UNHCR & Giles Duley: The Refugee Women of Congo

29.10.2018 | Art , Blog , Culture | BY:

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, violence against women has been particularly brutal since war broke in the Kasai region in March 2017.  Rape and sexual violence has continued to be used as weapons of war in a pool of conflict that has triggered internal displacement of some 1.4 million people — and the flight of over 35,00 refugees into Lunda Norte province in northeastern Angola. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) teamed up with renowned war photographer Giles Duley to tell the stories of the female survivors who have bore witnesses to these crimes in a photography series to pay tribute to their strength.  For more stories and information on how to help, visit UNHCR.

“To be honest, I am not that strong. I lost everything. I am not sure how to carry on.”

Sylvie Kapenga, 26, from Tchissengue feels broken by the violence she witnessed when armed groups attacked her fellow villagers, killing and raping indiscriminately. She has four children and says life in Lóvua settlement, Angola is tough with little food or clothes to give them. 

“They pointed a gun at my husband, but we managed to escape with our two children.”

Some of 42-year-old Bernardete Tchanda’s friends were raped and killed when armed men attacked Kamako, Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the past she has suffered domestic violence. She says she feels protected in the UNHCR settlement in Lóvua, Angola. 

“As a refugee it is harder as a woman, we have the responsibility for food and the children. But here the women have given me inspiration.”

Ani Tcheba, 19, fled her village on a Monday morning at 6am, heavily pregnant and helped along by her husband. In Lóvua settlement, Angola she says the women share food and other essentials, and help each other with the hardships. 

“They killed my uncle and his sons. We couldn’t even bury them. Sometimes I am very sad at all we have lost. Other times we let it go, we have our lives. I am never tired. I am so strong, my body is always moving, ready to work.”

Mimi Misenga, 45, escaped barefoot into the bush from Kamako, Democratic Republic of the Congo to Lóvua settlement, Angola. She says armed men forced her neighbour to rape his own daughter. 

“The militia would go to a house and I would see them carry out the woman. I knew what they were doing. I lived in fear.”

Chantal Kutumbuka, 45, fled the town of Kamako in the Democratic Republic of the Congo when armed militia men killed her husband. She abandoned all she owned and crossed the border to Lóvua settlement in Angola.

“I thought they would kill the baby inside me, that’s where I found my strength.”

Thérese Mandaka, 19, has not seen her husband since she fled across the border from Kamako in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Lóvua settlement, Angola. When the soldiers came he was out looking for work while Thérese was at home, pregnant and sick. He has not seen their child, Munduko, who is now four months old. 

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Shoot the Women First: Twin meets artist Navine G. Khan-Dossos

02.03.2018 | Art , Blog | BY:

Navine G. Khan-Dossos’ latest exhibition at The Breeder in Athens considers the theme of targets. Entitled Shoot The Women First, it draws on a command reported to be issued in the 1980s to members of West Germany’s elite GSG-9 anti-terrorist squad. The order forms the title of a book by Eileen McDonald, one of the many influences that worked to inform Dossos’ complex and multi-layered exhibition.

The opening of the exhibition on the first floor recreates a shooting range. The paintings begin with targets that use abstract shapes, and build until their depictions of humans are wholly recognisable. This movement to clarity is uneasy: at the moment you recognise the object, you also process a human will be shot. All the paintings are taken from actual targets. The tension is there again, with the paintings operating both as art and as a direct reflection of institutionalised killing. Curated as a shooting range, the audience is complicit in this complex relationship too – both a gallery visitor and a watchful bystander.

Downstairs in the gallery symbols on paintings refer to Discretionary Command training. Trainee shooters receive a chain of commands which require them to shoot at shapes and colours in a certain order. These objects represent an abstraction of human from human, and also of State from the individual. Especially of those considered to threaten existing structures.

