Kate Durbin, HELLO, SELFIE! (2014). Screen capture from performance video filmed by Jessica Nicole Collins.
The online exhibition "Body Anxiety," curated by Jennifer Chan and Leah Schrager, opened Saturday at http://bodyanxiety.com/.
When, in 1991, the first cyberfeminist art group VNS Matrix called themselves "Saboteurs of Big Daddy Mainframe" their bold rhetoric seemed to herald a new feminist revolution. The online exhibition "Body Anxiety," curated by artists Leah Schrager and Jennifer Chan, shows this revolution to be very much a work in progress. More than two decades of cyberfeminism have not been enough to successfully subvert traditional gender roles—not even in its own, online territory.
This is not to say that nothing has changed. The work of young female and gender-queer artists today is more accessible than that of their predecessors, and the desire for change is far more widespread. From Facebook to youtube, tumblr, instagram and beyond, people explore social relations and create their own media identities. In the wake of this, there has been a veritable flood of biographical works and highly vulnerable experiments with popular sexual imagery. Body Anxiety shows a broad selection of these and similar, often subtle, humorous works. The exhibition is not an attack on traditional gender roles, but a call to stay alert to the unrelenting appearance of old and new gender stereotypes in art.
Chan and Schrager pose a sensitive question: why is the work of male artists still valued over that of female artists, even if they cover the same subject matter or work in similar styles and techniques? The curators highlight the issue by showing female artists who use their own bodies as subject matter. Nancy Leticia's video Fantasie Impromptu shows the artist playing a black piano in her underwear. She sits against a white curtain backdrop on a white fluffy pillow. In front of her on the music stand lies a red rose. The scene is utterly kitsch- tooth-enamel-cracking sweet. It is difficult to see this work as "female-empowering." Instead, the artist paints a soft porn stereotype that is at the same time painfully sweet and embarrassingly alluring to watch.