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Exhibition explores the politics of the gaze and otherness via the female body
Marx Palimpsest, 2016, © Deborah Castillo; Courtesy of the artist and Carmen Araujo Gallery.

BROOKLYN, NY.- Highlighting the ever-present oppressive accusatory patriarchal watchful eye, Deborah Castillo, Luiza Kurzyna, Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow and Joiri Minaya stare right back. They claim their space and declare their stance, whilst erasing the established doctrines, staging and re-establishing their own legacy, heritage, image, presence, narrative and dignity through humor, protest, action and re-activation. Kunstraum presents “She’s a Maniac “, the starting of 2017 exhibition season curated by established NY-based interdisciplinary artist, curator and educator Katya Grokhovsky, founder of Feminist Urgent – an in-flux curatorial platform and series of round-table conversations.

Exploring the politics of the gaze and otherness via the female body, the group show “She’s a Maniac” includes four female NYC based artists. In video, performance, sculpture, photography and collage the four examine how our society and politics categorize, fetishize, alienate and label women as ”other” and "crazy", thus establishing hierarchies and power over the female gender, devaluating it in the process.

South American born artist Deborah Castillo positions her work in relation to history’s status quo. Questioning the pre-existing traditionally masculine political discourse, she literally incites vigorous acts of erasure of known ideologies in performances. In an attempt to de-stabilize society’s patriarchal foundation her video works, performances and sculptural objects heighten her power as artist and woman in intensive gestures of protest. Castillo forces us to re-consider our own position: whom do we idolize, do we follow, do we trust, do we reject, do we celebrate or condemn? She points at the hostility incarnated in regime’s historic dogmas as a vehicle of ultimate oppression of generations. By considering the frailty of power itself, Castillo reminds us that shifting perspective is a necessary tool of the survival of humanity - through her messy, durational act of disrupting history.

Luiza Kurzyna’s performances for video integrate role-play as necessary tool to reveal feminine aggression and joy as acts of subversion. Employing humor and elements of the absurd and grotesque, Kurzyna’s handcrafted soft sculptural objects and costumes, which she utilizes in her video works and installations, allude to a conventionally female activity whilst questioning the stereotype and linked expectations through physically dynamic games. Kurzyna keenly observes nature and our surroundings, whilst establishing intricate relationships between objects, humans, plants, and animals, reminding us of our ultimate universal connections. By facilitating tactile, joyful situations, Kurzyna investigates where the limits of our civil exteriors lie and how can they be subtly shifted and fragmented. Evoking childhood activities and desires, she ignites our imagination and poses questions to the viewer, prompting us to relinquish control. The work invites us to evoke our humanity, to enjoy ourselves as an act of ultimate feminist refusal.

Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow explores her heritage through performance and installation, whilst examining the notion of exoticism and othering by The Western gaze. By staging photographic, video and live tableaux vivants, in which her body acts as protagonist, positioned against the site-specific backdrops of culturally significant sites and natural environments, she places the audience into a role of a witness to her reclaim and agency of rebuttal. The protagonist, questioning our first world capitalist cultural tourist values as insatiable consumers, establishes important moments of histories, which should be known and remembered, forcing us to reconsider the worlds we inhabit and visit. Lyn-Kee-Chow sets out to underscore effects of migration, climate change and depletion of world’s resources on our present and future, through excavation and performing of the overlooked, ignored and invisible past, whilst rejecting the ever-present systematic accusatory normalizing scrutiny of white patriarchy.

Joiri Minaya’s practice analyzes and repositions the female self as autonomous agent in charge of one’s own identity and destiny through interdisciplinary combination of photography, performance, video, collage and painting. She directs her own gaze back at the social order, reclaiming the regard of the western eye, which perceives her as product, fetish, as lesser than, as a vehicle of service and labor, or possible provider of pleasure. Exploring displacement and cultural alienation, she decolonizes the body from within, transcending and shifting expectations, assumptions, stereotypes and oppressive idealizations. Challenging established notions of “other”, Minaya’s work forms it’s own vernacular, where any identifying elements are concealed by “tropically patterned” prints covering the performing and staged bodies posed in the idyllic scenic environments of traditionally considered ideal “tourist” destinations. Blending into their backgrounds, the figures ultimately block our gaze, reclaiming their environments as places of their own consequence, history and dignity.

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