Pink in Athens doesn’t have the millennial fashion connotations that it does in other European cities. Instead it evokes the colours of walls outside the brothels in the Metaxourgeio area, also the location of The Breeder gallery. The downstairs series was also informed by recent historical events around the area, specifically a case against a group of female drug-users in 2012, who were forced to take HIV tests. The women were publicly persecuted by the media and accused of grievous bodily harm for transmitting the virus through sex work.  The use of the colour in her paintings then opens up new interpretations; pink is no longer beautiful, but violent. A shadow of war-mongering red. As is typical throughout the exhibition, Khan-Dossos offers a new way of seeing. The viewer is taken by surprise.

Navine G.Khan-Dossos, Grey Discretionary Command Series I-VIII, 2017 | Photos courtesy of The Breeder / © Alexandra Masmanidi

A graduate of Art at Cambridge University, Arabic at Kuwait University, Islamic Art at the Prince’s School of Traditional Art in London, and with an MA in Fine Art from Chelsea College of Art & Design, Navine G. Khan-Dossos brings a rigorous and intellectual approach to understanding the world around us. Her abstract paintings allow for an ontological study of shapes and symbols; historical references from both East and West, alongside contemporary digital contexts, examine and reflect on themes such as the depiction of European converts to radical Islam (‘Echo Chamber’, 2017), to the use of symbols and codes in the creation of crossrail at the House of St Barnabas in London (A Year Without Movement, 2017).

Her works are often site specific, and multi-dimensional. The opening of Shoot the Women First was accompanied with a performance by – enacting the shifting relationship between the collective and the other. Twin caught up with Navine to discuss the performance of identities and the idea of the other.

When did you first encounter Eileen McDonald’s text? What was the immediate impact it had on you? 

Shoot The Women First by Eileen MacDonald was given to me for Christmas by my partner a couple of years ago. It raised a few eyebrows around the Christmas tree, that’s for sure. But my partner knows me pretty well, and given my long-term interest in female terrorists, it was a perfect gift for me. I read it immediately and have read it again many times since. But I also have shared it with those Im working with on this project, in order for us all to begin the conversation from the same page.

The book is (as far as I know) the first attempt by a journalist to tackle the subject of female terrorists, and given when it was written in 1991, the interviews she conducts are with women whose memories and experiences of conflict and action are very recent and you can really feel that in the fabric of the book. 

There are problems with it, such as an over-arching narrative that supposes that the violent political cause is somehow a child replacement for female terrorists; a cause into which they can put their maternal drive. This reduces women to a biological imperative of motherhood rather than seeing them as having genuine political will of their own, unconnected to their ovaries. This line of conclusion certainly dates the book, but I think as an archive of a specific time in history and the role of women within that turbulence, it’s a very valuable document and an inspiring one to begin something new to continue this dialogue in our own times.

Navine G.Khan-Dossos, Bulk Target 1-100, 2018 | courtesy of The Breeder / ©  Alexandra Masmanidi

In the accompanying essay to the exhibition Lisa Downing surmises that ‘ A “target,” then, by necessity, moves.’  What about this dynamic interested you?

Beyond this essay for the show, Lisa Downing thinks and writes more broadly about the role of the individual woman, the difficult woman, or the woman who finds herself unable to be part of a collective we and I think this is the issue that underpins the target too. How does a woman stand apart but also identify with the group? The question of the target, for me, is tied up in this question of the individual and the multitude, being able to be alone but without being isolated or singled out for attack. And I think this is a pertinent question we must take forward with us into a future where we dont have to be vulnerable or further this otherness by individuating oneself.

Through the curation and the targets you open a discussion around complicity – where do you hope the viewer will place themselves in this dialogue?

I really dont have any expectation of where the viewer should place themself within the work. It isnt so didactic as to suggest one position. The intention is to keep things open, to reflect on the many roles that can be played out in the scenario of the shooting gallery: the target, the target designer, the shooter, the bystander, the amateur weekend gun enthusiast, the professional killer. 

Navine G.Khan-Dossos, Shoot the Women First, Grey Discretionary Command Series I-VIII, 2017 |courtesy of The Breeder / ©  Alexandra Masmanidi

Why was it important to you to have a performance element of the exhibition? How did the collaboration come about?

