donderdag 23 september 2010

About her

About Her
15-25 September 2010

Aude Bertrand

participating artists:
Karin Bos
Katja Kottmann
Valérie Mréjen
Jenny Palmborg
Cindy Sherman
Hoda Tawakol
Julie Verhoeven

DCORM temporary exhibition space, Rheinische Strasse 27, Dortmund, Germany

article written by Karin Bos, September 2010
DCORM temporary exhibition space

Invited by Aude Bertrand, initiator and curator of the current group show About Her, I spent some time in Dortmund last week, to have a private preview. Through the years I participated in countless group shows, and only so now and then I'm really impressed by the ability of the curator to bring exactly the right pieces together to tell a story, to make a point. It is such a pleasure to see my works in a broader context, combined with other intriguing art works, which not always have to show women in a literal sense to investigate female archetypes.
Fairy by Julie Verhoeven

The object Fairy by Julie Verhoeven (UK/NL) is made of plaster, soap and ribbon. It reminds me of my series of Fairy queens (based on mini beauty pageant contests) which are currently on show in another all women exhibition in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. My little fairy queens don't meet the expectations of their mothers. Instead of looking beautiful and sweet in their pretty dresses, they are grumpy, slightly off and a bit overweight.
Fairyqueen 2 by Karin Bos
collection Delta Lloyd Group, the Netherlands

German artist Hoda Tawakol participates in About her with an abstract looking “painting” which is actually made by several fabrics, such as latex and nylon, which are reminiscent of female clothing such as panty-hoses.

The black chair made by Jenny Palmborg from Denmark with its ruffles under the seat is inspired by the fashion world. Her purple -back to the seventies- lamp reminds me of patching and needlework, typical activities women were supposed to practice.
works by Karin Bos, Jenny Palmborg, Hoda Tawakol

Next to Hoda Tawakol's piece and Jenny Palmborg's chair there's my Dress code. In 2000 I spent 2 months in Indonesia because of two solo shows of my work. It was my first encounter with burqas and other unfamiliar dress codes. To my surprise uncovered arms were worse than naked bellybuttons. The national clothing was made of batik, which technique was also used for the production of art. There were a lot of commercial galleries selling batik paintings to tourists. However, the young contemporary artists I met, all told me that batik was not interesting for their own arts practices.
In the schoolyards toys were sold to the kids, so there I bought a (Caucasian looking) paper doll with (western) fancy pink dresses. I used it as a source of inspiration for my art work Dress code. Originally, it consists of 3 pieces, each made by me using a different batik technique. In the exhibition About Her only the orange one is presented. It's the most subtle one; the spectator has to come closely to the piece to notice the little white dots which reveal a “paper” doll and her clothes. No pretty dresses for this naked Asian looking girl; fully dressed she would disappear behind a burqa.
Dresscode by Karin Bos

Dress code combines perfectly with another piece in the exhibition, Doll clothes by Cindy Sherman. Doll clothes dates from 1975, it's a silent black and white film transferred to video/dvd. In this comical short animation the artist is starring as a paper doll going through her wardrobe, trying to decide what to wear.
Doll clothes by Cindy Sherman

Meeting expectations about gender roles and keeping up appearances are some of the themes of this show. Underneath a thin layer of adjustment and desired social feminine behavior there's an ominous undertone.

Eat you little bastard is a screen print I made in 2001, which shows a smiling neat mum trying to feed her screaming baby. Women are supposed to be caring, loving and nurturing, playing a key role in maintaining the species by happily giving birth and raising their kids. In Eat you little bastard desired behavior clashes with the everyday reality of motherhood, will she use force?
Eat you little bastard by Karin Bos

The title of my work on paper This could be your fridge sounds like a slogan in some advertisement as well as a threat. The leading lady of this piece is not cooking dinner for her husband, but sits on her fridge. It's shot to pieces and she carries the gun. Is this liberation? Or is she adapting to another type of desired behavior, wearing a bikini and high heels, just satisfying masculine sexual fantasies?
This could be your fridge by Karin Bos

The fascination of sexuality and the repression of it is investigated in my piece Behind the stars I made in 2000/2001. It is based on the censorship stars (covering nipples and butt holes) and censorship stripes (covering eyes) in sex ads I collected from magazines available for free on the streets in New York. The mags contained the cultural agendas, however, in the back were all those sex ads, which was a curious combination for me.
Behind the stars by Karin Bos

About her is a strong exhibition which investigates femininity in an intelligent way. One of the tools used by the artists is humor. I really enjoyed watching the video Manufrance by Valérie Mréjen. It's a 5 minutes series of static shots, filmed from copies of the French mail order catalog Manufrance. The atmosphere of the images is of an ideal life of a house wife from the fifties or sixties. On the soundtrack, a woman's voice (the artist's?) monotonously describes the activities we see. (I cook dinner, next image: I wait for the guests, etc.) As if it is her own life she presents to us. The fact that on each image the leading female figure is a different person, sometimes it's a blonde, sometimes a brunette, makes it extra funny. I like the dryness of the humor, and the way it plays with cliches concerning femininity. It was also exhibited at the Tate Modern in London, being part of the group show Mediaburn.
Manufrance by Valérie Mréjen

Another piece in the exhibition is a photograph by Katja Kottmann from Germany of a girl whose friend is putting lipstick on her lips.
It reminds me of my oil painting Copycat girl which shows a girl who is copying her mother, wearing make up and her mother's high-heeled shoes, in her hands a bottle of wine.
work by Karin Bos, Katja Kottmann

Next to Katja Kottmann's photograph is my screen print Interesting pleasing portraits. Just like the images of the Manufrance video by Valérie Mréjen it has this nostalgic look. Two smiling girls are looking at the viewer. The source is a coursebook from the fifties, it teaches how to paint interesting pleasing portraits. At the rear there's a drawing of both girls repeated over and over again, like an exercise which is bound to fail. The irony of this piece relates to most pieces in this exhibition. As if the participating artists tell their audience, yes we know, we are not the perfect women, but we really, really, really try.

Karin Bos, September 2010

window view of DCORM temporary exhibition space in Dortmund

photography and text by Karin Bos