At the Piramide Building in Roppongi, it’s a sobering surprise to see that the retailers and the service providers mainly targeting female customers suddenly find themselves in the company of artworks by female artists (Emily Mae Smith at Perrotin, Maria Farrar at Wako, and Miriam Cahn at Ota).
All three artists are working around the body, exploring angles that range from physicality and sexuality to sociality. These approaches are legitimate and necessary, given that the female artists turn the passively gendered body around into a platform, a tool, or even a weapon, to express their own personal or political agenda. They take the initiative to decorate, modify, and transform the male or female body, and by doing so confirm their own standpoints.
Yet the trap of thinking that there is only this one way of being a woman artist is never far removed. The body in general becomes a symbol, which immediately elicits some form of conflict, seemingly independent from the artworks that bear it. As a result, there could be a void or confusion when the notion of body is broken down. In some of Farrar’s work, the puppies become part of the women’s appearance, as exquisite as the outfits and shoes. In turn, these women could be perceived as tied to certain stereotypical life styles, much as their unhappy pets appear to be. By contrast, the unleashed animals (frog, rodent, egret, and sparrow) and the women beside them seem to be freer and happier, and enjoy a more dynamic, or posthuman, relationship.
The broom figure’s gender identity is twisted in Emily Mae Smith’s engaging work. Although the body itself is slightly sexual, even asexual, one could say, it nonetheless embraces both masculinity and femininity with its phallic stick and fertile fibers. What’s intriguing is to see how the different sexualities are physically separated instead of being mixed up. The different body parts highlight different sexual features that are not always compatible, as they are often disassembled into multiple pieces. However, individually, these works might lose their political dimension and acquire a more decorative one; together, they share a sense of a fragmented body identity.
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