This is the first time I have collaborated with a choreographer (Yasmina Reggad) and a group of dancers. Over a coffee in my studio when I was making he cardboard targets, Yamsina noticed how much the drying works resembled costumes, or certainly had the possibility of being worn. With her experience and her eyes, she saw not just the abstracted figure within the target, but how it could be embodied, given movement, and activated as part of the works scope beyond painting. 

It was a very natural collaboration and Yasmina and I have been thinking and practicing together over the past weeks and months to think how we can work in parallel and share this common ground of interest. 

The dancers will perform a mixture of martial arts-based movements choreographed within patterns used by riot police in crowd control situations. They will move those attending the opening of the show, pushing them out of the gallery, and controlling them through these delicate but powerful gestures. 

Shoot the Women First performance, choreographed by Yasmina Reggad for Navine G. Khan-Dossos exhibition opening | photo courtesy of the artist / ©  Alexandra Masmanidi

Im become quite fascinated by what a female army might look like in the future. The Kurdish female fighters of the YPJ (Kurdish Protection Units) continue to be a strong presence in my thoughts everyday, but I wonder also what ways of fighting and controlling crowds might be possible through other forms of intervention, which is why the inclusion of the martial arts is an interesting mode to explore. In a show that is dominated by the act of shooting and guns, this attempt to circumnavigate the use of this kind of instrument of violence is a way of imagining different possibilities for the future.  

In the show text you reference specific examples of the 2012 arrests of suspected sex workers in Athens, as well as other major moments of terrorism throughout contemporary history. Can you talk a little about your research process, and why the story of the Greek women spoke to you in particular?

From the moment I found out about this story I was gripped by it, but also by the way it effected the Greek people I asked about it, and how they recalled that moment in time. I wasnt yet living in Athens myself in 2012, so it was very much about exploring collective memory as well as more in-depth research. This case in some ways is very simple  an action made in the weeks leading up to a general election to make it look like the city was being cleaned up. But the complexity of the intermeshing subjects of HIV, of sex work, of the sanctity of family unit in Greece, also coalesce into something of great tragedy for the women at the heart of the events.

One of the first and most important influences on this research was the film Ruins by Zoe Mavroudi. She presented the story and the politics of what happened to these women in 2012 with a great dignity and power. Zoe and I discussed the making of the film and the issues surrounding it, but also the present situations of these women, and how not to lose sight of this case, but without re-presenting the women at the centre of the arrests, furthering the exploitation of their image.

Zoe introduced me to Apostolis Kalogiannis who was able to deepen my understanding of the current situation of sex work in Athens and how it has changed (or not) since 2012. This was an important way of grounding myself in the present rather than just looking back onto a concluded past event. There are important groups supporting vulnerable sex workers in Athens and there are ways for us to support their work through art, and by keeping the subject alive and visible.

Νavine G.Khan-Dossos, Pink Discretionary Command Series V-XII, 2017 | courtesy of The Breeder / ©  Alexandra Masmanidi

We spoke about the desire to focus on this story without re-enacting the violence that the women experienced in 2012. Could you elaborate on your approach to this?

The works are not and should never be considered a re-enactment of the situation in 2012. Those events are part of a much wider series of influences that went into making the works. But one important aspect that did derive directly from the issues raised by that case was how to represent women without returning to the low-grade viral images that swept through the Internet and the Greek media when the story broke.

I do not believe we need to re-present or indeed rely on these damaging images. Instead there must be a way to use a functional, diagrammatical, symbolic language that tells a wider story about the abstraction of the human body as a necessary device to distance oneself from the subject/target.

It is possible to make work about violence that in itself is not violent. It can be a contemplative or meditative space instead of a shocking one  a space where the viewer can consider the subject matter and recall what they already know inside themselves, including their own experiences, rather than forcing my narrative upon them.

I have been working on this approach to portraying difficult subject matter for a few years now, and it always changes depending on the subject matter. But I feel strongly that in this time of mass consumption of digital images of violence, there might be other ways to talk about it that don’t rely on the images themselves and getting caught up in that loop of the poor or degraded image (as Hito Steyerl might say). 

