It’s a girl
Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen
True Solvang Vevatne
Lotte Konow Lund in cooperation with: Mari Østby Kjøll, Kjersti Lande, Sofie Mathisen Nørsteng, Siren Elise Dversnes,Merete Joelsen Aune, Sofia Karyofilis, Yola Maria Tsolis, Signe Arnborg Løvaas, Helen Tolaas Coward, Grete Johanne Holten Skibnes, Margareth Elise Kaale, Mari Martens Kristoffersen and Wenche Gulbransen.
It’s a Girl sprang from the fact that this year marks a century since women were granted universal suffrage. Some of the pieces in the exhibition relate directly to this, while others examine social structures that provide the foundations for being a woman and a person. The exhibition can be seen a follow-up of Fellesnevner: Mannen [The Common Denominator: The Man], which concerned itself with depictions of men in contemporary art, shown at Akershus Art Centre two years ago.
The first categorisation that happens when a child is born is often whether it is a girl or a boy, hence the title of the show. Your biological gender has widely differing consequences depending on if you are born in India, China, Iraq, Afghanistan, or Norway. The luck of the draw in geography, as well as in biology, helps define what chances you will receive in life and what demands and expectations will be placed upon you. Whether a child is a girl or boy is still, in many cultures, perceived as lucky or unlucky and can spell financial security or ruin for its parents. In Norway, we can find both cultural and structural conditions that affect our conceptions about gender.
While curating the exhibition, it became obvious that it might be constructive to mix pieces that look back at the implementation of women’s suffrage in Norway with pieces that have a more global and contemporary perspective. Other pieces in the exhibition explore how gender is represented in the language and media of our age.
We are therefore delighted and proud to be able to present Afghan Hound by Danish artist Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen (b. 1970). This piece was shown as a performance at the Venice Biennale in 2011, and the video piece we’re showing builds on that. The piece is being shown with the support of BKH’s project grant.
In Afghan Hound, Cuenca Rasmussen explores a complex gender codex that crosses biological gender boundaries: boys who dance like women because women cannot act in that way in front of men, women raised as boys when a family has only daughters, whose own bodies catch up with them at puberty. In the video, Cuenca Rasmussen portrays extreme stereotypes of Afghani men, implying an undercurrent of humour. In this way, she deals with and problematizes complex, serious, and tragic issues.
Women being granted suffrage in 1913 did not stop attempts to bar them from politics long after the fact. True Solvang Vevatne (b. 1978) has highlighted this in one of her contributions to the exhibition. As recently as 1947, several women stood for parliament on a separate list, ‘the Apolitical Women’s List’, as no other party would allow them candidacy. The county bailiff nevertheless chose not to print the women’s list, thereby excluding them from the election and the county council remained all male. In many of her projects, Vevatne works historically, looking back at that first year. Her work can also be seen at the Sculpture Biennial and Dok1 at Carl Berner underground station.
Torgeir Husevaag’s (b. 1967) artist book from 2005, Én kvinne — 13 menn [One Woman — 13 Men], collects texts from various newspapers and magazines from 2001 to 2005. The piece is a hightly subjective compilation of texts that seem to indicate differing degrees of power between the two genders. For this exhibition, Husevaag has worked his own material into a site-specific montage, which includes a collection of clippings that weren’t part of the book. Referring to the title of the book, Husevaag himself says: ‘The excluded clippings were the victims of a ruthless compositional regime, wherein I had to group texts 1 to 13.’ Husevaag’s approach includes a study on how language was used in a specific period of time, and has a strange, humorous tenor that reflects gender-specific stereotypes in the language. Husevaag has had a number of solo exhibitions, amongst others at Kunstnerforbundet [the Artists’ Association] in 2012.
Lotte Konow Lund (b. 1967) has chosen to invite her students from the Nation Academy of Art in Oslo, as well as former professor and artist Wenche Gulbransen, to use the book Kvinneportretter i norsk malerkunst [Women’s Portraits in Norwegian Painting], written in 1945 by Henning Gran and Reidar Revold, as a jumping-off point. Konow Lund chanced across the book in an antiques shop. Can a curious little volume from 1945 have anything relevant to tell us today? Based on this book, a conversation has started, a discussion group dealing with what women’s portraits are, and what feminism and equality are today. What has happened since the book was written? Who has been added to history and who has been left out? All participants give their view, based on Kvinneportretter i norsk malerkunst. Part of this piece includes updating Wikipedia with artists who have been left out, in an attempt to make up losses. Konow Lund has had a number of solo and group exhibitions, most recently at the Lillehammer Art Museum.
Regarding her piece for the exhibition, Birgitte Sigmundstad (b. 1969) says: ‘The first generation of feminists gave us the right to vote and a real voice. The second generation fought for abortions and kindergartens, said no to discrimination in the workplace, and took action against beauty contests. The third wave of feminists focussed on popular culture and questioned what Hollywood, pop music, soap operas, art history, fairy tales, and coloured newspapers have actually done with the image of women we have today.’
On the basis of this, Sigmundstad has been collecting pictures, television snippets, and newspaper articles for the past year. Based on that collection, she has made a new film where she performs, comments, and reads the material. In her subjective and eclectic way, Sigmundstad provides a perspective on what things are happening in Norway in 2013, the centenary of women’s suffrage in Norway. Sigmundstad has had a several solo exhibitions, amongst others at Gallery RAM. She has also participated in a number of group exhibitions, for example at the Henie Onstad Art Centre.
Tor Arne Samuelsen
Akershus Art Centre