Subtle, Feel-good, Feminist video Artists


This essay will explore two artists who work within the medium of video. The artists being researched are Swiss Pipilotti Rist and Congolese Michele Magema. The research will include a brief history of the artists careers, an overview of the creative landscapes of which they belong as well as their processes. The essay will reference to stills taken from the videos to portray an overview of the works in progress. For Rist’s video this essay will explore her artwork Ever is Over All, 1997 and Magema’s Interiority Fresco IV. The Kiss of Narcissie (e). 


History of Career – Rist 

Pipilotti Rist was born in 1962 in Grabs, Switzerland. She studied graphic design, illustration and photography at the Institute of Applied Arts in Vienna, as well as audiovisual communications and video at the School of Design in Basel. Rest began working as a graphic designer in Switzerland. She then gained a following in the mid-1980s as a member of the experimental post-punk pop group Les Reines Prochaines, for which she made some of her earliest video works. She now teaches at the University of California and Los Angeles.

She has had solo exhibitions in Spain, Denmark, New York, Geneva, Switzerland, Chicago amongst many other countries. Her group exhibitions include being in the Guggenheim Museum SoHo, New York, Venice, Spain and many other counties and Art Museums too. Rest currently lives in Los Angeles, America and Zurich, Switzerland.(Electronic Arts Intermix )

History of Career – Magema 

Magema was born 1977, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. Magema’s work exists within a matter space of a frontier of France and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her parents provided her with the authorization to interrogate her own history and that of a nation, her place of birth, as well as the continent of Africa at large. In 1984 she immigrated to Paris and currently still resides there. In 2002 she received her BA in fine arts from l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Arts de Clergy (Signs).

She has been a resident artist at Cité Internationale des Arts and has exhibited her work in the Global Feminisms Exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum and at the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. She has also participated in the Africa Remix exhibition.

Creative landscape – Rist 

Rest has created a series of videos that are music-based, however they subvert the form of the music video to explore the female voice and body in pop cultural representations. The videos merge rock music and performance with electronic manipulation.

Pipilotti Rist explores the themes of female sexuality and media culture through playful and provocative fantasies in the everyday. She pinpoints popular cultures investment of desire within the everyday. Her main theme, fantasy is seen through a dream-like scene and then always brought to reality by ironic humour. Her work has impact and ambiguity because of her use of voyeuristic pleasure and the reminder of the real world.

Figure 1: Still from Rist’s Ever is Over All. The flower the girl holds easily replicates the shape of a knobkerry/weapon (The Art Desk).

In her artwork, Ever is Over All the video envelops the viewers in two slow-motion projections on adjacent walls. In one a roving camera focuses on red flowers in a field of lush vegetation (MoMa). One the left projection, a woman in a blue dress and ruby slippers strolls down a car-lined street. The fluidity of both scenes is disrupted when the woman violently smashes a row of car windshields with the long-stemmed flower she carries. As the vandal gains momentum with each gleeful strike of her wand, a police officer approaches and smiles in approval, introducing comic tension into this scene.

In the video Rist positively describes negative aspects about femininity. The video has since been appropriated by Beyonce in her lated album Lemonade.The flower reveals the overall shape of the phallic, therefore the ideology of the flower combines femininity and flower-power into an overall feel good video.

Figure 2: Still from Rist’s Ever is Over All. The police gives an encouraging smile and acneoweldgement and walks on, instead of arresting the vandaliser(Fact).

In the video Rist positively describes negative aspects about femininity. The video has since been appropriated by Beyonce in her lated album Lemonade.The flower reveals the overall shape of the phallic, therefore the ideology of the flower combines femininity and flower-power into an overall feel good video.

Figure 3: Still from Rist’s Ever is Over All.  This still shows a better view of the phalic shapes within the flowers (Art Orbit).

Creative landscape – Magema

Michèle Magema draws from her experience as a child exiled from her homeland. Today, as she develops her art, Magema examines the history of her people and Congo. Slavery, genocide and internal wars are also a major focus in her work. She explores the themes of her feminine identity displaced through time, memory, and history, reflects an image of a woman with a new identity – one that is totally detached from exoticism. In her video, the text refers to the the myth of Narcissus and Echo a tale of unrequited love and eternal punishment. ‘We shall seek to ascertain the directions of this dual narcissism and the motivations that inspire it’. (Fanon, English translation, 1967: 9-10).

