GOZDE MIMIKO TURKKAN
“There is no pure masculinity or femininity in any one person. On the contrary every individual person shows a mixture of his/her own biological sex characteristics with the biological traits of the other sex and a union of activity and passivity” (Donovan 2012, p.90).
JOANNE LEAH Mummies, 2018-15-15
ENDAM NIHAN Elegant Trainings, 2018 (re-edit)
“The status and shape of gender is transitory. I always feel I am becoming something else, that gender slips and slides, becomes somewhat undone and redone as I move and physically and its tremendous permeability revolve in relation without. This malleability is subtle and inexact: these art works are perhaps brief framing of it for imprecise encounter.” (Kuburovicc 2011, p.97).
‘Shedding Skins’ rediscovers the concept of becoming women in extended socio-cultural and political fields in conjunction with the female body, sexuality and contemporary art. The idea of leaving socially constructed codes of femininity or masculinity behind employs a metaphorical analysis of the exhibition title while injecting it as an inspirational factor within the reflections of challenges encountered by the artists in their everyday lives.
The exhibition intentionally touches special areas of women experience which remain as social myths until they are penetrated by personal interaction. The main idea is to challenge these social myths which are conducted as outcomes of the patriarchal definition of women either as maternal figures of the child or sexual subjects of men while being chased by their own ghosts to possess full capacity of the female body and identity. ‘Shedding Skins’ stands for individual achievements which overcomes the aftermath of restrictions and oppressions of the global society.
Rethinking female body and sexuality from a gender neutral perspective, 'Shedding Skins' aims to analyze sexuality in its three different forms: reproduction -in relation to motherhood- pornography and eroticism. While there is no further explanation required for reproduction which is a social tool to implement the concept of family with regard to marriage and monogamy, only eroticism among these three different practices of sexual activity demands emotional and mutual involvement of partners in light of seduction. On the other hand, what is pornography really for: satisfying men's non-fueling libido, a substitute for a physical activity, visual representation of unacted fantasies, expressing aggression, submission, love and passion, or a bad education for misleading practices of male sexuality?
From a Freudian perspective, the only way which is left for women to cope with their so called 'penis envy' is giving birth. Then, they can become 'untroubled mature women' and ready to mingle in the social economy. As if that were not enough, feminist history has always been associated with the resistance against patriarchy, self, motherhood and so on.. The truth is, regardless the status, financial capability or gender orientation of the person, no-one can raise a child without any help in today's societies. In parenthood the untroubled matureness only arise with a delicately balanced partnership in a gender neutral territory.
In the process of becoming mother, women's responses to their bodies in change and reforming life standards with different priorities define both limits and capabilities of the female body which once was whole with 'to-be-formed human beings' by the words of Mary Kelly on Intersubjectives (List 2009, p.23). Considering motherhood from the broader perspective in conjunction with reproduction, social norms and the idea of new human (current use of 'the new women'); Joanne Leah analyzes her first hand experience of motherhood as a new field of discovery and a contradictory engagement with her artistic creativity in the same way that she creates interpretation of women experience in relation to socially oppressed and submissive practices of sexuality. Transforming this personal and private observation into her art practice, Leah emerges the idea of motherhood as a social and cultural project which allows her to develop instinctive answers in a form of visual expression and self-awared creativity.
Sexuality is an initial and unfiltered potion of the existence. It is the one which is concealed, censored and ignored regardless of its lethally productive power that awaits in silence to take over our consciousness by ever ending cycles of desires, fantasies, lust, passion and pleasure. However, the latest developments of the Western societies have created a deep and complex gap between how sexuality is experienced in personal and private level and how it is consumed and represented in socio-cultural aspects of everyday exposure. The ultimate picture of sexuality today is, as Barthes points out, that ‘sex is everywhere, except in sexuality’ (cited in Baudrillard 1990, p.5).
Defining the roots of sexuality, the term ‘sex’ was first used in the sixteenth century to refer biological division of humanity (male and female) which is also the foundation of today’s gender binarism. In the nineteenth century, it was used to refer ‘the physical relations between these polarized sexes, to have sex’ (Weeks 2008, p.4). In addition, the term of ‘sexuality’ was linked to ‘the development of diverse fields of knowledge (embracing the biological mechanisms of reproduction as well as the individual or social variants of behaviour); and the establishment of a set rules and norms’ (Foucault 2008, p.362). In ‘The Use of Pleasure’ (1987) Foucault analyses sexuality as ‘a historically singular experience’ that individuals recognize themselves as subjects of sexuality in relation to ‘the formation of sciences’ (medicine and psychiatry) and ‘the systems of power that regulate practice of sexuality’. He also claimes that a study on development of sexuality is not complete if the issues of desire and the subject of desire are ignored.
