Feminine Difference – group exhibition @ Haifa Museum of Art

Opening: Saturday, 05.09.20, 10:00, until 31.12.20

Curator: Limor Alpern Zered

Yuval Yairi / Simon’s Secret, 2004 (from Forevermore)

The artistic and cultural discourse includes a broad discussion of womanhood and feminism – mostly concerning issues of the feminine body and the patriarchal gaze directed at it. Now – with many reports of violence against women during the coronavirus crisis – this issue has become more prominent and pressing.

This exhibition seeks to focus the viewers’ gaze on the domestic feminine space, which functions as a kind of “micro-territory.” It presents a spectrum of experiences, ranging from protection and intimacy to discomfort and subversiveness. Today we still live in a culture that delimits the experience of space according to gender. Like the woman’s body, her space is sensitive and vulnerable, defined by distinctions between inside and outside and by an organized system of acceptance and rejection, permission and prohibition.

The discussion of feminine space is related to Freud’s famous essay, “The Uncanny” (1919). This essay addresses the transformation of the familiar, intimate, and homely into a source of discomfort and strangeness that stirs fear and anxiety, precisely because of its familiar aspects. Freud, who identified the home with the maternal body, argued that the womb is nothing but the “gate to one’s old homeland […] the old, familiar feeling of homeliness, but also the sign of repression.” According to Freud, the womb is the main source of the polar opposition between the familiar and the strange, an opposition that threatens man’s identity. What was once homely and intimate becomes, for the child, mysterious and dark as he separates from the mother.

Feminist psychoanalytic discourse tends to see Freud’s essay in a critical light, since it excludes feminine experience, addressing only the world of the masculine subject. For women engaged in this discourse, processes of separation between mother and child and the consolidation of a separate sexual identity can be accompanied by feelings of compassion and respect, and not just anxiety and strangeness.

The works presented in this exhibition focus on the landscapes of the woman’s home and their physical and emotional contents – looking from the inside out and the outside in. The woman’s image is sometimes evident; at other times it is an absent presence. The works offer a profound contemplation of life itself – of spaces that suggest the ambivalence of closeness and strangeness, desire and fear, subject and object. They feature earthy yet symbolic objects, such as a bed, a sofa, windows, and various home utensils. These objects create an intimate and familiar scenery, while at the same time pushing us away, generating a tense and enigmatic atmosphere charged with different associations. The works sometimes offer a subversive reading that expresses the essence of womanhood in terms of liminal situations of instability and collapse in the most familiar places.

Participating artists: Hamutal Attar, Oded Balilty, Lilach Bar-Ami, Bracha Lichtenberg-Ettinger, Martha Rieger, Angelika Sher, Inbal Waldman Ben, Yuval Yairi

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