Martha Wilson has been a singular personality in the history of American art since the early 1970s. Along with Hannah Wilke and Eleanor Antin, she was one of the first artists to use her own body to question social representations of the feminine, through her performances, videos and photographs. By altering her physical appearance, she challenges the identity stereotypes of a neoliberal America. Her pioneering work pointed the way to territories later conquered by other contemporary artists like Cindy Sherman and Martha Rosler, or by feminist philosophers like Judith Butler.
In her New York apartment in 1976, she founded Franklin Furnace, an alternative space dedicated to artistic experimentation and the conservation of that avant-garde’s artist books, videos, and performances. And in 1978 she formed the “conceptual punk” group Disband, mixing performance and music, with women artists who did not know how to play any instrument.
She began her performance work through political satires, presenting herself as the First Lady (Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Melania Trump) or as Donald Trump. Her artistic practice maintains an almost intrinsic relationship with language. Her photographic works are always accompanied by texts. She considers this photographic practice, which she supplements with comments, as “a place of intersection between image and text”.
The Invisible exhibition follows the trajectory of a career characterised by the challenge of “the radical reinvention of the image of women by women” (Lucy Lippard), the deconstruction of stereotypes surrounding female beauty and the so-called feminine ideal, with one major issue: that of age and more precisely the question of the invisibility of the 70 year old woman, through a set of photographs, performance videos, artist’s books and archive documents.
By means of the camera or the photographic lens, it is therefore a question of revealing the political dimension of the body, particularly the female body, especially in the decades that characterise our society of the spectacle. Here, what Martha Wilson shows is a body that resists the canonical injunctions of beauty as envisaged in our Western societies and imposes itself by revealing them and playing with them.
Also on display at Frac Sud until October 29th:
Hamish Fulton, A Walking Artist
This programme is featured as part of the Frac’s 40th anniversary and the 10th anniversary of the Frac’s building with its participation in the Biennale de la Joliette.
On this occasion, the Frac Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur has changed its name to become Frac Sud – Cité de l’art contemporain.