News and More from the Art Alumni Group University of California, Berkeley


Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sonya Rapoport: "(in)AUTHENTIC : War, Woman, Jew"

Sonya Rapoport will be exhibiting her net artwork "(in)AUTHENTIC : War, Woman, Jew" at the University of Wisconsin's upcoming Conney Conference, "Performing Histories, Inscribing Jewishness" to be held April 22-24, 2009.

A brief synopsis of the project from an interview with Sonya Rapoport:

It was probably in 1999 that I was introduced to French feminist Luce Irigaray's critical writings. They inspired me to consider the female as a displaced person. My previous art projects had come from the perspective of masculine emulation of feminine attributes.

For my new adventure I copied excerpts of Irigaray's criticism of the Freudian castration dogma, a psychoanalytic theory that presumes the female to be an aborted male. I then contrived a dialogic exchange between Irigaray and Freud by transferring the Freudian quotations that Irigaray had used in her chapters and gave Freud back his own voice, free from Irigaray's sentences .The text had been extracted from Luce Irigaray's Speculum of the Other Woman. During the same time period I was reading Jean-Paul Sartre's Anti-Semite and Jew. I roguishly threw him into the contentious pool as the third author to participate in the discussion. Other than both books having French origin, they are very different.

About eight years later, I returned to the work to incorporate the material into a more complex net artwork. On the worktable before me lay a collage of printed text that was comprised of ten sets of a terse interchange among the three authors.

I had tried to keep the original sentences intact with minimal editing while at the same time I was selecting passages for their logical associations between woman and Jew. I had intuitively extracted a common denominator of displacement/outsider. A year or so later, after I had accrued an array of images that related to the concept of (in)AUTHENTIC, electronic artist Robert Edgar and I collaborated to create an interactive website that builds itself while you watch it. Thus it was fashioned into one of Edgar's Memory Theatres. Memory Theatres were first formulated in the sixteenth century by Giulio Camillo as a way to sense the structure of the cosmos through painting, text, and architecture. Robert Edgar composed the first implementation of a memory theatre on a computer in the mid-1980s on an Apple //. We selected and categorized images, texts and vocalizations, and loaded them into the engine of the memory theatre. The text is read in English by German and French natives.

Freud's view of the female as a masochistic castrated male triggered in me a recognition of the association of gender displacement and the "in-authentic woman." Jean-Paul Sartre's "in-authentic Jew" in his book Anti-Semite and Jew, claims that the in-authentic Jew's self-hatred stems from anti-Semitism and circularly, the in-authentic Jew is a rationale for anti-Semitism.

Robert Edgar and I introduced into the web piece an animated military tank for navigating through the contentious material landscape. The tank robot evolves as a physical and psychological intermediary. The aggressive intent of the piece and the phallic symbol of the tank play the gender counterpart to the female. It seemed appropriate to use the tanks' functions as thematic headings for each of the ten sets of topical discourse.

The concept of theatre on the website (in) AUTHENTIC takes on two meanings: in one sense it is a theatre of memory; in another sense it is a theatre of war. Within these coextensive theatres, the army tank moves between what is authentic and what is inauthentic as found in the aggressive environments of Sonya Rapoport's personal cosmology of gender, race, science, and mythology. The ten given fields of tank function, and their representations are presented under the headings Shift, Hidden, (Un)seen, Masochism, Impenetrability, Duality, Phallic, Gouge, Despoil, and Cover- words culled from excerpts of the disparate texts by Freud, Irigaray, and Sartre. These categories are further linked with associated images of outsiders, outcasts, and plights of women from Guinea, Iraq, India, Darfur, Bosnia, and the United States. Nigerian hairstyle codes, Jungian symbology, and mitochondrial mitigations further enhance visual and symbolic associations.

Expanding upon the theme's message the Nigerian hair-styles are imposed on the women's portraits. Because the mitochondrion is inherited exclusively through the female it represents the scientific aspect to the work. Alchemical imagery is interwoven conceptually and visually with mitochondrial processes.

(The exhibition will present a video of the unfolding net artwork).