Curatorial Essay written for Beastie a group exhibition held in conjunction with FEMfest at the Khyber Center for the Arts in 2008
Throughout history notions of savagery have both plagued and celebrated the female body and mind. Women have taken on many of its forms: the hysteric, the grotesque, the earth mother etc. While some of these identities are pressed onto gendered life by cultural systems others still are chosen by movements in an attempt to unify. Some feminists may embrace the grotesque, the language of the visceral in attempt to re-communicate the relegated female body. Alternatives to this Essentialist feminism can place concept over action and deny intellectual association to intuitive practices. Identity can have an exclusionary effect; it can divide up both communities and the self. Two institutions of theory within the same movement: butting heads despite the shared attempt to restore social equilibrium.
A powerful evolution in much contemporary social and artistic thought comes from the acute awareness of the marginalized. While moving away from debating the hierarchy of separate identities, current thought allows for coexisting notions. This plays out aesthetically through a merger of previously conflicting practices. We no longer need to back our work exclusively with conceptual analysis yet we do not want for purity of intuition. What we are left with is a massive array of artistic conversational tools.
We gather these tools from our history and utilize them give birth to new notions, cyborg notions, animorphic notions. It is as if those dualistic theories reproduced and created an ironic creature of layered fractures. A Beastie is an evolutionary creature, which survived the revolutionary diaspora of the postmodernist identity crisis. It is a creature conceived by thought and born by body neglecting neither and celebrating both without questioning their roles, consequence or conflicting identities.
While ‘beastie’ refers to a small wild animal it also has a dual meaning referring to a human state of existence. The word can simply describe “one who is wild or strange”*. The descriptive ‘beastly’ and the root word ‘beast’ both imply a lack of reason or savagery, a return to something primal or perhaps even pure. ‘Beastie’ implies none of these preclusions. It evokes a vision of a half human half animal (or half machine*), which reconciles the mind and body.
This years incarnation of FemFEST emphasizes this reconciliation by celebrating the merger of informed, intellectual practice with intuitive acts of art making. The artists in this exhibition subvert exclusionary identity by acting on urges of wild abandon with full awareness of the intellectual thought that informs their visual language. By celebrating both reason and intuition the artists in ‘Beastie’ are exemplifying the great power in the marginal and the blurring of identities.