Catrine Val
The female wisdom


What it means to be a woman now is always my guide. All my projects bring together the past, present, and future highlighting how genuine change can emerge from the public sharing in the complexities of the female experience.

As an artist and researcher I have travelled to Asia, Africa and South America to explore the traditions of women´s wisdom. My work aligns with a growing wave of scholarship on gender issues. I try to find possibility for an alternative worldview that can help human beings symbolize their time, place, and obligations in a way that accords more closely with science in harmony with a sustainable future.

The turmoil of the post-capitalist world and the disruption from technological advancement pose new threats for women.  Growing right wing and religious extremism mean that women must fight anew for rights won long ago. Though there is a great disparity in the way the female body is represented between East and West I believe that they share the same goal – to live in a world of equality. As an artist, I believe life’s most poignant moments come from the ability to fuse fantasy and reality.

Word Matters
What does it mean, to be a feminist in the art world? Who defines it, and how does it relate to past achievements of being a woman in the art context?
For centuries, in art as in philosophy and so many more branches of the society, women were systematically excluded from the records of art history. Even today we have  to make sure that women artists achieve the historical recognition. Now with the young as powerful Women net artists 2.0 entering not only through the #metoo debate, the Internet and social media, allows these digital natives princesses to have their voices heard. Their fame seems to be exclusively for the young and beautiful, glorifying hipster earning money through modelling and open up their issues in rainbow colours presenting themselves aggressively girlish like modern dolls or Lolita’s with strong hairiness well-shaped legs.  Celebrating their body  in a cocoon of  blossom without any compromises . What is the role of our or their bodies in a selfie-obsessed culture?

These young artists explore the possibilities and restrictions of social media. Their work trades on every day in western stereotype lifestyle.  What is nourished with this artificial trash in a overloaded world of floating images?

We are all part of it. The way we use our phone as trophy, sobering the way most art is viewed in today’s saturated, digitally mediated culture. How many seconds do we really spend observing individual at art -trusting our emotion-  in the present of the moment? And who are the spectators that we’re addressing sending off the image immediately into the virtual world? Problems of a first world.

The art world was always feeded in enduring clichés.  There’s the myth of the starving artist and the crazy one. The Dandy, and for a female Artist? It I still one achievement.  How do feminist artists now critique a system of which they are doubtful playing a big part? Might labelling “women artists” unknowingly establish misleading links between gender, biography, or to their career? The provocation of these now raising nymphs from this so harmless approaching site opens a  new discussion or at least a phenome of the  “Zeitgeist”.  Don´t forget with every new generation and fresh wave of feminism, priorities and media change.

Feminism in the 21st century carries a huge and deeper, more diverse range of voices and interests than ever before. In the last century women were kept away from general education and finally the men who dominated the discipline often believed in the arrogance of their gender,-that women were only capable to practice art on lower scale, it  called “craft”. This definition will stay unclear for reasons, including philosophical contradictions, conflicting interests, and varied relationships to the legacies of the second wave feminism of the 1960s. Once Lee Krasner one the pioneer of the abstract expressionism, had to digest the “compliment” of her husband Jackson Pollock, which she promoted and supported: “This is so good you wouldn’t know it was done by a woman.”  Thinking of my own timeline, in this time of constant, rapid change we are more and more dominated by a flood of narcissism and an obsessive cult of self-expression. The Trump phenomenon is the ugliest manifestation of this trend so far. Coming from a political left wing background, I began to study art in such  a different area . “Catrine, you cannot manically produce beautiful images on your canvas!” Beauty was a dirty word as it was linked to weakness of feminity . It took me years to find my own vision, still searching. Shaken up on the inside, moving and raging on the outside. I wanted to show that I can also be a woman as an artist. This is still not self-evident. For more than four years I was working as the tutor and assistant of  the Gender Icon and media artist Valie Export. Her own struggle for recognition as a woman stands as a memorial for other so many female artists. She was terribly shocked by the birth of my second child, she thought I had failed as a young artist.

In the 70ties in Austria VALIE EXPORT had been working as a young and pioneering Artist. Her work had been so radical that the authority visited her and wanted to admit her directly to psychiatry . They offered a stark choice, either continuing being a mother or working  as an artist  giving up her child adaption. How hurtful this must be? VALIE EXPORT   never recovers from this personal  tragedy ,  but in success of art she succeeded, iconic  presented in all of the important collections. Being Female Artist. I can understand why own motherhood was a sensible subject for her.

