Posts Tagged ‘sexual orientation

22
May
21

Exhibition: ‘Zanele Muholi’ at Tate Modern, London

Exhibition dates: 11th November 2020 – 31st May 2021

Curators: Yasufumi Nakamori, Senior Curator and Sarah Allen, Assistant Curator with Kerryn Greenberg, Head of International Collection Exhibitions, Tate and formerly Curator, Tate Modern.

 

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photograph of Zanele Muholi Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020
Photo © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Unclassified fabulousness

There are so many words that you can say about an artist and their work. So many unnecessary words. All you have to do is look at the work. Does it speak to you? does it make you feel, does it empower you?

For me, artists either have it or they don’t… and in this case, visual activist Zanele Muholi possesses it by the bucketful. Panache, flair, downright unclassified fabulousness, call it what you want. They just have it.

They are powerful, they are strong, they are courageous, they tell great stories, they make you question history, they make you analyse what you think you know, they challenge your memories, they make you feel something about their participants, they make you want to fight for LGBTQIA+ social rights. They make you want to stand up and fight for equality and freedom for everyone. No person is an island, alone by themselves; we should all be equal under this cosmic sky.

The older I get the less tolerant I get of the stupidity of the human race and its non-evolution, in terms of spirit of self. When is the human race going to just grow up! Ditch the patriarchy, misogyny, colonialism, racial and socio-economic oppression. Appreciate difference, value the quality of every human being, debunk the dogma of religion, curtail the power of corporations and live in harmony with the earth. Not f…ing much to ask is it, after all these thousands of years.

I won’t live to see it, but with artists like Muholi, there is hope for humanity yet. Unclassifiable. Beautiful. Hail the Dark Lioness – all power to them.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to the Tate Britain for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Tate Modern presents the first major mid-career survey of visual activist Zanele Muholi in the UK. Born in South Africa, Muholi came to prominence in the early 2000s with photographs that sought to envision black lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex lives beyond deviance or victimhood.

 

 

“My mission is to re-write a Black queer and trans visual history of South Africa for the world to know of our resistance and existence at the height of hate crimes in South Africa and beyond.”

“In my world, every human is beautiful.”

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Zanele Muholi

 

“Muholi prefers to be called an activist rather than an artist. Art, for them, is a means to an end, a tool to convey messages about social empowerment and visibility. “Zanele Muholi’s visual activism is not an occupation. It’s a lifestyle,” Kerryn Greenberg explains. “It’s something that occupies them day and night – whether they receive a call from someone in the community needing money to pay for a hospital appointment, or consoling those who’ve lost someone close to them in an act of violence, or giving some kind of public address at a wedding or a funeral. It’s about being a very active member of the community, and a public voice within that community.”

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Maisie Skidmore. “Yes, but why? Zane Muholi,” on the ‘We Present’ website [Online] Cited 11 April 2021

 

“The connection that Muholi has with their participants (which they are eager to distinguish from the word “subject,” which implies a distanced gaze) translates to the viewer, who, in looking at these images, is immediately welcomed into a space of understanding and empathy. Muholi also often highlights the voices of the participants in their shows, books and events. …

The political agenda of the 260 photographs on display – which critique centuries of anti-Black sentiment, oppression and erasure – echoes the rallying cry of the Black Lives Matter movement and the racial justice reckoning it has inspired worldwide. “Muholi’s work takes on an enormous importance within the context of Black Lives Matter because of its potential to educate audiences and promote mutual understanding,” said Sarah Allen. Each piece makes a clear visual statement: not only that Black queer lives matter but also that Black queer lives are nuanced, cherished and deserve to be celebrated.”

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Cassidy George. “Zanele Muholi’s Photographs Celebrate Radical, Queer, Black Beauty,” on the ‘W Magazine’ website 11/03/2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

 

 

 

Zanele Muholi – ‘In My World, Every Human is Beautiful’ / Tate

Visual activist, Zanele Muholi, uses photography and film to document and explore issues of race and representation and to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community in South Africa and beyond. Here they talk about how the power of images can show LGBTQIA+ people of South Africa, and QTIPOC people worldwide, that they are not alone. Watch as they introduce us to four key bodies of work and the ideas behind them.

 

 

 

Zanele Muholi: In Conversation with Lady Phyll / Artist’s Talk / Tate Exchange

Watch an in conversation between Muholi and Lady Phyll of UK Black Pride. Together, they discuss what difficult love looks like for QTIPOC communities in South Africa and Britain and the importance of chosen families.

This talk forms a part of From a Place of Love, a collaboration between Tate Exchange’s Love programme and UK Black Pride, whose theme for 2020 is home.

 

 

Born in 1972 and raised in Umlazi, a township on South Africa’s eastern coast, Muholi had a childhood shaped by the racial brutality of Apartheid – a white supremacist regime that systematically oppressed and displaced South Africa’s non white population for half a century. Muholi was an adolescent when Apartheid absolved and South Africa’s constitution was rewritten in 1996, with the intention of ushering a new era of equality. Even though South Africa’s constitution was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, as a young queer person, Muholi was constantly reminded that the violent realities of gay life in South Africa did not align with this utopic vision of the future. Homophobia, queerphobia and transphobia remained rampant, and in South Africa, Black lesbians and transgender men are among the most at risk, and are often victims of heinous hate crimes, like “corrective” rape, abduction and murder. Drawing inspiration from the work of the American photographer Nan Goldin, whose early photographs documented queer culture and the HIV epidemic through intimate portraits of her family and friends, Muholi embarked on a mission to commemorate the battles and triumphs of her community with pictures.

Cassidy George. “Zanele Muholi’s Photographs Celebrate Radical, Queer, Black Beauty,” on the W Magazine website 11/03/2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

Zanele Muholi is a South African visual activist whose pronouns are they/them/theirs. Their work tells the stories of Black LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Agender, Asexual) lives in South Africa and beyond. Their photography raises awareness of injustices and aims to educate, while creating positive visual histories for under and mis-represented communities. Muholi also turns the camera on themself, making self-portraits that address race, history and representation. This exhibition charts Muholi’s emergence as an activist in the early 2000s to the present day.

During the 1990s, South Africa underwent major social and political change. Apartheid was officially abolished in 1994. This was a political and social system of racial segregation underpinned by white minority rule. Anyone who was not classified as white was actively oppressed by the regime. Apartheid continued the segregation that had begun under the Dutch and British colonial regimes in the late 19th century. The apartheid regime also upheld injustice and discrimination based on gender and sexuality. While the 1996 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, the LGBTQIA+ community remains a target for prejudice, hate crimes and violence.

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photographs of Room 1 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020 showing photographs from the series Only Half the Picture (2002-6)
Photos © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 1: Only Half The Picture

This room incudes work from Muholi’s first series Only Half the Picture (2002-6). It documents survivors of hate crimes living across South Africa and its townships. Under apartheid, townships were established as residential areas for those who had been evicted from places designated as ‘white only’. The people Muholi photographs – their participants – are presented with compassion, dignity and courage in the face of ongoing discrimination. The series also includes images of intimacy, expanding the narrative beyond victimhood. Muholi reveals the pain, love and defiance that exist within the Black LGBTQIA+ community in South Africa.

Exhibition room guide text

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Aftermath' 2004

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Aftermath
2004
From the series Only Half the Picture
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
600 x 395mm
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'ID Crisis' 2003

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
ID Crisis
2003
From the series Only Half the Picture
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
325 x 485mm
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

The exhibition opens with a group of deceptively gentle images. In the first, Aftermath (2004), a torso is cropped from waist to knees, hands modestly clasped in front of Jockey shorts, a huge scar running down the person’s right leg almost like a piece of body art. In another, Ordeal (2003), hands wring out a cloth in an enamel basin of water placed on a floor. A third image shows a cropped, seated figure, again waist to thighs, hands folded in their lap, plastic hospital ties around their wrists. These pictures have a softness and beauty which completely belies the fact that their subjects are all survivors of sexual violence and “corrective rape”.

As the caption to the last picture, Hate crime survivor I, Case number (2004) explains, “Corrective rape is a term used to describe a hate crime in which a person is raped because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The intended consequence of such acts is to enforce heterosexuality and gender conformity.” This horrific practice is by no means unique to South Africa, but the term seems to have originated there – feminist activist Bernedette Muthien used it during an interview with Human Rights Watch in 2001 – and its effects on the community resonate throughout this exhibition.

Anonymous. “Zanele Muholi, Tate Modern,” on the Something I’m Working On website Wednesday 30th December 2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photograph of Room 2 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020
Photo © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 2: Being

This room features work from Muholi’s series Being (2006 – ongoing). The portraits capture moments of intimacy between couples, as well as their daily life and routines. Muholi addresses the misconception that queer life is ‘unAfrican’, a falsehood emerging in part out of the belief that same-sex orientation was a colonial import to Africa. Each couple is shown in the private spaces they share. Muholi explains how ‘lovers and friends consented to participate in the project, willing to bare and express their love for each other.’

Commenting on this series they say, ‘my photography is never about lesbian nudity. It is about portraits of lesbians who happen to be in the nude.’ This series dismantles the white patriarchal gaze and rejects negative or heteronormative images, common in political and social systems that uphold heterosexuality as the norm or default sexual orientation.

