Percorsi di gender performance: fotografia tra arte e moda dagli anni Novanta ad oggi

Carpanini, Clara (2010) Percorsi di gender performance: fotografia tra arte e moda dagli anni Novanta ad oggi, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Storia dell'arte, 22 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/3127.
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My project explores and compares different forms of gender performance in contemporary art and visual culture according to a perspective centered on photography. Thanks to its attesting power this medium can work as a ready-made. In fact during the 20th century it played a key role in the cultural emancipation of the body which (using a Michel Foucault’s expression) has now become «the zero point of the world». Through performance the body proves to be a living material of expression and communication while photography ensures the recording of any ephemeral event that happens in time and space. My questioning approach considers the gender constructed imagery from the 1990s to the present in order to investigate how photography’s strong aura of realism promotes and allows fantasies of transformation. The contemporary fascination with gender (especially for art and fashion) represents a crucial issue in the global context of postmodernity and is manifested in a variety of visual media, from photography to video and film. Moreover the internet along with its digital transmission of images has deeply affected our world (from culture to everyday life) leading to a postmodern preference for performativity over the more traditional and linear forms of narrativity. As a consequence individual borders get redefined by the skin itself which (dissected through instant vision) turns into a ductile material of mutation and hybridation in the service of identity. My critical assumptions are taken from the most relevant changes occurred in philosophy during the last two decades as a result of the contributions by Jacques Lacan, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze who developed a cross-disciplinary and comparative approach to interpret the crisis of modernity. They have profoundly influenced feminist studies so that the category of gender has been reassessed in contrast with sex (as a biological connotation) and in relation to history, culture, society. The ideal starting point of my research is the year 1990. I chose it as the approximate historical moment when the intersection of race, class and gender were placed at the forefront of international artistic production concerned with identity, diversity and globalization. Such issues had been explored throughout the 1970s but it was only from the mid-1980s onward that they began to be articulated more consistently. Published in 1990, the book "Gender trouble: feminism and the subversion of identity" by Judith Butler marked an important breakthrough by linking gender to performance as well as investigating the intricate connections between theory and practice, embodiment and representation. It inspired subsequent research in a variety of disciplines, art history included. In the same year Teresa de Lauretis launched the definition of queer theory to challenge the academic perspective in gay and lesbian studies. In the meantime the rise of Third Wave Feminism in the US introduced a racially and sexually inclusive vision over the global situation in order to reflect on subjectivity, new technologies and popular culture in connection with gender representation. These conceptual tools have enabled prolific readings of contemporary cultural production whether fine arts or mass media. After discussing the appropriate framework of my project and taking into account the postmodern globalization of the visual, I have turned to photography to map gender representation both in art and in fashion. Therefore I have been creating an archive of images around specific topics. I decided to include fashion photography because in the 1990s this genre moved away from the paradigm of an idealized and classical beauty toward a new vernacular allied with lifestyles, art practices, pop and youth culture; as one might expect the dominant narrative modes in fashion photography are now mainly influenced by cinema and snapshot. These strategies originate story lines and interrupted narratives using models’ performance to convey a particular imagery where identity issues emerge as an essential part of fashion spectacle. Focusing on the intersections of gender identities with socially and culturally produced identities, my approach intends to underline how the fashion world has turned to current trends in art photography and in some case turned to the artists themselves. The growing fluidity of the categories that distinguish art from fashion photography represents a particularly fruitful moment of visual exchange. Varying over time the dialogue between these two fields has always been vital; nowadays it can be studied as a result of this close relationship between contemporary art world and consumer culture. Due to the saturation of postmodern imagery the feedback between art and fashion has become much more immediate and then increasingly significant for anyone who wants to investigate the construction of gender identity through performance. In addition to that a lot of magazines founded in the 1990s bridged the worlds of art and fashion because some of their designers and even editors were art-school graduates encouraging innovation. The inclusion of art within such magazines aimed at validating them as a form of art in themselves supporting a dynamic intersection for music, fashion, design and youth culture: an intersection that also contributed to create and spread different gender stereotypes. This general interest in fashion produced many exhibitions of and about fashion itself at major international venues such as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Since then this celebrated success of fashion has been regarded as a typical element of postmodern culture. Owing to that I have also based my analysis on some important exhibitions dealing with gender performance like "Féminin-Masculin" at the Centre Pompidou of Paris (1995), "Rrose is a Rrose is a Rrose. Gender performance in photography" at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of New York (1997), "Global Feminisms" at the Brooklyn Museum (2007), "Female Trouble" at the Pinakothek der Moderne in München together with the workshops dedicated to "Performance: gender and identity" in June 2005 at the Tate Modern of London. Since 2003 in Italy we have had Gender Bender - an international festival held annually in Bologna - to explore the gender imagery stemming from contemporary culture. In few days this festival offers a series of events ranging from visual arts, performance, cinema, literature to conferences and music. Being aware that any method of research is neither race nor gender neutral I have traced these critical paths to question gender identity in a multicultural perspective taking account of the political implications too. In fact, if visibility may be equated with exposure, we can also read these images as points of intersection of visibility with social power. Since gender assignations rely so heavily on the visual, the postmodern dismantling of gender certainty through performance has wide-ranging effects that need to be analyzed. In some sense this practice can even contest the dominance of visual within postmodernism. My visual map in contemporary art and fashion photography includes artists like Nan Goldin, Cindy Sherman, Hellen van Meene, Rineke Dijkstra, Ed Templeton, Ryan McGinley, Anne Daems, Miwa Yanagi, Tracey Moffat, Catherine Opie, Tomoko Sawada, Vanessa Beecroft, Yasumasa Morimura, Collier Schorr among others.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Carpanini, Clara
Dottorato di ricerca
Scuola di dottorato
Scienze umanistiche
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
gender, performance, fotografia, arte, moda, queer, femminismo, postmodernità
Data di discussione
25 Giugno 2010

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