How to be a Woman

Gunilla Josephson

2001, 05:10 minutes, colour, English, Swedish


This video was created for Live-Wire Acts: About Performance. A Power Plant Presentation at The Rivoli, Toronto, 6 November 2001.

Identity, particularly that of women, is seen as mutable, constructed, fluid, and potentially transformable – not least by women themselves.

A woman, her face partially obscured behind a doll, reads from a technical manual on mold making in a parody of the Advice articles prevalent in women’s’ magazines.
A second woman in a kind of traditional ethnic folk-costume stands in front of a mirror cursing in gibberish. Then we see that she is actually on a film- set, being directed by other women in how to behave. She shows her naked bum and farts at the camera, laughing.
The narrator again, her face pale and powdered, asks in a vexed effort at self-understanding where art can function in the world; the museum, the school, the home, the hospital? She concludes with the ironic question: Is this clear? The performances function as a mode of political action and social critique by subverting typical media images of women as graceful and desirable. The identities which the women inhabit situate them outside of the notion of woman as a subject for viewing, yet still voice their doubts.
The video-maker insists that the viewer acknowledge that the formation of identity is a space of contestation and counter-action, operating in relational territory.

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