“The artistic work of Michèle Magema is erected in an intermediate zone, a mental space, a produced border, an interstice located between the double Western and African projections.
The plurality of his affiliations allows him to question his history and that of a nation, a continent and more broadly of the World. The relationship she maintains with stories and History allows her to invent a critical posture.
Michèle stages herself, and reveals both her questioning and her discernment through her photos and video installations imbued with an intimate femininity, while addressing fundamental points in the history of humanity.
In Element, the artist tries to put into images universal exotic projections that are implied. A humming voice, sensual feet, shod in white accompanies a hand that picks cotton on the asphalt. A head, fragment, advances in profile, balancing a basin. The same chained ankle feet move slowly, in high heels. The three images coexist, carried by a long tracking shot that allows us to follow this woman, like the watermark of an evocation of the female condition in general.
Again, Michèle Magema tells and retells History in images. Drawing from the archives, restoring a balance in a rickety reality, she pursues her singular quest linked to her own cultural diversity as well as to her feminine gender.” [credit]
Oye Oye, 2002
Video, 5:30 min. Michèle Magema
* 1977 Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
“In Oyé Oyé Michèle Magema deals with the Memory of the father and an entire generation of men and women who were eager to achieve a modern Africa. Oyé Oyé is about nation-building, a stop on the journey to a so-called « utopialand ». It is the raving story of a man who seized power and perverted history, Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) from 1965 to 1997. Mobutu pursued a phantasmagorical vision of an « authentic » Africa. (« Autenticity » was political, social, economic, and cultural ideology implemented in 1970 with the goal of shaking off all colonial influence, to the point of banning Western poducts and prohibiting Christian names.)
Magema’s Oyé Oyé is a two-channel video installation; on one side the artist, shown without a head, mimes a military march; on the other are public images from the Mobutu era, such as parades. In both the African female body is shown as an instrument of propaganda. By parodying the political concept of identity, Magema forces us to reconsider a country’s past.
“Walk a Mile in her Veil is an introspection of Arab identity through the lens of the veil and its user, inviting visitors to try on the veil and understand first-hand the cultural, social, and feminist motives behind it.” [credit]
“Jalan Gembira is a walking practitioners collective that has been walking together since 2016. Jalan Gembira are based in Yogyakarta and mostly walk around the neighborhood in Yogyakarta. The idea of walking emerged in the condition of motorbike cities. Most people are not comfortable walking around. On the other hand, the walking infrastructure has not been capable of accommodating the walker. However, this rarely walking condition are leading to the layers of social problem that related to the safe space for women, adult at risk, minority community, and children in all area; tension between private and public space; also hierarchical of public infrastructure access that impacted of seeing the city as a living space. Jalan Gembira are focusing on initiating the walking activity started with the supportive companion to sensing the city and archiving all those walking experience and city senses through a visual documentation and pieces of writings.” [credit]
Jalan Gembira is a female-led arts collective in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. They recently collaborated with Walkspace (Birmingham, UK).
“Birmingham and Yogyakarta have shared the condition where people would prefer to take other means of transportation than walking. Definitely, these conditions have shaped the dynamics of people living including the barriers between public and private space who grow organically following their needs for living space.
This project will be conducted by Amarawati Ayuningtyas, Gatari Surya Kusuma, and Zunifah of Jalan Gembira, in collaboration Fiona Cullinan and Pete Ashton of Walkspace.” Here is a link to their joint walking zine. [credit]
Her short name is Mara, works as a freelance graphic designer and also an employee at an art gallery based in Yogyakarta. After graduating from the Modern School of Design (MSD) study program in design communication visual, Mara did a lot of action database archiving artists in Indonesia and did administrative work in an art collective, Lifepatch.
Gatari Surya Kusuma
Called Gatari, is a researcher, writer and curator based in Yogyakarta. After graduating from the Department of Photography at the Indonesian Institute of the Art in 2016, she did a lot of action research and deepened critical pedagogy with her group KUNCI Study Forum & Collective. In addition, she also conducts artistic production and ethnographic research related to food with a food study collective called the Bakudapan Food Study Group. Currently, she has many works within the fields of ecology, critical pedagogy, and collectivism.
Also known as Uniph. She works daily as an account executive in an advertising agency. She used to work in an art space while studying philosophy at university. Her thesis was about the philosophy of art. The combination of study and previous job made her understand that art is a basic human need for expression. She continues to understand art as her daily observation.
