MUMA: Believe Not in Every Spirit
Forgotten, overlooked, misunderstood women are a dime a dozen. Everywhere you look there’s another woman not getting her fair share. Today, yesterday, tomorrow too no doubt, unless we get a decent riot together. Burn through a couple of hurdles ASAP.
Believe Not Every Spirit, But Try The Spirits is an exhibition inspired by the art of ‘forgotten Victorian-era Spiritualist Georgiana Houghton (1814-1884)’. Most spiritualists make crap art but not Georgiana. Whatever spirit was helping her out in the studio was bloody talented, selecting lovely coloured pencils and doing a series of intricate, trippy line drawings that are as fresh now as the day they were channeled. Good art always ages well, being beyond the fashion of the day and more eternal of spirit.
I’ve got a spirit who visits me in the studio sometimes too. Her name is Ms. Obnoxious and she can’t draw for shit. God she makes a mess of it. Sometimes she likes to come out to openings and party with me. She prefers though to attend functions to which we have not been formally invited.
She does take an excellent photo, has a penchant for sticking the camera right up ‘em, so to speak, in a kind hearted but interrogative manner. With every sip of white wine I can hear her coming closer, she’s very easily bored and once she’s fully entered me she uses my mouth to say shocking shit to people just to see what reactions she can provoke. Ms. Obnoxious is a socially engaged performance but she occasionally strays into the less investigated anti-social performance terrains. It is from within these cracks that truths can begin to emerge. You can’t fight the truth is one of her frequent diatribes.
She doesn’t treat my body very well. She likes to collaborate with other artists but then bangs on telling and retelling tales of when collaborations turn bad. I guess what you could say is that Ms. Obnoxious is interested more in what people don’t want to talk about. Just last week she went on a tangent about how the art scene needs to find better rich people. At the moment Ms. Obnoxious is going through a mid life crisis that she insists on acting out in public like it’s spectator sport. She is shameless.
Her most recent project involves attempting to convince a well-known art collecting Plastic Surgeon to exchange a few discreet freshening up procedures for her art. Its like Orlan but more hippy since it doesn’t involve cash or credit.
International Women’s Day is my least favorite day; it’s a dodgy male construct. It’s so patronizing it reeks of ‘there you go ladies now stop your bloody whinging and make me dinner. The male construct shrugs, ‘What, we gave you your own special day to celebrate your gender on! And Germaine Greer dared Julie Bishop to flash her tits for world peace on live TV, so it’s all good. Job done.’ Every day is International Women’s Day for me. And for half the people on the planet too.
Ms. Obnoxious and I are both proud advocates for improving the representation of women within the arts. There are 625 Artists in the Monash University Art Collection. Here is the list of artists collected, A-Z.
A tally, as espoused by the Guerilla Girls some 30 years past, and practiced by CoUNTess here in Australia, shows the collection represents the art of 410 male artists, 200 female artists, 13 unknown or unable to goggle search to identify gender (eg. ‘What’, a collaboration we couldn’t successfully locate) and I don’t know where the missing 2 went, but they don’t significantly alter the results either way. Male artists are twice as likely to have art represented within the Monash University Art Collection as female artists. We concluded that the Gender Equity Policies of Monash University could be used to gain better gender representation for female artists within this collection. Continuing this train of thought, an audit of gender representation in other University Art Collections could be compared to the Equity Policies of said Universities, with a view to improvements.
As Gloria Steinem said ‘The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization, but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.’
The other day Ms. Obnoxious joined me in the studio and we were surfing the net together, as you do, and a headline on the Guardian Arts page caught our eye. http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/apr/13/discovered-lost-grave-pre-raphaelite-beauty-modelled-for-rossetti?CMP=EMCARTEML6852
It said ‘From Siren to Asylum– the desperate last days of Fanny Cornforth, pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rosetti’s housekeeper, model, lover and muse. Fanny is the patron saint of overlooked women said art historian Kirsty Stonell Walker. Fanny is in the background of so many stories about other people, and she seemed finally to have vanished without a trace into the shadows. But she had her good times, and she had her spirit.’
‘Gee those pre-Raphaelite painters were a bunch of sexist assholes weren’t they?’ leers Ms. Obnoxious into my ear.
‘Too right’ I say.
Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits Curated by Lars Bang Larsen and Marco Pasi 21 April – 27 July 2015
Saturday 13 June, 2-3.30pm Spectral Stories: A Melbourne Spiritualist’s carte-de-visite album with Dr Martyn Jolly, Head of Photography and Media Arts ANU. Ground floor, Building F Monash University Caulfield Campus