Since slavery and colonialism, images of us African women have been used to reproduce heterosexuality and white patriarchy, and these systems of power have so organised our everyday lives that it is difficult to visualise ourselves as we actually are in our respective communities. Moreover, the images we see rely on binaries that were long prescribed for us (heterosexual / homosexual, male/female, African / unAfrican). From birth on, we are taught to internalise their existences, sometimes forgetting that if bodies are connected, connecting, the sensuousness goes beyond simplistic understandings of gender and sexuality.

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Exhibition room guide text

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg
2007
From the series Being (2006 – ongoing)
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg
2007
From the series Being (2006 – ongoing)
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Beloved V' 2005

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Beloved V
2005
From the series Being (2006 – ongoing)
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Busi Mdaki and Malesedi Nthute, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Busi Mdaki and Malesedi Nthute, Johannesburg
2007
From the series Being (2006 – ongoing)
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'TommyBoys' 2004

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
TommyBoys
2004
From the series Being (2006 – ongoing)
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

In “TommyBoys,” a colour photograph, two muscular figures in tracksuit pants sit on a tarmac. One, in a red T-shirt, sits with her hands folded against her chest, while next to her, the second uses her white vest to wipe something from her eyes. (“Tommy Boy” is a word used in South Africa, like “butch,” to refer to a masculine-presenting lesbian.)

Text from the New York Times website

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Busi Sigasa, Braamfontein, Johannesburg' 2006

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Busi Sigasa, Braamfontein, Johannesburg
2006
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photographs of Room 3 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020 showing in the bottom photograph the series Miss Lesbian I-VII, Amsterdam (2009)
Photos © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 3: Queering Public Space

Photographing Black LGBTQIA+ participants in public spaces is an important part of Muholi’s visual activism. This room contains portraits of transgender women, gay men and gender non-conforming people photographed in public places.

Several of the locations are important in the history of South Africa. Some images are taken at Constitutional Hill, the seat of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. It is a key place in relation to the country’s progression towards democracy. Other participants are photographed on beaches. These were segregated during apartheid. They are therefore potent symbols of how racial segregation affected every aspect of life. Participants are often shown on Durban Beach, close to Muholi’s birthplace of Umlazi.

Muholi states that ‘we’re ‘queering’ the space in order for us to access the space. We transition within the space in order to make sure that the Black trans bodies are part of this as well. We owe it to ourselves.’ Muholi often chooses to photograph participants in colour, bringing the work closer to reality and rooting them in the present day.

Exhibition room guide text

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Miss D'vine II' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Miss D’vine II
2007
Lambda print
765 x 765 mm
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Miss Lesbian VII, Amsterdam' 2009

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Miss Lesbian VII, Amsterdam
2009
C-print
86.5 x 60.5cm
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

Tate Modern presents the first major UK survey of visual activist Zanele Muholi.

Zanele Muholi is one of the most acclaimed photographers working today, and their work has been exhibited all over the world. With over 260 photographs, this exhibition presents the full breadth of their career to date.

Muholi describes themself as a visual activist. From the early 2000s, they have documented and celebrated the lives of South Africa’s Black lesbian, gay, trans, queer and intersex communities.

In the early series Only Half the Picture, Muholi captures moments of love and intimacy as well as intense images alluding to traumatic events – despite the equality promised by South Africa’s 1996 constitution, its LGBTQIA+ community remains a target for violence and prejudice.

In Faces and Phases each participant looks directly at the camera, challenging the viewer to hold their gaze. These images and the accompanying testimonies form a growing archive of a community of people who are risking their lives by living authentically in the face of oppression and discrimination.

Other key series of works, include Brave Beauties, which celebrates empowered non-binary people and trans women, many of whom have won Miss Gay Beauty pageants, and Being, a series of tender images of couples which challenge stereotypes and taboos.

Muholi turns the camera on themself in the ongoing series Somnyama Ngonyama – translated as ‘Hail the Dark Lioness’. These powerful and reflective images explore themes including labour, racism, Eurocentrism and sexual politics.​

Exhibition organised by Tate Modern in collaboration with the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, Gropius Bau, Berlin and Bildmuseet at Umeå University.

Text from the Tate Modern website

 

Tate Modern presents the first major UK survey of South African visual activist Zanele Muholi. Muholi (b. 1972) came to prominence in the early 2000s with photographs that told the stories of black lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex lives in South Africa. Over 300 photographs are brought together to present the full breadth of Muholi’s career to date, from their very first body of work Only Half the Picture, to their on-going series Somnyama Ngonyama. These works challenge dominant ideologies and representations, presenting the participants in their photographs as fellow human beings bravely existing in the face of prejudice, intolerance and often violence.

During the 1990s, South Africa underwent major social and political changes. While the country’s 1996 post-apartheid constitution was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, the LGBTQIA+ community remains a target for violence and prejudice to this day. In the early series Only Half the Picture Muholi aimed to depict the complexities of gender and sexuality for the individuals of the queer community. The collection includes moments of love and intimacy as well intense images alluding to traumatic events in the lives of the participants. Muholi also began an ongoing visual archive of portraits, Faces and Phases, which commemorates and celebrates black lesbians, transgender people and gender non-conforming individuals. Each participant looks directly at the camera, challenging the viewer to hold their gaze, while individual testimonies capture their stories. The images and testimonies form a living and growing archive of this community in South Africa and beyond.

The exhibition includes several other key series of works, including Brave Beauties, which celebrates empowered non-binary people and trans women, many of whom have won Miss Gay Beauty pageants, and Being, a series of tender images of couples which challenge stereotypes and taboos. Images like Melissa Mbambo, Durban also attempt to reclaim public spaces for black and queer communities, such as a beach in Durban which was racially segregated during apartheid. Within these series, Muholi tells collective as well as individual stories. They challenge preconceived notions of deviance and victimhood, encourage viewers to address their own misconceptions, and create a shared sense of understanding and solidarity.

More recently, Muholi has begun an acclaimed series of dramatic self-portraits entitled Somnyama Ngonyama (‘Hail the Dark Lioness’ in Zulu). Turning the camera on themself, the artist adopts different poses, characters and archetypes to address issues of race and representation. From scouring pads and latex gloves to rubber tires and cable ties, everyday materials are transformed into politically loaded props and costumes. The resulting images explore themes of labour, racism, Eurocentrism and sexual politics, often commenting on events in South Africa’s history and Muholi’s experiences as a South African black queer person traveling abroad. By enhancing the contrast in the photographs, Muholi also emphasises the darkness of their skin tone, reclaiming their blackness with pride and re-asserting its beauty. Muholi has created some new self-portraits for this series which are being shown at Tate Modern for the first time.

Zanele Muholi is co-curated by Yasufumi Nakamori, Senior Curator and Sarah Allen, Assistant Curator with Kerryn Greenberg, Head of International Collection Exhibitions, Tate and formerly Curator, Tate Modern. The exhibition is organised by Tate Modern in collaboration with the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, Gropius Bau in Berlin and Bildmuseet at Umeå University. Supported by the Zanele Muholi Exhibition Supporters Circle, Tate Americas Foundation, Tate International Council, Tate Patrons and Tate Members . Research supported by Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational in partnership with Hyundai Motor.

 

About Zanele Muholi

Zanele Muholi was born in Umlazi, Durban and lives in Johannesburg. They studied at the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg, and Ryerson University, Toronto. Co-founder of the Forum for the Empowerment of Women, and founder of Inkanyiso, a forum for queer and visual media, Muholi is also an honorary professor at the University of the Arts Bremen, Germany. Solo exhibitions of Muholi’s work have been hosted around the world, including at the Goethe-Institut, Johannesburg (2012); Brooklyn Museum, New York (2015); Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (2017); Autograph ABP, London (2017-) and Museo de Arte moderno de Buenos Aires (2018). Muholi has won numerous awards, including the Lucie Humanitarian Award (2019), the 2019 ‘Best Photography Book Award’ by the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation for their book Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail, The Dark Lioness (Aperture), the Rees Visionary Award by Amref Health Africa (2019); a fellowship from the Royal Photographic Society, UK (2018); France’s Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2017); the Mbokodo Award in the category of Visual Arts (2017);the ICP Infinity Award for Documentary and Photojournalism (2016); the Fine Prize for an emerging artist at the Carnegie International (2013); a Prince Claus Award (2013); and both the Casa África award for best female photographer and a Fondation Blachère award at Les Rencontres de Bamako biennial of African photography (2009). Somnyama Ngonyama was shown at the 58th Venice Biennale (2019); Faces and Phases was shown at dOCUMENTA 13 (2012) and the 55th Venice Biennale (2013).

Muholi’s pronouns are they, them, their.

Press release from the Tate website

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photographs of Room 4 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020 showing photographs from the series Brave Beauties (2014 – ongoing)
Photos © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 4: Brave Beauties

Brave Beauties (2014 – ongoing) is a series of portraits of trans women, gender non-conforming and non-binary people. Many of them are also beauty pageant contestants. Queer beauty pageants offer a space of resistance within the Black LGBTQIA+ community in South Africa. They are a place where individuals can realise and express their beauty outside heteronormative and white supremacist cultures. Muholi has commented that these participants ‘enter beauty pageants to change mind-sets in the communities they live in, the same communities where they are most likely to be harassed, or worse.’

