A group show of works by female artists from India and Australia redesigned femininity for the 21st century woman.
From 10 April to 18 May 2013, Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, mounted “Mythopoetic: Women artists from Australia and India”, an exhibition showing works from 15 female artists. The show debated notions of femininity in traditional myth and popular culture.
Staged across three galleries within Griffith University’s Queensland College of Art, “Mythopoetic: Women artists from Australia and India” took both its title and its curatorial direction from the term “mythopoeia”, the act of myth-making. In a 2012 article for Art Monthly Australia about the exhibition “Re-Picturing the Feminine: New Hybrid Realities in the Artworld – A Survey of Indian and Australian Contemporary Female Artists”, curator Marnie Dean explains that she was influenced by feminist theorist Donna Haraway‘s essay “A Cyborg Manifesto“. Referring to the theorist’s declaration that she would “rather be a Cyborg than a Goddess,” Dean states that last year’s exhibition aimed to present a multifaceted perspective on femininity, rather than the traditional binary view.
Female artists are developing unique and sophisticated oeuvres with visual languages that embrace pop culture and are, collectively, re-writing or creating new mythologies.
This notion is also reflected in “Mythopoetic”, which “surveys the way in which artists are re-picturing, re-contextualising, re-imagining the feminine” and, according to the exhibition press release, explores “the permeable boundaries of binary classifications of gender.”
The exhibition comprised the work of some of India’s foremost contemporary female artists working today, as well as their Australian counterparts. Included in “Mythopoetic” were works by:
- Dhruvi Acharya (India)
- Kate Beynon (AUS)
- Di Ball (AUS)
- Laini Burton (AUS)
- Marnie Dean (AUS)
- Simone Eisler (AUS)
- Fiona Hall (AUS)
- Pat Hoffie (Scotland/AUS)
- Sonia Khurana (India)
- Pushpamala N. (India)
- Anne-Maree Reaney and Jill Kinnear (AUS)
- Mandy Ridley (AUS)
- Sangeeta Sandrasegar (AUS)
- Shambhavi Singh (India)
Questioning the status quo
ARTINFO selects a video work by Pushpamala N., Indrajaala/Seduction, as a highlight of the show. In the short film the artist plays the role of Surpanakha, the demoness from the Ramayana whose passion causes conflict between two brothers. Indrajaala/Seduction is part of the series Avega – The Passion shown in 2012 at Nature Morte, New Delhi. Quoted in ARTINFO, Pushpamala N. clarifies the questioning stance of her series:
The Ramayana is seen as the national epic and the rule of Rama – Ramarajya – is seen as the ideal governance, invoked by Gandhi during the nationalist struggle and now used by Hindu fundamentalists. ‘The Passion’ takes a sideways look at the place of women in this ideal state.
The exhibition’s curatorial statement highlighted works which, although created by artists from realities as diverse as South Asia and Asia-Pacific, deal with universal feminine archetypes and borrow myths from different cultures. Australian new media artist Di Ball used the Hindu goddess Kali to examine individual identity, and Kate Beynon, also Australian, used Ancient Greek mythology to challenge preconceptions about femininity.
In an artist’s statement on her website, Mandy Ridley noted the importance of the body to her work for “Mythopoetic”, describing the idea of the body as “very present” during the creation of her multimedia landscape Sometimes I feel my heart will burst (2012). Indian multimedia artist Sonia Khurana explored the idea of the artist’s body as a landscape through an installation that combined video and performance.
Standing against discrimination
The increasing attention paid to women’s rights in South Asia has activated a resurgent feminist movement among the region’s female artists. Anupama Srinivasan, director of the 9th IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival 2013, held in New Delhi in March, said that women were now treating art events as a springboard to make a stand against gender discrimination in the country.
- Incredible India? Artist Gigi Scaria video bite – The Guardian – May 2013 – what do India’s architectural structures reveal about its social hierarchies? An artist explains
- Manila exhibition “You Have Every Right” examines gender roles in contemporary art – curator interview – April 2013 – Filipina artists consider the gender gap
- Drawing attention: Female artists across Asia on international women’s day – March 2013 – from Japan to the Middle East, women use art to resist gender discrimination
- Breaking down identity myths: Interview with Project for Empty Space founders – Part 2 – June 2012 – Meenakshi Thirukode and Jasmine Wahi focus on their perspectives on South Asian artists and cultural development
- Significant national survey of contemporary Australian women artists – artist list announced – March 2012 – Queensland Triennial choses “Women” as its theme
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