Li Xinmo's readings of female body and sexuality suggests as an epic interpretation and questions the gap between the potentials of sexuality, that can be grasped by an individual perception, and socially imposed exhortations. The feature of violence in a poetic visualization rises in her works originated from the violence which fuels sexuality. ‘People’s personal lives in the domestic sphere were seen as necessarily split off from the public and rational world of production and the market, and a potential treat to that world’ (Segal 1994, p.89). The social regulation’s approach to female sexuality had detrimental effect on women that resulted as their abandonment from sexuality. The control of female sexuality actually meant to control femininity in general which included all sorts of social and private behaviours of women. Medicalization became a form of the legitimization and prohibition of the particular forms of sexual activities in both private and public spheres, because of its fundamental claim which abolished women from any sexual related activities, such as masturbation, lascivious dreams, and lesbian relationships, sexual intercourse, putting objects in the vagina and urethra, clitoral orgasm’ (Groneman 1994, p.343). The labels which referred to a woman who was involved in any sexual conduct varied from nymphomaniac (Groneman 1994) to unchaste woman and frigid (Edwards 1981) and the symptoms of so-called illnesses in social basis were linked to the certain behaviours: smoking, the choice of slang words, and extravagance in clothing, etc.
By the end of the nineteenth century, there was a shift in medicine from gynaecology to psychoanalysis that came with a purpose of exploring human sexuality and the unconscious. Freud’s study focused on the unconscious and the infantile desires. According to his phallocentric view, it was claimed that there was no libido other than the masculine one (Rose 1982, p.27). The idea of the feminine identity was bounded with the penis envy which was of course criticized by the feminist theorists. However, in the last decade of twentieth century, Lacan extended and developed Freud’s concept of the unconscious by restoring the ideas of subjectivity and femininity.His analysis on subjectivity and sexual identity, which are linked to the idea of ‘mirror stage’ became the basis of feminist criticism on female sexuality.
The decisiveness in the works of Guler Ates offers unforeseen. Silhouettes which appear at enigmatic surroundings, mostly ripped from the history, denote genderlessness although they constitute a hint of womanhood because of their connection to the veil. The way of Ates uses the textile states an unnatural connection of the body with architectural space. Using body and space as a creative medium through the knowledge of the East in conjunction with dialects of the West is her artistic signature formed in texture, colors, body and specific spacial references. Eroticism arises in her works which is based on constant invention, elaboration, taming and regulation of sexual impulse with its infinite variety in its application. Although 'sexuality makes eroticism possible, eroticism transcends reproduction through its capacity to elaborate sexual experience and invent a separate realm of associated pleasures' (Featherstone 1999, p.1). Therefore, eroticism is accepted as ‘a matter of passing from the licit to the forbidden’ (p.124). Eroticism as a foul, dangerous and equivocal form of sexuality exists in ‘the violation of rules’ because of its illicit values (p.124). The fear of unknown concealed in her artistic visualization makes Ates's works to connect to the affection of eroticism.
Similarly Naomi Safran-Hon's paintings picture a specific condition of architecture with absent of figures indicate a woman's touch of healing on spaces which are demolished by the human cause and the nature's dissonance. Safran-Hon's artistic motivation is nourished by the power of women while investigating a socio-political history and cultural heritage away from her birth country and the one is currently accommodated. Her works replies to nowness in the same way absence seduces presence. As Baudrillard states that 'seduction does not consist of a simple appearance, nor a pure absence, but the eclipse of a presence' (1990, p.85). Her works also create a bonding bridge with the works of Leah and Ates with regard to how they decode the concepts, colors, forms and lines in their own ways.
One of the latest series of Gozde 'Mimiko' Turkkan titled 'Now You See Me' explicitly focuses on the starting scenes of amateur pornography. In her re-simulated scenes, Turkkan captures vulnerability, aggression, changing dynamics of power and most importantly the game of seduction. Positioning her artist-self as a creator of the image, model and viewer, which has been a powerful tool throughout the feminist art practice, Mimiko’s investigation in the female body and sexuality is initially inspired by today’s new lifestyles like crossfit, martial arts and neo-fitness which allow women to rediscover their repressed physical strength, and her lifetime interest in the Far East cultures.