This series is also inspired by fashion magazine covers. Muholi has questioned whether ‘South Africa as a democratic country would have an image of a trans woman on the cover of a magazine.’ These images aim to challenge queerphobic and transphobic stereotypes and stigmas.

As with all of Muholi’s images, the portraits are created through a collaborative process. Muholi and the participant determine the location, clothing and pose together, focusing on producing images that are empowering for both the participant and the audience.

Exhibition room guide text

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Sazi Jali, Durban' 2020

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Sazi Jali, Durban
2020
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Somizy Sincwala, Parktown' 2014

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Somizy Sincwala, Parktown
2014
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

The series Brave Beauties, started in 2014, is “a series of portraits of trans women, gender non-conforming and non-binary people. Many of them are also beauty pageant contestants.” The queer beauty pageant is many things: a celebration – and redefinition – of beauty, a declaration of independence by contestants, a challenge to “heteronormative and white supremacist cultures,” and an attempt, as Muholi puts it, “to change mind-sets in the communities [the contestants] live in, the same communities where they are most likely to be harassed or worse.”

Anonymous. “Zanele Muholi, Tate Modern,” on the Something I’m Working On website Wednesday 30th December 2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Dimpho Tsotetsi, Parktown' 2014

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Dimpho Tsotetsi, Parktown
2014
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

What I really want to talk about is beauty. Because I think for Muholi, that’s kind of where it all stems from, is recognising beauty in things that you might not expect. Muholi has said “All I want to see is beauty. And that doesn’t mean you have to smile, or try harder. Just be.”

I think that’s very much linked to the history of Apartheid, of course […] As a Black person being told constantly ‘your hair isn’t straight enough’, ‘you should look like this’, ‘you should look like that’ and that being legislated under Apartheid. But it’s also what is in the magazines, this idea of the perfect beauty. Muholi’s counteracting them, saying actually, none of that is relevant. It’s about being the beauty that you want to be.

There’s a really great series called Brave Beauties, which […] pictures trans women and gender non-binary individuals, many of whom have been in beauty pageants, occupying space. Demanding attention. And being absolutely stunningly beautiful. And you kind think, ‘yeah, what are our notions of beauty, what are these kind of constructions that are absolutely false?’

Kerryn Greenberg

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Eva Mofokeng II, Parktown, Johannesburg' 2014

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Eva Mofokeng II, Parktown, Johannesburg
2014
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photograph of Room 5 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020
Photo © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 5: Collectivity

Collectivity lies at the heart of Muholi’s work. Many of Muholi’s large network of collaborators are members of their collective, Inkanyiso. This means ‘light’ in isiZulu, Muholi’s first language and one of 11 official languages in South Africa. Inkanyiso’s mission is to ‘Produce, educate and disseminate information to many audiences, especially those who are often marginalised or sensationalised by the mainstream media.’ Queer Activism = Queer Media, is the collective’s motto.

Self-organisation, mentorship and skill sharing are central to Muholi’s collaborative activity. This room features images that are collaboratively made. Whether documenting public events such as Pride marches and protests, or private events such as marriages and funerals, these images form an ever-expanding visual archive. By recording the existence of the Black LGBTQIA+ community, they resist erasure.

Exhibition room guide text

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Lerato Dumse, Muntu Masombuka’s Funeral, Johannesburg' 2014

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Lerato Dumse, Muntu Masombuka’s Funeral, Johannesburg
2014
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

Room 6: Faces and Phases

Muholi began their ongoing series Faces and Phases in 2006. The project currently totals 500+ works. As a collective portrait, it celebrates, commemorates and archives the lives of Black lesbians, transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.

It is important to mark, map and preserve our mo(ve)ments through visual histories for reference and posterity so that future generations will note that we were here.

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Many of these portraits are the result of a long and sustained relationship and collaboration. Muholi often returns to photograph the same person over time. Faces refers to the person being photographed. Phases signifies a transition from one stage of sexuality or gender expression and identity to another. It also marks the changes in the participants’ daily lives, including ageing, education, work experience and marriage. The gaps in the grid indicate individuals that are no longer present in the project, or a portrait yet to be taken. One wall in the exhibition is dedicated to the participants who have passed away.

Faces and Phases forms a living archive that visualises Muholi’s belief that ‘we express our gendered, radicalised, and classed selves in rich and diverse ways.’

Exhibition room guide text

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photographs of Room 6 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020 showing Muholi’s series Faces and Phases (2006 – ongoing)
Photos © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Faces and Phases is an ongoing series whereby the artist was seeking to document and photograph Black lesbians, trans men and gender non-conforming individuals. There’s now a mass of these incredibly beautiful portraits, which generally are presented in a grid, to show that, actually […] giving visibility to these people is a life’s work. There are many portraits of the same individuals over the course of a number of years. So you can see how people age, how they transition, sometimes, and how the way they present themselves, alters.

It is about acknowledging pain and trauma, and trying to heal people, and heal oneself through those images. Images that Muholi wants their community, to be proud of, and feel well represented by.

Kerryn Greenberg

 

Death is a constant presence in Muholi’s community and work. The largest space in this exhibition is given to Faces and Phases (2006 – ongoing), a collection of portraits – 500, and counting. The images “celebrate, commemorate and archive the lives of Black lesbians, transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.” People appear more than once. Some spots on the walls are empty, marking a portrait yet to be taken or a participant no longer there. One wall is dedicated to those who have passed away.

Anonymous. “Zanele Muholi, Tate Modern,” on the Something I’m Working On website Wednesday 30th December 2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Tumi Mokgosi, Yeoville, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Tumi Mokgosi, Yeoville, Johannesburg
2007
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Nosipho Solundwana, Parktown, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Nosipho Solundwana, Parktown, Johannesburg
2007
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Manucha, Muizenberg, Cape Town' 2010

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Manucha, Muizenberg, Cape-Town
2010
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Nokuthula Dhladhla, Berea, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Nokuthula Dhladhla, Berea, Johannesburg
2007
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. '"TK" Tekanyo, Gaborone, Botswana' 2010

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
TK Tekanyo, Gaborone, Botswana
2010
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Zukiswa Gaca Makhaza, Khayelitsha, Cape Town' 2010

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Zukiswa Gaca Makhaza, Khayelitsha, Cape-Town
2010
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Marcel Kutumela, Alexandra, Johannesburg
2008
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Lungile Cleo Dladla, KwaThema, Community Hall, Springs, Johannesburg' 2011

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Lungile Cleo Dladla, KwaThema, Community Hall, Springs, Johannesburg
2011
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photograph of Room 7 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020
Photo © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 7: Sharing Stories

From their earliest days as an activist, Muholi sought to record first-hand testimonies and experiences of Black LGBTQIA+ people. Giving participants a platform to tell their own story, in their own words, has been an enduring goal. They have said:

Each and every person in the photos has a story to tell but many of us come from spaces in which most Black people never had that opportunity. If they had it at all, their voices were told by other people. Nobody can tell our story better than ourselves.

.
In this room, eight participants share stories of their lives and experiences as members of the LGBTQIA+ community in South Africa. Some of them feature in the Faces and Phases project in the previous room. The interviews have been conducted and produced by Muholi’s collaborators, some of whom are members of Inkanyiso. Some testimonies do not use Muholi’s preferred gender pronouns they, them, theirs.

Exhibition room guide text

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photographs of Room 8 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020 showing Muholi’s series Somnyama NgonyamaHail the Dark Lioness
Photos © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 8: Somnyama NgonyamaHail the Dark Lioness

Somnyama Ngonyama (2012 – ongoing) is a series in which Muholi turns the camera on themself to explore the politics of race and representation. The portraits are photographed in different locations around the world. They are made using materials and objects that Muholi sources from their surroundings.The images refer to personal reflections, colonial and apartheid histories of exclusion and displacement, as well as ongoing racism. They question acts of violence and harmful representations of Black people. Muholi’s aim is to draw out these histories in order to educate people about them and to facilitate the processing of these traumas both personally and collectively.

Muholi considers how the gaze is constructed in their photographs. In some images they look away. In others they stare the camera down, asking what it means for ‘a Black person to look back’. When exhibited together the viewer is surrounded by a network of gazes. Muholi increases the contrast of the images in this series, which has the effect of darkening their skin tone.

I’m reclaiming my Blackness, which I feel is continuously performed by the privileged other.

.
The titles of the works in the series remain in isiZulu, Muholi’s first language. This is part of their activism, taking ownership of and pride in their language and identity. It encourages a Western audience to understand and pronounce the names. This critiques what happened during colonialism and apartheid. Then, Black people were often given English names by their employers or teachers who refused to remember or pronounce their real names.

