Patriarchal Architectures

January 7, 2019

Jasmina Cibic: Movements is a tool designed by DHC/ART Education to encourage in-depth explorations of key concepts evoked by the works presented in Jasmina Cibic: Everything That You Desire and Nothing That You Fear.

Considerations: Patriarchy

Some women’s studies specialists understand patriarchy to be a threshold concept [1]: once the notion is integrated, one becomes aware of the way in which it structures all of our social interactions. Allan G. Johnson determines that a “society is patriarchal to the degree that it is male-dominated, male-identified and male-centered” and “involves as one of its key aspects the oppression of women”. [2] bell hooks defines patriarchy as a form of “blind obedience,” characterized by a “destruction of individual willpower” and a “repression of thinking whenever it departs from the authority figure’s way of thinking.” [3]

Patriarchy’s insidious violence comes from its pernicious integration in all spheres of our lives. This does not mean that women in a patriarchal society are invisible or absent. Rather, women’s lives are modulated by criteria, determined by men, that limit their agency. The female figure in Jasmina Cibic’s œuvre is informed by patriarchal pressures. The artist reveals the ways in which the female subject has been instrumentalized for political and aesthetic goals: think of the archetype of the Mother Nation, which relegates the responsibility of symbolizing the federative spirit of a country to women.

Cibic’s work also demonstrates that architectural modernism [4] is both the instrument and the symptom of the patriarchal force: generally conceived for and by the male subject, it transforms women into objects in these architectural spaces and erases their work. [5] In some of Cibic’s videos, we see palaces and city halls, sites where male power is determined and exerted. These spaces are re-imagined to make way for female gestures and voices that reassess political material to reveal its pre-constructed aspect.

While public architecture becomes a space where decisions are made between men, private architecture is conceived as an imposed box, a cage for women. Such is the case with the house Adolf Loos imagined for Josephine Baker, referenced by Cibic in one of her sculptures. At the centre of the house, Loos places a pool, around which pierced windows provide house guests with choice views of Baker bathing. [6] Even in the most intimate corners of this house fantasized by Loos, Baker’s body is submitted to a gaze, offered as a spectacle.

Try to locate another occurrence of the female figure in Cibic’s works at the Foundation. How are these women presented? What do they have to say or do? What underlying critical discourses are generated from their appearances, gestures or speeches?

Patriarchy is a notion that affects all of us daily, but is hard to define succinctly. Attempt to describe what patriarchy means to you. How does it impact your everyday life? Exchange with your peers on the subject. Did you draw the same conclusions, or note similar examples?

Daniel Fiset
DHC/ART Education

[1] See HASSEL, Holly et. al. (2011). «Surfacing the Structures of Patriarchy: Teaching and Learning Threshold Concepts in Women’s Studies». International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, vol. 5, no. 2. Online. https://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1303&context=ij-sotl. Consulted September 26, 2018.
[2] JONHSON, Allan G. (1997). The Gender Knot: Unraveling our Patriarchal Legacy. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, p. 153.
[3] hooks, bell (n.d.). Understanding Patriarchy. Online. https://imaginenoborders.org/pdf/zines/UnderstandingPatriarchy.pdf. Consulted September 26, 2018.
[4] Modernist architecture emerges at the start of the 20th century and is characterized by a rejection “of all forms of the past, whether it be in the symmetry of compositions, in the use of ornaments borrowed from previous centuries or in the use of traditional building materials”. For examples of modernist architecture, see DUBOIS, Martin (2008). «Modernisme architectural: Simplicité volontaire». Continuité, no. 119, pp. 51-54. Online. https://www.erudit.org/fr/revues/continuite/2008-n119-continuite1055693/17331ac.pdf. Consulted September 26, 2018.
[5] Many female architects, designers and artists who have partnered with men have seen their work rendered invisible, such as Lily Reich, close collaborator of Mies van der Rohe.
[6] SLESSOR, Catherine (2018). «Loos and Baker: A House for Josephine». Architectural Review. Online. https://www.architectural-review.com/essays/loos-and-baker-a-house-forjosephine/10028604.article. Consulted September 26, 2018.

Photo: Jasmina Cibic, Nada: Act III (still), 2017.

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