I went to Frieze Art Fair and what image has burnt itself to my brain after the visit was this woman walking past me in a pink outfit, from top til toe. Her coat or cape was covered in big lips and tongues attached to the fabric in variations of bright purple, pink and nuances of these colors I think, very bright and catchy so it was. My friend and I were intrigued by this outfit and wondered whether or not it was her own design or someone else. But we were convinced that the lady wearing such an eye-catching work definitely wouldn’t mind if we asked her. The lady, firmly said that she was wearing vaginas because they should make us happy, hence the happy colors! (actually as I type the word vagina is automatically underlined with red spots indicating that it is spelled incorrectly, which it is not as I have double checked with my oxford dictionary…perhaps she should have sown on the letters v.a.g.i.n.a as well on her outfit).
Alexandra Holownia was her name and can be seen to the right wearing her project Fly at Art Forum Berlin last year. She gave us her website info which can be checked out at Alexandra Holownia.
Another related art work was Tracey Emin‘s embroidery Dark Hole which displays a woman spreading her legs. I am not an active feminist but I do find it very interesting to find works like these at Frieze Art Fair. Why the artist choose to exhibit them might be many reasons but they do express very direct and strong images. It may not be linked to feminist art at all, as with Emin her work seems to be autobiographical, but for me they send out this message that we (both women and men) might have barriers or blocks when it comes to intimacy and sexuality. And when I observed people walking past Emin’s picture they would go closer to study the embroidery until they realize that it is this in fact a woman’s genitals being displayed, they feel uncomfortable and walk away (do you recognise the reaction?). Do they feel uncomfortable about the actual image or is it their assumptions of what other people might think when they look at the picture that makes them go away. Is it inappropriate to look at a vagina embroidered on a white canvas? Or is it called projective identification?
I am not so sure where I am getting at but I know that the thought of Holownia’s outfit was covered in vaginas and not tongues and lips made me laugh. The fact that she was wearing brightly, unrealistically, colored vaginas, made me laugh. Why? Because it made me wonder why. Women and sexuality was a big topic during the feminist movement in the 60s and a controversial topic then, is it still? Is our own sexuality still a taboo? Is the title of my blog provocative or inappropriate?
Art doesn’t have to be beautiful or agree with the “norms” of aestheticism, neither do I believe that we have to understand it from the artists point of view. It is there, displayed to us, the audience, which gives us the freedom to think what we think, feel what we feel and react as we do. We do not have to determine whether ugly or not, there is no right or wrong. What we feel may be hard to describe in words as visual arts provides us with, perhaps, less tangible material than the spoken or written word. And I don’t think we need to verbalise our feelings. I like when the artist provokes feelings in me that I can’t put my finger on. My immediate reaction was that there was something interesting about Holownia and Emin and they have caught my curiosity; I was perhaps unprepared and caught off guard by their expression. I do know though that I wouldn’t wear this dress or decorate my living room window with a vagina and its black hole, I feel that would be inappropriate for me and my guests, I guess that is a product of me living and acting conventionally and after the norm. I don’t think I am the only one.