Figure 4: Still from Interiority Fresco IV. The Kiss of Narcisse(e). Magema is seen on a split screen observing white (colonial) faces on the walls of Paris(Vemo).
Figure 5: Still from  Interiority Fresco IV. The Kiss of Narcisse(e). Magema is seen on a split screen with a mask over her face and on the other screen walking way into the tunnel she came from.
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Figure 6: Still from Interiority Fresco IV. The Kiss of Narcisse(e). Magema is seen on a split screen kissing the face of the white (colonial) masks in Paris.

 Creative Process – Rist 

Rest says she enjoys video as she works with other professions, such as editors and filming crew to make the artwork, she also enjoys filming and making videos just by herself too. However, usually there are eight people involved in the video.  She says that there is an experimental element to each work and she enjoys being able to use each of the equipment by herself too, so that there is an element of herself in each process of the artwork too.

The audio in Rist’s work is often a simple soundtrack of music. She is also a member in a band, Les Reines Prochaines and can therefore create her own music.

Creative Process – Magema 

Magema makes use of the split screen in many of her videos. As the material of her works are always simple. She uses historical facts that she interprets through the prediction of scenes. Through these frontal images she exposes her body to use it as a metaphor for the relationship between the human being and the world at large. Her work sets up a direct relationship that centered on the world the field of society and politics.

Magema enjoys working on her artworks alone. Often she is the only character in each video and the videos are usually static, meaning that she can leave the camera on a tripod.

The audio in Magma’s video is of classical piano.


This essay has successfully explored the two artists, Pipilotti Rist and Michele Magema. Each artist has given a brief history of their career, Rist was born in Switzerland and currently works there and in Los Angeles, while Magema was born in Congo and now works and lives in Paris. Both artists have studied art and art currently still making works that exhibit all around the world. Both Rist and Magema are interested in the themes of femininity. While Rist explores a fun and humorous side to her videos, Magema has slow and simple shots of repetitive movements. Their processes differ, Rist enjoys working with a crew, while Magema works on all her artworks alone.

4. Reference list

African Digital Art, 2016. The Video Art of Michele Magema. [Online]. Available from – [Accessed on 16 August 2016].
Art Rador, 2014. 10 African Video Artists to know Now. [Online] Available from – [Accessed on 16 August 2016].
Electronic Arts Intermix ,2016, Pippilotti Rust,  535 West 22nd Street, 5th Flr New York, NY 10011, Available from – %5BAccessed on 16 August 2016]
MoMa, 2016. Pipilotti Rist Ever is Over All, 1997. [Online] Available from – [Accessed on 16 August 2016].
Signs, 2005. Michele Magema – Goodbye Rosa. [Online] Available from – [Accessed on 16 August 2016].
Youtube, 2016. Hold up – Beyonce vs Pipilotti Rist. [Online] Available from – [Accessed on 16 August 2016].
Youtube, 2011. Pipilotti Rist on her working methods. [Online] Available from – [Accessed on 16 August 2016].
Figure 1: The Art Desk, 2011. Pipilotti Rist, The Eyeball Massage, Hayward Gallery. [Online] Available from – [Accessed on 16 August 2016].
Figure 2: Fact, 2016. Ever is Over All. [Online] Available from – [Accessed on 16 August 2016].


Figure 3: Art Orbit, 2012. Pipilotti Rist; Overrated underpants? [Online] Available from – [Accessed on 16 August 2016].

Figure 4: Vemo, 2012. Michele Magema. [Online] Available from – [Accessed on 16 August 2016].

Figure 5: Galeri Seroleon, 2015. Michele Magema. [Online] Available from –èle-magema. [Accessed on 16 August 2016].

Figure 6: Vemo, 2012. Michele Magema. [Online] Available from – [Accessed on 16 August 2016].



