There is no end to the work of feminist (or simply female) “artivites.” Here is the one, elaborated (one should normally write “the one, elaborated…: I dare not here and leave it to you to decide…) in the New York of the 1990s and early 2000s, by Fiorenza Menini (born 1970). “A confusing score composed of walks, happenings, performances, texts, photographs and video” testifying to “her exploration of limits” in a process of “metamorphoses of the self” and “deconstruction of representations.”1
In the series Roof (1994), we see her “questioning the masquerade of femininity”2 in a leopard coat, furry hat, dark glasses, and pumps, armed with a bouquet of red roses on the roofs of New York. “How to get rid of its chains? She deconstructs, diffracts her image, diverts the uses, disorients […]”2 It is a matter of “recomposing my own body,” explains the artist, who is not afraid of the eyes and dares to confront taboos and clichés with a beautiful, and sometimes cruel, insolence. With her, the glamour hits the bull’s eye and the humor (often black) grates with gravity. The sick body in Poppy or the parody of the crime in the bathroom in How Al Pacino kills me! or the one of a too-well-ordered Breakfast testify: a violence lucrking everywhere underneath the humor is emerging…
From “the film starlet on a pedestal on a roof top” to the naked housewife curled up against a washing machine, straddling a television set or frozen in a refrigerator, the artist skillfully hijacks the conventions of representation, erasing “the laughable derision of our existences.”2 From the “woman with the femininity of glossy paper literally frozen in her refrigerator whose lamp serves as a spotlight” (Mrs Freeze and the Frozen Values) to The Short Life of Mary Smith played in accelerated in a fitting room, she shows the “women trapped by the representations that alienate them.”3
Roofs (Roof), underground (Down), squats (Squats), kitchens and bathrooms, blind spots (Dead Angle), disused spaces (Women in Furs), corridors, hotels… these are the paths that Fiorenza Menini takes to penetrate, hidden from view, the troubled intimacy of her subjects and to experiment. To experiment often means for her to metamorphose herself to break the codes and to dispossess herself before taking possession of the frame and her image.
Thus, in Masquerade, among other photographic performances, “the jewels deform the face into a cyborg-like amalgam of flesh and metal,” while the fur coats […] sometimes exhibit the superficiality of which they may be the clichés […], sometimes free the body from its form to give it back its animal strength.”3
An expressive and theatrical force that we find in her video Les Paysages atomiques made from photo books.
1. Quotes from the curator of the exhibition, Céline Mélissent.
2. Frédérique Villemur in the exhibition catalog.
3. Claire Lozier in the exhibition catalog.
June 2 – October 21
+ Le Kiasma, Castelau-le-lez
June 1st – July 13th