The Female Machine

July 8 - August 26, 2006

works by Dawolu Jabari Anderson, Delia Brown, EV Day, Sarah Anne Johnson, Jason Meadows, Fay Ray,
Amy Sarkisian, Kirsten Stoltmann, and John Williams

The premise for this exhibition was borne of a confluence of diverse media and information.  After reading about the alleged rape of a stripper by members of the Duke University lacrosse team, I was disturbed to say the least. The ostensible rape of a black woman by affluent white university students brought to mind all sorts of ugly realities. The incident has inflamed the sexual, racial and class tensions that are continually boiling beneath the surface of society.

Later that day, I was watching a documentary about Marcel Duchamp, an artist whose work has traversed major movements in art history and continues to have a heavy influence on many artists today.  Duchamp's extremely self-conscious labor tends toward amusement and irony, with the artist's hand (or brain) always in the foreground of how the work is perceived. During the industrial revolution, there was intense interest in the automation of everyday life and the aesthetics of machinery, and Duchamp made sporting use of this line of thinking, as well as inquiries into the nature of gender and sexuality. "Rose Selavy", Duchamp's female persona, was especially interesting in light of the sordid story at Duke University. How progressive an artist was Duchamp to have raised such gender/sexuality issues in the early twentieth century. Was Duchamp acting in violence, or showcasing his desire to be a woman? For time eternal, the female body has been a charged site of aggression, violence, beauty, politics, and desire, and as an idea/symbol, has been used to sell everything from lifestyle, agenda, glamour, to beer.

Reflecting on this massive dose of information, I realized the many levels of gray between the black and white on the playing field of sexual politics. I became curious about the nature of charged and deliberate sexual content in the work of contemporary artists. The "machine" of gender ideology cranks on into the current information revolution, lubricated by lust, vanity, violence, and love. This exhibition is a sampling of recent engagements with the female gender/sex theme, and encourages ongoing dialogue over finite answers.

-Katie Brennan