Image: Video still from I Will Dance On Your Grave, 2004 / Pilar Albarracín
Two X chromosomes together speak volumes about human experience and legacy. Throughout time, these have delivered the realities and rigours and flights of imagination of roughly half of humankind, encapsulating biology, socio-cultural norms, and more. A new show at Artweek Auckland is exploring all that, incorporating moving images, photography and painting.
The XX Factor looks at the legacy and commonalities of female artists across both time and continents. The exhibition includes works from notable female artists such as Marina Abramovic and Pilar Albarracin, as well as both international and national artists.
Villainesse spoke with Trish Clark, director of the Trish Clark Gallery and curator of The XX Factor, about the show, feminism, and more. Here’s what she had to say.
Villainesse: What can you tell us about XX Factor? How did the idea come about? Why now for the show?
Trish Clark: It’s a show I’ve wanted to do for a long time but I lacked the physical platform from 1989 to 2014 (my first gallery was 1984-89 then 25 years of art consulting as I raised my three children). I wanted to do this show in 2014 when I re-opened, then in 2015, but for a whole bunch of reasons the timing didn’t work out. It’s not as big a show as an institution could make, but it fully occupies my gallery and it’s a real pleasure to bring iconic works to New Zealand for the first time. Essentially I’m always looking for avenues of expression for thinking about women and their art practices in fresh ways that may help to redress some of the lack of awareness/opportunities that women artists confront. In 1991 I co-edited a book with professor Wystan Curnow that presented the practices of eight New Zealand women artists who were either emerging or on a cusp of recognition – three of them are in this show.
Villainesse: How was it decided who the artists showing would be? What's it been like working with them?
Trish Clark: It has been great working with all the artists – they have all really appreciated the thesis of the exhibition and welcomed their inclusion. It was my own ideosyncratic mix – not discussed with anyone else. It’s certainly not a definitive or conclusive grouping, but it’s interesting and rich and full. Several of the works included are seminal pieces, emblematic of an artist’s work over decades, and I wanted to bring those works/ideas together in a fresh way for the New Zealand audience.
Villainesse: What do you hope attendees get out of the show?
Trish Clark: I hope people feel emotionally and intellectually engaged, and the show provokes thought, reflection, insight – who knows, maybe even some broadening of thought patterns!
Villainesse: What do you see as the role of art – and shows like XX Factor – in 2016?
Trish Clark: I’m very old-fashioned about the role of art: I think it’s an essential part of the human experience; why else has it been a fundamental part of human life all over the planet for at least 35 millennia? So I’m not as concerned as many in the art-world with current fashions or the market. Good art is always a portal to viewing the complexity of the world and experience through a less ordinary lens, to make one think and feel deeply, and to feed the soul. Having said that though, the fact that at this point in time in art centres in the Western world there is a growing zeitgeist of exhibitions by women artists tells us more about the lack of such thinking/exhibition-making that preceded this moment – and how widely – and deeply-held, verging on unconscious, have been the attitudes towards women artists and their practices. The Gorilla Girls continue to draw the art world’s attention to these attitudes decade after decade!
Villainesse: What is it you love most about art?
Trish Clark: To me it’s as fundamental as food, water, sex.
Villainesse: What does the word “feminism” mean to you?
Trish Clark: Feminism, for me, is a way of being that has been life-long and encouraged in a family of multi-generational feminism, though more galvanised and “languaged” by my involvement in the 70s feminist movement. Essentially, it means beliefs and actions rooted in deep equality that address the fact that (roughly) half of humankind enjoys less respect, owns less property, earns less money, does more work and is treated more harshly in so many ways than the other (roughly) half of humankind. My daughter, now herself a mother (and scientist), and my two sons have all been raised as “feminists” without the label, and their intrinsic beliefs reflect equality of thought and action.
Villainesse: Anything else you’d like to say?
Trish Clark: Come and see the show!