Martha Wilson — The Political and Performance Art Collection, Carte blanche, Journals

Exhibition

Graphic design, new media, performance, photography...

Martha Wilson
The Political and Performance Art Collection, Carte blanche, Journals

Ends in about 1 month: October 16, 2021 → January 8, 2022

Opening in the presence of the artist on Saturday October 16 from 3 pm to 8 pm
Exhibition from October 16, 2021 to January 8, 2022

In the fall 2021, the American artist Martha Wilson will be honored in Paris with several events including a second solo exhibition at the mfc-michèle didier gallery and a first solo exhibition at the Centre Pompidou.

The exhibition at the gallery will present a series of videos entitled The Political and Performance Art Collection in which the artist embodies and performs political figures such as Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Donald Trump and Tipper Gore.

While Wilson’s photographs play with the representation of archetypes in a rather dramatic and introspective style, the performance series The Political and Performance Art Collection displays a resolutely satirical register at the intersection of Burlesque and Pantomime.

Pantomime is a theatrical form developed long ago in England, originating in part from the Commedia dell’Arte, and a repertoire of recurring characters such as Harlequin, Columbine or Pantalone. Pantomime generally combines parodic humor with a form of political protest against a backdrop of popular issues. It also includes songs, cross-dressing, gender-swapping, and dances. It is a form of participative theater, in which the audience interacts with the performer in the same manner as stand-up comedy, which will appear later.

Martha Wilson adopts a number of codes that refer to the Pantomime into her performance’s works, and to Extravanganza, itself inherited from the Victorian Burlesque imported into the United States in the mid-19th century. Also known as Travesty, this theatrical genre is a pastiche, a parody in which a story, a text or a character is re-enacted with the aim of giving it a contentious and subversive character, while retaining a comic dimension.

In the continuity of her research on the role given to women in society, the First Lady is a new Model of representation directly associated with power «Women are second-class citizens. The First Lady is not allowed to be in charge; she is allowed to beautify the roadsides or promote libra- ries, but she’s not allowed to run things.»

Thus, in her imitation work, Martha Wilson does not seek to perfectly mimic the First Ladies, she wears them, uses them, as the title of the video: Martha Wilson Wears Nancy Reagan attests. In itself, the First Lady is an image, an outfit that Martha Wilson enfolds in the manner of a grotesque ventriloquist, making them speak, sing or gesticulate, turning Nancy Reagan into a character as strange and eccentric as the Frank-N-Furter of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

In parallel, and as part of a Carte blanche proposed to Martha Wilson, we will present in the exhibition the artists who had a significant influence on her work. Their works have been determinant in her own production, as well as in her approach to performance art, gender and feminism, self-representation and activism, and the question of art.

These works by international artists, mostly produced in the 1970s, will be presented at the gallery and at FIAC 2021 on the mfc-michèle didier booth. Featured works were made by Vito Acconci, Lynda Benglis, Judith Bernstein, Ilona Granet, Barbara Kruger, Suzy Lake, Howardena Pindell and Carolee Schneemann.

Journals. This focus on the early years of Martha Wilson’s work will be further enhanced with the publication of Journals by mfc-michèle didier. The publication is a selection by Martha Wilson of pages from her diaries that document her experience as a woman and artist between 1965 and 1983. Setting up an inner dialogue, Journals of Martha Wilson is punctuated with personal notes, work notes, considerations, addresses to herself and to her relatives. The publication delivers a unique point of view, the psyche of an artist in the making, staging her work but also its representation in a form of introspection that mirrors her own performance practice.

For the Carte Blanche, special thanks to the Garth Greenan Gallery (New York), Karma International (Zurich), Osart Gallery (Milano), Georgia Sherman Projects (Toronto) and Specific Object (New York).