Martha Kirszenbaum on the fetishised gaze

My cape was a thousand feet long. I put diamond dust on my face, real diamond dust. It took me ages to remove it.

Jemma Desai

30 May 2012

"My cape was a thousand feet long. I put diamond dust on my face, real diamond dust. It took me ages to remove it"

In a preview of last weekend's LUX/ICA Biennial of Moving Image, we saw Ursula Mayer's The Lunch In Fur / Le Déjeuner En Fourrure (2008), part of the Fetish and Figure programme, curated by Martha Kirszenbaum. You can listen to Kirszenbaum talk to LUX/ICA Biennial Journal blogger Amy Budd in this new podcast, discussing the relationship between moving image and surrealism, the fetishised gaze, and the corporeal function of objects.

Mayer orchestrates an imaginary encounter between three women famous in the 1920s; the artist Meret Oppenheim, the singer Josephine Baker and the photographer Dora Maar. All three women, though celebrated artists in their own right, owe their rarefied label of ‘icon’, partly to their status as ‘objects’ of the male gaze - Oppenheim as a famous model of Man Ray’s, Baker as a dancer and Maar as Picasso’s ‘private muse’. Mayer plays with this status, presenting them in a showy, modernist home set up for the display of objects. Objects themselves, they are surrounded by adornments, presented as surreal images, which seem to have a life of their own; a fox stole, a ghoulish chessboard, a tape recorder. Mayer’s interest in subject-object relations has been described as ‘pleasure in looking’ and ‘pleasure in being looked at’. Her pre-occupation here seems less on the objectifying male gaze, than with the disruption of that gaze, and a focus on the gaze of the viewer.

These are three women who, within history, or ‘official memory’, have a story, but Mayer’s deliberately formal structure gives them a disjointed narrative. The women recall events in their lives and share them with a dream like, wistful delivery, at the same time questioning the role of memory in creating ones identity.

Jemma Desai is guest blogger on our film programme this week, her publication, I am Dora, which launches with a screening this Thursday 31 May, explores female identity in film, and psychoanalysis.

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Tagged with: Film, Guest blogger, LUX/ICA Biennial of Moving Image, Podcast