Feminine Futures : Valentine de Saint-Point
Performance, Dance, War, Politics and Eroticism
Feminine Futures, curated by Adrien Sina for
Performa 09, displayed at the Italian Cultural Institute
an exceptional collection on early 20th century feminine
performative contributions to the European and American avantgardes.
These critical and radical experiments played the most
fundamental role in the birth of performance as a discipline,
establishing for the first time the artist's body in a conceptual
action as a work of art. Over 360 paper-based pieces were
presented on two floors in 32 specially designed plexiglas boxes
and show-cases: original photographs, letters, manuscripts,
drawings, manifestos, first editions and ephemera... This corpus
of mostly rare items, not existing in any museum collection
or unknown to art historians, aimed to open new reasearch
perspectives for rethinking Futurism.
Broadening the field of Futurism, Feminine Futures explores
the wide range of possibilities leading to the construction of
the futurist woman, surpassing the only marinettian point of
view. Without these competing tensions between Marinetti and
some women artists such as Valentine de Saint-Point and Enif
Angiolini Robert, Futurism would remain a male fantasy made
for men and machines.
The feminine contribution to the avant-garde movements
is always under-evaluated, considering women artists as
followers or assistants. It's forgetting about the strength of
their critical and radical, constructive or destructive positions
which played the most important role in the birth of Performance
as a new discipline in the field of the arts, while men were
still experimenting traditional mediums such as painting and
Beyond all the ‘isms' initiated by male artists (Futurism,
Expressionism, etc.) female artists are building their own avantgarde
experiments as a reply to originary forces, mostly rooted
in the psychology of desire and the reconstruction of a feminine
mythology which confer them the political power they have lost
since the industrial revolution, up to the point of having less
rights than in their ancestors centuries before.
Strong historical streams link together feminine performative
actions since the origins of political tragedy in ancient Greece,
initiated by Aspasia, cultural and political muse of Pericles, head
of the first democracy, 3rd century BC. Their performances are
political, eroticized, rooted in the figures of ethical and political
resistance to iniquity such as Antigone, Hecuba, Iphigenia or
Medea, up to tragedy and self-sacrifice...
[ La femme, incitatrice charnelle, immole ou soigne, fait couler
le sang ou l'étanche, est guerrière ou infirmière. Elle est
l'individualité de la foule. Voilà pourquoi aucune révolution
ne doit lui rester étrangère ]
Valentine de Saint-Point. Manifeste de la Femme Futuriste, 1912.
The ground level
was structured around the French aristocrat Valentine de Saint-
Point, the first and only woman artist to be part of the executive
board of the Futurist movement, the only futurist who performed
in New York (1917). In her ‘Manifesto of the Futurist Woman'
(1912) and ‘Futurist Manifesto of Lust' (1913), she theorized
broadened territories of artistic activities, linking questions
of flesh, desire, gender, war, to political and civilization issues.
These ideas were the components of the ‘Feminine Action' that
she initiated as a new cross-disciplinary field. Her ‘Art of Flesh'
was developed with Ricciotto Canudo, another avant-garde
leading challenger for F. T. Marinetti in this stimulating love
The ‘flesh-work' encompasses the history of tragedy, dance
and performance, and culminates with her conceptual quest ‘we
must make lust into a work of art'. Following her intellectual
partnerships, the exhibition dedicated a large section to
F. T. Marinetti, then moved to the main figures of Futurism such
as Luigi Russolo
, Enrico Prampolini, Ardengo Soffici, Anton Giulio
Bragaglia, Mario Castagneri, Nelson Morpurgo, Armando Mazza,
Enif Angiolini Robert, through issues of theater, performance,
war, eroticism and futurist loves.
The second floor
traced a wider scene of radical experiments, with artists
responding to forces rooted in the psychology of desire and in
the reconstruction of feminine mythologies and political power
which persisted in performance art through the 1960s and
beyond. Loïe Fuller, Isadora and Anna Duncan, Ruth St. Denis,
Mata Hari, Gertrude Hoffman, Anna Pavlova, Vera Fokina, Ida
Rubinstein, Josephine Baker, Giannina Censi, Mary Wigman,
Gret Palucca, Hedwig Hagemann, Valeska Gert, Ruth Page, Myra
Kinch, Martha Graham... A film program of mostly unseen early
performance films completed this section.
A history of photography
An exceptional convergence filed is opened in the encounter
between dance, movement, body language and photography.
Genuine artistic strategies remain behind technical processes
and their specific pictorial qualities. The photographic pieces
of Feminine Futures are also witnesses of the history of
photography. Half a century of imaginative mutation between
the years 1890' and 1940'... From albumen paper, silver or
radium bromides to silver prints, a large chromatic spectrum of
chemical experiments are gathered, between stability and selfdestruction
of the visible matter.