The echoes of first big wave of change for female equality starts during the shambles and the interwar era of First World War. Like Britain in the 1917. Late adopters in Europe were France in 1944 , Switzerland rushed in 1971 and in Saudi Arabia  just opens up to vote in 2015.Challenged the notion of women’s physical and mental inferiority and made it more difficult to maintain that women were, by constitution and education unfit to vote.  In this hardly battled first-wave of feminism, women won their political suffrage, impasses to full political participation, still remained. Inspired by the Civil Rights movement, feminist leaders in the ’70s took critical aim at both systems and institutions that sustained gender inequality. There was this boom of women teaching and studying in art schools  in the USA and all over Europe. This movement of women in the arts flourishing a large body of theory and diverse artistic practice, and setting the framework for many women artists practicing today.

Thanks to the pervasive nature and speed of modern and global communications, we are becoming more aware that equality and differences between the sexes are intertwined with questions of cultural differences (including religions), ethnicity, class, wealth/poverty and power.

Feminism like social, political, and economic equality, as well as women’s legal control over their own bodies, still unify the feminism of now. Moreover, it reflects a more globally informed and multicultural perspective that seeks to account for differences in race, nationality, and class. Thinking of the process of globalization, in a context where the needs and demands for equality are extremely uneven, women risk remaining the losers. And if women loose, men will in the long term loose, too.

But to be visible, not only art needs classification. Supporting cultural production as a form of activism, feminist artists took politics to the realm of aesthetics on the basis that art reflects and sustains social formations of gender and power.

Remember still in 1971 Linda Nochlin has became well celebrated for her pioneering essay “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?

Could feminism’s core politics endure this kind of rebranding? Today in times of hunger for information’s with one easy access to knowledge, undeniably, the media, particularly visual media and the power of the  internet—has fuelled the revival of feminism’s core issues. These changes reflect the complexity of difference and identity formation, a shift that has been fuelled by scholarly work in the areas of, gender studies, critical race theory, and feminist studies.
Still in practise the female gaze is juxtaposed with the dominant male gaze which objectifies the female body and defines the position of the woman as passive. What issues have women artists chosen to address? Because of the different societal and developmental contexts, building upon those from the early 20th century, many women artists address personal and transnational issues of identity, exploring global politics. The works of exile artists such as Shirin Neshat tell stories of loss and insight through conflicting countries, cultures, and gender roles.  She is maybe the lucky one as she is so important being more safe through her fame. But the more invisible on  the agenda of the art, facing death threats as a part of their life’s, They are so brave and filling their visions with power and intimate  beauty. In these waves of staying human the art world travels like tourists . Now and don´t get me wrong, it is more than time, that  Africa curators and museums  are  presenting us  their  powerful “daughters of Africa”. (Tracey Rose, Jenevieve Aken, Meschac Gaba. They enrich so much our cultural diaspora. Before in terms of art “fashion” very popular were the shaking East . Stunning, we all can learn from them, they have had such more visibility in term of equality to their male colleges. Rising in the agenda so much earlier than in western context, like Natalia Goncharova (1881 -1962) Elena Klokacheva , Marie Bashkirtseff and now the unstoppable Taus Makhacheva (b.1983))

Or China, there now  with the booming economy in the big city flickering  lights Museums, galleries and art fairs  female Chinese Artist (Zhou Hongbin, Cui Xiuwen, Han Yajuan) doesn´t need to travel or migrate to the old rotten  Europe, as they have the choice to stay close to their roots, getting recognition and – this is very rare to find in the European context- they have on average, one income*

Feminist artists all point to the ideology of consumption, fuelled by mass media, to highlight the objectification of women’s bodies and the selves.  The awareness of  visual consumption of women’s bodies and political debates over how to control them has only grown in the age of the internet, under their own, female control. It shines through.

Art is mirroring life and this is still one taboo, in my country were working mother are still called Rave mothers, and which always has to stay in secret, desperately when you are still one so called “emerging artist”, we don´t speak about. Being a female Feminist artist is one spicy aspect, but to open up and to tell that you are a mother, and even having more kids. As art is supposed to be an all-consuming enterprise, it can kill the career like a bubble gum and the hope what they gave in you, immediately.

In my own case, being a mother, my practise has  becoming much more complicated, working ,countless nights through, but  my life would be empty without my kids and family. The gender role has switched, maybe the father is the better mother? I´m a global Normand. Or a butterfly: For years, my works intent primary about the role of women within diverging cultural and political systems. I believe there are moments that can be found throughout any given day that bring refuge.  It is in finding these moments amidst the stress or beauty of the everyday, that my life as a mother parallels my work as an artist, and where the dynamics of life throughout time seem remarkably unchanged.  My struggle is to produce authentic work in a world where everything is staged.

As an artist, I believe life’s most poignant moments come from the ability to fuse fantasy and reality. I believe that the art world is slowly warming to the idea that great artists can also be great females and mothers. This intensity shouldn´t be  hindrance — it’s an extraordinary gift for art. I´m Interested in the slow harvesting of hidden truth from the ordinary places that most of us pass by. Where we find our identity.