By Atina Dimitrova
The Terrains of the Body exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, London is a well-selected collection of images and video by 17 contemporary female artists from five continents. With its elegant idea to present women both as creators and subjects of photography, the show casts a spell.
It’s inspired by the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s. In an era of continuing protest rallies for women’s rights to vote, hold public office and earn equal wages, this collection is a modern artistic revolt against misogyny.
The exhibition of 24 photos and one video installation is drawn from Washington’s National Museum of Women in the Arts, the only international museum that shows items solely by women. This 5-star journey is on display in spring 2017.
Exploring the vulnerability women face at the onset of puberty, the Dutch artist Rineke Dijkstra photographs three girls glaring at different directions at the seaside. With typical for the artist soft skin tones, she presents the girls hugging each other as if looking for assurance. The cleverly composed picture is part of her Beach and Portraits series (1992-94).
The exhibition also features a photo from Daniela Rossell’s Rich and Famous series depicting the children of upper-class Mexicans. In the photo titled Medusa (1999) we encounter Rossell lying on her bed in a transparent gown. Her hair’s laid out like the venomous snakes on the Greek monster’s head. As Medusa had the power to turn into stone her gazers, Rossell holds us spellbound with a self-portrait rich in colours.
In their encounter with the opposite sex, women are presented by the brilliant American artist Nan Goldin. The self-portrait (1983) is part of Goldin’s series The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. The photo’s in seductive palette of warm colours. The gloomy expression of Goldin dressed in a kimono and her naked boyfriend having turned his back on her resembles the thorny relationship between the sexes marked by uncomfortable silence.
Despite being small, the free exhibition by these first-rate artists is a must. For some females, art is about addressing political situations. Marina Abramovic, for example, pays tribute to her father who fought as a Yugoslav partisan in the Second World War with her video installation The Hero (2001). Marina is motionless on horseback and holds a white flag. For others, art is about using natural light and simple compositions. Hellen van Meene, for instance, portraits a girl in a see-through shirt inflating a bubble of gum next to the window (2000). Regardless of whether the artists use photography as a way to address history or simply as a diary of daily life, they prove women’s legacy in the art world.
Author of two novels published in Bulgarian. Photography lover. Journalism student at City University London