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The history of te female body in visual arts

On the last 27th of october we held an online class on how the woman's body is portrayed in the visual arts timeline. The class was offered to the elderly group that meets weekly at the Instituto Butantã to carry out art workshops, discuss contemporary issues such as dealing with age in our current society, among many other activities.

We start further back with Velázquez's Les Meninas (1656): the painter includes his own image to paint the scene of the girls in the painting. John Berger, author of Ways of Seeing (ways of seeing), says that throughout Art History, women have always been used to having a male external observer, a man who constantly watches her, a kind of male big brother of his own. gestures and actions. According to him, the woman was so constantly observed that she ended up internalizing this observer: even if she is in a space alone, she will behave as if she were being seen by a man.

Our journey through the history of art started from this idea to think about the conceptual art that emerged in the 1950s with artists such as Yves Klein, Piero Manzoni, Carolee Schneemann, and movements such as Action Painting in the USA, O GUTAI in Japan. from 1960, with performance art in Europe and the USA, with artists such as Yoko Ono, Valie Export, Chris Burden, Marina Abramovic and Ulay, to the present day and the interpenetrations between performance and contemporary dance with Maria la Ribot, Xavier le Roy, Boris Charmatz.

One (among many others) positive balances of this meeting was that women told me that they did not understand performance or contemporary art and that, now, having looked at it differently, they started to understand and like it better. Disgust with the experience of a work of art can have many origins and one of them is perspective. Therefore, I end this post recommending the reading of John Berger and his fantastic book Ways of Seeing, which in 1972 was turned into a television series by the British television BBC. Click here to access episode 4 of the series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jTUebm73IY


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