Chapter I: The Female
Heli Rekula's Immaculate Conception is Feminism put into practise: take stigmata into your own hands. Unlike other ladies who received the blessing of being stigmatized, this young woman obviously chose a hands only version. The traditional division of labor, Mary the receiver, Christ the transmitter is put out of practise in this two in one solution, the perfect circle of a self sustaining system. This is a Christian concept employed in a gender power play. For more successful conception Margi Geerlinks presents a young woman knitting, taking a more determined part in the authorship of the making of a child. She does not only obtain complete control of the creation by sculpting her child to her own design, she also becomes a self efficient producer without any other need than the supply of wool and needles. A further investigation into the myth of female purity and virgin power is Kinke kooi's Underworld, part of a series of works called Geur Waaiers (fan odors). A halo, holy, hol., radiating some energetic aura. Spiritually this is a dropped halo highlighting where the blessings of womanhood really happen. For the inexperienced this might be a light shining the way. Physically this could be the source for the stimulation of different senses. After all, aura can be a pretty smelly thing.
Then of course there is the theme park of the happy childhood as the perfect backdrop for mean kids, evil mothers and more forbidden sexual desires. Robert Gligorov's Little Girl, equipped with the sexual organs of a woman, allows the projection of adult desire avoiding taboos. Jack Nicholson slapping Faye Dunnaway: "She is a girl, she is a woman, she is a girl"iv . The information, that this little girl is actually carrying her mother's genitalia, makes the image even so much more tricky. This is the vagina that gave birth to her and these are the breasts which fed her: another image suggesting self sufficiency. Anya Janssen's Pleasure Child takes a bow grinning and makes sure she is still in the picture. On a self made set creating a little stage, a hair piece is enacted. The girl's hairdo appears multiplied on the dolls heads. One has been cut crudely, the blonde curls littered in abundance throughout the foreground. The dolls given to the child as a social icon, are still life role models. Once the girl has lived up to the message rivalry rules: you shall have no baby doll hair do beside me. Both girls appear to be the sad produce of parental desires.
Alexandra Tessensohn shows a woman and a child in a well equipped children's playroom. The walls, the toys and the woman's lips compliment each other in a strong red. A subtle composition, still things are essentially out of balance. The child is lying on the floor crying and drooling. The woman sitting on the floor behind the child is pulling his hair, holding his head up for the camera. You might say, ever since Max Ernst allowed Mary to spank the Jesus child in public (and in Cologne, she is still at it) mother son relationships just haven't been the same in art.
Another mean kid is Paul de Reus's angry child. Between anger and death unfolds a panorama of childish menace. "Look I am dead." is what you see when you pull the sheet, a childish under-cover alive corpse, conveying a most simple act of passive aggressive behavior. And sometimes the troubles and turbulences of childhood never end as van Imhoff & van Santen-Kolff illustrate in their prepubescent best girlfriends scenario of two females as Siamese twin wannabees. When being put into visual practise the anticipated inseparability displays its claustrophobic downside.
The Female of course also includes the pin up, peeping Toms and Blow Up. Morton Bartlett shared to this very day his hobby of dollmaking with many a housewife and collector. Yet in his case, the photos he made of his dolls render a harmless hobby ambiguous. The way they are put into perspective appears to be sexually disquieting. This is a construction of desire which offers complete control and possession. The distance provided by the artificial object offers discretion and leaves other human beings alone. Engaged in a similar project Eugene von Bruenchenhein collaborated with his wife in the reconstruction of the pin up in private. As this approach to visualizing a specific desire involves two human beings, the fictitive aspect is stronger than the artificial. The charm of the homemade reveals an affectionate perspective on the model. The intimacy of these private images renders every viewer a peeping voyeur. Paul Kooiker's blurry image of a setting somewhere in the woods shows people preoccupied in some unidentified interaction. The blurring of the image demands closer examination that in fact doesn't reveal anything but a closer inspection of the overall pattern, the blurring itself results into. A rerun of Michelangelo Antonioni's "Blow Up" framed as an installation of 40 photographs, the suspense and the theme are captured in stills. The camera is portrayed as a spy, seducing the viewer to partake in this action. "Peeping Tom" was more successful.