Exhibition room guide text

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Julile I, Parktown, Johannesburg' 2016

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Julile I, Parktown, Johannesburg
2016
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Fisani, Parktown' 2016

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Fisani, Parktown
2016
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Thulani II, Parktown' 2015

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Thulani II, Parktown
2015
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Ziphelele, Parktown' 2016

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Ziphelele, Parktown
2016
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'MaID IV, New York' 2018

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
MaID-IV, New York
2018
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Yaya Mavundla, Parktown, Johannesburg' 2014

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Yaya Mavundla, Parktown, Johannesburg
2014
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Roxy Msizi Dlamini, Parktown, Johannesburg' 2017

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Roxy Msizi Dlamini, Parktown, Johannesburg
2017
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Ntozakhe II, Parktown' 2016

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Ntozakhe II, Parktown
2016
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Sebenzile, Parktown' 2016

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Sebenzile, Parktown
2016
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

As Muholi’s career started to take off internationally, they were traveling a huge amount in hotel rooms. They were exposed to the usual hassles of border immigration and airports, where racial profiling is still a reality, and entering spaces that are historically white. [They were] very conscious of the feeling that perhaps they were not quite wanted there, despite having been invited.

In 2012, they began to make a series of self-portraits, which actually I think are more accurately presented as self-projections, rather than self-portraits. In them, there is this sense of unapologetic selfhood. The sense that actually, you can be Black, you can encompass many histories, and projecting that in a really powerful way.

These photographs are often taken in situations, as I said, away from home, where Muholi might not have access to the same camera each time. And the light conditions are very variable. So, you’ll see that when they’re printed, they’re at very different scales, and that is representative of the fact that they’ve been made on the hop.

The itineracy of the lifestyle is very much evident in the pictures themselves, but also in the titles. They’re often titled in isiZulu, the artist’s home language. But then there will be the place in which they’ve been made, and that could be New York, that could be Norway, you know, a whole range of different locations.

Kerryn Greenberg

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Zazi II, Boston' 2019

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Zazi II, Boston
2019
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Xiniwe at Cassilhaus' 2016

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Xiniwe at Cassilhaus
2016
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

The unforgettable works in Somnyama NgonyamaHail the Dark Lioness are a divine ode to Black women past and present, in Africa and beyond. In this series of black and white self portraits, Muholi becomes the participant, encouraging viewers to question what they were taught to find beautiful, and why. Often adorning themselves with different domestic materials as a tribute to their mother, who was a domestic worker for a white family (and resultantly absent from Muholi’s childhood), Muholi alludes to the broader history of colonisation and enslavement. Muholi also uses symbolically loaded poses and props which both summon and challenge visual stereotypes of African women and oppressive white beauty standards. By drawing on familiar aesthetic tropes, like fashion magazine covers and advertisements, Muholi dismantles the Western narrative by replacing the typically white bodies and faces that fill these frames with depictions of radical, queer, Black beauty.

Cassidy George. “Zanele Muholi’s Photographs Celebrate Radical, Queer, Black Beauty,” on the W Magazine website 11/03/2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Vile, Gothenburg, Sweden' 2015

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Vile, Gothenburg, Sweden
2015
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Somnyama Ngonyama II, Oslo' 2015

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Somnyama Ngonyama II, Oslo
2015
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Bona, Charlottesville' 2015

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Bona, Charlottesville
2015
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Bester VIII, Philadelphia' 2018

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Bester VIII, Philadelphia
2018
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

Bester I

“This self-portrait is a special tribute to my late mother who passed on in 2009. She worked as a domestic worker for 42 years and was forced to retire due to ill health. After retirement she never lived long enough to enjoy her life at home with her family and grandchildren.

This photo is also a dedication to all the domestic workers around the globe who are able to fend for their families despite meagre salaries and make ends meet.

With this image I looked at how different people can use the materials of daily life for multiple purposes. The pegs lend an unexpected aesthetic to this photo and allow it to be read differently in the fashion world; the same goes for the striped mat. The pegs themselves can be seen as functional art in this regard. The striped doormat can also be used as shawl, but in this case it was meant for something else.

What people call a prop, I call material. The viewer is forced to rethink how they think about the materials – and their history.

I looked directly at the camera in order to create a sense of questioning or confrontation which could be read by viewers in different ways.”

~ Zanele Muholi, March 2017

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Bester I, Mayotte' 2015

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Bester I, Mayotte
2015
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Muholi Buhlalu I, The Decks, Cape Town' 2019

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Buhlalu I, The Decks, Cape Town
2019
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Qiniso, The Sails, Durban' 2019

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Qiniso, The Sails, Durban
2019
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness

In this work, Muholi has darkened their skin and whitened their eyes, and composed the picture in the manner of a classical, perfectly-lit studio portrait, posing with found objects as “costume” – a footstool as a helmet, say. There is so much to unpick in these images – references to colonialism, Apartheid, to the politics of race and representation, to femininity and “women’s work”. Muholi presents us with a kaleidoscope of views of injustice, equal parts beautiful and brutal.

The intellectual focus of every picture is slightly different. Zamile, KwaThema (2016) shows Muholi draped in a striped blanket, as used in South African prisons during Apartheid. In Quinso, The Sails, Durban (2019) Muholi’s hair is adorned with silvery Afro combs, a symbol of African and African diaspora cultural pride. In Nolwazi II, Nuoro, Italy (2015) their hair is stuffed with pens – a reference to the “pencil test” whereby, under Apartheid, if a pencil pushed into a person’s hair fell out they were “classified as white”.

Anonymous. “Zanele Muholi, Tate Modern,” on the Something I’m Working On website Wednesday 30th December 2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Nolwazi II, Nuoro, Italy' 2015

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Nolwazi II, Nuoro, Italy
2015
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Lulamile, Room 107 Day Inn Hotel, Burlington' 2017

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Lulamile, Room 107 Day Inn Hotel, Burlington
2017
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Untitled' Nd

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Untitled
Nd
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

FEW Stop the War on Women's Bodies poster c. 2005

 

FEW Stop the War on Women’s Bodies poster
c. 2005

 

 

Room 9: Tracing Contexts

Muholi defines themself as a visual activist. They were born in 1972 during the height of apartheid in South Africa. Today their work celebrates LGBTQIA+ identity in the new era of democracy after apartheid was brought to an end in 1994, while also addressing the ongoing risks that the community face. Muholi has spoken about this being the very means through which they ‘claim their full citizenship’. The artist’s place within South African histories of activism, both as they relate to apartheid and the emergence of queer activism, are explored in this timeline. The timeline helps to highlight particular contexts from which Muholi’s work emerges and remains deeply rooted.

 

Zanele Muholi: Glossary

The terms included in this glossary are culturally complex and nuanced. Whilst the co-authors and editors of this text have attempted to reflect this, it is worth noting that the interpretations offered here are not definitive, as the meanings of many of the terms herein are deeply subjective and are consistently contested, debated and re-evaluated.

Ally

An individual who actively supports the social movements and rights of LGBTQIA+ and other marginalised identities, but who does not identify as LGBTQIA+ or as a member of said marginalised groups.

Apartheid

A former policy / oppressive system that was officially implemented in South Africa from 1948 until 1994, to enforce racial segregation and political, economic and social discrimination against people of colour or anyone who was not classified as white. The word ‘apartheid’ is an Afrikaans word meaning ‘apartness’. The term has also been used to refer to global forms of institutionalised / systemic racial and socio-economic oppression that is still prevalent in societies across the world.

Asexual

An umbrella term used to describe those with a variation of romantic and/or sexual attraction, including a lack of attraction. The term can also describe people who are emotionally, psychologically and intellectually attracted to people, or where their attraction is not limited to physical sexual expression.

Assignment

Within the dominant culture informed by Western scientific models that classify gender and sex as binary, gender and sex are commonly assigned at birth based on external biological sex characteristics (genitalia) and reproductive functions. A vulva-bearing child is typically assigned female at birth (commonly shortened to ‘AFAB’), while a penis bearing child is typically assigned male at birth (commonly shortened to ‘AMAB’). AFAB and AMAB are terms commonly used by transgender, gender-non-conforming and non-binary people to demonstrate that the sex and / or gender one was assigned at birth may not necessarily match one’s true gender identity.

Bisexual

An umbrella term used to describe a romantic and / or sexual orientation towards more than one gender. Bisexual people may describe themselves using one or more of a variety of terms, including (but not limited to) pansexual and queer.

Black

Capitalise when used to describe someone’s race, ethnicity or culture, unless the individual or group self-identifies otherwise.

Black Lesbian Feminism

A political identity, movement and school of thought that incorporates perspectives, experiences and politics around race, gender, class and sexual orientation, and surfaces the inextricable links between them.

Butch

A term used in queer culture to describe someone who often (but not always) expresses themselves in a typically masculine way. This term should not be used to describe someone unless they expressly identify as such.

Cis / Cisgender

A term used to describe someone whose gender identity matches the sex and gender they were assigned at birth.

Civil Union

Also known as a civil partnership, a civil union is a legally recognised arrangement which grants most or all of the rights, responsibilities and legal consequences of a marriage except the title itself. Civil unions were created primarily to provide recognition in law for same-sex couples and partnerships.

‘Corrective Rape’

A term used to describe a hate crime in which a person is raped because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The intended consequence of such acts is to enforce heterosexuality and gender conformity.

Family

A term widely used by queer and trans people to identify other queer and trans people. Also known as ‘chosen family’.

Femme

A term used in LGBTQIA+ culture to describe someone who often (but not always) expresses themselves in a typically feminine way. This term should not be used to describe someone unless they expressly identify as such.

