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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Alex Martinis Roe

Berlin/Melbourne,
Germany/Australia

Alex Martinis Roe, b. 1982, holds a PhD in Fine Arts from Monash University, Australia (2010), and was awarded the Silver Jubilee Scholarship for post-graduate research (2006-9). In 2006-7 she was a resident at Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, Melbourne, and in 2007 undertook a summer program with Valie Export at the Salzburg International Academy for Fine Arts, Austria. Recent shows include HaVE A LoOk! Have a Look! FormContent, London (2010); Encounters: Conversation in Practice, Limbus Europae, Berlin (solo) (2010); Change, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne (2010); The Politics of Art, Linden Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne (2010); Opening Lines, Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, (2010); Discreet Objects, Utopian Slumps, Melbourne (2010); Affirmations, Light Projects, Melbourne (solo) (2010); Towards a Positive Politics of Difference, Monash University Faculty Gallery (solo) (2010). In April 2011 she will exhibit a solo project at Pallas Contemporary Projects in Dublin. Martinis Roe has been published in art magazines such as Art & Australia (2009) and produced artist pages for Un Magazine issue 3.1 (2009). Martinis Roe currently lives and works in Berlin.

Feminist Artist Statement

Motivated by an intense interest in the quality and affect of relations between people and texts, I work as an artist in order to practice a politics of sexual difference. This is a positive practice which affirms its genealogy within the history of feminist art practice and then sometimes ruptures it toward a future symbolization of difference. I do this by providing frameworks for events which attempt to simultaneously problematize normative subjectivity and its relationship to authorship, and produce specific and consciously negotiated relations between those who enact the art encounter. I do this work in order to contribute to the future of a parasitic, feminine genealogy, using the legitimacy that the art industry affords it. With a particular interest in the temporal position of my authorship as something that works with histories and their future, I position my activities as platforms for experience and further action, expanding the activity of the ‘viewer’ to that of interlocutor. However paradoxically, this movement away – this attempt to refuse my own authority – is contingent upon the genealogy of my own work.

And thus, if asked what kind of work I make: I make documents. These documents are objects, images (moving and still), and texts, which record the history of their specific encounter or production without attempting to transparently communicate the content of that experience/activity. The refusal to transfer this content within the same context is where my practice becomes co-dependent on the artwork’s interlocutors. These documentary objects/texts then work performatively as frameworks which re-produce the cadrage (conditions of meaning) for the next encounter. For example, I determine specific spatio-temporal structures for encounters between people and objects, which focus on the way in which these structures affect and shape the discourse and experience of the scene. My documents re-present these frameworks so that they are cumulatively affected by the history of these specific encounters. I also organize live demonstrations of actions, which result in random sound compositions as a kind of positive outcome from destructive processes. I have recently worked with different modes of documenting events/encounters of this kind ranging from videos which become instructional tools for re-enactment; objects which are visibly affected by their use and record a material density from different encounters; conversation transcripts; certificates; and the sound and image of the stenotype transcript code produced by a stenographer.

<p>Encounters: Conversation in Practice</p>

Encounters: Conversation in Practice

This project involves encounters between visitors to the project space and the artist, who simultaneously transcribes the events which occur. These transcriptions are both the document of each encounter and the instruction for the following encounter. Using various modes of notation including Hanne Darboven’s “non-writing”, monochrome Polaroids and geometric diagrams, these transcripts form a cumulative archive in the project space, which in turn influences and informs the choices made during each event. The reenactment of an event from the previous encounter forms the starting point for each new interaction. Each encounter is a decision making process which defines the geographic, aural and visual relation between the artist and the visitor. The need for this spatial work upon relations became apparent via an observed analogy between the psychoanalytic encounter and the art encounter: both are one-on-one. The set physical relation between the psychoanalyst and the analysand produces a particular kind of relation. Analysis of this performative operation highlighted the possibility of producing a practical spatial/temporal framework which could facilitate co-authorship of relations in contemporary art contexts, specific to each different encounter. This genealogy of different encounters, which forms the project Encounters: Conversation in Practice, explores both the encounter itself and the artist’s contribution as the stenographer of events.

