Off-Topic invites artists, curators, writers, and cultural workers to discuss a subject not directly related to the practice of making art. We would like to welcome Stacia Yeapanis as our latest guest with her post, â€œMy Feminism is 80s Teen Movie Favoredâ€. Stacia is a Chicago based interdisciplinary artist who’s first monograph was recently published as part of The Museum of Contemporary Photographyâ€™s Midwest Photographers Publication Project this past spring.
My Feminism is 80s Teen Movie Flavored
Not many people remember the teen movie The Legend of Billie Jean. Expected to be a box office hit in the summer of 1985, it disappointed producers, earning a measly $3.5 million, and has yet to be released on DVD. This movie is why I still own a VCR.
The plot is simple: Billie Jean Davy is a teenage girl from a trailer park, who becomes an outlaw after being involved in an accidental shooting. She goes on the run with her friends and cuts her hair and becomes a celebrity hero seeking justice. The tagline, according to IMDB, is â€œWhen you’re seventeen, people think they can do anything to you. Billie Jean is about to prove them wrong.â€
I was 7, not 17, when it was first released. I canâ€™t remember exactly when or where I watched it for the first time. I remember that I believed the main conflict was between kids and adults. Thereâ€™s no doubt the movie was marketed to the MTV generation. The theme song, Invincible by Pat Benatar, had already made it to #10 before the movie was released. I probably related to the movie because I was a kid and because life constantly feels unfair when youâ€™re a kid.
But when I re-watched The Legend of Billie Jean at age 31, it was obvious to me that this overlooked teen movie is about more than a rebellious teenâ€™s sense that her parents arenâ€™t fair because they make her clean her room or get off the phone and do her homework. For me, itâ€™s one of my earliest feminist texts (and a scathing critique of capitalism, but thatâ€™s another post). Watching it was like having myself and my experience of the world mirrored back to me. I donâ€™t mean that Iâ€™ve ever cut my hair short or been an outlaw or slept at an abandoned mini golf course. I just mean that I must have learned something watching this movie over and over again. And itâ€™s something I value. [Read more]
Wanna talk about new modes of global curation? Chicago-based arts writer Alicia Eler and video collector Jefferson Godard have teamed up to curate Performance Anxiety, a program of seven short videos byÂ Chicago and New York City-based artists which can only be seen in Europe via Souvenirs from the Earth, a cable television station broadcast in France on the freebox 129 station and in Germany on Unitymedia/Kabel BW. (Eler and Godard are currently in discussions about screening the program in Chicago sometime in January).
Eler is the Arts and Culture Community Manager for the Tribune-sponsored Chicago Now blog network, and Godard is a video art collector,Â architecture professor and a founding member of EMERGE, the MCA Chicago’s Collector’s Forum. They met during Video as Video: Rewind to Form, a video art show that Eler curated with Peregrine Honig at Swimming Pool Project Space last Fall, and bonded over their mutual love of video art. When Godard invited Eler to his home for a tour of his collection, she was struck by the fact that so many works of video art were actually on display. “There’s always video art on in Jefferson’s home–he’s admittedly obsessed with the medium. A video might play on two flatscreen televisions while a video projection screens in another room; or a video might play on an actual television while Jefferson views new video art online.” Most of the videos in Performance Anxiety have been drawn from Godard’s superb collection (for more on Godard’s collecting habits, read Jason Foumberg’s 2007 article in New City here). [Read more]
The New Artist People Series focuses on six contemporary Japanese artists; giving insight to their practice and a wider scope to art occurring in Japan. For their second installment they document the eccentric life of eighty year-old avant-garde artist/poet Yayoi Kasuma entitled Yayoi Kusama: I Love Me. Truth be told, I am not generally a very big fan of Kasuma and have only experienced her work twice in person; one being her permanent installation at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh and once at the Tate Modern in London.
Shot over the course of a year and a half in and around 2006 we follow Kasuma as she creates her monumental series Love Forever. Consisting of fifty paintings Kasuma puts most of her efforts into completing the series and often works her self to exhaustion. I have never been much of a fan of the art as a vessel for the artist appraoch but for the first time could buy it when Kasuma accounts her bouts with depression and suicide while keeping an active studio practice. We do not hear very much of her personal life and only a little of her childhood, which included following her adulterous father around town to having her paintings destroyed by her vindictive mother, but, it is unavoidable not to notice Kasumaâ€™s own infatuation with her own work/self. It appears that Kasuma loves herself.
One aspect that struck me was the thought of originality. It has been a long time since I had thought of the idea of originality or being an original but the idea came up several times in the film. Kasuma herself describes herself as â€œan originalâ€ and often compares herself to other artists both of her time and now. When looking through some magazine articles on her work (this appears to be a favorite past time of hers) she asks her studio assistant how her and Japanese artist Takashi Murakami compare. She asks, â€œMy works are so much better donâ€™t you think? Itâ€™s so obvious.â€ Kasuma later finds herself on Murakamiâ€™s comedy show which I must say might be the cutest dance sequences I have seen in a long time. When asked who her influences have been she says that she has none but that Jackson Pollock is good and that Picasso was not bad. Her deadpan delivery of such grandiose statements somehow makes Kasuma ever more endearing. In the documentary we catch her at times when she is rather frail but, when in the public eye she dons her brightly colored wigs and plays the eccentric grandmother of contemporary Japanese art. [Read more]
On this week’s video pick we bring you Siggi Eggertsson’s Supernova. You will probably recognize his work since he is a pretty popular Illustrator based in Berlin. He has done cover work for Gnarls Barkley’s Odd People, Wired magazine, and most recently for Microsoft’s Zune.
Check out Siggi’s site for more info
Emory Douglas will be speaking tonight, Tuesday, December 1st, at Columbia College. Douglas was the Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party and recently has received a resurgence of interest after his touring retrospective. I had a chance to catch Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas at MOCA’s Pacific Design Center in 2007 and am looking forward to hearing Douglas speak.
Tuesday, Dec 1, 2009
6:30 PM – 7:30 PM
Ferguson Auditorium, 600 S. Michigan Ave., 1st Fl.
via Columbia College:
“After working in a prison printshop while incarcerated as a teenager and more formally studying commercial art at San Francisco City College, Emory Douglas took on the role of Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, creating the groupâ€™s visual style and iconic representations of the Black Power Movement. Through the partyâ€™s newspaper The Black Panther, Douglasâ€™s graphic work helped motivate the disenfranchised to action throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Colette Gaiter has describer him as the â€œNorman Rockwell of the ghettoâ€ portraying the strength and dignity found among even the most harshly oppressed. This lecture is presented as part of the Scraping the Surface Lecture Series. Presented by Anchor Graphics, in conjunction with Critical Encounters: Fact & Faith.”