In this classic piece of feminist video art from 1982 Rosler comically pulls apart the semiotics of Vogue by slowly reading aloud from a single issue. Focusing on a single magazine like this might seem almost quaint today given the constant stream of media images that confront us on multiple simultaneous platforms, and her attempts to expose the class and gender relations it promotes are undoubtedly unfashionably blunt. Yet, Rosler’s performance draws out the magazine’s relentlessly hectoring insistence on aspiration – particularly of course the female consumer’s – with a leisurely hostility that maintains its force and humour over thirty (critical theory-soaked) years later. Her counter-mantra employs strategies of repetition and juxtaposition to render explicit the forms of power running through the fashion press, even as its content is reduced to a numbing babble – a pure carrier for discursive power. I’m particularly fond of the recurrent evocation of Cy Twombly and his “remarkable” studio in Rome; the work of an artist reduced to the trappings of a lifestyle, something to aspire to, perhaps for female artists most of all Vogue seems to suggest. Rosler not only underlines the sly operations of gendered power in seemingly innocuous copy but the important role that mediation plays in the ‘image of the artist’, something that seems to have grown even more important with the increasing web presence of contemporary art and the blockbuster biennale/art fair circuit blending in to the pages of ‘Scene and Herd’, all the while career competition inflating along with the market.
I never thought this day would come: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg responds to the cringeworthy representations of women in stock photography (also see Women Laughing Alone with Salad http://womenlaughingalonewithsalad.tumblr.com/) and commissions her own series of stock photos depicting women via her philanthropic organization Lean In. While the Lean In stock photos improve characterizations of women to some extent, Michael Connor of Rhizome has written a balanced critique of the project, noting how class privilege has replaced sexism in the Lean In series. http://rhizome.org/editorial/2014/feb/11/getty-images-still-kinda-sexist/
This questionnaire was published by MIT Press journal October in 1995, so it doesn’t have the most direct relationship to new media art, however, given the recent renewed interest in feminist practices, I think it’s important to look back twenty years to see how far we’ve come. Unfortunately, many of the concerns women in the art world had in ’95—being essentialized as “bad” outsiders or “good girls,” being elided in group exhibitions, etc.—persist today. (Evidencing such, another fantastic resource I recently discovered, Gallery Tally, tracks the number of men and women represented by contemporary art galleries.) Be sure to check out Liz Kotz’s response. http://gallerytally.tumblr.com/