In and qualities of performance art and consider the

In my essay, I aim to examine the context and qualities of
performance art and consider the impressions they leave upon the wider practice
of feminist art. I have focused on artist from like Carolee Schneemann, Martha
Rosler, Brigit Jurgenssen and
Annegret Soltau from the Second Wave Feminist movement as I feel that their
works give good example of the diverse use of performance to convey a feminist
agenda. I will write from about performance in relation to Second Wave Feminist
and their rejection of gender-roles and expectations of sexuality and the
female body; as opposed to the contemporary feminist perspective which
concentrates on a more general sense of equality.

Performance art derived from the Dadaist and Futurist
movements, both of which materialised in Europe during the First World War.
While both movements where anarchic and nihilistic, they snubbed the values of
the era and began rejecting the traditions of fine art while adopting the
avant-garde nature of performance. Although, it wasn’t until the 1960/70s that
the idea of ‘performance’ was truly embraced into the mainstream art world, being
used in the practice of numerous conceptual artist, including several whom worked
from a feminist perspective. While the art world was historically
male-dominated, performance had no previous gender-claim, allowing female artists
to take claim of the medium. Performance not only opposed the norms in the art
world, but it gave the feminist movement the platform to further challenged the
norms and values of the patriarchal societies they were surrounded by. The
feminist movement always held a political view on inequality, and performance
gave them the ideal medium to convey their female agenda, pushing boundaries
and shock audiences to put their point across.  In
Judith Butlers book ‘Gender Trouble:
Feminism and The subversion of Identity’ she argued the point that gender
is a form of ‘improvised performance’ and that ‘there is no gender identity
behind the expressions of gender;… identity is performatively constituted by
the very “expressions” that are said to be its results’. Meaning that idea of gender
is merely performance; it’s the actions you make at certain times and how you
do them rather than a general sense of who you are. I think a noticeable
realization of Butler’s theory is Martha Rosler’s ‘Semiotics of the Kitchen’ (1975), a piece in which the artist
essentially parodies popular female gender roles by merging it with the field
of semiotics (the study of signs and symbols). Rosler filmed herself using and
going through various kitchen utensils alphabetically, whilst gesturing the
actions related to the object at hand.  As
the performance progresses her movement with the kitchen instruments begins to
become more aggressive, sharp and quick; almost masculine like. Rosler’s
deadpan delivery and exaggerated movements
make it clear that her aim is to satirize the idea of the ‘housewife’ drawn
from the popular television cooking shows of the 1960’s.  I think Rosler is noticeably showing a link to
Butler’s idea of ‘gender performativity’ as she is criticising and juxtaposing
typical gender roles through not only her use of masculine movement but also
the way she parodies a typically female-dominated platform. I feel that this is
a significant point to speak about when discussing the importance of performance and its impress on female and feminist artist,
as Rosler has been able to a create a role that discards the cultural
assumption of how women should ‘perform’ their everyday gender roles.Another
piece that confronts gender roles and the idea of the ‘Housewife’ in a similar
way is Birgit Jurgenssen’s ‘Housewives’ Kitchen Apron’ (1974-75), in which the
artist dressed herself with a mobile oven and stove. There is a sense of humour
in Jurgenssen’s work that reminds me of Sarah-Lucas style puns. For example, in
this piece Jurgenssen has a bun in her over, a literal bun rather than a
metaphorical one. By physically ‘wearing’ the oven, she is implying that is a
‘master of the kitchen’1
in some sense. The garment itself has an impracticality to it, creating a sense
of irony. The piece itself bring domestic arguments to the attention of the
viewer, representing the social constraints on women through a physical sense.
She is using ‘the kitchen’ to physically confine herself, mirroring how the
same objects are used to confine women politically and enforce gender roles.
This piece displays Jurgenssen’s frustration between male domination and female
domesticity, she is using her body not only as a platform for drawing attention
to but also but poke fun at female gender roles and the ‘Housewife’ ideal.

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