‘Orphan Black’ and the female body


The female body, a maternal pillar, one that has been documented for over thousands over years and more recently in visual culture too. This essay seeks to discuss, critique and contest the female body with regard to feminism theory. This essay will critically analyse and discuss the TV series Orphan Black  and comment on the recurring theme of the maternal body therein. Orphan Black is a tv series that began in 2011 and is beginning to show its fourth season. The essay will also make reference of the article Mom’s with Guns; Woman’s Political Agency in Anti-Apartheid Visual Culture by Kim Miller (2009), Shelia De Rosa’s article Mother, dear Mother, 2004, J Wingate’s article,  Motherhood, Memorials and Anti- Militarism (2008)

This essay will cover themes such as fertility and the use of the female body to give life as well as the maternal body as a soldier, being able to carry a gun in order to protect her family, the mother being the sole caretaker of her children. The aim of the essay is to discover weather the feminist theories are in favour of the depiction of the maternal body in visual culture, or wether they are fought against.


To understand the theme of the essay, one first needs to define what a maternal body is and how it fits into feminist theory. Feminist theory firstly, is said to explore gender inequality and gender itself.  The maternal body is more specific as it then focuses of the female, concerning, conniving a child, giving birth, the ability to become a mother as well as the ability to grow and develop with the infant that is her child. This theme is touched on in  visual media and throughout time, however in this television series it is a very evident theme.

A brief overview of the tv series is given, in order to understand where and in what time frame the series was created. Orphan Black is a Canadian science fiction series that is set in Toronto, Ontario about a woman called Sarah Manning, played by Tatiana Maslayn and directed by John Fawcette. In the first season, Sarah discovers that she is a clone and has over twelve identical ‘sisters’ all over North America and Europe. However of those clones, she is the only one who can conceive a child, she has a daughter, Kira Manning. There is a great emphasis on finding her ‘defect’ as all the other clones were designed not to reproduce. All the main characters, except one (Felix Dawkins, who is gay), are strong and distinctive females, who are all fighting for the good of their protection and sadly of their family.

As Miller (2009) says in her reading on Mom’s with Guns women in the Anti- Apartheid South Africa are meant to be seen as soldiers. Women have substantial muscles that are visibly taut, demonstrating great physical power. The “good mother” is active and empowered, focused pri- marily not on her child, but on a larger political goal. In one hand she holds a gun, ready to fire, while on her back sleeps her child.

This characteristic of being fit, strong and able to physically protect her children is evident in the character of Sarah Manning too. Sarah is seen doing parkour, while her sisters are also staying fit and strong doing their own exercises such as gaming (Aliosn), and bench press ups and sit ups (Helaina). Each character focuses not on keeping in shape, but on being physically strong enough to be able to fight, if they need to, especially when needing to protect their family.

Figure 1: Alison about to open the door to her house. Image available from locker

The characteristic of the mother with a gun is often seen. More prominent in Sarah’s won mother, Siobhon, who almost always greets her visitors with a gun before letting them into her house, where she protects her granddaughter. When Sarah first learns that she is a clone, her instinct is to protect herself, as did her sisters. Her clone sister Alison teachers her how to shoot, and says that her own reason for learning how to become a professional shooter is ‘to protect my family’.

Sarah is also seen posed with a gun ready to fire, in season 1, episode 5, when she has to keep the scientists away from her daughter.

As Annelise Orleck notes, “[F]or many women in cultures around the world, motherhood is a powerful political identity around which they have galvanized broad-based and in uential grassroots movements for social change” (Orleck 1997:7). The idea that mothers need to stand together and behind a gun to protect their children, often in the absence of husbands, is one that connects women around the world. In South Africa particularly where a large amount of women are single mothers and raise their children with their own mothers, there is often an absence in the father figure in the children’s childhood. The same can be said for Sarah Manning, who is a single mother raising her child with her mother, Siobhon, who was also a single mother. Mother-activism can reinforce patriarchal appeals to women’s maternity (as actual or potential mothers) as the primary basis for their worth (Miller).

The beginning of this protective mother emerged in the second World War, when artists such as Bashka Paeff, created her sculpture The Maine Sailors and Soldiers Memorial, seen in Fig.2, as read about in Jennier Wingate’s reading Motherhood, Memorials and Anti-Militarism (2008). The sculpture depicts a strong and masculine mother shielding her small child from the revenges of war around her.

Figure 2: The Maine Sailors and Solders Memorial. Bashka Paeff, 1926. 

