WEBEXCLUSIVE

My French American Potluck

In America, it is common to gather around a welcoming potluck. There is no such French counterpart. Luck is not something the French subjectively look at. A nation built on a Cartesian philosophy of mind, where concepts are validated through quantified numbers and scientific methods, would undoubtedly question its provenance. I am a native French artist working and living in New York for the past 16 years, impassioned by the intersections between art and feminism. My feminism is a potluck, a fabrication of both nationalities, a natural legacy equally drawn from my French heritage and performance experiences in my New York environment.

Within the past few years, both in New York and in Paris, there has been a resurgent interest in women’s collectives and feminist activism, bringing with it a new awareness and desire to further explore the position of women in society and its power structures—feminism’s so called “fourth wave.” For me, feminism is a global vector, a new belief system. This conviction became very clear after viewing the WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, curated by Connie Butler at MoMA PS1 in 2008, after which followed the French exhibition counterpart ELLES, at the Pompidou Center in Paris in 2009. The impact of these exhibitions on my work, the history of women artists and performance in activism as a medium, became immediately evident. I had yet to figure how to connect with my contemporary peers and community in both cities, but clearly, I understood that being a feminist did not equate to being marginalized.

In France at the time, asserting oneself as a feminist artist was not well received. During this period I was exhibiting paintings in galleries, exploring dance, and modeling for artists and photographers in both New York and Paris. It was therefore my experiences in New York that were thrilling, as well as what informed my personal life and creative expression. I was building my core, my emotional feminine core. I slowly began to meet with circles of artists and thinkers in New York. Early on, I was introduced to Louise Bourgeois’s “Sunday Salons” and the painter Betty Tompkins. Yoko Ono’s manifesto “The Feminization of Society” became a touchstone. I produced a series of paintings reinterpreting famous works of Gustave Courbet—his “The Origin of the World” and the apple of Adam and Eve, re-titled “The Origin of Wisdom”—which I presented to Yoko Ono herself. These interactions and conversations confirmed my belief in the perseverance of work to be done, and that a woman artist’s path needs not be linear or conventional, that its essence is just as relevant as a political or a social statement. After this, I infiltrated Brooklyn, where a vibrant community of holistic healers, all determined to channel female goddess energy, were discussing, chanting, dancing, and meditating together. Here, I found the opportunity to explore these new dialogues through the development of my performance work, using my own body as means of investigating perceptions of the feminine by merging pop culture iconography with ancient myths.

In 2008, I formed a performance group based on the myth of the ancient Greek Amazon warrior women, choreographing under the name of “Legacy Fatale,” and performing at the Deitch Art Parade and Fountain Art Fair, both in Miami and in New York. I wanted to form an army of women. I wanted to help other women unchain themselves through my performance work, to strive for new feminine dynamics acting upon our social and cultural environment. Today I teach a weekly class in Brooklyn called “Dance and Rituals.” Based on the teachings of Isadora Duncan, this class encourages a practice of empowering a higher self through expressive movements and meditation techniques. I found these initiatives most welcomed by the American public where women act in lobby with iconic leaders, organized in forms of strong sisterhoods; they demonstrate a desire to reach for a new vocabulary. There is a feminine solidarity to be found in New York whereas in France, women are still stifled by the misogyny of their own society. (On this point, the French Senate delegation for women’s rights recently published a national report identifying the current gender inequities in France’s prominent cultural institutions. Women are marching there today, mobilizing politically with actions by feminist groups such as La Barbe and Osez Le Feminisme.

Despite these inequalities, the string of thoughts and actions between France and the United States has always been that feminine conviction birthed in both countries; one constantly informs the other. I am a potluck, a dancer of consciousness, and a fervent artist using technology and social communication tools. I am here to create a congregation of multi-national, multi-gendered, multi-practicing artists, united in exploring new paradigms of feminine thinking.

Contributor

Coco Dolle

COCO DOLLE lives and works in Brooklyn. She is currently co-curating an international exhibition on the theme of feminism titled "Milk and Night," at Gallery SENSEI in New York, September 5 – 21, 2014.

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