Gay

A term used to refer to a man, trans person or non-binary person who tends to have a romantic and / or sexual orientation towards men. The term can also be used more broadly and colloquially to describe a same-sex or queer orientation.

Gender

Often expressed in terms of masculinity and femininity, gender is culturally determined and is assumed from the sex assigned at birth. One’s gender is made up of one’s gender identity (a person’s innate sense of their own gender) and gender expression (how a person outwardly expresses their gender).

Gender Binary

The system of dividing gender into two distinct categories – man and woman – thus excluding non-binary and gender-nonconforming individuals.

Gender Dysphoria

Used to describe a person’s discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their sex assigned at birth and their gender identity.

Gender Non-conforming / Non-conformity

A person who does not conform to the binary gender categories that society prescribes (man and woman) through their gender identity/expression.

Hate Crime

Any incident that may or may not constitute a criminal offence, perceived as being motivated by prejudice or hate. The perpetrators seek to demean and dehumanise their victims, whom they consider different from them based on actual or perceived race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, health status, nationality, social origin, religious convictions, culture, language or other characteristics.

Heteronormativity

A socio-political system that, predicated on the gender binary, upholds heterosexuality as the norm or default sexual orientation. Heteronormativity encompasses a belief that people fall into distinct and ‘complementary’ genders (men and women) with natural roles in life. It assumes that sexual, romantic and marital relations are most fitting between a cisgender man and a cisgender woman, positioning all other sexual orientations as ‘deviations’.

Homonationalism

A form of LGBTQIA+ advocacy that frames LGBTQIA+ rights in nationalistic terms that privilege North American and European expressions over those of the Middle East and the Global South, particularly Africa. Homonationalism sees the conceptual realignment of LGBTQIA+ activism to fit the goals and ideologies of both neoliberalism and the far right in order to justify racist, classist, Islamophobic and xenophobic perspectives. This framing is based on prejudices that migrant people are supposedly homophobic, and that western society is egalitarian.

Homophobia

The fear or dislike of someone based on prejudice or negative attitudes, beliefs or views about LGBTQIA+ people.

Homosexual

A person who has a romantic and / or sexual orientation towards someone of the same gender. ‘Homosexual’ is often considered a more medical term. The terms ‘lesbian’ and ‘gay’ are now more generally used.

Intersectionality

Emerging from the traditions of critical race theory, womanism and Black feminist thought, intersectionality encompasses the study of overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination or discrimination. The term was formalised by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 in a discussion around Black women’s employment in the US. Intersectionality rejects the notion of universal experiences of womanhood in favour of a more holistic assessment of how one’s race, class, ethnicity, age, ability, sexuality, nationality and religion can impact one’s experience of womanhood or gender, but also how these social inequalities intertwine with and shape one another.

Intersex

A term used to describe a person who may have biological attributes that do not fit with societal assumptions about what constitutes ‘male’ or ‘female’. These biological variations may manifest in different ways and at different stages throughout an individual’s life. Being intersex relates to biological sex characteristics and is distinct from a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

isiNgqumo

A type of language used amongst the LGBTQIA+ community in South Africa, mostly among the Nguni people.

isiStabane / Stabane

A slur or derogatory isiZulu term used in vernacular language to refer to a person who is from the LGBTQIA+ community in the Southern African context. Translated into English, the term means a person who is born with both male and female ‘parts’.

Lesbian

A term used to refer to a woman, trans person or non-binary person who tends to have a romantic and / or sexual orientation towards women or non-binary femmes.

LGBTQIA+

An acronym standing for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual. This is not an exhaustive list, as denoted by the inclusion of the plus symbol, which nods to the varying sexual orientations and gender identities that exist around the world.

Lobola

Also known as lobolo, lobola is a customary practice of marriage whereby the bridegroom’s family and kin transfer certain goods to the bride’s family in order to validate a customary marriage. Historically this was in the form of cattle, but today monetary payment is preferred, depending on the bride’s family.

MSM

An acronym standing for men who have sex with men. MSM may or may not identify as gay, queer or bisexual.

Necklacing

A practice of extrajudicial torture and execution whereby a burning rubber tyre is forced around a person’s neck. Under apartheid, necklacing was sometimes used within the Black community to punish those who were perceived to have collaborated with the apartheid government.

Non-binary

An umbrella term for people whose gender identity does not sit comfortably with ‘man’ or ‘woman’ (also often referred to as genderqueer). Non-binary identities are varied and can include people who identify with some aspects of binary identities, while others reject them entirely.

Outed

When an LGBTQIA+ person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is disclosed without their consent.

Pansexual

A term that refers to a person whose romantic and/or sexual attraction towards others is not limited by sex or gender.

Passbook (dompas) / Reference book

An identification book or document that every person of colour or anyone who was not classified as white had to carry under the pass laws of apartheid. The book was made up of two parts. One part had a laminated identity card that featured the name of the bearer, their ethnic affiliation, the date the card was issued, the signature of an official and a black and white portrait photograph. The other part included five sections which listed information on permissions to enter urban areas, record of required medical examinations, names and addresses of employers, work status and receipts for tax payments. Colloquially, among the Black South African population, these passes were often referred to derogatorily as the dompas, an Afrikaans term literally meaning ‘dumb’ / ‘stupid pass’.

Patriarchy

A social hierarchy that privileges and prioritises men over women and other gender identities.

Pencil Test

A racist, dehumanising test that was devised to assist authorities in racial classification under apartheid. When officials were unsure if a person should be classified as white or of colour, a pencil would be pushed into their hair. If the pencil fell out, signalling that their hair was straight rather than curly, kinky or coily, the person ‘passed’ and was ‘classified’ as white.

People / Person of Colour (POC)

A term used to denote someone who is not considered white. The term is used to emphasise the common experiences of systemic racism amongst people of colour.

Pinkwashing

A term with multiple meanings, but that commonly refers to the appropriation of the LGBTQIA+ movement in order to promote some corporate or political agenda. The term is used to describe the practices of entities who market themselves as ‘gay-friendly’ to gain favour with progressives, while simultaneously masking aspects of their practices that are violent and undemocratic.

Pronouns

Words we use to refer to people’s gender in conversation – for example, ‘he’ or ‘she’, or gender-neutral pronouns such as ‘they’.

QTIPOC

An acronym standing for queer, trans and intersex people of colour.

Queer

An umbrella term used by those who reject heteronormativity. Although some people view the word as a slur, it was reclaimed by the queer community, who have embraced it as an empowering and subversive identity.

Safe space

An environment that enables all persons, including sexual and gender minorities, to be free to express themselves without fear of discrimination or violation of their rights and dignity. Individual actions and reactions are key in upholding or violating a safe space.

Sangoma

A traditional African healer who specialises in treating people’s spiritual and physical diseases by looking into their past and future and connecting them with the ancestors. Healers believe that they are called by their ancestors to take on this important and respected position in society.

Sex

Sex is distinct from gender. Sex is assigned to a person at birth on the basis of biological sex characteristics (genitalia) and reproductive
functions.

Transgender

An umbrella term used to describe people whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth. Some transgender people are binary-identified and others are not.

Transition

The steps a trans person may take to live in the gender with which they identify. Each person’s transition involves different processes. For some this involves medical intervention or gender affirming healthcare such as hormone therapy and surgeries (medical transition), but not all trans people want or are able to have this. Transitioning might also involve things such as telling friends and family, dressing differently, changing one’s pronouns (social transition) and changing official documents (legal transition).

Transmisogynoir

A term that characterises the marginalisation of Black trans women and transfeminine people and captures the intersection of transphobia, racism and misogyny. It is used to denote the fact that Black trans women experience a different, racialised form of misogyny that is compounded with transphobia.

Transmisogyny

A term capturing the interlocking discrimination of transphobia and misogyny. Transmisogyny includes negative attitudes, hate and discrimination toward transgender individuals who fall on the feminine side of the gender spectrum, particularly trans women and transfeminine people.

Transphobia

The fear or dislike of someone based on the fact that they are transgender, including the denial / refusal to accept their gender identity.

White Supremacy

A racist ideology in which people defined and perceived as white are positioned as superior to and should dominate people of other races, and the practices based on this ideology.

WSW

An acronym standing for women who have sex with women. WSW may or may not identify as lesbian, queer or bisexual.

Zulu

A Bantu ethnic group and language of Southern Africa situated within the Nguni people. They are a branch of the southern Bantu and have close ethnic, linguistic and cultural ties with the Swazi and Xhosa. The Zulu are South Africa’s largest ethnic group, with an estimated population of 10 million, residing mainly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.

 

 

Tate Modern
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04
Feb
14

Exhibition: ‘The Weak Sex – How Art Pictures the New Male’ at Kunstmuseum Bern

Exhibition dates: 18th October 2013 – 9th February 2014

Participating artists: Vito Acconci / Bas Jan Ader / Luc Andrié / Lynda Benglis / Luciano Castelli / Martin Disler / VALIE EXPORT and Peter Weibel / Gelitin / Pascal Häusermann / Alexis Hunter / Cathy Joritz / Jesper Just / Jürgen Klauke / Frantiček Klossner / Elke Silvia Krystufek / Marie-Jo Lafontaine / Peter Land / Littlewhitehead / Sarah Lucas / Urs Lüthi / Manon / Paul McCarthy / Tracey Moffatt / Josef Felix Müller / Ursula Palla / Adrian Piper / Anne-Julie Raccoursier / Ugo Rondinone / Carole Roussopoulos / Rico Scagliola and Michael Meier / Sylvia Sleigh / Nedko Solakov / Megan Francis Sullivan / Sam Taylor-Johnson / Costa Vece / William Wegman / Silvie Zürcher.

