‘Trouble in Paradise: photography and constructions of femininity

This exhibition looks at the current perceptions of femininity in contemporary Armenian photography, represented here by the works of Svetlana Antonyan (Oceana), Anush Babajanyan, Anna Davtyan,Vehanush Topchyan, Nvard Yerkanian and Nazik Armenakyan. These are accompanied byexamples of 19th and 20th century commercial photography, which give a partial overview of the historical as well as international developments in the visual constructions of the feminine.

In post-feminist vision of society and power, the disquieting and ‘troublesome’ aspects of femininity are often oppressed or relegated to daytime soap operas. Mass medias continuously exploit normative, sexualised images of femininity as a vital part of the ‘consumer paradise’. In this regard, photography has always been the medium most responsible for both, the commodification and the subversion of femininity as an object of visual (masculine) pleasure.

Photography is also the space that makes the dialogue between the participating artists possible. Coming from different professional backgrounds, these practitioners are interested in the tensions produced by disruptive, ambiguous and contradictory facets of femininity. They view it not as an aesthetic or a critically devalued construct, but a transgressive activity which can become a constructive force.
Their works refer to ubiquitous imagery drawn from television, cinema, painting, fashion and commerce. Through various ‘feminine’ interventions, these archetypes of domestic, public, political, and natural spaces are disturbed and transformed into arenas of imagination, poetry and play.

Photography and femininity themselves become fragmented in the process, turning into multiple phenomena. Taking different forms they slip and spill out from conventional frameworks, while enabling novel ways of seeing and representing the real.
Collectively, the close to fifty works exhibited here enter into an open-ended discussion regarding the performance of femininities and how it might be relevant to current thinking (by predominantly women artists) about identity, desire, gender and beyond.
Vigen Galstyan
‘Lusadaran’ Armenian Photography Foundation