Generations of Feminism at the Henry.
– Written by Madeline Rider (Contributor, Seattle)
This weekend the Henry Art Gallery, located in the University District of Seattle, will be hosting a progressive symposium intended to facilitate discussion on an idea the burlesque community is already very familiar with: the relationship between feminism and performance. The symposium “Streaming In From The Moon” coincides with ’60s feminist icon Carolee Schneeman’s exhibit “Within and Beyond the Premises”, on display through December 20th. A “performance lecture” with Schneeman herself will kick off the event on Friday evening. The event closes Saturday evening with a series of performances curated by Wiggy Stardust including Waxie Moon, Paula the Swedish Housewife, Jesse Belle-Jones, Lydia Ransom, Marissa Rae Niederhauser (artistic director of Josephine’s Echopraxia), Tonya Lockyer, and Rosa Vissers.
As classic burlesque suffered from over-saturation and began to dwindle in the 1960s, Schneeman’s performance pieces exhibited a much more radical, in your face exploration of the female body and female identity through sexuality than the average striptease. However, her work’s ideology stemmed from a similar place as neo-burlesque, and traces of her influence can be felt in the work of many contemporary performers. The title of Mary Russo of Hampshire College’s presentation “Deep Vengeance: De-Articulating the Female Grotesque” hints to a conversation regarding the discomfort elicited by such physical and emotional disclosure. French writer and director Catherine Breillat investigates the socially innate and particularly sexist revulsion of the female body in her film “Anatomy of Hell” which, although lacking in a full dialogue surrounding female loathing, shocked audiences into discussion with un-simulated sexual intercourse. The argument made by Breillat as well as Ms. Russo and Schneeman is that what is “unwatchable”, as defined in “Anatomy of Hell”, must be watched in order to facilitate and further the feminist discourse. No longer limited to the examination of female identity, many male and gender-queer performers are using the “reveal” as a method of examining at a public level the multi-faceted role of sexuality in both their intra and inter-personal relationships. As Kate Valentine- aka Miss Astrid- of New York puts it “baring oneself unapologetically to the world — a true reveal.”
It is evident with each new throng of burlesque academy graduates, a key element to the compelling force behind neo-burlesque is the desire for a forum of self-examination and the empowerment found in the sharing of one’s found Truths. Whether or not this expression can be deemed art is subject to much to debate, and support or rejection of the argument is often dependent on the viewer’s personal preferences and ideology. Interestingly, performance curator for “Streaming In From the Moon”- Wiggy Stardust- graduated from the DXARTS (Digital Art and Experimental Media) Program at the University of Washington, whose campus is home to the Henry Art Gallery. Her senior thesis, an electronic burlesque tentatively titled Nocturnal Omission, incorporated aspects of her research within the DXARTS program as well as her independent studies within the Seattle burlesque community and was unfortunately met with backlash from her professors and deemed unworthy to stand beside her classmates work at the cumulative thesis exhibition.
“Working on this production, I did a lot of research on Carolee, and one of her essays, ‘Women In the Year 2000’ really struck a chord with me. The essay is about her art school experience, and her vision of a future in which young women artists are respected, where works by women that have been attributed to men are rightfully reattributed, and women are not censored for the works they create. Reading it was a whole art experience in and of itself- she had experienced the same thing I had. So much of her work was criticized as ‘narcissistic exhibitionism’ and censored, and she just kept on doing her thing, pulling feminist manifestos out of her vagina, making mechatronic fur wheels, kinetic theatre protests- creating works that pushed boundaries, that were political and erotic, that used her body and her intuition.”
Ironically, although previously censored by UW faculty, Wiggy will also be performing Saturday evening as part of the symposium.
The Friday night lecture Carolee Schneeman: Mysteries of Iconongraphy will begin at the Henry at 7:00pm. Tickets to the lecture are $15.00 and can be purchased here, The symposium runs Saturday from 10:00am until 9:00pm. Tickets to the symposium are free for UW Students and faculty, $15.00 for Henry members, and $25.00 for the general public and can be purchased here.