Female Perspectives

More visibility for art by women

Soun-Gui Kim with Bow and Arrow, black and white

When video art found its origins in the late 1960s and early 1970s, women and men alike took on the role of pioneers. During this period, numerous female artists consciously turned to the new, historically unencumbered media of photography, film and video, and in particular also used performances as a means of artistic expression. Together with their male colleagues, women thus occupied a niche of the new.

Today, however, it is predominantly the names of male artists such as Nam June Paik that have come to stand for media art. The ZKM | Karlsruhe is now showing four solo exhibitions by outstanding female media artists and is grouping them together under the title »Female Perspectives« to achieve more visibility. The idea of giving more space to female artists was also prominently implemented by the ZKM | Karlsruhe in spring 2020 with the digital festival FEMINALE DER MUSIK, which was dedicated to the work of international female composers. A digital feature titled »Femmes4Music«, has presented four more outstanding female musicians since November and December 2022.

»Female Perspectives« showcases female artists who, almost without exception, belong to the first generation to create electronic artworks. Born in the 1940s and 1950s, they and their male counterparts became the pioneers of video and sound art. This was possible because media art in the 1970s was still so marginalized that it could be left to women without further thought. Whereas painting and classical music were considered the only true arts and are still characterized by patriarchal structures even today, in the 1970s the video scene was already collaborative, without any struggle between the sexes. Together, they produced “outsider art,” as it were, in a niche in which women could also engage in artistic activity.

To this day, the electronic arts are not a terrain where there is gender-specific hierarchization, perhaps also because the various forms they take are still not marketable. Nor is the cliché that males have a greater affinity for the technical arts is obviously not true here. Apparently, it is sometimes even easier for women to open up new possibilities in the media than to situate and assert themselves in the male-dominated discourse of the classical arts.

An overview of the solo exhibitions

»Soun-Gui Kim: Lazy Clouds«

September 10, 2022 – February 5, 2023

»Marijke van Warmerdam. Then, now, and then«

October 29, 2022 – February 5, 2023

»Analivia Cordeiro. From Body to Code«

January 28 – May 7, 2023

»Ulrike Rosenbach. Today is Tomorrow«

June 3, 2023 – January 7, 2024

When contemporary media art first found its definitive mode of expression in the invention that is modern video technology, from today’s perspective there were essentially three aspects that can be understood as specific artistic challenges.

The technical parameters: The mobility of the easy-to-use video camera and the possibility of simultaneously recording and screening opened up a whole new spectrum of expanded pictorial experience and visual culture. The conquest of the dimension of time: The possibility to capture and also communicate art experience in the temporal dimension not only unleashed artistic creativity, it also “compelled” reception behavior to be different which suggested, if not demanded, reflection on the experience of time. The expanded sense of mission: Inspired by the extensive reach of the medium of television, from the outset video art was experienced, used, and appreciated as a political medium that could enable a different kind of television. In this, the artists always sought to connect with performance and concept art.

Just how autonomously the pioneering women artists work with the new time-based arts can be seen in each of the four solo exhibitions of Soun-Gui Kim (*1946 in Buyeo, Korea), Marijke van Warmerdam (*1959 in Nieuwer-Amstel, Netherlands), Analivia Cordeiro (*1954 in São Paulo, Brazil), and Ulrike Rosenbach (*1943 in Bad Salzdetfurth near Hildesheim). Influenced by their own cultural environments, each artist developed her own distinctive oeuvre. Kim from Korea who went to France early on and worked in the USA in the 1970s, understands video technology as a cosmic medium, a medium for mind-expanding images. Ulrike Rosenbach, on the other hand, who is almost the same age as Kim, is more committed to feminism, to political agitation. She acts as a critic of society and she disappeared from the art market in the 1980s because of her feminism. Marijke van Warmerdam, who is about ten years younger, focuses on the motif of repetition. On the basis of her critique of media studies, in her art she seeks difference in repetition. Analivia Cordeiro has been shaping the entire media art of South America since the early 1970s as its first video artist. In addition, the ZKM is now dedicating a major solo exhibition to her.

Digital feature on outstanding female composers

Women are far from being adequately visible in music, as well. Like video art, electronic sound art in music, whose boundaries to performance and concept art are fluid, offers female artists a niche. With »Femmes4Music«, the ZKM presents internationally acclaimed female composers born in the 1940s to the 1960s. The edition »Masters of Music« presents only men, even though these four female composers should have been represented here long ago. Naturally, the ZKM has always engaged with and featured these female composers on a sporadic but regular basis.

Overview of the »Femmes4Music« series
Online here

Female composers

Organization / Institution
ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe