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Natasha Matila-Smith on dicks: We can’t all have dicks

Part Three

We can’t all have dicks.

Making art with and about the body has been somewhat of a superpower for some female artists.  This has been a successful strategy in getting people to notice that yes, women do have the right to govern and exploit their own bodies as they see fit, furthermore challenging societal norms about the issue of consent. Artists like Carolee Schneemann, Marina Abramovic and Tracey Emin are exemplars of the autobiographical female nude; an idea that we seem to have associated with some kind of female artist stereotype – that moody irrational hysterical female that simply must express their sexual issues and female-ness through their own biological sex.  Even though we have come to an era where female artists aren’t restricted to this archetype, a couple of questions have come about because there are still so many artists working in this mode.   Have we covered everything we need to cover in regards to female personal identity, sex and the body?

I find myself quite uninterested in works featuring classically attractive naked women and equally uninterested in works that use one’s body as a subject to discuss exploitation and sex.  Not because the work is uninteresting, but because I am a lazy reader. I’m a by-product of a society that has taught me taking charge of your own body is a negative thing.  While I’m not trying to blame society for being a lazy reader I find the presence of discomfort through dismissive-ness is not uncommon and needs to be dissected.  Why are people, myself included, so nonchalant about female nudity? Are we so saturated with the female body that it lacks any emotional affect? Surely not all female nudes are about shock, so why do we assume that this kind of work is concerned with shock value?  And then, if it is about shock value, is this a tired and overused strategy or is it still necessary in contemporary art? The tolerance for shock is ever shifting, being raised higher with each extremity.

We obviously still have progress to make in art, as female artists are still being paid less than their peers with fewer opportunities.  I would suggest that support from male peers is key to moving forward.  I have previously stated that there needs to be more dicks in art, mostly to create a gender balance.  However, there should also be more vaginas in art because we still need to talk about issues pertaining to the female gender.  There should DEFINITELY be more art about periods, not that I’m volunteering.  Vagina artworks need to be made by women, otherwise the same issues will arise – male artists should not have reign over the female body.  Female artists, can in fact have ownership over how females are represented.   The added bonus being that there is a more accurate depiction of the reality of being female.

Natasha Matila-Smith

Untitled(Purple Virgin Sketch), 2004, Tracey Emin, acrylic on paper.

Untitled(Purple Virgin Sketch), 2004, Tracey Emin, acrylic on paper. Main image: EggPlop 2014 Milo Moiré.




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