynous creatures. Disturbing yet powerful, a critical homage to the world’s metamorphosis. A little bit of porn and sex while doing the housework was shining in the comic like painting from Ziska Rieman while the oversized doll Wollita from Francois Cactus looked kinky and inviting erected in her chair. No one dared to touch her!
Striding away from truth and artistic honesty I looked forward to the live entertainment. One advice to the MC: you should wear your dress tight only when your breath can fit in it and maybe you should have saved the lines after the show. Words quicker than the brain do lead to mistakes. Tch..tch..tch! Many pop and punkish starlets whose songs were risk free, above safety graced the stage, one after the other. Most of the line up was foreign to me with the exception of the girl named Lucilectric. Remember her? Ten years ago she bopped around ‘Weil ich ein Mädchen bin’ (Because I am a girl) while now ‘Weil ich eine Frau bin’ (Because I am a woman) a sexier stage in looks.
My favourite acts were Petting whose pop French energy is so feminine that perfume oozed from their songs while Holly from Electrocute was so cute in her nightgown holding on to her teddy bear, exuding the ‘little girl looking for comfort look’ while waiting for Sandman to pay a visit. Some jazz outfit gave a chance to the inebriated to tap their feet to beats while others less drunk watched. At the end of the night I had the pleasure to exchange my artistic views with the waiters who spent the entire evening reclaiming their aprons and their rubber gloves. I hope what I said made sense but seeing their excited eyes fall with grace upon the works from Breeda C.C gave my ego a little jolt.
Whatever the impulse, the need to question or respond, this show gathered some real strength and artistic merit. Queens or Artists these women were both, in fact like most women (unless they are serial killers or abandon their children or pets). It was a very special page taken out from Berlin’s avant-garde, fringe cultural book and a good night to be enjoyed by all.