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Women for Women | Feminist Topics in Performance Art

It is no wonder that Insistrum as an art community is keen on constantly bringing forward topics on women in art. The issue is that many of those wonderful artists have been living in the shadow of art history for way too long and we are here to conduce to changing it. Moreover, Feminism has definitely played a major role in the liberation of women in art, and one of the most vivid examples is feminism itself in conceptual art and performance.

First of all, what is Feminism Art? Personally, I would not name it exactly an art movement, since it is timeless, despite emerging (and taking off) after the 70s. Feminist art aims to create a space for female-centered representation and highlight the omission of women's accomplishments in art and elsewhere.

This Educational Article introduces eight of the most influential women performance artists who dealt with matters of female identity, discrimination and gender equality. Artists from all around the globe who used their art as a vessel to express their nature, their worries and their protest against the up-until-then status.

Ana Mendieta

Ana Mendieta (born 1948 in Havana, Cuba) is a Cuban artist who pioneered photography, cinema, video, drawing, sculpture, and site-specific works. Exile, relocation, and coming back to nature are significant themes in her art, and they are all still highly pertinent today.

Mendieta and her sister traveled to Iowa at the age of 12 as part of the US government's refuge program for teenagers following the Cuban revolution. Mendieta eventually enrolled at the University of Iowa, and after finishing her undergraduate degree, she pursued graduate studies in art. After training as a painter, Mendieta rapidly became disenchanted with the medium and transferred to the university's new MFA in Intermedia program, where she started developing her multidisciplinary work.

Mendieta made her initial performances as a graduate student, which are still documented through photographs. Mendieta's early artwork explore the issue of violence against women, emphasizing the agony of the feminine body.

In Untitled (Glass on Body Imprints—face) (1972), Mendieta presses her face firmly against a pane of glass, disrupting the work's function as a portrait. In other words, Mendieta's images of her face seek to challenge how people see her identity. In reference to these concerns, Untitled (Facial Cosmetic Variations) depicts Mendieta changing her appearance using make-up and wigs, in some cases lightening her complexion and hair to call into question her racialization in the United States. During the Silueta performance series (1973-80), Mendieta lay down in natural environments or covered She wrapped her body in natural substances and photographed the resultant impressions or silhouettes. Untitled (1978) depicts a dark hole in a sandy terrain covered with brush, with the form of her figure indicating her body's absence.

Joan Jones

Joan Jonas is an american Video and Performance artist, born in 1936. Starting within the late 1960s, Jonas melded different impacts (extending from quiet film to enchantment appears) and unused innovations (such as convenient video cameras and TV screens) to investigate the ensnarement of the human body and its recorded picture. Her recorded exhibitions, such as Organic Honey’s Visual Telepathy and Vertical Roll (both 1972), posed questions that, within the 21st century, have as it were developed in pertinence.

Working in New York City’s scene, Jonas performed as the character Organic Honey, an overstated avatar of womanliness whose concealed face was solidified in a shy and to some degree vile grin. As she looked, she saw herself changed into “an erotic electronic seductress” making ceremonial scenes with her plumes, dolls, and mirrors.

In her powerful Mirror Piece works (started in 1969), performers carried mirrors that confronted the group of onlookers, who abruptly found themselves stood up to with their own figure. In Volcano Saga (1989), Jonas worked with Tilda Swinton to retell a conventional Icelandic story around the character Gudrun and her undertakings. It would be the primary in a arrangement of pieces centered on female characters in history and myth. In works like these, Jonas takes the role of a poet, utilizing video impacts to imbue ancient stories with a modern technology.

Marina Abramovic

I guess that this name is easily the first one that pops in mind when someone asks: name a performance artist. With more than 50 years in her artistic portfolio, Abramovic is definately one of the most influencial characters of the modern art world. She always makes innovative and creative performances that are visually interesting. Her work as well examines the relationship between performer and audience, outstandingly by including the interest of eyewitnesses to reveal new ideas of character.

As for her early life, one can say that she did not find it easy. Her parents were Yugoslav partisans in the war and followed the government led by Tito. Her grandmother took care of her until she was six, then she went back to live with her parents. Marina's parents were not happy within their marriage her mother controlled her life until she was in her mid-twenties.

