Artist: Adéla Součková
Exhibition title: On Earth, Awakening from a Restless Dream
Venue: Czech Centre Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Date: May 11 – June 15, 2017
Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Czech Centre Berlin
Plus size models vs. the Über-Venus
What is the true potential of having a vagina in the post-digital era? Perhaps dressing up in a suit and heading to play the patriarchal game isn’t the best strategy if a woman, or whoever feels like one, wants to make full use of their femininity in the best sense of the word (the kind we might actually need to restore some global equilibrium). Employing male tactics in order to gain more power in the Darwinist hierarchy, where women are assigned to have smaller teeth (and brains) than men, proved to be a blind alley: you may become a CEO, but there is quite a chance that you will still get less paid than your male colleagues and on top of that remain doing the majority of the undervalued house and care work. Although having the doors hypothetically open to most institutions of the modern society, you might get your butt spanked (oops!) when passing those. It feels like a loosing game, even if you have the balls to play it. And after all, it’s not only women who keep on losing.
Adéla’s colleagues told her that prehistoric Venuses are absolutely anti-feminist and so is bringing them back to life in contemporary art. Is it really though? Of course, these are pure fertility symbols emphasizing features most essential to reproduction. Their heads or toes are not exactly important here. But aren’t these tiny little sculptures actually quite powerful, not only for being some of the oldest artworks ever created? Why should we assume that depicting women through their female attributes automatically underestimates their other capacities? These busty ladies don’t seem to me like dull factories for baby production, neither like mere objects that would allow for inappropriate manipulation. They are so extremely present and strong, that by no means they could be avoided or mistreated. I wouldn’t dare to underrate any of their abilities, although one has to admit that their sexuality is obviously tops.
What is it then, that makes their image somewhat uncomfortable? In a way it’s a pity that for the feminist discourse almost every depiction of a (naked) woman that has appeared throughout art history up to today’s visual culture became a symbol of female degradation, as she was more often on the canvas than in front of it with a brush in her hand, or shaking her ass on the screen rather than filming or even just keeping the remote control). Of course it is a notorious fact that women have been excluded from holding the reins in this world for a lot of the history of humankind and their bodies have been objectified in countless ways. That quite culminates in capitalist marketing strategies of selling the perfect body, which “naturally” comes with with the perfect purse, perfect shoes and a variety of toys to play with (at points including men), all designed to appear as emancipatory while just promoting a twisted image of (sexual) freedom, which in fact is quite conformist.
But feigned emancipation most probably wasn’t the case of the Venuses – which only proves that there needn’t be a direct causality between the display of female features and holding them cheap. Perhaps we should aim for rehabilitating their value and challenging their misconceptions in the current system. Boobs, vaginas and proper bottoms and belies should regain symbolic power in contemporary society. And here I don’t really imagine a plus-size model on a catwalk (although even that can be cool if the only aim isn’t to sell some Victoria’s Secret lingerie). Having those and using them wisely should restore the female capacity to create solid grounds for respect and potency, while contributing to diminishing unhealthy hierarchies and tiring gender battles. For in the end we urgently need all the sexes in their best shape, in order to manage to calm down the Gaia – the Über-Venus, whom we have been mistreating for centuries. She’s definitely both intelligent and potent enough to get rid of the silly creatures that ruffle her feathers, as they cannot find an agreement among themselves. She will remain a tiny yet powerful fertility symbol in the orgiastic universe, whether or not we will still be a part of her. If we wish to stay, we might want to reestablish some balance between our vaginas, penises, brains, senses and emotions, using all the funny toys we have created throughout history not just to keep messing around, but to actually attempt to get somewhere sustainable, and ideally also pleasurable.