Women in the world of Arts: How can we crack it?
FLAXzine, March 2nd, 2018 / Article by Lanna Idriss
The title of the series of images by the German artist, Annegret Soltau, created in 1978, is: ‘Ich bedrückt,’ or, ‘Me depressed.’ The work suggests a psychological depth and spreads melancholia. The artist herself fades away. The transformation into a cocoon shows us a level of isolation and secession that challenges us as soon as we process the information that the art work was produced right after Annegret Soltau learned that she was pregnant.
In summer 2016 when Marina Abramovic said that having children would have been a disaster for her work, a massive discussion arose. As there are just a few female superstars in the art world –Abramovic being one of them – we should not be surprised that the responses were rough and judgmental. The conflict in society around whether women can obtain equality and be rewarded with the same opportunities for participation as men very much extends to the world of arts. Perhaps it is even more strongly felt than in other sectors. Why? The image of the women as the saint and/or the whore has been depicted nowhere as intensely – and obviously with the right set of skills – as in the art world.
In the same year, when asked about how raising children has affected her work, Diana al Hadid responded: “No, my work hasn’t changed, and you wouldn’t ask a man that question. […] No one presumes it’s going to change (a man’s) work – their work is their work and their private life is their private life.” The interesting thing is that this phrase could have been uttered by any other woman: a doctor, a teacher or a businesswoman. The fact that the same number of female artists rank in top positions in the German art world equals the percentage of female top managers of the 30 largest German companies – this needs to be cracked!
In her landmark essay written in 1972, Linada Nochlin asks, “Why have there been no great women artists?” It feels like there has been some change (though let us be cautious in our assumptions for hope).
In 2005, 32% of female museum directors were women. In 2015, in America, 42,6% were women. But in Germany, only 5% of the artists presented in the Modern Art Departments of the museums are female. Some better news comes from Documenta graphs that show a clear positive development
So what do to next? Keep going, there is improvement, but there is much work to be done, and activism is necessary! So, please: research, analyze, network, resist, act and change!
Those who are inspired to start now, have a look at the links below that are full of diverse information relating to the subject of the article:
Iphigenie, Tales of Women Waiting to be Told
FLAXzine, March 2nd, 2018 / Article by Zeina Kanawati
The Greek theater is revived again in Syrian Iphigenie, a play written by Mohammed Al-Attar and directed by Omar Abu Saada, presented by a group of Syrian women who arrived to Germany under varying circumstances.
Iphigenie, sacrificed by her father in the original play to please the gods, is embodied again in the sacrifices of Syrian women who let go of their former lives in the hope of a better future. But have they reached safety after passing from war to peace? Have the bonds between the past and the present been completely severed so these women can venture up new roads?
The stage is empty except for a chair. The women alternate, one by one, sitting on the chair and telling their stories under the light. They sit in an audition interview supervised by another Syrian woman who is videotaping the performances on the stage.
The camera’s eye represents society’s view of each of these young women, and the discomfort this gaze causes them. Sometimes, the actresses ask to stop filming, at which point reveal secrets about their inner feelings and thoughts.
The thin line between reality and representation disappears in a single story, where the viewer cannot distinguish between the real story of each actress and the representative scene. Each of them connects her personal experience directly to Iphigenie in the original play and her complex relationship with her father, who was forced to sacrifice her despite his love for her. This experience is reflected in the women’s relationship with their families and society back home, after having to make the impossible decision to leave their home country forever.
An Empty Stage Full of Stories The stories of the Syrian women are laying their weight on the empty stage, which embodies the new place that has not yet taken its final shape or identity. The women have not yet managed to separate from their home country, nor have they succeeded in fixing their roots in the new place. Each one of them has her own moment of sparkle while telling her story, particularly when creative memory awakens and the actresses start singing, dancing or doing what they were happy doing back home. However, choosing these actresses was not an easy task, and it took time and effort to train them, as none are professional actresses. But as a result, throughout the play, the text had space to change based on the real stories and experiences shared by the actresses. Their feelings and emotions became the centerpiece of each scene. Actress Diana Kaddah said that the performance was psychologically and emotionally taxing at the beginning, but she began to reconcile with her own feelings after performing it many times, and the experience became part of Diana’s emotional and psychological growth. The more she performed, the better she felt. “It’s a new step towards accepting the past and being be able to move forward,” she said. Why Now?
Iphigenie represents the final part of three plays undertaken by Mohammad Al Attar and Omar Abu Saada since 2013. They introduced Trojan women in Jordan, Antigone in Lebanon and finally, Iphigenie in Germany. Although it was a coincidence to have the plays performed in these locations, it’s very similar to the path of the diaspora, followed by displaced Syrians searching for stability and safety.
“We chose to tell the stories of the women who paid the biggest price since the beginning of the revolution in Syria. They had the greatest sacrifices. Their struggles were not limited to standing up to political power, but they challenged a patriarchal society. However, their stories are still not heard, and their presence in fighting the political and social authorities is still ignored,” Mohammad said.
The Syrian Memory Iphigenie explores Syrian collective memory, and the complex feelings encountered in the details of everyday life. The present collapses in the face of the abandoned memories, and a familiar song can trigger the painful emotions. Despite this, Syrian women prove their miraculous ability to stand up again every morning to complete the path and make it as smooth as possible, to give their lives meaning and their memories a new home.