Shigeko Kubota Vagina Painting, performed during Perpetual Fluxfest, Cinematheque, New York, July 4, 1965
Shigeko Kubota (1937-2015)
“Born in 1937 in Niigata, Japan, Shigeko Kubota became a key member of the Japanese avant-garde, a respected participant in New York Fluxus events in the 1960s, and, starting in the 1970s, a pioneering practitioner of video art. Upon graduating from the Tokyo University of Education in 1960, she fell in with members of the avant-garde movements Group Ongaku, Hi Red Center, and Zero Jigen. These groups pushed art’s boundaries, incorporating music, performance, and movement into their work, with which they questioned the centralized authority of the postwar Japanese government and what they viewed as its focus on economic growth at the expense of the well being of individual citizens. Their experiments were also in keeping with the activities of Fluxus artists like George Maciunas and John Cage, whose works were highly regarded by the Tokyo avant-garde. Fluxus was an international, interdisciplinary movement that promoted experimentation across mediums, and a number of Japanese artists became important members, including Ay-O, Takako Saito, Yoko Ono, and Mieko Shiomi (who moved to New York with Kubota in 1964).
Because critics in Japan ignored most avant-garde art, and were particularly dismissive of women artists, Kubota decided that she would have better career opportunities in New York, where she was immediately accepted into the Fluxus community. Maciunas dubbed her the “vice president of Fluxus” for helping him to organize events and distribute mail art, and for her active participation in activities including the “Fluxus dinner commune”—a short-lived series of communal dinners prepared and attended by Fluxus artists, who would conclude the meals by making objects—and the production of multiples, small, multi-editioned works that were frequently produced collaboratively. Kubota also produced some of her own Fluxus objects, including Flux Napkins (c. 1967) and Flux Medicine (c. 1966).
James Riddle, Fluxus, “THE PERPETUAL FLUXFEST PRESENTS: EVERYTHING” (1965) [credit]
Kubota’s most infamous (and somewhat anomalous) work was Vagina Painting (1965), which she presented as part of the Perpetual Fluxfest, at Cinematheque in New York on July 4, 1965. In this performance, she attached the handle of a paintbrush to her underwear, squatted over a bucket of red paint, and waddled across a large sheet of paper laid on the floor, creating red, menstrual-like smears. This piece functioned as a send-up of what the influential art critic Harold Rosenberg termed “action painting” by feminizing the hyper-masculine, phallus-as-paintbrush image of Abstract Expressionist painters like Jackson Pollock. It also may have been a reference to the practice of lower-class geishas, who sometimes entertained customers by writing calligraphy with brushes inserted in their vaginas.1 Kubota’s performance fused dichotomies, combining high and low arts, masculine and feminine elements, and Eastern and Western cultures.
Following Vagina Painting, Kubota turned away from performance and began exploring new media, particularly video, which would comprise the bulk of her output for the rest of her career. Duchampiana: Nude Descending a Staircase (1976)—which features three video monitors embedded in a plywood staircase showing a nude woman walking down stairs—reveals her indebtedness to Marcel Duchamp. This was the first video sculpture acquired by MoMA. Kubota and her husband, Nam June Paik, pioneered the development of video art, exploring the aesthetic, technological, emotive, and even organic potential of this new medium.” [credit]
Live Performance by Kubra Khademi
16 Feburary 2016, Paris, France
“PE: When you moved to France, you continued to put on walking performances. For Kubra & Pedestrian Sign (2016) you walked through Paris in a black dress and high heels with a pedestrian crossing lightbox tied to the top of your head, except the green sign in the box was a female figure. I’m curious about how you found the experience of reclaiming public space in this new European context.
