So Much I Want to Say: From Annemiek to Mother Courage is the fifth presentation of works from the Goetz Collection at Haus der Kunst and opens tomorrow. The title is borrowed from an early video work by Mona Hatoum from 1983. It is based on the material of a performance: While Mona Hatoum’s voice repeatedly says, “So Much I Want to Say”, images depict a woman’s face being obscured by men’s hands. Born in Beirut in 1952, Hatoum’s works focus on individuals who are socially marginalised and silenced because of their origin and gender. Works by female artists constitute nearly half of the pieces in Ingvild Goetz’s collection of media art. These works represent and illustrate the key stages of the feminist discourse and feminist film theory since the 1970s. With works by Chantal Akerman, Andrea Bowers, Rineke Dijkstra, Cheryl Donegan, Mona Hatoum, Lucy McKenzie & Paulina Olowska, Tracey Moffatt, Ulrike Ottinger, Ryan Trecartin, Rosemarie Trockel, and T.J. Wilcox.
With her piece Letters to an Army of Three, 2005, Andrea Bowers addresses a classic 1960s feminist issue – the commitment to legalise abortion. The Army of Three consisted of three activists working in the San Francisco Bay area who, from 1964 to 1973, advocated abortion and helped those affected by providing them with a list of physicians. The composition of monochromatic backgrounds, each with different floral arrangements placed on a table, is reminiscent of 18th and 19th century portrait painting. Seated facing the camera, actresses and actors each read one of 35 letters from men and women who describe their plights and ask for help in terminating their pregnancies. Each bouquet is unique and individually designed to represent the spectrum of individual fates. The succession underscores the fact that unwanted pregnancies are not just exceptions sanctioned by the law and society.
Tracey Moffatt’s and Rosemarie Trockel’s contributions focus on breaking open gender roles. Moffatt is concerned with the diminished representation of women, particularly of women of colour, in films. In her video collage Lip, 1999, produced with Gary Hillberg, she strings together scenes from Hollywood productions. In the role of the attendant the coloured women merely have the choice of being either attentive and submissive, or negligent and insubordinate. The video’s title refers to the expression “to give lip”, i.e. to talk back. The film’s pointed editing exposes the inadequate one-dimensional view of the characters.
In Nice Coloured Girls, 1987, Moffatt exhibits the cinematic techniques employed to represent power relations by reversing gender stereotypes. Her video is a counterpoint to a paradox addressed by film theory: Although women are ubiquitous in movies, they occupy determining roles far less often than do men. In Nice Coloured Girls, three Australian Aborigine women hook a drunken white man, their “captain”. They eat, drink, and amuse themselves at his expense only to steal his wallet in the end and disappear in a taxi. They are the actors who degrade the man to an object. The alternation between subtitles and a male voice from the off corresponds to a change in narrative levels. The speaker represents the position of the male colonisers in the 18th century, whereas the subtitles comment on current events as seen from the perspective of women who rise above gender entrapment, role models and submission.
Rosemarie Trockel’s Fan 1-6 from 2000 examines the veneration cult surrounding Brigitte Bardot. In a series of short scenes that directly or indirectly depict Bardot, Trockel unfolds the contradictions of this figure with subtle humour. While Bardot sings of her desires in the song Mr. Sun, 1968 – “only you understand how lonely I am” – the camera pans around an old-fashioned Heiliger-brand stove and several women step into the role of Bardot, dramatically made up, as a child-woman, animal rights activist, or seductress. “She has this quality of being a model for everything,” says Trockel about Bardot and the seemingly limitless ideas projected onto her persona, who remains unaffected by them.
With its plot structure of heroine, adventure, and homecoming, Ulrike Ottinger’s Johanna d’Arc of Mongolia, 1989 resembles a fairy tale. Four very different women meet on the Trans-Siberian Railway – a Broadway singer, a secondary school teacher, an ethnographer, and a backpacker. Their particular characters are outlined in the interior of the train wagons. After the women are abducted by a Mongolian princess and her female entourage, the action moves outside and becomes a journey on foot and horseback, with the kidnappers through the extraordinary natural beauty of Inner Mongolia. Each woman reacts differently to the unknown: Going on a hunt, living in yurts, witnessing events and rituals. In the wilderness of the steppe and in the communion of the kidnappers, the four women explore their self-image anew – in terms of their careers, sexuality, and spirituality.
Works by female artists constitute nearly half of the pieces in Ingvild Goetz’s collection of media art. Significantly, Cheryl Donegan’s lustful video Untitled (Head) was Goetz’s first purchase. She acquired the work in 1993, the year it was created. As a whole, the works in her media art collection represent the key stages of feminist discourse since the 1970s.
So Much I Want to Say: From Annemiek to Mother Courage, 19 April until 12 January 2014, Haus der Kunst, Prinzregentenstraße 1, 80538 Munich. www.hausderkunst.de
1.Ulrike Ottinger, Johanna d’Arc of Mongolia, 1989, courtesy Goetz Collection
2. Andrea Bowers, Letter to an Army of Three, 2005, courtesy Goetz Collection
3. Tracey Moffatt, Lip, 1999, courtesy Goetz Collection