However, her calling in art emerged early, since she was a child. She started studying at Belgrade's Academy of Fine Arts at 19 and finished in 1970 and until 1972 she continued her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, Croatia. Between 1973 and 1975, Abramovic taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Novi Sad. It was there that she started her career as a performance artist.

Amongs her most well-known performances are Rhythm 10 (1973), Rhythm 0 (1974), Rhythm 5 (1974), Balkan Baroque (1977), The Artist is Present (2010). Rhythm 0 is the performance where Abramovic played a detached part, with the audience taking the dynamic portion. Choosing from 72 objects before the artist, individuals of the gathering of people were allowed to utilize them on Abramovic in any way they wished, without consequences. A few objects might provide joy, others torment or hurt. It was perceived as a test of human helplessness and hostility.

Carolee Schneemann

Carolee Schneemann is an american artist whose work includes, amongs others, performance, photography, and installation. She has investigated subjects of generation and goddess symbolism, sexuality, and regular erotics, as well as her individual life story and loss.

All through her career has utilized her body to look at the part of female sensuality in association to the conceivable outcomes of political and individual freedom from overwhelmingly onerous social and stylish traditions.

In her early career Schneemann centered her work on Abstract Expressionism. She delivered numerous pieces, but she chosen that this art field was "a man's world" amid her graduate work in Illinois. She got to be a part of an avant-garde circle of artists in New York. Schneemann presented dynamic performances during the 1960s and 1970s, in addition to her work with assembling various materials, creating art from discovered objects, producing films, and capturing images. She often got ideas for her work from dreams. She found inspiration in the pictures and sounds from her unconscious mind while she was sleeping. She loved breaking the rules about what is considered acceptable in society through her art.

She mentioned that there are feminists today who do not believe her work adequately addresses feminist issues. But that didn't stop her from making more art and spreading her feminist message.

Yoko Ono

Almost everyone knows Yoko. But many do not know of her occupation and the impact she had in the art world. Despite being John Lenon's widow and also a singer, Ono has also a legacy in performance art.

When she was young, she liked to write poems and plays. She also learned how to play the piano and sing in a traditional way. In 1952, Ono was the first woman to be accepted into the philosophy program at Gakushuin University in Tokyo. After about a year, she left to be with her family in New York City. Ono joined the Fluxus group, and in 1961 the leader George Maciunas gave her the chance to have her first solo art exhibition. Before that, she showed simple art pieces that made people want to join in and interact with them. The painting "Painting to Be Stepped On" from 1960 was made for people to walk on. During that time, most of her works were just words telling others what to do or think about. Ono put together these short and clever texts, like the one that said "Light a match and watch it until it goes out," into a book called Grapefruit in 1964.

In 1964, Yoko Ono performed a piece called Cut Piece. She sat still while people in the audience, cut pieces of her dress with scissors. This work was seen as an important piece of feminist art because it triggered thoughts on violence against women.

Valie Export

Valie Export was one of the first artists to use film, video, and installation as her art. She has made a big impact on feminist art after the war. She made important movies and did great acting in the 1960s and 1970s that showed a new kind of strong feminism in Europe. Her work talked about how the body is looked at in society and its culture. Export used different media and her own body to make art.

Her art was making people think about how sex and power are shown in movies, and how men look at women, and how the latter are free to express themselves. In her Body Configurations series, which started in 1972, Export used her own body to show how people change to fit into nature, buildings, and culture.

She joined a group called the Vienna Institute for Direct Art during the actionist movement. This group was started in 1966 by Gunther Brus and Otto Muehl. There, she put together an art show about women's rights in Austrian art. Later, she helped start the Austrian Filmmakers Cooperative. She was different from the Viennese Actionists in two important ways. She didn't want to do violent shows, and instead, she used different ways to express her identity through language and rituals that were shared with society.

She has worked as a teacher at many different schools around the world, like the University of Wisconsin, San Francisco Art Institute, and the University of the Arts in Berlin. She was a teacher at a school in Cologne from 1995 to 2005.