KK: The challenges are different here: the texture and sense of the landscape, the cityscape, the people around me. Public space in France and the Parisian art scene are still very masculine, but in a far more subtle and sophisticated way. No one harasses me in Europe like they do in Afghanistan. I don’t need an armor to walk here. The city is like that blank white page again. That was the first performance I put on in a public space after then one in the Kabul. It was a few months after I arrived. The image of me is almost funny. I was looking into people’s eyes and allowing them to talk to me. Most of the reactions were similar, but one woman screamed at me from the other side of the street, “That is sexist! Skirts are sexist!”” [credit]
“Since 2015, the Afghan artist Kubra Khademi has been based in Paris. Khademi moved to France due to the violence she faced in the wake of her 2015 performance Armor, for which she walked through a busy area in central Kabul dressed in custom-made metal armor: an artistic gesture meant to highlight how women are sexually and verbally harassed in public spaces. After studying fine arts at the University of Kabul, and later at the University of Beaconhouse in Lahore, Khademi committed herself to the continuous reflection of the condition of women’s lives in Afghanistan. Her work spans performance, painting, and drawing. In the last year, Khademi finished a series of large-scale paintings and drawings. They are inspired by the way Afghan women express their sexuality through a coded and subversive poetic language that remains unrecognizable to men. The art critic and editor Philomena Epps met Khademi for V/A and spoke to her about the assertive and unapologetic presence of women in her work as a form of resistance against the patriarchal order. Their conversation is published here as a contribution to our current thematic focus “disappearing.”
PHILOMENA EPPS: I wanted to begin our conversation with the concept of “disappearing.” I’m thinking about how your work might be framed as the antithesis to this theme, because it insists on the presence of women. There is an insistence on the body, on being seen, and a profound emphasis on the female subjectivity, all as a form of resistance. Could you, as an artist and as a woman, speak about this refusal to disappear in relation to physical presence as a political act?
KUBRA KHADEMI: Much of my work comes from my personal life experience and stories about the women I know. I talk about them; I talk about myself, about my mother, about my sisters. Someone once asked me, “Where are the men in your family?” This question was asked out of curiosity, but I received it very violently; I was disturbed. I thought, “Why are you repeating what my society, where women don’t exist, has done to me? Why should I reproduce what it has done?” My work is becoming more and more feminine. These stories can’t be told another way. It’s all about liberty; it’s about saying whatever I want to say.
PE: Your artistic practice has been engaged with the condition of women’s lives and questions of violence and repression. Both issues are historical as well as deeply personal to you.
KK It reflects the heart of popular Afghan society: the men are outside, and the women have to be in the kitchen. Women have to serve the soldiers; they have to cook for them. That is how they get their value. Religion plays a big role in serving the patriarchy, or perhaps it is patriarchy that serves religion. And women also practice patriarchy. People tell me that men are also imprisoned by patriarchy, that it is also violent to men, that it tells them they should not be soft, they should not be feminine – of course, but I don’t care. I have five sisters and four brothers. When my father died, my brother took over. If it wasn’t him, it would have been another man: an uncle, a neighbor. This isn’t a theoretical argument – it all comes from my life experience. I’ve grown up in a culture and society where being an artist and a woman is a terrible thing, because art is all about self-expression. When I was a child, my mother took us to bathe in a public, woman-only hammam. It was a very secure and trusting environment; I saw so many free, female bodies. It was there that I saw the adult female sex for the first time. I didn’t understand what I was feeling, but when I got home, I was looking for paper. I was already drawing a lot then, so I took my sketchbook and started drawing what I had just seen: all these female figures. I then hid my drawings. I tore them up and hid them under a carpet because I had this fear. My mum was cleaning and found the drawings a few days later. I was so scared. She got the electric fire and hit me with it. I’ve forgotten the pain of it, but I haven’t forgotten the feeling of guilt she gave me. I hung my head in shame for months; I could not raise it. My mum didn’t buy sketchbooks for me again, and I didn’t draw for a long time. Paper was very expensive anyway. When I draw today and leave expanses of white space, it is such a celebration for me, that I can buy these big sheets of white paper. I draw sexually liberated women, and I also practice leaving all this white space that I wasn’t afforded when I was a child.
PE: It’s interesting that your primal instinct was to record what you were seeing, even when you were so young, because this formative moment ended up shaping the direction of your work as an artist.
KK: I am so happy that there is no guilt anymore. We have to celebrate living without any guilt. The guilt was more painful than that electric fire on my body. I remember so clearly how my head was down for months, the feeling of pain in my neck. I was paralyzed. I could not draw.
PE: The physical toll shame takes on the body is unsettlingly overwhelming.
KK: No one spoke about it. When I came to France in 2015, after twenty-six years, I started talking about these experiences. I tried to re-draw that image from the hammam. I won’t forget it. I put colour on their bodies, and I called it Twenty Years of Sin. When people see that drawing, they do not fully understand what it means to me, neither back then nor now.
