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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Nancy Wilson-Pajic

Nogent-sur-Marne,
France

—-1941 Born in Peru, Indiana. —-1950-59 Classical studies in drawing and painting. —-1959-63 Art school, then studies in psychology. —-1964-77 Lives and works in New York (as Nancy Wilson Kitchel) —-1966 Definitively stops painting. Explores other forms of cultural expression, notably film, sound, text, performance… Creates a media center on Long Island. Center is a laboratory for exploring and exhibiting new art forms. First public performances. —-1968 Installs a recorded voice in a pile of dishes in a kitchen, for a “salon” exhibition. Voice recounts the daily routine of a secretary-wife-mother. Chooses to develop narrative forms within an art context. —-1969 First New York exhibitions. —-1972 Founding member of A.I.R., first women’s gallery, in New York and personal exhibition of installations and objects with texts. —-1973 Personal show at Artists Space in New York is first time a sound installation is shown in an art context and inspires an impassioned debate in the art world. B.F.A. degree in sculpture, Cooper Union, New York. —-1974 Text installation at 112 Greene Street Gallery in New York attracts attention. Beginning of participation in the international avant-garde with text-based installations. —-1977-79 Discouraged by the academism of the avant-garde. Sells house in New York and gives away possessions. Marries the video artist Slobodan Pajic. —-1980 Settles in a studio in Paris. Research on the aestheticizing character of the image. Creates a series of pigment printing processes. Works under the name Nancy Wilson-Pajic. —-1983 Solo show at the Musee National d’Art Moderne in Paris. —-1989 Commissioned by the French Ministry of Culture to create a monumental work to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the invention of photography. —-1990-92 Large-scale retrospectives at the Musee National d’Art Moderne in Paris, at the Musee Cantini in Marseille and in two museums in the city of Aurillac. —-1995 Creates, with the art historain Carole Chichet, the virtual artist Penelope Morgan, who makes the most radical works possible using discarded objects. In parallel, shows under that name until 2006. —- Named Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Minister of Culture. —-From 1990 Numerous exhibitions, commissions and acquisitions by museums in Europe, Asia and the Americas. —-From 1996 Concentrates on developing a text-based statement in installations, text-image pieces and writings. —-2009-2010 Participates in Elles@CentrePompidou, the vast survey of women’s art from the collections of the Musee National d’Art Moderne, in Paris.

Feminist Artist Statement

When, in 1966, I quit painting and began to explore other media and other forms of cultural expression, I found myself doubly excluded. First, I was a woman and second, I made the wrong kind of art. The hopelessness of the situation relieved me of pressure to conform and provided me with an extraordinary freedom of action. Exonerated from any hope of entering the mainstream art world, I began to work in non-art spaces, in dematerialized forms, performing and making installations for a growing group of like-minded others. From this vantage point, at the very beginning of the 70s, I began to act within the feminist art movement, where I advocated the construction of parallel structures as a means to precipitate the change of attitude that would permit greater equality, not just of persons, but also of ideas, opinions and modes of expression. For me, the full realization of a women’s statement in art required basic revision of both the artist’s role in society and of what constitutes an art object. My feminist attitude was and still is based on the unique and positive aspects of women’s experience, insisting on the equality of the art made by all groups and individuals, regardless of their personal characteristics or the modes of expression they employ. This attitude requires an enlarged definition of what it is acceptable to do within the context of art, in terms of techniques, of forms and of contents. Sharing personal experience and ideas, pointing out contradictions, as well as attacking artistic or social problems from another vantage point, produces an art with subtle but very basic differences. Women’s attitudes, even those born of oppression, introduce a dynamism that renews art practice. In a panel discussion at A.I.R., Lucy Lippard, Rosemary Mayer, Mary Miss, Nancy Spero and I defined the differences between the terms Female, Feminine and Feminist. As I interpret the schema, Female would relate to individual experience, Feminine to socially defined characteristics and Feminist to militant action. It is maybe only after having explored what is uniquely feminine and acquiring a feminist consciousness that one can begin to appreciate and to develop the richness and the artistic possibilities of one’s own, individual, female experience.