Νavine G.Khan-Dossos, Pink Discretionary Command Series V-XII, 2017 | courtesy of The Breeder / ©  Alexandra Masmanidi

Do particular shapes and colours present themselves instinctively or do you always approach shapes and symbols to use in your work based on their pre-existing references and meanings?

All of my material comes from things that exist in the real world as functional objects or images. In this case all the paintings are based on Discretionary Command targets  a form of shooting practice target that relies on listening to commands and shooting the coloured shapes in the order given. So the shapes and colours have an inherent meaning within this context and a relationship to the human body in terms of organs (shoot to kill) and limbs (shoot to maim).

I have also included pink triangles as an additional shape to the pre-existing forms of the command targets, as a way of including the history and politics of the gay rights movement, which also has an important place in this work about the targeting of marginalised groups. 

Shoot The Women First is on at The Breeder Gallery, Athens, until March 10th. 

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Annie-Leibovitz

WOMEN: New Portraits by Annie Leibovitz

08.01.2016 | Art | BY:

Annie Leibovitz is widely considered to be one of the world’s best portrait photographers. Her book Women, which was first published in 1999, celebrates an array of women, from Supreme Court Justices and Vegas showgirls to coalminers and farmers. In 2016, the project is set to continue in the form of a travelling exhibition, making its debut in January at the Wapping Hydraulic Power Station in London.

Over twelve months, Annie Leibovitz’s new portraits will appear in ten cities; London, Tokyo, San Francisco, Singapore, Hong Kong, Mexico City, Istanbul, Frankfurt, New York and Zurich. The new portraits will display the changes in women’s roles in contrast with those 15 years ago. Alongside Leibovitz’s new work, visitors will be able to view work from the original series and other photographs taken since.

Speaking at a press conference at Somerset House, Leibovitz describes how Women ‘is an unending project, it goes on and on.’ The original project is Annie Leibovitz’s most popular body of work and was a collaborative series with her partner Susan Sontag, who accompanied the subject matter with an essay. Sontag passed away in 2004, but her influence had a lasting effect on Leibovitz’s photography, with Sontag encouraging her to become more intimate with her photographs.

The original book features 100 portraits of women, including public figures like Hillary Rodham Clinton and Gloria Steinhem, and Leibovitz has promised 20 additional images to the project in 2016. At present, only one new photograph from the series has been released, of Leibovitz and her daughters Sarah, Susan and Samuelle. However, Leibovitz has confirmed that new portraits from the series will include Venus and Serena Williams, Amy Schumer and her sister Kim Caramele, Misty Copeland, and Caitlyn Jenner.

WOMEN: New Portraits has been commissioned by UBS and will be presented to the public for the first time on the 16th January 2016 at the Wapping Hydraulic Power Station in London. Admission is free.

ubs.com

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Hauser Wirth and Schimmel is bringing the revolution to LA

19.12.2015 | Art | BY:

From 13th March 2016, Hauser Wirth and Schimmel, a gallery in the heart of the downtown LA art district, will host ‘Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women, 1947 – 2016’, an exhibition featuring almost 100 artworks by 34 female artists. Spanning seven decades, the exhibition aims to reflect on women’s artistic progression in the field of sculpture.

The display will be partly overseen by Paul Schimmel, the former chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art. He has noted that the exhibition is modeled on gallery founder Ursula Hauser’s private collection, which included several pieces by prominent female artists.

The exhibition will explore how integral elements of contemporary art have been pioneered by female artists since the post-world war II era, who in seeking to form their own artistic narrative, expanded and redefined sculpture.

Moving chronologically, the exhibition takes off directly after the Second World War, when sculptors like the legendary French artist Louise Bourgeois and New York artist Louise Nevelson combined feminism and surrealism to create large-scale sculptures and installation art. Moving forward into the 1960s and 70s, works by Post-Minimalist artists including German Eva Hesse and the iconic Yayoi Kusama illustrate how conventional uses of materials changed at this time, with tactility incorporated into sculpture to convey the artists’ presence.