The sculpture was one of the first to acknowledge the hardships of a mother, firstly by allowing the child to go to war and believing that it would be for the better good of her country and the next is that maternal body becomes a figure of protection and a physically strong being. Although, contemporary reviews regarded her work to be more of a success story as she was a woman sculpture during the 1920’s and not as radical political advancements. Reviews about her work were often accompanied by a ‘rags to riches’ bibliography of her life, although they were not necessarily true.

When watching Orphan Black one can see that the fear of portraying a mother as a fighter and protector in the war too has disappeared and evolved into one of the main themes in the series. One particular moment is in season two, episode 3 when Sarah as well as Siobhan are armed and out in the streets protecting Kira.

Another point that feminist theory comments on is how motherhood has been reduced to a ‘battleground in which growing numbers of women choose to conceive and rear their children without men’, according to Shelia de Rosa in her article Mother, dear Mother (2004). While women have suddenly been able to obtain career positions that are decision making positions and therefore also an economic value, women are still expected to raise the children, as they have done for thousands of years. De Rosa says that as third wave feminists, women should embrace their new opportunities and take advantage of the new freedom to climb the financial ladder to achieve a ceo position. Meaning that the maternal life should not be separated from the career life.

Figure 3: Sarah dropping Kira off at school. Image available from

When looking specifically at Sarah Manning’s character, she is unable to be the maternal mother as well as the working mother because she gave her daughter to her mother, Siobhan to look after while she went to do freelance work as a designer. Her sister, Alison defies de Rosa’s ideology and is a stay-at-home-mom, also often called a ‘soccer mom’, as seen in Fig.3. While Siobhan remains the only mother who raised her children and worked as an undercover detective.

Figure 4: Alison as ‘stay-at-home-soccer-mom’. Image available from

What can also be read of de Rosa’s reading is that women are no longer needing a man to even conceive a child. In recent medical advancements it is possible to conceive a child without the female or male body ever interacting. This of course is the main theme in Orphan Black as it deals with clones that have been created in test-tubes. All of the clones are science experiments, which is where the moral issues of the institutes come in, saying that the clones belong to the institute and therefore have to be controlled as observed as a proper experiment. All the clones do all have a ‘monitor’ someone who gives daily reports to the institute to record their activities, usually the monitor is also a spouse or boyfriend.


In the series Orphan Black feminist topics such as the mother as a protector, a single mother and a working mother as seen. The female body as a soldier and protector as Miller describes mothers of the modern world to be is evident in characters such as Sarah Manning, Alison Hendrix and Siobhan Sadler. All three women are seen as physically strong, as well as being able to pull a gun in a situation when needing to. This advancement in the depiction of motherhood began with feminists sculptures in the 1920’s. The single mother that De Rose mentions in her article is Sarah Manning who raises her child with the help of Siobhan. de Rosa, comment that women are living in a battleground of trying to raise their children without men, firstly financially and then physically without the presence of the father or even his conception. Finally, after analysing Orphan Black I feel that this series might be the most feminist series there is out there as every power decision, even within the institute is lead by a woman. Not just any woman, but a clone, a child born out of a test-tube. All the female characters are seen as fiercely independent and protective of their family and clone family. All women are never seen in need of a man to help them out, there are smaller characters given to the men but all the main characters as well as power characters are lead by mothers.


Brooklyn Museum. (2011, 27 December) What is Feminist Art? [Video file]. Retrieved from [Accessed on 7 May 2016].

De Rosa, S. (2004). Mother, dear Mother. Journal of Visual Art Practice. 3 (2), p83-89.

Orleck, Annelise. 1997. “Tradition Unbound: Radical Mothers in International Perspective” In  e Politics of Motherhood: Activist Voices from Le  to Right, eds. Alexis Jetter, Annelise Orleck, Diana Taylor, pp. 3–23. Hanover NH: University Press of New England.

Miller, K. 2009. African Arts. Mom’s with Guns; Woman’s Political Agency in Anti-Apartheid Visual Culture. 68-75

UCL Arts and Humanities, Social and Historical Sciences. (2015, March 10) . UCL History of Art: Griselda Pollock – Making Feminist Memories – Part 1. [Video file]. Retrieved from – [Accessed on 7 May 2016].

Wingate, J. (2008). Motherhood, Memorials and Anti- Militarism.Woman’s Art Journal. unknown (1), p31- 38.