Encounters: Conversation in Practice

This project involves encounters between visitors to the project space and the artist, who simultaneously transcribes the events which occur. These transcriptions are both the document of each encounter and the instruction for the following encounter. Using various modes of notation including Hanne Darboven’s “non-writing”, monochrome Polaroids and geometric diagrams, these transcripts form a cumulative archive in the project space, which in turn influences and informs the choices made during each event. The reenactment of an event from the previous encounter forms the starting point for each new interaction. Each encounter is a decision making process which defines the geographic, aural and visual relation between the artist and the visitor. The need for this spatial work upon relations became apparent via an observed analogy between the psychoanalytic encounter and the art encounter: both are one-on-one. The set physical relation between the psychoanalyst and the analysand produces a particular kind of relation. Analysis of this performative operation highlighted the possibility of producing a practical spatial/temporal framework which could facilitate co-authorship of relations in contemporary art contexts, specific to each different encounter. This genealogy of different encounters, which forms the project Encounters: Conversation in Practice, explores both the encounter itself and the artist’s contribution as the stenographer of events.

Free Associations

Five white chalkboards were installed along a long gallery wall and were written on by participants using white chalk. The parameters for this encounter were controlled using a booking system. As people indicated their interest in experiencing the piece, the gallery generated new booking times. In order for an activation of the work to take place, there had to be five people booked in to write on the boards for twenty minutes at a time. Each person who booked in agreed to use one of the white chalkboards to write continuously in white chalk on the board for the twenty-minute duration of their allocated session. The instruction for the writing was to write continuously whatever came to mind, similar to the psychoanalytic parameter undertaken by the analysand to “freely associate.” The white chalk on the white board was guaranteed to be private as whatever was written was illegible. The encounters took place in a public gallery, which generated a tension between the private act of writing one’s thoughts and the knowledge of the presence of other spectators. The fact that five people participated at any one time generated a kind of group. This enacted a collectivity, which, rather than demanding sameness in order to participate, demanded the simultaneous difference of each participants thoughts.

Anti-Vertical Demonstration Expanded Workshop

In a militant act of stationery activism, the anti-vertical demonstration extrapolated the entropic relationship between theory and praxis. Defining a feedback loop between individual and collective consumption of representational imagery as a key area of discourse, the anti-vertical demonstration explored potential strategies of resistance. In this live demonstration repeating the same strategy demonstrated both the need for constant hard work, but also the need for that work to be flexible and resourceful.

In the interests of generating a comradeship between those attempting to produce the image and those attempting to reduce it, the anti-vertical demonstration expanded workshop has been devised as a means of primary encounter. In discovering a lack of solution in the anti-vertical demonstration expanded workshop, there could begin a generative conversation between those with the desire to produce the image and those with the desire to reduce it.

It may become a question as to why this desire can be considered a kind of workplace. How and why is it an objective to collectivize? Toward a negotiation between the desire to seek agency through sameness and the difficult task of considering and accommodating the singularity of the whom, the anti-vertical demonstration expanded workshop is a means to an end. A dictatorship of the image (as it approaches text) is at the expense of the material.

As a gesture toward further conversation here is the formula:

take a printed image without significance

cut it into equal parts

devise a system for remembering the relation of the parts

delegate these tasks amongst you who wish to collectivize:

collate the parts into a whole by means of a binding instrument

rip these parts from the binding instrument systematically attempt to connect the parts according to the order of the original formation using a similar binding method

rip the parts apart again against the strength of the binding method

repeat until impossible

provided by Alex Martinis Roe

Megaphone for Anti-Vertical Demonstration

As an alternative option to the Anti-Vertical Demonstration, Megaphone for Anti-Vertical Demonstration is an assemblage of instruments of resistance which have been immobilized by their aestheticization. Reducing these historic apparatus to the function of image prevents their productive utilization. These objects (the flag, megaphone, the brick) are isolated from any specific “cause”/positive representational politics and now enter into the discourse of the universal, eternal, and legitimate languages protected and produced by the museum. Conversely, Megaphone for Anti-Vertical Demonstration asserts the performative agency of the artwork and its potential to shift the ideological force of dominant aesthetic regimes. Interrogating the enduring assumption of the autonomy of the art object, especially in relation to the art market and the museum’s “permanent collection,” Megaphone for Anti-Vertical Demonstration, alludes to a positive political actionism which is precluded by the context specific rules of the art encounter (i.e. don’t touch/use). Thus, the assemblage points to its own negativity as the latent ideological hegemony of the universal “void.” This negativity relies on some other positivity, perhaps a juxtaposed artwork, a companion text or even a series of allegiances held by the viewer, in order to direct that inherent agency. Implicating the consumer in the way the object produces significance is an attempt to enact a positive politics, which rejects the assumption of the artwork’s autonomy and the claim that its enduring relevance is apolitical.

