Amelia Jones Lecture Review-Heather Nelson

Heather Nelson

Professor Van Lil

Art History 3539

19 April 2012

Amelia Jones Artist Lecture

            The artist lecture that I attended was by scholar Amelia Jones on “Queer Feminist Durationality: The Trace of the Subject in Contemporary Art,” on April 18, 2012. Amelia Jones is an art historian, art critic and curator, whose focus is in feminist art, body/performance art, video art and Dadaism. She studied art history at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania. Just as well, she received her PhD from UCLA in 1991. Jones is known, through her work, to break down common assumptions and opinions of the art world and art history tradition and explain them through art. During her lecture, Amelia Jones read to us the final chapter of her new book, which has the title “Seeing Differently.”

The main topic of this chapter had to identification and how individuals identify, similarly or differently, or do not identify with art. Visual art has a strong relation to identification whether one realizes it or not, as such identification can be conscious or unconscious. Within the subject of identification, Amelia Jones focuses on gender issues and the identity or male or female or as some people label the “other.” One of the first pieces that she talks about is by Valie Export in 1969 and is called “Genital Panic.” This piece displays a woman with big hair and in a leather outfit, sitting on a chair with her legs open. In each version she is holding different objects, such as a gun. However, in all of them the leather is missing in her private area, revealing her female genitals. She is sitting in a very masculine position, which contrasts to the feminine parts. This person reveals a sense of masculinity and femininity. This is done to show that there is more than one identification here. This piece really struck something for me because out of this photo emanated a type of unique confidence. This women might be vulnerable at times, however, she is confident in her sexuality and the person that she wants to be, even if it is different from most people in society. Jones discusses the idea of looking into female parts up-close as “the gaze” and that this type of art is labeled “cunt art.” I think this type of art is really important and gives people a closer look at the LGBT community. Living near West Hollywood, a community labeled as “queer”, I have witnessed much of this kind of art. However, many societies can only find this type of art and experience it through the Internet and the media.

Jones continues her lecture talking about how identity is reactivated through art. The aesthetic of art is brought out through the expression of an individual through that specific piece. Two of the key concepts that she brings into this discussion is durational and feminism. Durational is seen through the idea that if living takes place over time, then so does art. Art and identity can be re-identified or affected differently over time. An interpreter can see apiece one way and be affected in a certain way and then over time those affects and feelings can change. Feminism reflects, and has for the last two centuries, structures of power. Images around us reveal the different power genders have in our society and the shifts in this power are shown through cunt art. Cunt art reveals that some power has been given back to the queer community, however, much work still needs to be done.

During her lecture, Jones says, “Sexuality/gender is always already articulated in relation to myriad other identification-sexuality and gender can be perceived and imagined through these other identifications” (Jones, 2012). By this, I believe that Jones is trying to emphasize that there is no one meaning of gender-ness or the identification of a gender. Mira Schor sees this idea through the painting “Slit of Paint” in 1994. This painting reflects a sense of common power and vulnerability for people and their identifications with gender and other aspects of society. This painting is also called or referred to as “the visible vagina.” From a far, it can not be said that every viewer would know that this is meant to resemble a vagina, however, as you get closer, the details of the skin are evident. I think that this painting reveals the power of this part of the body and it gives back women such power. I think that it takes power of knowledge away from the man who does not recognize this at first and then is suddenly struck by what he is actually looking at. Another piece that reveals the idea of identification and gender is called Donald (Gatling Gun) and made in 2011. This is a physical piece that could be seen as heads of penises and also weapons. It is meant to reveal the incompetence of men regardless of their self-given masculinity. Men see their “tool” as a pure sense of masculinity and they do not see this power in women’s’ parts. This lecture was extremely interesting and I am really glad that I decided to go. I think that sexuality and gender are fascinated and are more evident through these fantastic art works.

5 Responses

  1. Hi Heather!
    I also went to this lecture and your review actually really helped clear things up for me. I found that Ms. Jones went really fast and it was hard for me to keep up. So good job on laying down the basics of her talk.

    In the second paragraph, you mention Jones’s definition of the male gaze. How do you think the Valie Export photograph reacts to the male gaze since the subject of the photo has both male and female qualities in character? It seems that she both encourages it by having her genitals right at the visual center of the photograph, but also throws it back at the viewer with her defiant stance and strong facial expression. I thought that this part was especially interesting, and would love to hear what you thought about it too.

  2. I enjoyed the parts that mentioned that individuals typically do not identify with art but how identity is “reactivated through art”. I did not write on this lecture because I too found it hard to follow, but you did a wonderful job of breaking down her lecture. Nice job!

  3. I really like how you said “this photo emanated a type of unique confidence” about the piece “Genital Panic”. I, too, could see her confidence in her sexuality while still feeling vulnerable. Nicely written!

  4. I also went to this lecture, and I left it feeling very confused! She reads a lot of exerts from her book and is at times hard to follow. You review actually helped me understand what she was trying to say.So, thanks! Great job

  5. I also attended this lecture, i found it very interesting myself. i like how you said what you think what she meant about sexuality/gender. some things were hard to catch on to when she was talking but itts always good to see how others break down different aspects of the lecture. Nice work.

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