The new exhibition, Women House , at the newly renovated Monnaie de Paris, will travel to the National Museum of Women in the Arts in March 2018.
Women House was inspired by Louise Bourgeois and Niki de Saint Phalle’s explorations of the “femme maison”, questioning women’s identity and their relationship to the domestic sphere. The show’s title is also a nod to Judy Chicago and Miriam Shapiro’s 1972 project Womanhouse, a collaborative installation and performance project. A film clip of Johanna Demetrakas’ film documenting Womanhouse sets the scene for a varied show, at turns thought-provoking, whimsical and humorous. (Johanna Demetrakas’ full feature film will be screened by SensoProjekt on November 30th )
While second wave feminist artists draw attention to their limited domestic sphere – Martha Rosler’s Semiotics of the Kitchen talks us ironically through the tools of a “woman’s place”, Birgit Jurgenssen stages herself as a kitchen appliance and her drawings have women ironing out men or cleaning windows – other artists express their socio-spatial limits in staged photographs and performance. Claude Cahun’s 1932 photograph of herself trapped on a shelf is hung alongside Kirsten Justesen’s 2013 interpretation. Lydia Schouten’s film takes a more brutal aesthetic with the white leotard-clad artist rubbing up against the blackened bars of a cage.
But it is not just confinement that is at stake. The theme of women carving out a figurative and actual space of their own recurs throughout the show. Nil Yalter’s Topak-ev (“the yurt”), is a recreation of a nomadic shelter. Typically a woman’s space, Yalter’s yurt is covered in text by a Turkish writer on the nomadic way of life with its traditional gendered roles.
The courtyards house three “sculptures maisons”, Niki de Saint Phalle’s Nana Maison II, Joanna Vasconcelos’ Miss Jasmine, a giant wrought-iron teapot, and Shen Yuan’s Salon de Coiffure, a shelter of giant plaits of hemp fibre. In each case the artist becomes architect of her own space.
Upstairs, domestic space is reinterpreted as functional and communal in Andrea Zittel’s A-Z Escape Vehicle and Lucy Orta’s Body Architecture, respectively. It can also be nostalgic as in Rachel Whiteread’s Airbed, a cast of a bed’s imprint, or Laure Tixier’s Plaid Houses, which recall childhood dens.
Rather than limiting, Women House proves that the domestic space – and our relationship to it – is rich ground for creation and interpretation.
Womanhouse, a film by Johanna Demetrakas, will be screened by SensoProjekt at the Cinéma Reflet Médicis on November 30th at 8pm.
Round table: “Art: feminine gender”, organized by the Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University, together with AWARE: Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions, in partnership with Monnaie de Paris.
Thursday November 16th at 7pm
Thursday December 14th at 7pm.