Impertinet Performances: From Modernist Objects to Postmodern Signs and Back

By:
Dr. Caterina Pizanias Pizanias
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Though a commodity may at first sight appear to be a very trivial thing, and easily understood...it is, in reality, a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties......Luce Irigaray

Each method requires an impertinent performance: an interest in thinking against the thought of one's conceptual foundations; an interest in studying the skeletons of learning and teaching that haunt one's responses, anxieties and categorical imperatives..... Deborah Britzman

A historical shift in attitude has been registering in the art world relating to materiality and signification – the “real,” the “material,” and their “truth” are slowly being resurrected from their post-structuralist “death.” Despite the persistent and at times exuberant vocalizations by the consecrators of art that postmodernism will free us from the contradictions and antinomies of modernism, the “truth of the matter” is that that is far from the case. In this time of re-examinations where serious doubt has been cast by many as to the need to even make art at all. One is heartened by artists such as Canadians Isla Burns and Jennifer Bowes, who in their practice have steadfastly refused to become disengaged from either matter or the social, instead productively occupying the interstitial lacunae of modernism and postmodernism, short circuiting the taken for granted in both camps.

Isla Burns’ art was never simply about abstraction, it has always been about experience and memory, a fact which makes her art more timely than ever. Burns’ art requires labour intensive practices, and having developed a unique relationship to her material of choice – steel – she destabilizes/short circuits the division of labour between production and consumption and calls to question the taken for granted of modernism's categorizations. Jennifer Bowes’ work is process oriented and her interest is not so much in direct “representation”, but rather in capturing a sense of human experience, tradition and innovation. She has found the act of repeating similar movements as very grounding, allowing for contemplation—through repetition, a transformation occurs, where the object/image becomes a container of thought.

Both artists—in differing degrees and manner—have developed a practice that has operated within and outside the theoretical apparatuses of the last thirty years, while never abandoning their belief in art-making as an intuitive, embodied process, as opposed to merely illustrating the latest theoretical "turn." They have used theories in their art, they have pushed/tested the limits of these theories, but mostly they have operated within the gaps of modernism and postmodernism—a fact that makes their work relevant to our times—and this timeliness of their interventions centers around the invocation of the human body in their work.

This workshop will postulate that the work of artists such as Burns and Bowes opens up a space for critical re-thinking and re-evaluation of a number of complex and urgent questions of aesthetic hegemonies, subjectivity, memory, desire and representation. I will introduce in power point the major theoretical debates on art practice, introduce the work of the artists with visual support and finally will explain why interdsiciplinarity is the approach to making sense of women artists’ “impertinent performances”.


Keywords: Art Practice, Women Artists, Interdisciplinarity
Stream: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Gender
Presentation Type: Workshop Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Caterina Pizanias Pizanias

Independent Curator and Scholar
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

She received her doctorate in the Sociology of Art in 1992 from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, and has taught at the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, and Simon Fraser University. Dr. Pizanias has published extensively in refereed academic journals, books, anthologies, and arts periodicals, and has made presentations on Canadian and Greek art across North America and Europe. Her scholarship and extensive research in the arts have been recognized in a number of prestigious fellowships, grants, and awards. She has curated and organized exhibitions of contemporary painting and sculpture in Canada and Greece. For a number of years the Sociology of Knowledge has provided a home of sorts, out of which she has traveled to, lived in—and at times been evicted from—various other disciplines. Since 2000 she has not only been ignoring the disciplinary boundaries, she has happily blurred the boundaries between the conceptual and the creative. A full Curriculum Vitae is available upon request.

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