The exhibition continues with artists emerging from the Post-Modernist era and expanding further into the realm of installation art, using videos and being more expansive in their use of space. Concluding with work by a new generation of sculptors, much of which has been commissioned especially for the exhibition, visitors are able to see how artists have built upon the legacy of previous sculptors, while incorporating new uses of colour and materials into their work.

The exhibition will run until 4th September,  2016.

hauserwirthschimmel.com

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Emma 10

Looking for a feeling with Emma Tillman

16.12.2015 | Art | BY:

Intimate, considered and subtle, Emma Tillman’s photographs have had us captivated long before her husband (singer Father John Misty) stepped into the limelight. And whilst she may have earned thousands of new fans after the success of his second album I love you Honeybear, in which she is the proclaimed muse and inspiration for his complex lyrics and idiosyncratic melodies, Tillman’s accolades are all her own.

We caught up with Emma to find out more about her work, photographing love and not getting Instagram.

How did you get into photography?
When I was 12-years-old I took an after school class where the students took pictures and learned how to work in the dark room. My mother gave me a camera that had been hers when she was young and I became obsessed with the medium.

Light and shadow play a strong role in your work, what is it that you’re looking for when you take a picture?
I’m looking for a feeling.

Emma 3

Photography by Emma Tillman

Whether your subject is human or an object, there’s strong sense of intimacy in your photographs. What’s your process when you’re working?
I have a gift for communicating my emotions through the lens of a camera. All photographers who take compelling photographs have this gift. There is a supernatural quality to photography that is not often acknowledged, but in my opinion contains all the undeniable fascination of the medium within it.

Your photographs retain a sense of the individual behind the lens, and often you’re in front of it too. Do you find that photography creates and mythologises a character or uncovers the crux of an individual?
It is both. The moment is raw and alive, but somehow also a vitrine of an experience that is just beyond the viewers reach. It is a clear representation of an individual but yet you must put your own imagination into it to complete the story for yourself. It is mercurial, imagination runs wild. That’s the good stuff.

Emma 8

Photography by Emma Tillman

People regularly revel and empathise with other’s misery but in the photographs that you take of your husband there’s a clear sense of joy and celebration. Do you ever feel conscious of this?
I choose my moments. At this time in my life couldn’t take a photograph of someone I love in pain.

Your self-portraits and portraits of other women reclaim the idea of the gaze, like early Cindy Sherman photographs. There’s a sense of exposure without exploitation. Why is it important for you to capture the female body in this way?
I like to photograph other women naked because it is simple and the lines are lovely. There aren’t any distractions to contend with in the picture. As for photographing myself, I can’t help but be drawn to the endless mystery of it. I come back to it again and again. My own face, my own body. It holds a lot of secrets.

Emma T 1

Photography by Emma Tillman

How has the rise of instagram affected your relationship with the lens, if at all?
Oh I can’t stand Instagram! To say too much about it would be to marginalise myself, but I can say that from Instagram I glean how much our culture relies in the comforts of sentimentality and try to run in the other direction, artistically speaking.

You’ve also worked in film, how was that experience? In terms of story telling, which medium have you found gives you more narrative freedom?
I don’t know if a comparison can be drawn. Film satisfies an urge for me which has always existed, to tell a story. Photography is more playful. The feeling about it changes, the style changes. It is more about  subtraction than addition, which is how I think of film.

Emma 11

Photography by Emma Tillman

What was the last record you listened to?
It’ll be Better by Francis and the Lights.

Favourite equipment to shoot on?
I have a few cameras. A Pentax from the 1970s, A Nikon from the 1980s, a Minolta from the 1990s.

Who are the exciting photographers to watch?
I like the work of Amanda Charchian and Aneta Bartos.

What’re your upcoming projects?
I am finishing a book of photographs, Born with a Disco Ball Soul. I’m also in pre-production on a feature length film I wrote. We’re shooting the film in Summer 2016, in New Orleans.

What’re you looking forward to for the rest of 2016?
My book, my film, and Christmas.

