Film Lounge | Women & Work: Gendered Economic Subjects

23 Jan 2012 - 18 Mar 2012
Slide show: 
Film Lounge | Women & Work: Gendered Economic Subjects
Film Lounge | Women & Work: Gendered Economic Subjects
Film Lounge | Women & Work: Gendered Economic Subjects
Film Lounge | Women & Work: Gendered Economic Subjects
Film Lounge | Women & Work: Gendered Economic Subjects
Film Lounge | Women & Work: Gendered Economic Subjects
Film Lounge | Women & Work: Gendered Economic Subjects
Film Lounge | Women & Work: Gendered Economic Subjects
Film Lounge | Women & Work: Gendered Economic Subjects
Film Lounge | Women & Work: Gendered Economic Subjects
Film Lounge | Women & Work: Gendered Economic Subjects
Film Lounge | Women & Work: Gendered Economic Subjects

 

 

The second instalment of Stills’ Social Documents programme presents the work of artists who have used documentary modes to examine the social realities produced by globalisation. While Allan Sekula’s exhibition Ship of Fools deals with the issues surrounding an explicitly male working environment, Ursula Biemann’s video essay Performing the Border focuses on the labour conditions experienced by working-class Mexican women. Both emphasise the materiality of globalisation’s economic processes foregrounding the impact on workers’ bodies together with capital’s demand for mobility. As the geographer and social theorist David Harvey suggests, ‘Capitalism never solves its crisis problems, it simply moves them around.’

Ursula Biemann will exhibit a new work as part of the next chapter of the Social Documents programme. Curated by Angela Dimitrakaki and Kirsten Lloyd the group exhibition ECONOMY will be presented across two venues, Stills and the Centre for Contemporary Art in Glasgow, between January and March 2013.

Angela Dimitrakaki’s essay ‘Materialist Feminism for the Twenty-first Century: The Video Essays of Ursula Biemann’ is available in the Film Lounge reading space alongside two of Biemann’s own publications: Stuff It – The Video Essay in the Digital Age’ and B-Zone: Becoming Europe and Beyond.

Ursula Biemann, Performing the Border (1999), 45 minutes

Performing the Border is a video essay set in the Mexican-US border town Ciudad Juarez, where the U.S. industries assemble their electronic and digital equipment, located right across from El Paso, Texas. Performing the Border looks at the border as both a discursive and a material space constituted through the performance and management of gender relations. The video discusses the sexualisation of the border region through labour division, prostitution, the expression of female desires in the entertainment industry, and sexual violence in the public sphere. Interviews, scripted voice over, quoted text on the screen, scenes and sounds recorded on site, as well as found footage are combined to give an insight into the gendered conditions inscribed in the border region.

La Frontera is a place of unstable identities as a result of migration to a geography characterised by a hostile desert and a border they cannot transgress. The border is discussed as a discursive construction that is articulated through the crossing of people and the power relation of the two nations. There is the story of Concha who learned how to avoid the border control and cross people, mainly pregnant women, to the other side, where they give birth in a US hospital.

Adolescent girls come from central Mexico to the border to start a life from scratch. The video addresses the choices they have, the dangers, the fragility of their new situation caught in an ambivalent world between high technology and the lack of the most rudimentary necessities.

The feminisation of international labour division makes evident that gender matters to capital. The Maquila-section in the video includes fragments of interviews conducted with human rights activist Judith, labor activist Cipriana and journalist Isabel on the condition of the women who are the producers in the global plan and on the relations between the production of technology and gender.

Sex work is a major trade in this border town. Juana, a former prostitute from Torreon, gives us her perspective on the trade and the changes it underwent during the past 10 years. There are crossovers with the Maquila women who need to complement their income on weekends with prostitution. On the other hand, the reversal of income pattern is obvious in the night clubs, where the entertainment is catering mainly to young women with male shows. Relationship patterns are being remapped quite drastically on the border.

In the 90s, the rapid modernisation laid the ground for another urban phenomena: Serial Killings. Since 1993, close to 150 girls and young women have been raped and killed in Juarez according to the same pattern. It’s the biggest case of serial killing known in the world. The video brings the compulsive, repetitive character of the crimes in relation with the mass technologies (registration, identification and simulation) and looks at the entanglement between intimacy and technology in the setting. The border is presented as a metaphor for marginalisation and the artificial maintenance of subjective boundaries at a moment when the distinctions between body and machine, between reproduction and production, between female and male have become more fluid than ever.

 

Ursula Biemann
www.geobodies.org