Feature image: Vignette. Orphan Black. [Online]. Available from [Accessed on 14/06/2016].

Figure 1: LockerDome. Orphan Black, Seanson 4 Trailer. [Online]. Available from – [Accessed on 7/05/2016].

Figure 2: Wingate, J. (2008). Motherhood, Memorials and Anti- Militarism.Woman’s Art Journal. unknown (1), p31- 38.

Figure 3: Project Fandom. Orphan Black S1E4 – Instinct. [Online]. Available from – [Accessed on 7/5/2016].

Figure 4: Hypable. Nine things you don’t know about Orphan Black. [Online]. Available from – [Accessed on 7/05/2016].


Renoir and Degas: who depicts Bathers better?


This blog will discuss the genre of the nude during the Fin-de-siècle (turn of the century) by comparing the works of Renoir and Degas, focussing on their Bather series. It will make use of N. Brood’s reading,  Degas’s ‘misogyny’ (1977) as well as T. Garb’s reading, Renoir and the natural women (1985). The blog will begin by explaining what the key terms; Fin-de-siècle is as well as the context of the nude within the Fin-de-siècle. The blog will then continue to discuss the important concepts such as reshaping nature through culture, voyeurism, castration complex and fetishism.


Fin-de-siècle is french for end of the century, similar to ‘turn of the century’, refers to the end of the 19th Century (more or less 1870 -1910). It is also known as the period of degeneration, boredom, cynicism, pessimism and decadence. There was also a reaction to materialism, hope for new beginnings through a revolt against rationalism, positivism, the bourgeois, liberal democracy. The Fin-de-siècle like any other culture had a counter culture and that was to reject social order.

The Nude (in the Fin-de-siècle)
The nude was considered an acceptable representation of nakedness, in art before the 20th century. It was considered the reiteration of beauty and a base on which to transform nature into a culture. Male nudes were typically gods and warriors, while female nudes were venues and odalisques. There was aways an element of perfection, godly status, goodness, beauty and immortal life.
Figure 1: Francois Boucher, The Toilete of Venus. 1751. Oil on Canvas.
However, during the Fin-de-siècle artists wanted to depict the female nude for what they were; actual reality. The nude became an expression of erotisissim, ascetic enjoyment and pornography. Without surprise, the new ‘artistic nude’ was not highly approved of.
Figure 2: Gustav Courbet, L’Origine du Monde. 1866. Oil on canvas.


Reshaping nature through culture

‘The very act of painting is male, culture is male, and that which is represented exists in the order of nature so that ‘women’, Renoir’s most frequent subject is seen to operate on the physical and ‘primitive’ level of culture.’ (Garb, 1985, p4). In this quote about Renoir’s choice of depicting women, one can see that the men are seen as cultured while women are not, meaning that men have the power to reshape the way nature/women are seen in culture. Renoir’s nudes reinforce a patriarchal society, by depicting them as an extension of nature. All his nudes are at one with nature, blend into the background of nature are at total peace and in bliss with nature. As seen in Figure 3, the painting depicts naked women, bathing in a forest. The colours of their skin is an extension of the colours used to depict nature, therefore they are an extension of nature. The fact that the are bathing also implies that they are only capable of very primitive activities.

Figure 3: Pierre-Augustine Renoir, Bathers in the Forest, 1897. Oil on canvas.

Renoir also likes depicting his female figures doing household chores and looking after pets and children, reaffirming their place in society.

Renoir’s depiction of women as a timeless, mythic version of women often leads to the assumption of praise (Garb, 1985. p5) but this idea must be oppressed as it shows the lack of engagement into the reality of a females life. Many other thinkers, writers and artists at the time were documenting on the fact that women were denied the same rights as men. Renoir is a misogynist as he did not want women to gain equality in society. Therefore he places them in roles that are submissive to men and reinforces the myth of women. Renoir also believed, along with many other theorists of the time, that if women altered the particle system, they would alter nature too.

In controst, Degas depicted his female nudes as slaves to the male viewer. His dancers and bathers express the pain and effort it takes to look effortless. This is seen through the expressions of hardship, the distorted bodies (see figure 4) and the ‘furious opens, displayed as bodily distortion and disarticulation’ ( Bernheimer, 2014 p159). Degas stripped away societal norms and revealed true identity, which was not well received by society.

