(Wo)Manorial Explores the Feminine Mystique With Susan/Elizabeth
"As (wo)manorialists, of course we are feminist, but identify with that after our femininity. Our work shares our experience."
Kasumi Chow's "Swan No. 2"
So goes the (wo)manifesto of (Wo)manorial, conceived last summer and launched virtually in October as an "online platform" for artists. This idea sprung from the think tank of Jessica Iannuzzi Garcia and Haley Kattner Allen. "Over the past summer, we discussed the lack of female representation in the arts," Iannuzzi Garcia explains. "Artists we were interested in, and our shared interest in lens-based media."
Friend and fellow (wo)manorialist Gabriela Ochoa introduced her and Allen to the article-turned-book Cyberfeminism: Next Protocols, by Claudia Reiche, which questions the role of gender and femininity in the electronic sphere, and grew out of the ideas of the cyberfeminist movement of the early '90s. This is presented as part of the site's "history": "Once trapped in space, the new generation of women suddenly had global mobility at their fingertips. With this new (non)space, existing societal roles suddenly began to shift rapidly."
"Ultimately, we were excited about what [cyberfeminists] were doing," Iannuzzi Garcia says. "A group of gals banding together to make work, talk about it, and encourage discussion. Keeping it online gives us the freedom to go wherever we want and still continue with the project."
Of course, the definition of cyberfeminism has changed in the last decade, as has the response to body and culture, as seen through the lens of technology and mobility. Still, Iannuzzi Garcia stresses, "(Wo)manorial is not an all-girls club. Our aim with the site is to examine ever-shifting ideas of femininity through contemporary works and to make these ideas easily accessible."
(Wo)manorial was invited by Kevin Ruben Jacobs to show their latest collection, Susan/Elizabeth, at the Goss-Michael Foundation, as part of their newest initiative, +++New Practices, which aims to support younger, emerging artists. (Wo)manorial's first group show, Space/Place, focused on relationships to feminine space. The focus of Susan/Elizabeth is female relationships.
In Natalie Labriola's "Unauthorized Biography," we see her relationship to food via her obituary, which doubles as a patriotic, tongue-in-cheek riff on life-draining consumerism, and ends with this punchline: Her favorite chain restaurant is sponsoring her headstone. Etched on it is their motto: "Life should be delicious."
To its right, photographer Kasumi Chow's "Swan No. 2" is an almost clinical rendering of rubber gloves, plastic Easter eggs and ripe grapefruit, drawing the eyes immediately to the round, pink halves of citrus. Michelle Rawlings' paintings, "Mom" and "Mom Painted in 20 Min.," take the mother-daughter relationship into consideration. Tori Whitehead's ink drawing, "Francesca's Daze," explores her relationship to photographer Francesca Woodman.
Jennifer Chan's video installation, "Burning a Feminist DVD," engages in the physical act of burning a symbol of the movement, via the lens of a webcam. In Marisol Plard Narvaez's video "Ahthropofagia," we watch as she eats her deceased mother's ashes, an emotional exercise that re-contextualizes the fear of becoming our mothers. Within the small room at Goss-Michael, there is a spectrum of female experience, though Iannuzzi Garcia says they were not necessarily created with a feminist agenda.
"I don't believe we've gotten past that label," she says, "but (Wo)manorial is looking for qualities of femininity that aren't limited to a label. We are interested in and associated to broad concepts of feminist ideas, but are not bound by this."