Hair delicately twirled against a sea of pink, Mexican photographer Daniela Rossell’s ‘Medusa’ (1999) – the mesmerising photograph most likely to have inspired Kendall Jenner’s famous Instagram picture – is one of twenty-four images on display at the Whitechapel Gallery’s exhibition, Terrains of the Body.
Bringing together the photographic and video works of 17 contemporary artists from five different continents – including Rineke Dijkstra, Anna Gaskell, Candida Höfer, Kirsten Justesen, Justine Kurland, Eve Sussman, Adriana Varejão, and Charlotte Gyllenhammar – Terrains of the Body is a series that crosses cultures and geographies. In keeping with Whitechapel’s on-going attempt to combat the inequality rife in the art world, this collection, borrowed from the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C., is dedicated to women who have been behind and in front of the camera.
The pensive gaze of a young girl captured in Hellen van Meene’s ‘Untitled (79)’ (2000) appears at first glance to be a candid snapshot taken by chance, as if on the mere whim of the hand and click of the camera button. A closer look at ‘Untitled (79)’, however, reveals van Meene’s careful construction of this photograph. Like her other portraits on display in ‘Terrains of the Body’, this work gives life to a moment that was meticulously planned and executed.
Yugoslavia-born performance artist Marina Abramović – widely known for her 1974 performance piece, ‘Rhythm O’ – has on show at Terrains of the Body her photograph titled ‘The Hero’ (2001) – an image of Abramović herself sitting on a white horse, holding a white flag that flutters in the wind. Taken from her video of the same title, the photograph is at once a tribute to her World War II-hero father and a challenge to established notions of heroism.
The works of the Reykjavík-based visual arts group the Icelandic Love Corporation are also featured in this collection, alongside Nan Goldin’s deeply personal photograph, ‘Self-Portrait in Kimono With Brian’ (1983), from her celebrated 1980s series, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. Goldin sits looking dejected, bathed in amber-rose light next to her boyfriend, Brian, in an image that documents the intimate spaces of the home.
Running until the 16th of April 2017, Terrains of the Body is an important collection that displays the diverse abilities of women artists, presenting women as both creators and subjects of creative work. It is as much an exploration, as it is a celebration, of women.
18TH January – 16th April 2017
77-82 Whitechapel High Street
Tuesday 11am – 6pm
Wednesday 11am – 6pm
Thursday 11am – 9pm
Friday 11am – 6pm
Saturday 11am – 6pm
Sunday 11am – 6pm
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Words: Julia Gessler
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