PE: I’d like to go back to 2015, to the performance piece Armor that led to you moving to France: you walked through a street in central Kabul, a public place in which you were highly visible, dressed in custom-made metal armor that emphasized your breasts, belly, and bottom. You had made it in response to the violent patriarchal politics of Afghanistan, particularly to how women are sexually assaulted and harassed in public spaces. Could you say more about what motivated the development of that performance, but also how the impact and severity of the performance’s fallout ended with you fleeing the country.
KK: I’m an artist who finds public space very inspiring. It’s fluid and free, the world as my studio. Before Armor, that was how I was working in Afghanistan. But I also come from a world where I should not be present. I have been sexually harassed like millions of other women in Afghanistan. We live in a culture of systemic sexual violence. If you’re raped, it’s your fault. It’s your destiny because you’re a girl. It’s taboo to bring this up. Very few women feel able to talk about it. I find that so disturbing. While I was performing Armor, the number of men around me increased every few seconds. I felt fear but also assured. That was what the performance was about: this is the way it is. I was prepared to be mocked, insulted, laughed at – those are daily things we experience as working, active women. That’s everywhere; I was ready for that. However, my performance was not an image that people saw daily. After I arrived at the end point, where my friend was waiting for me in a taxi, people started jumping on the car. The driver was frightened because he was in danger, so he started driving without looking back. When I turned on my phone the next day, I saw that it was all over the news and social media. My image was shaking the country. I assumed that it soon would be forgotten, but that was naive. It didn’t die down. The performance was presented as a project of the United States against Islam values, as blasphemy, as encouraging female prostitution. The image then started circulating internationally, which made it worse because people in the Western world admired it. It was out of control. The world was in shock; my country was in shock. Once again, local media spoke about it, as I was being criticized for being a spy and a puppet of the United States that wanted to gain the attention of the West. And outsiders perceived my work as activism. That was painful for me. This wasn’t activism; I’m an artist. By the time I moved to France, I was in significant danger. I was lucky I stayed alive. To this day, I still receive messages of hate on Instagram from Afghan people.
PE: I see it as an artistic work. The suit of armor, the costume of war, creates a striking image of protection and aggression, but it is contrasted with this enhancement of the female form, exaggerating the softness and vulnerability of the unclothed body. The act of walking is also reminiscent of female artists who used their body as artistic material in the 1970s. I’m thinking about performances and images made by women such as Valie EXPORT, Marina Abramović, Anna Maria Maiolino. These artists developed revolutionary ways to speak about violence against women, about censorship, or harassment, through a performative language and by provocatively staging feminine vulnerability and endurance in the act of spectacle. Seeing your performance only as a protest piece minimizes the depth of these artistic considerations and intentions. Of course, there are gestures within the work which could be thought of as activism, but it is art.
KK: Seeing it as an activist project implies judgement. It is an art piece. When I was a child, I already used to say, “I am an artist.” That is unbearable for my society. My society wanted to imprison me, make me a wife, a mother, but I wanted freedom. I am unmarried. I do not care about it.
PE: When you moved to France, you continued to put on walking performances. For Kubra & Pedestrian Sign (2016) you walked through Paris in a black dress and high heels with a pedestrian crossing lightbox tied to the top of your head, except the green sign in the box was a female figure. I’m curious about how you found the experience of reclaiming public space in this new European context.
KK: The challenges are different here: the texture and sense of the landscape, the cityscape, the people around me. Public space in France and the Parisian art scene are still very masculine, but in a far more subtle and sophisticated way. No one harasses me in Europe like they do in Afghanistan. I don’t need an armor to walk here. The city is like that blank white page again. That was the first performance I put on in a public space after then one in the Kabul. It was a few months after I arrived. The image of me is almost funny. I was looking into people’s eyes and allowing them to talk to me. Most of the reactions were similar, but one woman screamed at me from the other side of the street, “That is sexist! Skirts are sexist!”
PE: Earlier this year, Galerie Eric Mouchet in Paris presented your solo exhibition From the Two Page Book. The gouache paintings depict a matriarchal society, in which nude women engage in sexual and vulgar acts. I’d like to ask you about the erotic dimension of these paintings. The series draws on the writings of the poet Rumi in a homage to the particular form of language that Afghan women use when they discuss their sexuality.