Find all of Emma’s work at lovetheghost.tumblr.com

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super/collider’s Women of Rock exhibition

04.09.2015 | Art | BY:

Geology has never been considered the most feminine science but the oeuvres in a new showcase from creative science agency super/collider are anything but masculine. Witness Carly Waito’s stunningly realistic oil paintings of gemstones (main picture) and Jessica Herrington’s crystal and rock inspired sculptural works, while Sophie Rose Asquith’s Sylacauga 1954, Thixenhale 2013 (pictured below) leverages black-and-white photography to eerily represent extraterrestrial geology.

The mixed media show is designed to represent the resurgence in female fascination with geology, minerals and meteorites, with beguiling results. Many of these artists are fascinated by how these jewels develop through immense pressure and time – parallels with everyday life, perhaps?

super-collider.com; 25 September – 30 October, Print House Gallery, 18 Ashwin Street, London E8 3DL

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The ICA’s new film programme

01.09.2015 | Film | BY:

“Women are a drastically under-utilised resource for the UK film industry.” That’s the conclusion drawn by Calling the Shots: Women and contemporary film culture in the UK, 2000-2015, an ongoing Arts & Humanities Research Council funded project, which investigates women as creative practitioners in contemporary UK cinema.

The Institute of Contemporary will celebrate this with Onwards and Outwards, a programme of films made by British women filmmakers over the last 50 years, focusing on those who have excelled in making works of independence and originality. The nationwide programme of screenings, talks and events aims to establish a dialogue around the conditions of production that women face when using the moving image as a means of expression.

Screenings will be accompanied by introductions and Q&As from relevant industry professionals and cultural practitioners such as Joanna Hogg, Laura Mulvey, Carol Morley and Campbell X.

Finishing with a round-up discussion, Onwards and Outwards will raise the profile of key issues and encourage public debate. The programme has been made possible by support from the BFI, awarding funs from the National Lottery.

Onwards and Outwards will run until 10 September at the ICA and until end of December at nationwide venues.

ica.org.uk

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Women Fashion Power At The Design Museum

02.09.2014 | Blog , Culture , Fashion | BY:

For aficionados, fashion is much more than a frivolous indulgence in the latest trends. It is about self-expression, identity and creativity. This is what the major autumn exhibition at the London Design Museum intends to celebrate. Women Fashion Power opens on 29 October, looking at the ways in which women are using fashion to define and enhance their place in the world. Fittingly, the exhibition is designed by Dame Zaha Hadid, the first and only woman to have won the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004. She herself is well known for her fashion statements, currently sporting pink ombré hair.

It will feature exclusive interviews, an immersive multimedia journey including archive photography and film footage, and historic pieces of clothing to illustrate a timeline of fashion over the past 150 years, from restrictive corsets to Louboutin’s statement heels. There will be an iconic Yves Saint Laurent ‘Le Smoking’ suit, a Mansfield suit worn by Margaret Thatcher and a Jacques Azagury dress worn by Princess Diana, amongst others. To add to the excitement, over 25 contemporary women will be featured in the exhibition, and each of them has donated one of their outfits. Naomi Campbell, Dame Vivienne Westwood, Livia Firth (wife of Colin), Roksanda Ilincic and Natalie Massenet (of Net-A-Porter) are just a few of the famous names.

Fashion, it seems, is growing ever more important as a tool of empowerment, for building a reputation, attracting attention, and asserting authority. You might want to think on that when you plan your next outfit…

Women Fashion Power at the London Design Museum, from 29 October to 26 April.

designmuseum.org

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Rebel Talk

22.01.2013 | Blog , Culture | BY:

The title of tonight’s event at LSE says it all: Women, Protest and the Nature of Female Rebellion. Hosted by  journalist Laurie Penny, who currently writes for publications such as The Independent, the talk will look at courageous women throughout history,  from the time of the Paris Commune through to the defiant ladies of Pussy Riot. There may have been years when it was unthinkable of a woman to raise her voice, but 2013 definitely isn’t one of them.

Women, Protest and the Nature of Female Rebellion runs from 6.30-8pm at the London School of Economic’s Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building.

lse.ac.uk

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