Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lyndal Jones - The Avoca Project (2008 - )


Lyndal Jones is a Sydney-born artist who began experimenting professionally with performance art (from a visual arts basis) during the late 1970s starting with her At Home series (1977 - 1980, 5 solo performances). Within her performances she combined feminist influences with poststructural concepts and practices. Thus her performances were typically fragmented and disjointed in regard to their overall structure and narrative.
Jones critically analysed aspects of patriarchal culture from a feminist informed perspective. She dismissed patriarchal authority by representing woman as subject who was able to manipulate materials and images and express ideas. Thus she presented concepts and images of women who were alert, analytical and non-passive possessors of power and knowledge.
By the mid-1980s Jones's feminist ideologies demonstrated characteristically 1980s attitudes and beliefs, advocating an intellectualised and theoretically-based feminist practice. She created performances which served as critiques of 1970s feminism, rejecting the idea of exclusively female content in art while asserting the social construction of gender.
Lyndal Jones focused predominantly on performance art and performative visual arts practices through until the 2000s. From the 2000s, Jones began to engage with film and sound, creating a number of video projections with sound. Her videos still often included performative aspects. In her Crying Man (2003) interactive video installation she attributed male refusal to express certain emotions to socially constructed notions of gender appropriate public behaviour. When audience members walked close enough to the projection screen which showed the man crying, a sensor caused him to appear as if he was aware of being watched. The video then switched to one of him appearing embarrased and self-conscious.
From 2008 Lyndal Jones has been attempting a large environmentally-based community art project entitled the Avoca Project. The project attempts to highlight climate change from a visual arts perspective. The artwork is a large house located on property in Victoria. The house, the rooms of the house and parts of the surrounding landscape will be the sites of various art installations. The Avoca Project is a very unique Australian-based art project, the results of which will establish a new direction for art production both locally and internationally. The Avoca Project is definitely one to keep an eye on.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

art:women - group exhibition 11 Feb – 28 Feb 2009, Benedict House, Queanbeyan.


The exhibition art:women was described by the organisers as “exploring notions of the depiction of women in art, representations of women, exploring ideas about gender, body, sex and the female form”.
This ambitious sentence attempts to address decades of feminist intuitive and intellectual exploration in the visual and performing arts. Consequently I became very nervous about the exhibition content I was about to experience.
Upon first inspection most of the works appeared to visually appropriate 1970s feminist art practices which relied heavily on the depiction of women and the domestic and private aspects of women’s lives as experienced within western patriarchal society.
I then became anxious that these artists would be open to the criticisms that were typical of 1980s feminist artists. That is, I was concerned that these artists would be accused of helping to objectify and stereotype women as the majority of 1970s feminist artists had been. However if one spends time considering the works and the intellectual thought processes of the artists then it is clear that most are actively creating feminist influenced works that have contemporary relevance and theoretical and intellectual importance.
Both Catherine Bennetts-Cash and Lydia Ashe showed works in this exhibition that demonstrated strong aesthetic and technical ability as well as individualistic intellectual explorations regarding aspects of the female experience and domesticity. Their aesthetic and theoretical investigations aid in creating and establishing potential options for the continued development of contemporary feminist art practices. Since the 1990s which was dominated by feminist explorations into sexuality and the areas of grey that exist between the modernist binary of female/male, feminist influenced artists have had little coherence or direction as a visual arts movement. (Jill Orr’s performance Marriage of the Bride to Art, 1994, is an example of Australian feminist influenced artists addressing issues of sexuality and androgyny during the 1990s).
Both Bennetts-Cash and Ashe conduct their feminist analyses from a psychological perspective. They address various psychological and cognitive anxieties that may be experienced by women in response to modern expectations of women that exist within a western society that has remained largely patriarchal. They both combine these expectations and anxieties with concepts of the modern domestic space. These artists have created works which represent a convergence of anxiety-ridden psychological spaces, the contemporary female experience and domesticity. The themes that are addressed in their works represent a coherence of feminist analysis that has historically proven to be rare in the visual arts.
While their artistic explorations are undeniably unique, the focus on psychological conditions unites their artistic practices. This focus on psychological anxieties as experienced by contemporary women in relation to the domestic in their feminist social analyses establishes a precedent that is relevant to contemporary society and which other feminist influenced visual and performing artists may take influence from.