KK: I have a clear position toward the women in my drawings. This is how I show femininity. These women in my paintings are not nude. To me, they are not naked; they are just bodies. If I was to clothe them, then in what clothes? Which identity? Do I dress them in the clothes I wore in Afghanistan or the European style I wear now? Clothes are dictated by geographical and religious borders. When I was a child, I drew what I saw, and I still see women this way. I chose Rumi to set up a parallel with the dialogue between women I know. All of these drawings come from a feminine universe that exists within Afghan popular culture. It’s fascinating how religion has divided women and men into two specific spaces. What women have constructed in their own space is another world that is poetic and liberated, where they trust one another. Men occupy space in a very brutal way. With my mother and her friends, when they come to talk about things, they are constantly laughing. This doesn’t mean they are happy or naive. They talk a lot about sexuality. If you were to arrive in an Afghan village, you would think, “Oh my god, the women are so repressed here,” but you would be wrong to think they don’t know anything about their sexuality. It comes out in another very beautiful way. We talk about fetishes and sexual fantasies, but it is not rooted in pornography. We talk about sex in a very funny way. When women talk about their sexual experiences, which they do woman to woman, they do not name their husbands. A friend of my mother’s calls her husband “a donkey,” which both mocks him and raises his sexual power. We use a lot of metaphors. This humor is so present in our society, but it is invisible to men. In my paintings, the body of the donkey has been removed, leaving only his sex. We say, “Cut it and keep it under the bed so it can serve you whenever you want,” because we do not want anything else. Men are just useless creatures.
PE: It’s like another dialogue or even a code. Your painted images are another manifestation of this coded language in visual form.
KK: Yes, it’s all about code. When I showed these works to my sister and my mother, we all knew what they were about. It wasn’t anything new. These are daily conversations. It’s fluid among us, we practice it. It was necessary for me to create a feminine universe. There is one work called Frontline (2021): women end up on the frontline very easily. One woman is pregnant, the other woman next to her is shitting. Women are called dirty, yet they have to be pure. The choice of being pregnant doesn’t exist in Afghan culture. I’m navigating between all of these issues. It’s a fight against the history and a system protected by religion. All the images are deliberately huge. These women have to be bigger than men. They are all two meters, and the drawing itself is 6 meters by 2.5 meters.
PE: They dominate the space. They are larger than life. This month, as part of The Enchanted exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris and an offshoot of the events programmed by Nuit Blanche, you will destroy a series of recent drawings in a public performance. Titled Power and Destruction, these images depict sexually liberated warrior goddesses.
KK: Last year, I made a lot of drawings. It was fascinating to express myself in this way. The medium allows for exploration and imagination. You can create another world, unlike performing in front of the camera. I wanted the drawings to mirror live performance art, and the way it disappears after the event. I also decided to take the power back regarding the destination of my work. I have drawn mythical goddesses inspired by my Afghan origins. They are all extraordinary women. I want to exert my power as an artist as both the creator and destructor of these works. The only person to remain is the artist, who is alive.” [credit]
“Thousands of women gathered in Washington, D.C. to call for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote. While women had been fighting hard for suffrage for over 60 years, this marked the first major national event for the movement.
The huge parade, which was spearheaded by Alice Paul and the National American Woman Suffrage Association, was held on March 3, 1913. Riding atop a white horse, lawyer and activist Inez Milholland led over five thousand suffragettes up Pennsylvania Avenue, along with over 20 parade floats, nine bands, and four mounted brigades.
Women suffragists marching on Pennsylvania Avenue led by Mrs. Richard Coke Burleson (center on horseback); U.S. Capitol in background. (Library of Congress
The organizers of the parade also maximized attention on the event by strategically hosting it just one day before the inauguration of President-elect Woodrow Wilson. This tactic worked. As the women marched from the U.S. Capitol toward the Treasury Building, they were met by thousands of spectators, many in town for the inauguration.
Not all spectators were kind. Some marchers were jostled, tripped, and violently attacked, while police on the parade route did little to help. By the end of the day, over 100 women had to be hospitalized for injuries. However, the women did not give up; they finished the parade. Their experiences led to major news stories and even congressional hearings. Historians later credited the 1913 parade for giving the suffrage movement a new wave of inspiration and purpose.
While it took another seven years for the Nineteenth Amendment to be ratified on August 18, 1920, the women who marched on this day in history accomplished their goal of reinvigorating the suffrage movement. As the official parade pamphlet read, they gave “expression to the nation-wide demand for an amendment to the United States Constitution enfranchising women.” Alice Paul, Inez Milholland, and the others who marched in 1913 are just some of the women who made a more just and prosperous future possible for all Americans.” [credit]
Amanda Heng “Every Step Counts” (2019); Passers-by looking at the video of Amanda Heng’s work projected onto the walls in the Esplanade tunnel.
