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FEATURE: The voice of the "new feminism"

Published on Contemporary feminists pay tribute to the Women Liberation Movement of 1960’s and Sexual Revolution of the 1970’s, but prefer to choose different paths towards the same goals. The words “voyeurism” and “objectification” is now the in thing of feminist artist’s vocabulary. However, the voice of the “new feminism” is still variegated.

Anna Kolosova, 24, is a London-based artist from Latvia who is trying to adapt the concept of combined paintings, invented by Robert Rauschenberg in 1950’s. Andie Macario, 25, who moved to London from Brazil, names Marina Abramovich, Carolee Schneemann and the Viennese actionists as her role models and is exploring the boundaries of the performance art. 
“I’m quite cynical about the nature and how we are made,” says Anna. “For example, a woman, who, let’s say, have had an intercourse with a man, she gets attached to that man, regardless of her will power. And that’s unfair, because, men, mostly, are programmed to not get attached. So, it’s kind of a masochistic life, but not really. It’s kind of a vicious circle.”

Anna has a series of works called “Live Combine”, where she is widely using herself as an object. For example, chaining herself to the walls outside. “I wear what is considered as “sexy” outfit and I look attractive, I think,” Anna tells. “I want people to perceive me as a pretty object, but, at the same time, this object doesn’t allow to touch it, you can talk to it, but it really can’t do too much, so it’s a bit provocative that way.”

The most feminism-driven work of Andie Macario to date is “Meat Slap” — a collaborative act with a postmodernist artist Victor Ivanov. The performance was initially filmed as a 10-minute test video and then put aside. But after being uploaded on Vimeo, suddenly became very popular: “We were both really shocked. Well, I can imagine, for the obvious reasons, for the visual reasons, you know: a girl, with her breast out, being slapped by a piece of steak — I guess, it makes sense that it went viral.”

The feedback on this performance was very mixed and could be divided in three major categories. The first one obviously consisted of the criticism from the male part of the audience and could easily be described with a word “men being sexist and misogynistic.” The second third of the audience accused them in trying to get “brownie points”. Even the most favourable part of the audience interpreted this work as a metaphor of masculinity and female objectification. But Andie herself finds this connection quite strange.

The most interesting and indicative thing in the whole “Meat Slap” story was the fact that, even though it was a collaborative act, the one who got the main brunt of criticism was Andie. “I’ve got the worst of it,” she complains. “It’s okay for the male body to be on the show. But people have a huge problem when it’s a female body, especially the nude female body. Because, when you’re getting a male artist who is doing a nude performance, people will always see them like ‘Oh, they are men, they’re just naked’, but with a female it’s always like ‘She’s an object’. And that’s really strange that you can never remove sort of sexual desire from the female body.”

In the last 20 years the most widespread term, attributed to the feminism is the word “intersectionality”. The cornerstone of the so-called “intersectional feminism” is the fact that it is completely inclusive and can be applied to almost everyone, regardless of their race, gender or class. It has stepped more on the field of Human Rights, especially with the spread of the people that don’t identify themselves as either male or female.

“I went to the various feminist events or talks, and every time a man spoke — he got shut down,” Andie explains. “That really frustrates me. It’s pretty much about middle-class white women, which isn’t necessarily a problem, but if we are going to smash the hierarchy as it were, everyone needs to be included in that conversation. Because women’s liberation affects men as much as it does women. Maybe, they don’t realise that, but it does.”

For feminist artists it is very hard to separate their feminist politics from their work, as it implies a deep personal involvement. However, the level of this “immersion” may be quite different.

“I do sex work in porn under various different names, and at the moment I’m kind of trying to bring both that and my art together. Because that’s the reason why I got into the sex industry— because I was creating these art works about objectification,” Andie Macario admits. “You know, it’s one thing to talk about things and other thing to actually experience it and live through it. Because I feel like I don’t have a valued voice otherwise. Unless I experienced it. For me, this kind of stuff is still a performance, that’s how I see it.”

However, Anna Kolosova, who works as a receptionist and thus used to be experiencing objectification on a daily basis, has an opposite point of view: “I think, it’s a very slight line. If a woman positions herself as a body that sells — that’s fair enough, you can objectify her,” she says. “We also sometimes objectify men, that’s fine. I objectify men a lot as well. I just don’t like macho men who use their power in a wrong way, when they belittle women and make them feel just like a sexual object and nothing else. So, there has to be a right place for everything.”

The widely acclaimed performance of the most prominent feminist protest group of the last 4 years “Pussy Riot” doesn’t cause the unanimous admiration among Andie and Anna. “I think what they’ve done is absolutely fantastic,” Andie says. “The fact that they got arrested and it became spread around the world, it kind of brought people to the cause. I get what they’re doing.” 

“I don’t really like what “Pussy Riot” have done,” Anna argues. “I don’t believe they should have been put in jail — that’s a bit too much, too cruel, perhaps, but, I think that just to prove a point, you shouldn’t make a performance in front of a Central Cathedral in a country where most of the people will be offended by it. I find it very disrespectful.”

“There’s been conspiracy theories about how it’s all run by a man,” Andie suggests. “Even if it is — men can still be feminists.”

Image credits: thebroad.org
This article was written on 15 December 2014 as an assignment in Arts and Culture Journalism module at City University London