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Gender and Sexuality in Meret Oppenheim's Performance Art
Lunds universitet.
2010 (English)Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

What is woman’s role in the modernist avant-garde? Feminist art historians have long criticised the dominant masculinity of modernism. The problem, as I see it, is the unreflecting way in which history is written, and the way in which women are squeezed into theoretic models that really only affirm, and cater primarily for, men. The German-Swiss artist Meret Oppenheim (1913-1985) has been described, ad nauseam, as the muse of the surrealists. This paper discusses Oppenheim’s work as an early form of feminist performance art. The sexuality and corporeality of Oppenheim’s oeuvre emerged from modernist happenings and other boundary-crossing art genres that were characterised by a close relationship to both gender and sexuality. Throughout the happenings of modernism up to the present day, women artists, regardless of whether they declared themselves feminists or not, have presented their view of how culture exposes and perceives women’s bodies with the aid of a explicit, clearly stated and exhibit body. This paper argues that Oppenheim’s oeuvre represents a proto-feminist guerrilla performance that has become influential in the feminist enactment of gender and sexuality. With her objects and happenings she manages to draw the viewer’s attention to various dissonances that are frequently gender-specific and often relate to women. History can be conquered from many different perspectives. One is to focus on Oppenheim’s work in a feminist context. That would help to disperse the myth of Oppenheim as the muse of the male surrealists.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
avantgarde, feminist historiography, performance art, modernism, Meret Oppenheim
National Category
Humanities Performing Art Studies Gender Studies
Research subject
Theatre Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-73742OAI: diva2:505288
Cultures of Modernity; The International Federation for Theatre Research, Munich, Germany
Available from: 2012-02-23 Created: 2012-02-22 Last updated: 2012-02-23

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Rosenberg, Tiina
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