Just like a performance of ritual ceremony is displayed by a Shaman that captures the secrecy of the earth and the sky, Endam Nihan's works reveal the transcendental energies of womanhood. Shamanic tools in her bold and fearless artistic vision transform into intimacy toys which unhesitantly penetrate into the artist's vagina and become the ultimate observer, the witness. Her research in the female sexuality and identity begins with the most familiar one -herself- and mostly develops indomitable will as a response to unfamiliar social occasions. Arguments men usually use to degrade women through their nature, like being emotional, gentile, sensitive, illogical and caring which are some of the values what make someone a human, also overlaps the qualities that men seek on their potential marry-able partners. And the rest belongs to the dark side of the medallion! Her video in this exhibition states as elegantly designed intellectual counter attacks during a physical training.
GULER ATES . photography
b. 1977 in Turkey, lives and works in London, UK
She graduated in 2008 from the Royal College of Art with a MA in Fine Art. Currently, she is Digital Print Tutor at the Royal Academy Schools. Her work can be found in the print collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Royal Academy of Art, Government Collection, Museum Van Loon, Oude Kerk in Amsterdam, the MAR in Rio de Janeiro and at Eton College. Ates’ work has been exhibited at the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy for the last several years as well as in solo exhibitions; Eton College, Windsor (February 2018), Museum Van Loon, Amsterdam (September 2017), Oude Kerk, Amsterdam (September 2016), HOSB, London (June 2015), Spazio NEA, Naples, Italy (May 2015), Art First, London (February 2015), Marcelle Joseph Projects, London (December 2014), Warmond Castle with Marian Cramer Projects, Amsterdam (September 2014) and Rio de Janeiro (April 2014). Ates has completed residencies at Eton College (2015) and in Rio de Janeiro (2013-2014), Istanbul (2014) and India (2009 and 2012).
ENDAM NIHAN . multi-media,performance
b. 1987 in Turkey, lives and works in Florida
She graduated with a BFA in Visual Arts from Sabanci University in 2010 and continued her education at Syracuse University with an MFA in Art Video in 2015. From 2013-2015 she co-curated five iterations of Spark Performance, a regional and international gathering of emerging performance artists in Syracuse, NY. Additionally she is a member of the video art collective Troll Food. Previous exhibitions include: Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina, Canada (2018), Trinity Square Video, Toronto, Canada (2017), Rapid Pulse Performance Art Festival, Chicago, USA (2017/14), Friche la Belle de Mai, Marseille, France (2016), Feminist Media Studio, Montreal, Canada (2016), Think Tank Gallery, Los Angeles, USA (2016), Mykonos Multimedia Festival, Mykonos, Greece (2016). Flux Factory, New York, USA, (2015) and BodyAnxiety.com (2015).
JOANNE LEAH . photography,moving image
b. 1978 in Germany, lives and works in Brooklyn, New York
She graduated in 2002 from Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts with a BFA in Fashion Design. Her most recent exhibitions in New York, USA include a solo booth at Scope Art Show curated by Lori Zimmer and Melissa McCaig-Welles (2018), ACID MASS, a solo show at Not For Them Gallery in Long Island City (2017), NSFW: Female Gaze, a group show at the Museum of Sex (2017) and Deanna Evans Projects in Brooklyn (2018) and a public mural project with Save Art Space in Hell’s Kitchen (2016). She founded the organization ArtistsAgainstCensorship.com, which is currently collecting resources and the stories of artists who have experienced social media censorship.
NAOMI SAFRAN-HON . painting
b. 1984 in England, lives and works in Brooklyn, New York
She graduated from Summa Cum Laude from Brandeis University, with BA in Studio Art and Art History in 2008 and received an MFA from Yale University School of Art in 2010. In 2003 Safran-Hon received the Young Artist Award from the Hecht Museum, Haifa University. She exhibited in The Rear the first Herzliya Biennial of Contemporary Art 2007, Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art. In the US Safran-Hon’s work has been included in the following exhibitions: Fresh Paint at Reynolds Gallery, Richmond, VA.; Evocatecture, Heather James Fine Art, Palm Desert, CA.; Unhinged , Gallery 263, Cambridge, MA.; Forest of the Trees, Heather James Fine Art, Jackson, WY.; Uncommon Commencement, Heather James Fine Art, Palm Desert, CA. In New York, Safran-Hon’s work had been featured in a solo exhibition at Slag Gallery, in two group shows at Marianne Boesky Gallery and P.P.O.W Gallery as well as at the non for profit NURTUREart in Brooklyn. Her video/performance work was included in the festival Handheld History, at Queens Museum of Art, New York, NY, and at Time After Time, Actions and Interactions, Southern Exposure, San Francisco, CA. She is represented by Slag Gallery New York.
GOZDE 'MIMIKO' TURKKAN . photography, moving image
b. 1984 in Turkey lives and works in Istanbul, Turkey
She graduated in 2008 from Istanbul Bilgi University with a BA in Visual Communication Design. She continued her education in the University of London, Center Saints Martins College of Art and Design where she