Every Step Counts, 2019
Multi-disciplinary project: workshop, text work in public space, archival footage, video projection and live performance
Collection of the Artist
Singapore Biennale 2019 commission
“Contemporary artist, curator and lecturer Amanda Heng (b.1951, Singapore) is known for making art that explores real-world issues through everyday activities – whether it’s walking, peeling beansprouts, or having coffee. Her recent work for the Singapore Biennale, titled Every Step Counts, draws upon the act of walking and takes an introspective look at the ageing body and how it is impacted by the rapidly evolving social and cultural environments.
Every Step Counts is a project spanning May 2019 to March 2020. The work comprises a two-day walking workshop, a text work, archival footage, a video projection and a series of live performances. The larger-than-life text work is featured on SAM’s hoarding along Bras Basah Road, while the video projection is exhibited at the Esplanade tunnel, joining the line-up of outdoor artworks displayed during the Singapore Biennale 2019.
WALKING IS A CENTRAL FEATURE IN MANY OF AMANDA HENG’S WORKS
Influenced by the Taoist principle of “working with rather than against nature”, Amanda sees walking as a form of meditation, a ritual from which to draw inner strength.
“It has to do with my intention of examining the body, which is an important element in live performances. The body is actually a live organic element that grows and gets old. This aged body – how should I look for the continuity of practising, of using it?”
KEEPING THINGS SIMPLE YET MEDITATIVE
Doing away with all bells and whistles, Amanda chose to present her work as a single line of text standing as a backdrop against a busy street; blue to represent the sky – a constant to anyone, anywhere; white to uplift; and bold italics to represent spirited movements. She hopes its simplicity will stop people in their tracks to savour the words amidst the hustle and bustle of life.
THE AUDIENCE COMES FIRST
Every component of Every Step Counts engages people in different ways. The workshop, for instance, involved nine participants spending two days charting their own routes of walking, who later had their walks filmed and are now being projected onto the walls of the Esplanade tunnel. It is hoped that when passers-by walk alongside these participants, albeit in a different space and time, they will become more attuned to their surroundings and their own pace.” [credit]
“Every Step Countsis exhibited at Singapore Art Museum on the hoarding, as well as Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. This work also comprises a series of performances.
Amanda Heng invites participation and intimate conversations in her performative works. Often, she harnesses everyday situations to explore issues like the complexities of labour or the politics of gender. For her project in this Biennale, Heng revisits her ‘Let’s Walk’ series, first performed in 1999. Drawing upon the act of walking, the artist moves forward, looks back, turns inward and ventures outward with others. In this piece, she returns to the seminal scene of the walk and facilitates a workshop with people who chart their own routes of walking, and with whom she walks. In so doing, she generates reflections and perspectives, as well as comes to terms with the limits and stamina of the aging body.” [credit]
“Heng has been a central figure in Singaporean performance art as well as feminist discourse in Singapore since the 1980s.
Her body of ‘walking works’ began in 1999 with “Let’s Walk”. She created the work in response to a range of worrying trends, which continue to echo till this day. In 1997, Asia had been hit hard with a financial crisis. Many people lost their jobs and businesses, but women seemed to be the first to get retrenched. Curiously and disturbingly, the beauty business did especially well at this time, as women were pressured to look better than their natural best. In Heng’s own words, “A lot of Singaporean women were ‘upgrading’ themselves, going to beauty salons, having plastic surgery and so on to keep their jobs. A woman’s looks are still worth more than her abilities.”
Your first “Let’s Walk” performance in 1999 was a response to how working women were turning to beauty and cosmetic treatments to keep their jobs during the 1997 Asian financial crisis. What are your thoughts on female beauty?
I prefer to think that beauty is up to each individual. If you claim to be liberated, don’t let others define what beauty is on your behalf. Have the courage to be different from the norm. If you feel such perceptions needs to change, commit yourself to doing something about it and don’t just complain. We women make up half the population in Singapore, so there’s a lot of good that we can do!” [credit]
Later this piece was reprised in 2018 as part of the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival.
Let’s Walk, 2018 is a public participatory performance by Amanda Heng presented at the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2018: Let’s Walk. Image courtesy of Amanda Heng.