Summertime Eros & Psyche: "Millennial Feminisms" at L'Inconnue, Montreal
4863 Notre-Dame West Street, Montreal
Curated by Sarah McCutcheon Greiche
It's September already, and we've had time to reflect on the summer shows that peppered the Montreal gallery scene this year. For a start, a lesson in speed and politics: Paul Virilio, about technology but also about art, writes that in any innovation is integrated its corresponding accident. The invention of the train is also the invention of its derailment; the invention of the plane, its downfall; the invention of the boat, the shipwreck. Benjamin Bratton adds, on a dour note, that the "integration of personal social lives into information networks," — social media, and so forth — "is also their inevitable crash, taking with them the very social bonds that they contain and mediate for us." Amor Vincit Omnia? Love conquers all? That's a marketing ploy before its time. At L'Inconnue, a barely-of-age gallery in the St. Henri neighbourhood, we had the pleasure of finding a group of artists whose works seem to treat deliberately the anxieties and desires of personal and social lives in the time of information networks.
In contrast to prior traditions of feminism, at Millennial Feminisms, emotions were given free rein. The show was the result of a curatorial take on the artistic preoccupations of young female artists represented internationally at art fairs, biennials and central art world galleries today. Under an umbrella term reminiscent of the buzzwords on marketing briefs, Eleni Bagaki, Beatrice Marchi, Athena Papadopolous, Hannah Perry and Anna Uddenberg were the five international artists brought together to treat interior states and feelings with humour and coolness that might be seen as the superego's response to the unforgiving machinery of the neoliberal world order, but that would wrongly be interpreted as disaffected.
Underlying anxieties, such as psychic preoccupations and salty tears, belie Marchi's sweet pastel-coloured characters. In Amiche Forever, a friend is peer-pressured by a mediated reflection in a mirror, or screen, that prompts her to make herself "pretty." Media exerts an indelible influence on the psyche, the video seems to say, recalling an Italian prime minister who (not unlike the current American president) maintained his stern-fisted control over communication technologies and the media for decades, affecting the subconscious of youths growing up with unforgiving and unrealistic ideals. By not-too-distant contrast, underlying desires are surreptitiously integrated into Bagaki's sleek installation-like grouping of works, including stacks of printer paper with friendly-enough but sadistic maxims ("Hi! I am here to hurt you") that are vehicled, as a Trojan horse of sorts, via corporate visual language. If these two artists hail from Italy and Greece, we are curious to know more about the context and content related to their understandings of "millennial feminisms," in particular how local traditions contrast with globalized ideologies.
Not too far off, Papadopoulos' violently magenta-tinged canvas, The Scab, against a millennial pink wall, gives the uneasy impression of a mutated body part, or of several stitched and spliced together. Nail-polished chicken claws, also hanging from Papadopolous' fur pendants that look as though they were pulled from the rear-view mirror in a car, suggest the work is part of a never-healing wound that itches and must be scratched. Those pendants, in their use of mechanically reproduced objects like charms and keychains, appear to be part of a larger discourse on class and culture, though their relative cuteness makes them objects of fascination and formal contemplation.
Similarly, in a corner, hanging sadly, Uddenberg's oversized "nude broken heart," seems like a stretched-out version of a best friend charm. It was joined by a last-minute arrival, Calm and Cosy, which contorts the semblance of a female body into a rubbery pretzel in an uncompromising pose ("send nudes"), in a similar spirit to her works shown at the 9th Berlin Biennale last year. The mannequin's face is not shown, perhaps in a deliberate attempt for anonymity, and the technical materials used suggest that the acceleration of travel contracts not only time and space, but also subjective identity into a "portable" object. Hanging on the other side of the room, the smashed-in car part of Perry's er-aut-ic Action Film, Car crash sex scene. The end illustrates most clearly Virilio's notion, and Bratton's criticism, of the integral accident. In all, the grouping of artists in this show perpetuates the myth that circulates across our information networks from time to time: that there's "lie" in believer, "over" in lover, and "end" in friend." Because the group show included a roster of white artists, we're curious to see a variety of perspectives in the upcoming shows at L'Inconnue.