Ellipsis (5 stars)


DCA, Dundee, until Sun 22 Jun


That these works by three defining female artists form such an easy fit is testament to the expert touch of Lynne Cooke, curator of New York’s Dia Center for the Arts. In terms of style, intention, method and the era they worked in, Francesca Woodman, Chantal Akerman and Lili Dujourie were uncannily similar artists, and Cooke has selected an array of works which are so alike in tone and conception that they could have been created by the same person.

It’s hard to believe this trio never met each other. Dotted across the northern hemisphere they set about challenging ideas of female representation independently. Curiously, the word feminism isn’t mentioned in the accompanying material here, despite the fact that all this work was completed during the 1970s, at the height of feminism’s second wave. In omitting the term from the exhibition literature, Cooke cleverly leaves the original context intact while inviting the appraisal of either viewing gender on purely artistic terms.

Woodman – the doomed enfant terrible of American photography who killed herself by jumping from a New York loft at the age of 22 – is the first artist we encounter here. Woodman’s story and the (literally) naked vulnerability she displays in her work is now beginning to earn her posthumous crossover idolisation among tragedy junkies. Yet her works are models of strength. She photographs herself naked in a run-down house; in a specimen case alongside stuffed animals; among other nude women wearing masks of her face. There are lots of mirrors in these images too, which suggest she has gone beyond the embarrassment of looking at herself publicly and is inviting us to do the same.

Akerman and Dujourie also appear naked in their art, though their stories feature more humour than Woodman’s. The row of 14 video screens showing Dujourie’s film pieces along the floor are still fairly frank, however: she sprawls on a bed, stands nude by a fireplace, poses (occasionally demurely) while clothed. Akerman, meanwhile, appraises her nude body in a mirror while being filmed.

As Cooke informs us she sees echoes of Michelangelo Antonioni’s films, the occasional moments of gratification amid the general purposelessness of life, in each of these artists’ defining of their own identity. That they did so in public is the reason they are mould-breakers.


  • 5 stars

Works made by three artists who were pioneering the use of self portraiture in photography, film and video in the 1970s and 1980s. Please note: some works contain frank images of the human body.

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