Courbet, l'origie du monde

Angela Merkel’s Raute and The Little Man in the Boat

Susan Fereday slide presentation at symposium, "Women, Art and Feminism in Australia since 1970”
Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne
23 February 2018

Courbet’s painting ‘The Origin of the World’ (1866) presents a rare depiction of a realistic vulva in art. Its singularity reflects wider social prohibitions against the visibility of female sexuality and the power of women to give birth. The vulvic hand gesture displayed by feminists of the 1960s was an act of defiance of this repression and became something of an emancipatory emblem for women, still in use today.

Curiously, I observe this vulvic hand gesture is now also in use by public figures with conservative agendas, without reference to feminism. While its co-option might be read as yet another example of capitalism’s proclivity to turn revolt into style, perhaps something else is at work here. I posit that the recycled gesture wields enormous persuasive power firstly because its earlier reference point is palpable but undisclosed, and secondly because it conflates with psychoanalytic myths of the hidden-ness and immutability of female sexuality, and thereby ultimately reinforces the repression of women.

This thinking prompts me to re-visit Lacan’s story about the foundation of his childhood self in visibility. I propose that the in/visibility of female sexuality may have played an undisclosed role here, but this influence was significantly downplayed or disavowed.

Speaking for the dead photo

Speaking for the Dead

Solo exhibition at Sarah Scout Presents
13 May – 18 June 2016
Patrimony image

Lurid Beauty: Australian Surrealism and its Echoes

Group exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria
Curator Simon Maidment
9 October 2015 - 31 January 2016
Book cover "Object of Photography"

The Object of Photography: a theory of photography in (my) pictures

Susan Fereday monograph (hardback, e-book)
Book launched at Centre for Contemporary Photography
7 February 2013
Picture of exhibition at CCP

Infinite Image

Solo exhibition at Centre for Contemporary Photography
8 February – 24 March 2013
Picture from exhibition "All Seeing"

All Seeing

Solo exhibition at Sarah Scout Presents
9 February – 9 March 2013
Image from Confirmation A Way of Calling

Group exhibition at Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts
14 May – 19 June 2011
Curator Melissa Keys. Artists Colleen Ahern (AUS), Susan Fereday (AUS/GER), Jason Hendrik Hansma (NLD), Dane Mitchell (NZ), Sheila & Nicholas Pye (CAN), Ann Shelton (NZ)

Photo from exhibition "After Life" at Sarah Scout Gallery
After Life

Solo exhibition at Sarah Scout Presents
3 – 26 February 2011

text by Tegan Lewis