Hannah Wilke

Wilke's work is known for exploring issues of feminism, sexuality and femininity, using sculpture, photography, video art and performance. Some of her mediums included clay, chewing gum, kneaded erasers, laundry lint and latex. As for the use of chewing gum, she said: ″It's the perfect metaphor for the American women—chew her up, get what you want out of her, throw her out and pop in a new piece.″

Wilke became well-known for her terra-cotta sculptures of vulvas in the 1960s. Her artwork, shown in New York in the late 1960s, was some of the first to show vaginal imagery that came from the women's liberation movement. She made these sculptures in many different ways and sizes, including big pieces that were placed on the floor. These sculptures' shape became her signature style and she kept making them for the rest of her life.

In 1974, Wilke started making art using her body and chewing gum in her series S.O.S — Starification Object Series. She made small sculptures of vaginas and stuck them on herself. Then she took pictures of herself in different glamorous poses, mixing it with a style that looked like tribal scar decoration.

The name of Wilke's pictures and performances, "So Help Me Hannah," was inspired by a saying from the 1930s and '40s. Some people think it refers to the stereotype of a Jewish mother and how Wilke felt about her own mom.

Her final project, Intra-Venus (1992-1993), is a collection of photos that show how her body changed as she got sick and underwent cancer treatment before she passed away. The pictures, taken by her husband Donald Goddard, show personal pictures of Wilke as she goes from being happy in middle age to being bald, injured, and resigning.

Andrian Piper

American artist and philosopher Adrian Piper is known for her deep engagement with Kantian ideas in her work. She was born on September 20, 1948. Her research focuses on the experiences of people from different industries who feel marginalized or discriminated against, and employs diverse artistic mediums to encourage introspection.

She went to art school and got a degree in 1969. Piper went to college in New York to study philosophy and got a degree in 1974. Piper got a master's degree in philosophy from Harvard University in 1977 and a doctorate in 1981. She displayed her art at Museum of Modern Art's exhibition Information in 1970 before enrolling in a philosophy program at college. Piper said she was pushed out of the art world because of her race and gender. Her art began to focus on being excluded, feeling different, and people's attitudes towards racism.

In the 1970s, she started a series of street performances called Catalysis. In Catalysis, she did things like painting her clothes with white paint and wearing a sign that said "Wet Paint. " She also went to buy gloves and sunglasses, stuffed a big towel in her mouth and rode the bus, subway, and elevator in the Empire State Building. She also covered herself in a smelly mixture and spent a week moving around New York's subway and bookstores. In Catalysis VII, Piper went to a museum, chewed gum loudly, and carried a purse with a lot of ketchup in it. The Catalysis shows were supposed to trigger thoughts on the challenges that made up society.

Piper's Mythic Being series started in 1973. In the series, the artist dressed up in a wig and mustache and acted like a tough man from a poor country and started wandering the streets. In 2013, NYU's Grey Art Gallery showed videos from Piper's 1973 artwork, Mythic Being, in its exhibit called "Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art". Piper said no to being included in the exhibition and wanted her work taken out because it made non-White artists feel even more left out. She also felt it went against the important messages she wanted to share with her viewers.

Another list of marvelous women has come to an end. Maybe someone learned something new or another just remembered some forgotten knowledge, but one thing is for sure: the profound issue of women in art will continue to concern the art world, until justice is done for every remarkable artist, for every feminist, for every woman.

If you want to learn more on this topic, his month Insistrum continues its collaboration with Peru Athens with a brand new thematic: Performance Art and Feminism. Join us and discover a whole new artistic world. Every Saturday of February, 19.00 - 21.00. For more info, contact:


-About (no date) ANA MENDIETA. Available at: (Accessed: 29 January 2024).

-(No date) Moma. Available at: (Accessed: 29 January 2024).

-(No date a) Joan Jonas | Moma. Available at: (Accessed: 29 January 2024).

-The life of marina abramović: Notable art & performances: Eno (2024) English National Opera. Available at: (Accessed: 29 January 2024).

-Carolee Schneemann Art, bio, ideas (no date) The Art Story. Available at: (Accessed: 29 January 2024).

-(No date a) Joan Jonas | Moma. Available at: (Accessed: 29 January 2024).

-Valie export (no date) Thaddaeus Ropac. Available at: (Accessed: 29 January 2024).

-Valie export (no date a) AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes. Available at: (Accessed: 29 January 2024).

-Hannah Wilke (2023) Wikipedia. Available at: (Accessed: 29 January 2024).

-(No date a) Adrian Piper | Moma. Available at: (Accessed: 29 January 2024).

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