 

 

Alexis Hunter. 'Approach to Fear: XVII: Masculinisation of Society - exorcise' 1977

 

Alexis Hunter (New Zealand, b. 1948)
Approach to Fear: XVII: Masculinisation of Society – exorcise
1977
10 Color photographs, mounted on two panels, both 25 x 101 cm
Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery
© 2013 ProLitteris, Zürich
(From the section Experiments)

 

 

The Cult of Muscularity

 

“… muscularity is a key term in appraising men’s bodies … this comes from men themselves. Muscularity is the sign of power – natural, achieved, phallic.”

.
Richard Dyer. Only Entertainment. London: Routledge, 1992, p.114

 

“The formation of ‘The Cult of Muscularity’ (Elliott Gorn. The Manly Art. London: Robson Books, 1986) in the last decade of the 19th century was a reaction to the perceived effeminisation of heterosexual masculinity. The position of the active, heroic hetero-male was under attack from the passivity of industrialisation, from the expansion of women’s rights and their ability to become breadwinners, and through the naming of deviant sexualities that were seen as a threat to the stability of society. By naming deviant sexualities they became visible to the general public for the first time, creating apprehension in the minds of men gazing upon the bodies of other men lest they be thought of as ‘pansies’. (Remember that it was in this decade the trials of Oscar Wilde had taken place in England after he was accused of being a sodomite by The Marquis of Queensbury. It is perhaps no coincidence that the rules that governed boxing, a very masculine sport in which a man could become a popular hero, were named after his accuser. By all accounts he was a brute of a man who despised and beat his son Lord Alfred Douglas and sought revenge on his partner, Oscar Wilde, for their sexual adventures). Muscles became the sign of heterosexual power, prowess, and virility. A man had control over his body and his physical world. His appearance affected how he interacted with this world, how he saw himself, and was seen by others, and how closely he matched the male physical ‘ideal’ impacted on his own levels of self-esteem. The gymnasium became a meeting point for exercise, for health, for male bonding, and to show off your undoubted ‘masculinity’…”

The development of ‘The Cult of Muscularity’ may also have parallels in other social environments which were evolving at the turn of the century. For example, I think that the construction of the muscular mesomorphic body can be linked to the appearance of the first skyscrapers in cities in the United States of America. Skyscrapers were a way increasing visibility and surface area within the limited space of a crowded city. One of the benefits of owning a skyscraper like the Chrysler Building in New York, with its increased surface area, was that it got the company noticed. The same can be said of the muscular body. Living and interacting in the city, the body itself is inscribed by social interaction with its environment, its systems of regulation and its memories and historicities (his-tor-i-city, ‘tor’ being a large hill or formation of rocks). Like a skyscraper, the muscular body has more surface area, is more visible, attracts more attention to its owner and is more admired. The owner of this body is desired because of his external appearance which may give him a feeling of superiority and power over others. However this body image may also lead to low self-esteem and heightened body dissatisfaction in the owner (causing anxiety and insecurity in his identity) as he constantly strives to maintain and enhance his body to fulfil expectations he has of himself.

Of course, body image is never a static concept for the power of muscular images of the male body resides in their perceived value as a commodity. This value is reinforced through social and moral values, through fluid personal interactions, and through the desire of self and others for a particular type of body image; it is a hierarchical system of valuation. It relies on what type of body is seen as socially desirable and ‘beautiful’ in a collective sense, even though physical attractiveness is very much a personal choice.”

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Dr Marcus Bunyan. Excerpt from “Bench Press,” in Pressing the Flesh: Sex, Body Image and the Gay Male, PhD thesis, RMIT University, Melbourne, 2001.

 

*PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS ART PHOTOGRAPHS OF MALE NUDITY AND MALE SEXUAL AROUSAL – IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

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Many thankx to the Kunstmuseum Bern for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Ugo Rondinone. 'I Don't Live Here Anymore' 1998

 

Ugo Rondinone (Switzerland, b. 1962)
I Don’t Live Here Anymore
1998
C-prints between Alucobond and Plexiglas
Each 180 × 125cm
Kunstmuseum Bern, purchased with the donation of an Art Lover
(From the section Masculinity as Masquerade)

 

 

Digitally manipulates photos of women depicted in various suggestive poses, replacing their features with his own in a sufficiently consistent way for the image to retain its erotic content. By slipping into different bodies, he tests his own body and appearance, and he raises the issue of reality. The artist can only offer his own, man-made version.

 

Lynda Benglis. 'Artforum Advertisement in: Artforum, November 1974, Vol. 13, No. 3, S. 3-4' 1974

 

Lynda Benglis (American, b. 1941)
Artforum Advertisement in: Artforum, November 1974, Vol. 13, No. 3, S. 3-4
1974
26.7 × 26.5 × 0.5cm
Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München
(From the section Experiments)

 

Peter Land. 'Peter Land d. 5. maj 1994' 1994

 

Peter Land (Danish, b. 1966)
Peter Land d. 5. maj 1994
1994
Colour video
Time, 25 Min.
Courtesy Galleri Nicolai Wallner
(From the section Crisis and Criticism)

 

Ursula Palla. 'balance' 2012

 

Ursula Palla (Switzerland, b. 1961)
balance
2012
Colour video installation
Time, 8 Min.
Courtesy the artist
(From the section Crisis and Criticism)

 

 

Masculinity under scrutiny

This themed group exhibition is our contribution to the discussion on new role definitions of the male gender, a topic that has long been on the agenda of academia and popular culture. Works by artists of both sexes will address the issue of how contemporary art stages male role models and masculinity, critically scrutinising the content of the same.

Who or what makes a man? How do men define themselves in art since feminism; how do they reflect on their gender and the portrayal thereof? Whereas the preferred angle of engaging with female artists is still today via “gender”, this is still a novel angle for looking at male artists. And as feminist art has finally become an established entity in major institutions, it is time to take a closer look at the art produced by men about men. The Sexual Revolution as well as the feminist and gay movements did not have only one side to them: they likewise impacted the roles of men and transformed images of masculinity. The exhibition therefore explores how contemporary Western artists of both sexes have, since the 1960s, invented new notions of masculinity or shattered existing ones. It does this with some 45 installations, some of which are large and extensive.

With this exhibition, the Kunstmuseum Bern is addressing a topic that, until now, has hardly been tackled in a museum context: the “normal” white heterosexual male, hitherto the ultimate measure for everything we consider characteristically human, is now facing a crisis. The exhibition and catalogue draw on the reflections and insights gained from masculinities studies to throw light on the consequences of the contemporary male crisis and how it is reflected in art, making the extent of the crisis visually palpable.

The works selected for the show have been divided up into six sections. These sections explore what “normal” might be and what the new nuances inherent in being “male” are today. The prescribed tour of the exhibition begins with the chapter on “Strong Weaknesses” and then proceeds through the sections focusing thematically on “Experiments”, “Emotions”, “Eroticism”, “Critique and Crisis”, and “Masculinity as Masquerade”. This route follows, at the same time, a roughly chronological order. The show is accompanied by a rich fund of educational programs with tours of the exhibition, discussions of artworks with invited guests, as well as a film program in collaboration with the cinema Kino Kunstmuseum, and not least, workshops for schools.

Text from the Kunstmuseum Bern website

 

Tracey Moffat. 'Heaven' (still) 1997

Tracey Moffat. 'Heaven' (still) 1997

Tracey Moffat. 'Heaven' (still) 1997

 

Tracey Moffat (Australian, b. 1960)
Heaven (3 stills)
1997
Colour video
Time, 28 Min.
© 2013 ProLitteris, Zürich
(From the section Eroticism)

 

 

Male to the Hilt: Images of Men

The exhibition The Weak Sex – How Art Pictures the New Male zeroes in on the evolution of male identity since the 1960s. On view are works by 40 artists regardless of gender who question masculinity and stage it anew. The Kunstmuseum Bern seeks to foster dialogue in the exhibition and is therefore increasing its focus on social media. For the first time our visitors can respond to issues raised by an exhibition immediately on location…

 

The whole spectrum of art media and male images

The exhibition is presenting works that cover the entire range of media used by artists, including paintings, drawings, photographs, films, videos, sculptures and performance-installations. Artists of all ages are represented in the exhibition, enabling it to highlight images of men in all age groups. Each of the artworks questions social norms, who or what a man is, while orchestrating masculinity in novel ways and reflecting on what it means to be a “man”. The artworks in the show take up the theme of masculinity or male emotions – as discussed in society in general or as openly demonstrated by men today: as weeping sport heroes, the disadvantaged position of divorced fathers, overstrained top managers or criminal youths.

