As part of the 2023 multi-disciplinary arts Festival d’Automne, the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris is presenting a group exhibition in collaboration with the Centre Audiovisuel Simone de Beauvoir. Titled Trailblazers: Feminisms, Camera in Hand and Archive, the exhibition maps the fight for female emancipation through the dialogical presentation of the works of female audio-visual artists in the 1970s and ‘80s, and contemporary artists continuing that fight through different practices. By bringing together contemporary works alongside historical ones, this exhibition offers an artistic representation of the necessary unity required for the transnational emancipation of both women and queer people, especially during a time when the plight of these groups is worsening in many parts of the world.
The history (‘Herstory’) presented throughout the exhibition is largely grounded on the work of actress Delphine Seyrig, translator Ioana Wieder, and met videographer and activist, Carole Roussopoulos. In the mid-1970s, these women formed a collective named Les Insoumuses (trans. Defiant Muses) that embraced the emerging field of portable video technology and appropriated it in a disobedient act toward female emancipation. In 1982, they founded the Centre Audiovisuel Simone de Beauvoir to archive, distribute and restore their audio-visual work, and works by other French and international women directors and feminist groups. The videos drawn from these archives and presented within Trailblazers map the topographies of activism across a myriad of fights from sexuality and class struggles to opposition to the Vietnam War and support of ant-psychiatry. Trailblazers spotlights this network of constant interaction with an emphasis on transnationality.
The exhibition is divided into several chapters including ‘Disobedient Practices’, ‘Transnational Struggles’, ‘Feminist Appropriation of the Media’ and ‘Countering Normativity’. Each chapter presents a dialogue between the historical works of Les Insoumuses and the contemporary works of artists fighting in similar struggles. The poignancy with which this comparison emphasises the persistence of these struggles across generations and countries is a testament to the curatorial deftness of Nicole Fernández Ferrer and Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez. One contemporary artist, Bouchra Khalili exhibits a tapestry (The Weaver, 2022) that explores Carole Roussopolous’ work as a video maker and storyteller through a patterned image of her Sony Portapeck camera, in likeness to traditional Moroccan motifs. This work epitomises the transnational and transhistorical intercommunication between the artworks featured in the exhibition.
As part of the exhibition, the dialogue continues through a series of conversations with artists, researchers and curators until December. Notably, on November 19, Angela Davis was invited to continue her conversation with art historian, Elvan Zabuyan about the intersections between current developments in arts and global politics, and the power of art to shed light on the future. On December 11, multimedia artist Yto Barbara will be screening Sois Belle et Tais-toi! (1976) (trans. Be Pretty and Shut Up!) by Delphine Seyrig at Le Grand Action, Paris. This film documents the treatment of women within the film industry and, being the final satellite event promises to be a fitting conclusion to an exhibition that platforms marginalised transnational feminist struggles through an appropriation of audio-visual technologies across history.
The exhibition Trailblazers: Feminisms, Camera in Hand and Archive is on view until December 20 at Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris.
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Lili Reynaud-Dewar - Lady to Fox, 2018 - Avec l’aimable autorisation de l’artiste et CLEARING New York / Bruxelles © ADAGP
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Sophie Keir - Iran, 1979 - Avec l’aimable autorisation du Centre audiovisuel Simone de Beauvoir
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Sophie Keir - Iran, 1979 - Avec l’aimable autorisation du Centre audiovisuel Simone de Beauvoir