Image courtesy of Monash University Museum of Art, Australia.

Affirmations: The Scene

Affirmations: involved a series of one-on-one encounters and publicly available documents of those encounters. The one-on-one encounters re-negotiated the normative spatial geography that determines the roles of artist and audience in the gallery through interactive work with objects. The constructed encounters took the form of four one-on-one workshops at Light Projects, Melbourne. Each workshop took the space of the gallery and a sculpture I had made called The Scene (comprised of two similar glass triangles, framed in aluminum that are joined but occupy different axes of space) as the context for a negotiation. The negotiations consisted of an instructional task to hang/install/place one of three identical framed images in the space. Each negotiation produced a considered set of parameters that reworked the roles of artist and viewer and the mode of their relation. The workshops involved private one-on-one negotiations between myself and a psychoanalyst; H?l?ne Frichot (an architectural theorist); and Allie Ford (an astro-biologist/physicist). Each of these professionals was chosen for the very different ways in which each of their understandings of space would inform the negotiations.

Diagram of Affidamento

he Milan Women’s Bookstore Collective’s practice of affidamento, translated by Teresa de Lauretis as “entrustment,” outlines a mode of feminist genealogy that has the potential to move beyond the essentialism/anti-essentialism debate. Italian feminism has been particularly influenced by Irigaray’s thought. Taking Irigaray’s theory directly into practice, the Milan Women’s Bookstore Collective practice a politics of sexual difference. Their politics is not one that calls for equal rights, but rather works toward the development of a female symbolic. They took Irigaray’s analysis of the exclusion of the feminine from the phallogocentric symbolic as a way to rationalize a need for a specifically female symbolic order. The development of this female symbolic necessitates the development of a female genealogy, a history of female-to-female legitimation. By legitimating, I mean that entering female-to-female relations into existing power structures is an alternative mode of socio-political validation. Further, these relations, which constitute a female genealogy, are the mode with which women can obtain agency within existing power structures. This entering is neither oppositional to these power structures nor complicit with their existing modes of operation. The disparity between women is used to generate a female social structure, which operates parasitically upon phallogocentric power regimes.

Affidamento describes a relationship between two women, whereby one entrusts her symbolic to the other. This entrustment is between two women who have disparate relationships to power. Both share a goal or objective, but their differences are politically effective reasons to collectivize. The model of “sisterhood in oppression” that characterizes liberationist, rights-based feminism is redressed in affidamento as a politics of difference. Irigarayans see the saming of women as a violence that erases women from the symbolic. As phallogocentric discourse has only ever written the neuter subject, the masculinity of that subject remains hidden. The Milan Women’s Bookstore Collective argue that to position women as equal amongst themselves is as violent as to position them as equal to men: to restore a neuter subject is to restore the masculine subject. Erasing difference performs the same repudiation of the feminine to the outside of language that is always, already the operation of phallogocentric discourse. Irigaray describes the horizontal relationship between women as a repression of female genealogy, and according to Adrienne Rich this repression is what causes rivalry between them. Indeed Freud’s formulation that a woman can only resolve her Oedipus complex by identifying as similar to her mother is the perfect example of this. To make all women the same is to deny the authority of the mother, because it erases the power differentials between women. Irigaray describes the denied mother-daughter relationship as vertical: disparate. Affidamento is the practice of disparate relations between women as a public, political practice. To characterize “disparate”, the Milan Women’s Bookstore Collective isolates, for example: social status, competence, and age. The female symbolic that one performs for the other in affidamento is possible because of the differences in power between the two women. Although, this was initially developed as inter-personal relations, many feminists involved in this discourse took Emily Dickinson’s writing as an example of a female genealogy. Dickinson only read other women writers and thus entrusted herself to them symbolically. This specifically textual affidamento has much contemporary potential as it accommodates the multiplicity of feminist approaches: it enables a collectivity of difference.

Stenotype (detail)

Listen to the inner workings of the stenotype machine. A stenographer recorded the syllables that she could hear of a conversation between two people sitting behind her. Each time she created a combination on the padded keys, an internal printer simultaneously output a series of letter symbols. How does she make one out of two? A coded body of symbols and the rhythm of her input can tell another person exactly what was said, but not by whom. Encountering this mid-point between remediations of the document, we are faced with a format that prevents our access. Including everything of this transfer, we are lost in what escapes translation: the intimacy of their exchange.

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