 

Of strong weaknesses, eroticism and the male in crisis

The exhibition is divided into six sections that explore key aspects of masculinity studies and thus simultaneously follow a loose art-historical chronological thread. The introductory section takes up the theme of “Strong Weaknesses” with representations of men weeping or expressing fear. The second section “Experiments” scrutinises the exciting events that took place in conjunction with the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. The section “Emotions” presents male emotionality in intensely stirring artistic orchestrations. The section “Eroticism” take us through a selection of artworks that investigate men as objects of desire. The last two sections of the exhibition “Crisis and Critique” and “Masculinity as Masquerade” investigate traditional male images and give us an account of the potential of new gender orientations.

Press release from the Kunstmuseum Bern website

 

Bas Jan Ader. 'I'm Too Sad to Tell You' 1970-71

 

Bas Jan Ader (born Winschoten, Netherlands, 1942, died 1975 presumably on the high seas. Lived in California, USA, as of 1963)
I’m Too Sad to Tell You
1970-71
16mm, s/w
Time, 3:34 Min.
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam
(From the section Strong Weaknesses)

 

Sylvia Sleigh. 'Paul Rosano in Jacobson Chair' 1971

 

Sylvia Sleigh (born Llandudno, Wales, Great Britain, 1916; died New York, USA, 2010)
Paul Rosano in Jacobson Chair
1971
Oil on canvas
131 x 142cm
Courtesy The Estate of Sylvia Sleigh & Freymond-Guth Fine Arts Zürich
(From the section Eroticism)

 

Peter Weibel with Valie EXPORT. 'Peter Weibel Aus der Mappe der Hundigkeit' (Peter Weibel From the Underdog File) 1969

 

Peter Weibel (Austrian, b. 1944) with Valie EXPORT (Austrian, b. 1940)
Peter Weibel Aus der Mappe der Hundigkeit (Peter Weibel From the Underdog File)
1969
Documentation of the action
5 s/w photographs, 40.4 x 50 cm / 50 x 40.4cm
Sammlung Generali Foundation
Vienna Foto: Josef Tandl
© Generali Foundation © 2013 ProLitteris, Zürich
(From the section Experiments)

 

Gelitin. 'Ständerfotos - Nudes' (Standing Photos - Nudes) 2000

 

Gelitin
Ständerfotos – Nudes (Standing Photos – Nudes)
2000
Series of 15 Lambda prints
Various dimensions
(From the section Eroticism)

 

Gelitin. 'Ständerfotos - Nudes' (Standing Photos - Nudes) 2000

 

Gelitin
Ständerfotos – Nudes (Standing Photos – Nudes)
2000
Series of 15 Lambda prints
Various dimensions
(From the section Eroticism)

 

 

Austrian artists’ collective with Wolfgang Gantner, Ali Janka, Florian Reither, and Tobias Urban. Apparently became acquainted at a summer camp in 1978. Changed their name from Gelatin to Gelitin in 2005.

 

 

Those who lived through their childhood and youth as members of the baby-boomer generation in the period of the late nineteen-fifties to the mid-seventies, as we did, received a clear view of the world along the way. It was the Cold War. There were precise dividing lines, and it was possible to completely separate good and evil, right and wrong, from one other. The division of roles between men and women was regulated in a way that was just as self-evident. For many children of this time, it was natural that the father earned the money while the mother was at home around the clock and, depending on her social position, went shopping and took care of the laundry herself, or left the housework to employees in order to be able to dedicate herself to “nobler” tasks such as, for instance, beauty care. Family and social duties were clearly distributed between husband and wife: the “strong” sex was responsible for the material basics of existence and for the social identity of the family. The “weak” or also fair sex, in contrast, was responsible for the “soft” factors inside: children, housekeeping, and the beautification of the home. The year 1968 did away with bourgeois concepts of life. Feminism and emancipation anchored the equality of men and women in law. And since the nineteen-sixties, art has also dealt intensively and combatively with feminism and gender questions.

Since VALIE EXPORT walked her partner Peter Weibel on a leash like a dog in their public action that unsettled the public in 1968, legions of creators of art, primarily of the female sex, have questioned the correlations between the genders and undertaken radical reassessments. The formerly “strong” gender has thus long since become a “weak” one. Nevertheless, the exhibition The Weak Sex: How Art Pictures the New Male is not dedicated first and foremost to the battlefield of the genders. Nor is the gender question, which has so frequently been dealt with, posited in the foreground. The Weak Sex is instead dedicated to man as object of research. In what state does he find himself now that his classical role has been invalidated? How does he behave after the shift from representative external appearance to work within the family unit? And where does he stand in the meantime in the midst of so many strong women? What has become of the proud and self-assured man who once signed the school report cards with praise or reproach as head of the family? What has become of the XY species since then is presented – insightfully, sarcastically, and wittily – in the exhibition by Kathleen Bühler.

Part of the Preface to the exhibition by Matthias Frehner, Director of the Kunstmuseum Bern and Klaus Vogel, Director of the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum Dresden

 

Sam Taylor-Johnson. 'Steve Buscemi' 2004

 

Sam Taylor-Johnson (British, b. 1967)
Steve Buscemi
2004
From the series: Crying Men, 2002-2004
C-Print
99.2 x 99.2cm framed
Courtesy White Cube
© Sam Taylor-Johnson
(From the section Strong Weaknesses)

 

Sam Taylor-Johnson. 'Gabriel Byrne' 2002

 

Sam Taylor-Johnson (British, b. 1967)
Gabriel Byrne
2002
From the series: Crying Men, 2002-2004
C-Print
86.2 x 86.2cm framed
Courtesy White Cube
© Sam Taylor-Johnson
(From the section Strong Weaknesses)

 

Costa Vece. 'Me as a Revolutionary, Dictator, Guerilla, Freedom Fighter, Terrorist, Jesus Christ' 2007

 

Costa Vece (Swiss, b. 1969)
Me as a Revolutionary, Dictator, Guerilla, Freedom Fighter, Terrorist, Jesus Christ
2007
Ultrachrome – Digitalprint
106 × 80cm
(From the section Crisis and Criticism)

 

Ugo Rondinone. 'I Don't Live Here Anymore' 1998

 

Ugo Rondinone (Swiss, b. 1962)
I Don’t Live Here Anymore
1998
C-print between Alucobond and Plexiglas
180 × 125cm
Kunstmuseum Bern, purchased with the donation of an Art Lover
(From the section Masculinity as Masquerade)

 

Rico Scagliola & Michael Meier (Swiss, b. 1985; Swiss, b. 1982) Nude, Leaves and Harp 2012

 

Rico Scagliola & Michael Meier (Swiss, b. 1985; Swiss, b. 1982)
Nude, Leaves and Harp
2012
Floor Installation, HD Digital Print on Novilux traffic, dimensions variable
Ed. 1/5

 

Jürgen Klauke. 'Rot' 1974

 

Jürgen Klauke (Germany, b. 1943)
Rot
1974
Series of 7 photographs
Each 40 × 30cm
Kunstmuseum Bern
(From the section Experiments)

 

 

Stronger and Weaker Sexes: Remarks on the Exhibition

Kathleen Bühler Curator Kunstmuseum Bern

In 1908, the Genevan politician and essayist William Vogt wrote the book Sexe faible (The Weak Sex), in which he examines the “natural” weaknesses and inabilities of the female gender. Intended as a “response to absurd exaggerations and feminist utopias,”1 since then the catchy title has shaped the battle of the sexes as a dictum. Like Otto Weininger’s misogynistic study Geschlecht und Charakter (Sex and Character, 1903), Sexe faible is one of the texts from the turn of the previous century that justified the legal, political, and social subordination of women based on their anatomical and, according to the opinion of the author, thus also intellectual inferiority in comparison with men.2 The perception of women as the “weak sex” persisted tenaciously. It is first in recent years that this ascription has slowly been shifted to men, as for instance in the report by neurobiologist Gerald Huther called Das schwache Geschlecht und sein Gehirn (The Weak Sex and His Brain) published in 2009.

Polemics has long since yielded to statistics, and the most recent biological discoveries are gaining currency, such as the fact that male babies are already at risk in the womb because they lack a second X chromosome.3 This genetic “weakness” would apparently lead seamlessly to a social weakness, since males more frequently have problems in school, turn criminal, and die earlier.4 In addition to the findings on biologically based weaknesses also comes the social, economic, and political challenge, which has for some years been discussed as a “crisis of masculinity.” With this metaphor, “an attempt is made to apprehend all the changes that contribute to the fact that the dominance of the male gender, which was formerly consolidated to a large extent, … has lost the obviousness of being self-evident.”5 Nothing therefore demonstrates the transience of gender stereotypes more clearly, and one might rightly ask whether the earlier “weaknesses” might long since have come to be considered new “strengths.” The exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Bern takes up the thread that was already spun by the small but noteworthy exhibition in Switzerland Helden Heute (Heroes Today) in 2005.6 At that time, the focus was put on hero images in contemporary art and on society’s current need for strong men in art and politics.7 The current exhibition in Bern, in contrast, argues quite differently that specifically images of “weak” men best represent the social and cultural liberation movements of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The fact that men today are allowed to express their feelings publicly, as is shown for instance by the example of the exceptional Swiss athlete Roger Federer, or that they are staged by female artists as object of desire and no longer as subject of desire is a crucial innovation in the visualisation of gender identities. After various exhibitions in recent years were dedicated to gender relations, gender imprinting, or the social latitude in performative stagings of gender,8 the exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Bern focuses exclusively on men in contemporary art for the first time.9 It brings together the points of view of male and female artists who deal either with their own experiences with men and/or being a man, or with an examination of the images of men that are available. This exhibition has been long overdue.