<p>Dear John</p>

Dear John

In situ sound installation in a kitchen consisting of a pile of dishes and a voice recounting the daily routine of a wife-mother-secretary. Also shown as a sound sculpture at Cooper Union in New York in 1969 (illustration). ——-TEXT (Excerpts)—-Usually I get up at 6 and make myself a cup of coffee before everybody else gets up.—-Then I wake up the kids and get them washed and give them breakfast.—-While they are eating, I finish packing the lunches.—-Then I wake up my husband and give him his breakfast…—-While he is eating, I get the kids dressed and ready for school, pull on my sweat suit, load the kids into the car and drive them to school. There are a bunch of roughnecks on the school bus and they beat up on my kids all the time; I guess they resent the fact that they are better in school or something. So I drive them, and they are less nervous and do better in school.—-Then I come back to the house and get myself ready for work. My husband has already left by the time I get back because he has been transferred to a town 20 miles further and it takes him longer to get to work. I don’t really take enough time with my appearance. With my position, I should have a better appearance, but I just don’t have enough time to do my hair and put on a lot of make-up. Sometimes the other girls make comments, so I do try to put on make-up… —-My husband gets very nervous when we talk about money, so it is hard to get anything decided. Usually he gets mad and goes off to bed in a huff while I try to figure something out. —-He thinks I should ask for a raise with all the extra work I do, but he doesn’t understand that it isn’t work on my level that I do, but it is filling in for secretaries and clerks, so I can’t ask for more money. I suppose I should be able to insist that they do it, but there is so much resentment against my having the responsibility that I hate to make more demands than I have to. It’s not how much work you do; it’s the kind of work you do that gets you more money. I already earn more than any of the other girls in the company. My husband says I am being exploited and that I should stand up for myself better.

Dear John

In situ sound installation in a kitchen consisting of a pile of dishes and a voice recounting the daily routine of a wife-mother-secretary. Also shown as a sound sculpture at Cooper Union in New York in 1969 (illustration). ——-TEXT (Excerpts)—-Usually I get up at 6 and make myself a cup of coffee before everybody else gets up.—-Then I wake up the kids and get them washed and give them breakfast.—-While they are eating, I finish packing the lunches.—-Then I wake up my husband and give him his breakfast…—-While he is eating, I get the kids dressed and ready for school, pull on my sweat suit, load the kids into the car and drive them to school. There are a bunch of roughnecks on the school bus and they beat up on my kids all the time; I guess they resent the fact that they are better in school or something. So I drive them, and they are less nervous and do better in school.—-Then I come back to the house and get myself ready for work. My husband has already left by the time I get back because he has been transferred to a town 20 miles further and it takes him longer to get to work. I don’t really take enough time with my appearance. With my position, I should have a better appearance, but I just don’t have enough time to do my hair and put on a lot of make-up. Sometimes the other girls make comments, so I do try to put on make-up… —-My husband gets very nervous when we talk about money, so it is hard to get anything decided. Usually he gets mad and goes off to bed in a huff while I try to figure something out. —-He thinks I should ask for a raise with all the extra work I do, but he doesn’t understand that it isn’t work on my level that I do, but it is filling in for secretaries and clerks, so I can’t ask for more money. I suppose I should be able to insist that they do it, but there is so much resentment against my having the responsibility that I hate to make more demands than I have to. It’s not how much work you do; it’s the kind of work you do that gets you more money. I already earn more than any of the other girls in the company. My husband says I am being exploited and that I should stand up for myself better.

My Grandmother’s Gestures

Text-photo document of performance. Collection Musee National d’Art Moderne, Paris. ——-TEXT: When I was young, my mother frequently reprimanded me for touching my face. My hands, which were usually dirty, were constantly in the vicinity of my mouth and I was in danger of ruining my complexion. No one could understand why I did this. Recently, I realized that the gestures were identical to those of my grandmother who had survived a delicate nerve operation which had numbed one side of her face. She was especially self-conscious about the side of her mouth, where she imagined saliva or food might escape undetected. —-My grandmother’s appearance and manner revealed little more than a composed, well-bred, ordinary woman, but hints of a wild, uncontrollable, independent nature could be perceived in the stories she told me in confidence and from her biting wit. As a child I greatly admired this ability of hers to fit into a role and her surroundings without compromising an extraordinary will. It seemed to me that it was this ability to mask her passion behind severity and propriety that freed her from the pressure to conform that seemed always focused on me. The training she gave me, largely by example, was less about how to be than about how to behave in order to survive.

