|Feminine Futures – Valentine de Saint-Point
Performance, Dance, War, Politics and Eroticism
Curated and edited by Adrien Sina
PERFORMA Biennial, New York, November 3, 2009 - January 7, 2010
Les presses du réel, november 2011
in conjonction with 'Danser sa vie', Pompidou Center, 2011-2012
('Avant-gardes féminines dans le champ de la performance et de la danse',
Adrien Sina, pp. 110-117, exhibition catalog)
Feminine Futures, curated by
Adrien Sina for Performa 09, displayed at the Italian Cultural
Institute an exceptional collection on early 20th century feminine
performative contributions to the European and American avantgardes.
These critical and radical experiments played the most fundamental role
in the birth of performance as a discipline, establishing for the first
time the artist's body in a conceptual action as a work of art. Over
360 paper-based pieces were presented on two floors in 32 specially
designed plexiglas boxes and show-cases: original photographs, letters,
manuscripts, drawings, manifestos, first editions and ephemera... This
corpus of mostly rare items, not existing in any museum collection or
unknown to art historians, aimed to open new reasearch perspectives for
Broadening the field of Futurism, Feminine Futures explores the wide
range of possibilities leading to the construction of the futurist
woman, surpassing the only marinettian point of view. Without these
competing tensions between Marinetti and some women artists such as
Valentine de Saint-Point and Enif Angiolini Robert, Futurism would
remain a male fantasy made for men and machines.
The feminine contribution to the avant-garde movements is always
under-evaluated, considering women artists as followers or assistants.
It's forgetting about the strength of their critical and radical,
constructive or destructive positions which played the most important
role in the birth of Performance as a new discipline in the field of
the arts, while men were still experimenting traditional mediums such
as painting and sculpture.
Beyond all the ‘isms' initiated by male artists (Futurism,
Expressionism, etc.) female artists are building their own avantgarde
experiments as a reply to originary forces, mostly rooted in the
psychology of desire and the reconstruction of a feminine mythology
which confer them the political power they have lost since the
industrial revolution, up to the point of having less rights than in
their ancestors centuries before.
Strong historical streams link together feminine performative actions
since the origins of political tragedy in ancient Greece, initiated by
Aspasia, cultural and political muse of Pericles, head of the first
democracy, 3rd century BC. Their performances are political,
eroticized, rooted in the figures of ethical and political resistance
to iniquity such as Antigone, Hecuba, Iphigenia or Medea, up to tragedy
femme, incitatrice charnelle, immole ou soigne, fait couler le sang ou
l'étanche, est guerrière ou infirmière. Elle est
l'individualité de la foule. Voilà pourquoi aucune
révolution ne doit lui rester étrangère'
Valentine de Saint-Point. Manifeste de la Femme Futuriste, 1912.
The ground level
was structured around the French aristocrat Valentine de Saint- Point,
the first and only woman artist to be part of the executive board of
the Futurist movement, the only futurist who performed in New York
(1917). In her ‘Manifesto of the Futurist Woman' (1912) and
‘Futurist Manifesto of Lust' (1913), she theorized broadened
territories of artistic activities, linking questions of flesh, desire,
gender, war, to political and civilization issues. These ideas were the
components of the ‘Feminine Action' that she initiated as a new
cross-disciplinary field. Her ‘Art of Flesh' was developed with
Ricciotto Canudo, another avant-garde leading challenger for F. T.
Marinetti in this stimulating love triangle.
The ‘flesh-work' encompasses the history of tragedy, dance and
performance, and culminates with her conceptual quest ‘we must
make lust into a work of art'. Following her intellectual partnerships,
the exhibition dedicated a large section to F. T. Marinetti, then moved
to the main figures of Futurism such as Luigi Russolo, Enrico
Prampolini, Ardengo Soffici, Anton Giulio Bragaglia, Mario Castagneri,
Nelson Morpurgo, Armando Mazza, Enif Angiolini Robert, through issues
of theater, performance, war, eroticism and futurist loves.
The second floor
traced a wider scene of radical experiments, with artists responding to
forces rooted in the psychology of desire and in the reconstruction of
feminine mythologies and political power which persisted in performance
art through the 1960s and beyond. Loïe Fuller, Isadora and Anna
Duncan, Ruth St. Denis, Mata Hari, Gertrude Hoffman, Anna Pavlova, Vera
Fokina, Ida Rubinstein, Josephine Baker, Giannina Censi, Mary Wigman,
Gret Palucca, Hedwig Hagemann, Valeska Gert, Ruth Page, Myra Kinch,
Martha Graham... A film program of mostly unseen early performance
films completed this section.
A history of photography
An exceptional convergence filed is opened in the encounter between
dance, movement, body language and photography. Genuine artistic
strategies remain behind technical processes and their specific
pictorial qualities. The photographic pieces of Feminine Futures are
also witnesses of the history of photography. Half a century of
imaginative mutation between the years 1890' and 1940'... From albumen
paper, silver or radium bromides to silver prints, a large chromatic
spectrum of chemical experiments are gathered, between stability and
selfdestruction of the visible matter.
1 Adrien Sina. « Feminine Futures », pp.
230-235. Catalogue de Performa 09, Back to Futurism. Sous la direction
de RoseLee Goldberg. Performa, New York, 2011.
2 Adrien Sina. « Cérémonies Charnelles », pp.
198-201, « Cérémonies Sacrificielles », pp.
382-383. Catalogue de l'exposition Traces du Sacré. Centre
Pompidou. Paris, 2008.
3 Adrien Sina. « Avant-gardes féminines du début
XXe siècle, dans le champ de la performance et de la danse
», pp. 110-117. Catalogue de l'exposition Danser sa vie - Danse
et arts visuels aux XXe et XXIe siècles. Centre Pompidou. Paris,
4 Adrien Sina. « Action Féminine - Valentine de
Saint-Point », pp. 44-47. Tate etc., n° 16. Publication
associée à l'exposition Futurism, Tate Modern. Londres,