Figure 4: Edgar Degas, Bather stretched out on the Floor, 1886-1888. Pastel.



Voyerism is  expressing a sexual interest or looking and spying on people, that are not aware of the voyeur, engaged in intimate behaviour.

In the case of Renoir Bathing series of paintings the paintings have a distinct feeling of voyeurism. This is seen in the females obliviousness to the male eye and their ease at playing amongst themselves (figure 3).

Castration complex

Castration complex is the fear of being emasculated.

According to the psychoanalytic account,the male voyeur is trying to escape anxiety by obsessively reenacting an original trauma, his imagined perception of female castration, from a situation of mastery and control (Bernheimer, 2014). The male voyeur sees the absence of the phallic and concludes that the female is considered the other in his eyes. He is then relieved with the thought that he as not been castrated, like the female is.


In Renoir’s bather paintings one can distinctly see that the women is submissive to the man, emphasising that he has mastery over her (Garb, 1985 p8). This is seen in the way that the women are depicted naked, as a submission to the viewer, bodies are often twisted to expose breasts or thighs, expressing a harmful playfulness. Renoir also expresses how he prefers his women not to be able to read but only to take care of the children, implying that he has a fear of women becoming an equal to him. He then argues that women would not become elevated, through an education, but denatured and debased.  His ideas of women as household essentials is reinforced by his paintings of women doing household chores with ease. He also mentions how the best exercise for a women, is to be scrubbing floors, once again emphasising his fear of a women being an equal to a man.

In Degas’ bather series one can see the castration fear play part, as the females are depicted alone, extraordinary self-sufficiency, separateness, and sensuous privacy of the women is depicted. The male viewer is not invited to watch and feels almost like a trespasser. The women are rendered as physical beings in their own right rather than as projected, complicit objects of masculine desire (Brenheimber). The women are not only averted from the male gaze but are also completely unaware of it. The images invite empathy and the contemplation of narcissism.

Degas also emphasised on expressing women as individuals, not as subjects that were meant to emphasise charm, grace or prettiness.

Figure 5: Edgar Degas, The Tub, Pastel on cardboard, 1886



Fetishisation is to make a fetish of something – excessive devotion or obsession for something/someone

Renoir’s fetish is clearly the womanly body.


In conclusion this blog has explored the theme of the nude within the Fin-de-siecle between the artists; Renoir and Degas, focusing on their bather series. In N. Brood’s reading,  Degas’s ‘misogyny’ (1977), one learns that——– .  While in T. Garb’s reading, Renoir and the natural women (1985) we can understand the depiction that Renoir made of women, by pronouncing them to be a part and extension of nature and less than men. Renoir does this by depicting women as primitive and beautiful. In Garb’s reading one can see that Renoir also had a fear of castration, for he feared that women would be an equal to him and he therefore would no longer find them attractive. In Bernheimer’s reading Degas’ Brothels (2014) with reference to Degas’ pastels of women bathing, the reader can understand that Degas saw women to be slaves of the male viewer, Degas depicted the pain and reality of an individual woman through his paintings.


Bernheimer, C. 2014. Degas’s Brothels: Voyeurism and Ideology. University of California Press. pp158-186


Broude, N. 1977. Degas’s ‘misogyny’. The Art Bulletin 59(1), March:95-107.

Garb, T. 1985. Renoir and the natural women. The Art Oxford Art Journal 8(2):3-15.

Leeks, W. 1986. Ingres other-wise. The Oxford Art Journal 9(1):29-37.

Figure 1: Bc.Edu, 2010. Francis Boucher The Toilette of Venus. [Online] Available at [Accessed on 1 June 2016].

Figure 2: Huffington Post, 2015. Facebook In Legal Trouble After Censoring That 19th Century Painting (NSFW). [Online] Available at: [Accessed on 1 June 2016].

Figure 3: Lenin Imports, 2015. Pierre-Augustine Renoir. [Online] Available at: [Accessed on 1 June 2016].

Figure 4: Painting and Frame, 2010. Edgar Degas After the Bath or Reclining Nude. [Online] Available at: [Accessed on 5 June 2016].

Figure 5: Study Blue, 2013. Impressionism/post-impression. [Online] Available at: [Accessed on 5 June 2016].