Installation at 112 Greene Street Gallery, New York

Installation of 5 text works at 112 Greene Street Gallery, New York: Visiting Hour (recordings of Midwestern women recounting misfortunes)—-Disguises (Notebook of family photos with names of roles for titles: bookworm, horsy girl, etc.)—-My Grandmother’s Gestures (notebook of photos and texts, documents of performance)—-Memory Figures (projection of out-of-focus photos and text)—-Exorcism (notebook of documents, photos and texts)

How Do Men Turn Into Dogs?

Installation consisting of 5, poster-sized, line drawings and a notebook of drawings, notes and collages showing the similarities between obedience training in the business world and for pets. Presented on a table with a chair and a lamp. Collection: Artphilein Foundation,Vaduz.

Passages

Exhibition in the Passages des Princes in Paris by In Vitro. Installation consisting of a back-lighted, translucent curtain gently stirred by a fan and a taped text about a woman passing through. ——-TEXT (Excerpts)—-She was a stranger. We didn’t know where she had come from.—-She came from far away and she wasn’t planning to stay.—-She was traveling. Nobody knew what she was doing here.—-She was only passing through.—-She asked for directions. I forget were it was she wanted to go. It was much further along.—-She was a widow. That is, she was dressed in black. Maybe she had a veil over her eyes, or she was wearing dark glasses.—-She was a foreigner. You could tell from her way of dressing, her walk.—-She was only passing through, she said, on her way to visit her family.—-She was a tourist. We didn’t know there was anything interesting to see here.—-They say she was born with an eye on the horizon. Even as a small child she talked about the day when she would leave.—-She was born without roots. No matter where she was, she was only passing through.—-Nobody remembers what her name was. Nobody remembers anything about her. All she left behind her was a mystery.

Manifesto

Installation on computer screens consisting of a continuous video “slide show” of 3 texts in short phrases in white letters on black, dealing with what art should be:—-Manifesto I 2000-04—-Manifesto II 2004—-Visible & Invisible 1977 Presented at the Galerie Fran?oise Paviot in Paris in 2004. ——-TEXT (Excerpts) Put together banal objects and fragments of text… Place them at random… Space them in awkward fashion… Let them take on their own meanings… Use the first thing which comes to hand… Things one never noticed before… That which simply exists, humbly, which doesn’t signify… Eliminate conceptual and narrative elements… What other unifying factors are there? Is the human desire for meaning a unifying factor?... Dramaturgies of the banal… Little theatres of the inanimate… See them as theatre pieces… Rid common objects of their anecdotal character… Render the object incongruous in its own environment… A sort of spotlight to shine on objects, disembedding them… An intellectual spotlight, a mind set… Techniques for rendering things extraordinary…

Threshold Mysteries

10 short texts, reflections on the symbolism of the threshold, in English and in French, pinned to the wall and individually lighted. ——-TEXT (Excerpts)—-I: It is difficult to understand how a threshold — any of them, all of them! — is dangerous. You absolutely cannot conceive at which point your life could be completely devastated by the simple fact of crossing a limit, by chance, at the wrong moment. It can happen to anyone. It happens to everyone. It happens to the insensitive without their even noticing it and is manifested in a mysterious change of attitude of those around them…—-VI: Imagine the day when you push the door at the entrance of the building where you have lived so many years and, without any warning, you are transformed into old folks… You climb the steps as always, but you don’t know where you are going any more…—-IX: Here, at the threshold, we are stricken with transition. Here, at the door, are all dangers, all promises, all possibilities… There is a minute space, not even a line, an invisible void that must be crossed, between two worlds more radically different than we can imagine, two worlds so terribly distant one from the other that the empty space which separates them is an abyss which we can cross only by risking great danger to our equilibrium…

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5 av Smith-Champion
Nogent-sur-Marne,
France

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Text, images, audio, and/or video in the Feminist Art Base are copyrighted by the contributing artists unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.