Nonetheless, what first needs to be overcome is the perception that “gender” themes are a woman’s matter and that only marginalised positions have addressed their social gender. Hegemonic male types – thus men who, according to general opinion, embody the dominant masculine ideal most convincingly – have only been reflected in public through media for a relatively short time, even though the male gender is also a sociocultural construct, just like that of women, transgender, or inter-gender individuals.10 What comes to be expressed here is the invisibility of norms. As is generally known, it is those social groups that hold the most power that actually expose their own status the least. In Western cultural tradition, these are physically sound, white heterosexual men.11 They remain the norm unchallenged as a “blind spot” without their position of power and their power to make decisions ever becoming a focus. The masculine-heterosexual dominance succeeds in “remaining out of the question itself,” as the art historian Irit Rogoff has criticised, by subordinating all representations of the “other” to their own norm, including women, individuals with a different sexual orientation, and non-whites.12

The fact that male bodies are becoming visible today in the most unexpected places is demonstrated in a striking way by the work Nude, Leaves and Harp (2012) by Rico Scagliola and Michael Meier, which graces the entrance area to the exhibition in Bern. The artist duo incorporated detailed images of their naked, sculpted bodies into a palm and marble decor on the floor. The path to the exhibition literally leads over their nakedness. Two exhibitions in Austria were also recently dedicated to this new presence of the naked man,13 with numerous works documenting “the deconstruction of hegemonic models of masculinity – the look of desire at the male body as well as body cult and exploitation,” which is also a focus of the exhibition in Bern.14 However, while those responsible in Linz and Vienna assumed a distanced, art-historical perspective by taking an iconographic approach based on the selection of motifs or a chronological approach according to epoch, the exhibition in Bern favours a different perspective. It focuses on representations of masculinity in art since the nineteen-sixties while simultaneously taking the historical conditions of being a man into consideration by utilising central issues in masculinity research as a guide. What thus results is a logical division of the exhibition and this publication into six chapters.

The introductory chapter “Strong Weaknesses” revolves around the change in gender virtues and considers this based on the example of the weeping and fearful man. The chapter “Experiments” presents eccentric artistic stagings and socio-critical actions that were influenced by the sexual revolution. The chapter “Emotions” highlights the point in time at which men themselves increasingly cast aside the image of the successful and unflinching hero and explore men’s emotionality through doing so. The chapter “Eroticism” describes the change in gaze and position from the male subject to object of desire. The final two chapters “Crisis and Criticism” and “Masculinity as Masquerade,” in contrast, are dedicated to a younger generation of artists who deal out criticism of their “fathers” and also discover the arsenal of gender stagings and their utopian potential anew.

 

Footnotes

  1. Une riposte aux exagérations, aux absurdités et aux utopies du féminisme is the subtitle.
  2. Otto Weininger, Geschlecht und Charakter, 19th ed. (Leipzig and Vienna, 1920), p. 390. Both Weininger’s book and Vogt’s pamphlet, which saw signs of cultural decay in the women’s movement, are considered to be expressions of a growing antifeminism. The often-used term “weak sex” then also provided the title of a theatre piece by Edouard Bourdet in 1929, which was even filmed in 1933.
  3. “Männer – Das schwache Geschlecht und sein Gehirn: Peter Schipek im Gespräch mit Prof. Dr. Gerald Hüther,” p. 2 (accessed July 2013) No long available online.
  4. Carmen Sadowski, “Der Mann: das schwache Geschlecht,” Express.de, (accessed July 14, 2013) No longer available online.
  5. Michael Meuser and Sylka Scholz, “Krise oder Strukturwandel hegemonialer Männlichkeit?,” in In der Krise? Männlichkeiten im 21. Jahrhundert, ed. Mechthild Bereswill and Anke Neuber (Münster, 2011), p. 56. See also the text by Michael Meuser in this book.
  6. Helden Heute: Das Heldenbild in der zeitgenössischen Kunst, Centre Pasquart, Biel, 2005.
  7. Sociologists interpret this as a sign of need in times of social upheaval. See Dolores Denaro, in Helden Heute: Das Heldenbild in der zeitgenössischen Kunst, ed. Dolores Denaro, exh. cat. Centre Pasquart (Biel, 2005), p. 20.
  8. Oh boy! It’s a Girl, Kunstverein München, 1994; Féminin – Masculin, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1995; Rosa für Jungs: Hellblau für Mädchen, Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst, Berlin, 1999; Das achte Feld, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, 2006; to name but a few.
  9. To date, this has occurred only in smaller exhibition spaces, above all during the nineteen-eighties and nineties, and has remained practically undocumented. An exception in this respect was the exhibition Women’s Images of Men (1984) at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, organised by Joyce Agee, Catherine Elwes, Jacqueline Morreau, and Pat Whiteread.
  10. Inge Stephan, “Im toten Winkel: Die Neuentdeckung des ‘ersten Geschlechts’ durch men’s studies und Männlichkeitsforschung,” in Männlichkeit als Maskerade: Kulturelle Inszenierungen vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart, ed. Claudia Benthien and Inge Stephan (Cologne et al., 2003), p. 13.
  11. Richard Dyer, “Introduction,” in The Matter of Images: Essays on Representation, ed. Richard Dyer (London and New York, 1993), p. 4.
  12. Irit Rogoff, “Er selbst: Konfigurationen von Männlichkeit und Autorität in der Deutschen Moderne,” in Blick-Wechsel: Konstruktionen von Männlichkeit und Weiblichkeit in Kunst und Kunstge-schichte, ed. Ines Lindner et al. (Berlin, 1989), p. 141.
  13. Nude Men, Leopold Museum, Vienna, 2012-13; The Naked Man, Lentos Museum, Linz, 2012-13.
  14. Barnabàs Bencsik and Stella Rollig, “Vorwort,” in Der nackte Mann: Texte, exh. cat. Lentos Kun-stmuseum Linz and Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art (Budapest, 2012), p. 7.

 

Urs Lüthi. 'Lüthi weint auch für Sie' (Lüthi also cries for you) 1970

 

Urs Lüthi (Swiss, b. 1947)
Lüthi weint auch für Sie (Lüthi also cries for you)
1970
Offset printing on paper
85.5 x 58.6cm
Ed. 15/100
Kunstmuseum Bern Sammlung Toni Gerber (Schenkung 1983)
© Urs Lüthi
(From the section Experiments)

 

Luciano Castelli. 'Lucille, Straps Attractive' 1973

 

Luciano Castelli (Swiss, b. 1951)
Lucille, Straps Attractive
1973
Collage on cardboard
100 x 70cm
Kunstmuseum St. Gallen
© 2013 ProLitteris, Zürich
(From the section Experiments)

 

littlewhitehead. 'The Overman' 2012

 

littlewhitehead (Craig Little, born Glasgow (UK), 1980. Blake Whitehead, born Lanark (UK), 1985)
The Overman
2012
Mannequin, towels, Boxing Glove, wooden base
120 x 120 x 120cm
Saatchi Collection, London Courtesy of the artist/Sumarria Lunn Gallery/Saatchi Collection
(From the section Crisis and Criticism)

 

Pascal Häusermann. 'Megalomania, No. 8' 2009

 

Pascal Häusermann (Swiss, b. 1973)
Megalomania, No. 8
2009
Monotype, oil paint, shellac
43 x 29cm
Private Collection, Courtesy the artist
(From the section Crisis and Criticism)

 

Sarah Lucas. 'Self Portrait with Knickers' 1999

 

Sarah Lucas (British, b. 1962)
Self Portrait with Knickers
1999
From Self Portraits 1990-1999
1999
Iris print on watercolour paper
80 x 60cm
© Sarah Lucas, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London
(From the section Masculinity as Masquerade)

 

Sarah Lucas. 'Self Portrait With Skull' 1996

 

Sarah Lucas (British, b. 1962)
Self Portrait With Skull
1996
From Self Portraits 1990-1999
1999
Iris print on watercolour paper
80 x 60cm
© Sarah Lucas, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London
(From the section Masculinity as Masquerade)

 

Sarah Lucas. 'Smoking' 1998

 

Sarah Lucas (British, b. 1962)
Smoking
1998
From Self Portraits 1990-1999
1999
Iris print on watercolour paper
80 x 60cm
© Sarah Lucas, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London
(From the section Masculinity as Masquerade)

 

Silvie Zürcher. 'Blue Shorts' 2005-6

 

Silvie Zürcher (Swiss, b. 1977)
Blue Shorts
2005-6
From the series I Wanna Be a Son
Collage
31.5 x 24.4cm
Courtesy Silvie Zürcher
(From the section Masculinity as Masquerade)

 

 

Kunstmuseum Bern
Hodlerstrasse 12
3000 Bern 7
Phone: +41 31 328 09 44
E: info@kunstmuseumbern.ch

Opening hours:
Tuesday: 10h – 21h
Wednesday to Sunday: 10h – 17h
Mondays: closed

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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