The exhibition WOMEN’S EYE was made possible thanks to the support of the Embassy of Switzerland in Ukraine and the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany Kyiv

This year Photo Kyiv invites women artists to take the floor in a special project exhibition – Women’s Eye, to face the flagrant under-representation of women artists in the artworld.

At a time when the mass of images invades the public and private spheres, where the body of women is exhibited and instrumentalized sometimes as an object of desire, sometimes as a pledge of freedom and emancipation, what is precisely the point of view of the main stakeholders?

What do women artists think today? What are their concerns, their daily challenges and preoccupations? How do they express them through photography?

These are all questions we would like to ask to women photographers of different nationalities and with various backgrounds, in order to highlight the constellation of women artists in a sky usually dedicated to men.

14 talented artists from Canada, Germany, Greece, Switzerland and Ukraine have been chosen for their eyes which raise questions that matter today: among others, social and historical issues that reveal the role of women in the society and their stereotypes; the representation of the female body shown as a passive object of desire or subject of self-staging;  gender identity and equality issues; the questioning and the use of new digital technologies (3D printing, virtual reality); the role of photography as a self-introspection and a mean to overcome the often harsh reality of life and enhance it; conceptual and aesthetical issues that involve the perception of the environment and the visible reality.

Curator: Carole Glauser Pidoux

Participating Artists:

Delphine BURTIN (1974, Switzerland), Jessie SCHAER (1997, Switzerland), Mauren BRODBECK (1974, Switzerland), Catherine LEUTENEGGER (1983, Switzerland), Katrin NIEDERMEIER (1978, Germany), Anna MELNYKOVA (1983, Netherlands-Ukraine), Kourtney ROY (1981, Canada-France), Johanna REICH (1977, Germany), Despina ZAIMIS (1971, Greece), Ioanna SAKELLARAKI (1989, Greece), Sarah CARP (1981, Switzerland), Laurence RASTI (1990, Switzerland), Lena Mucha (1983, Germany) and Julia GUNTHER (1979, Germany).

Artists’ Series

Delphine BURTIN (1974, Switzerland) will present seven photographs – seven “visual accidents” – from her series Encouble, dated 2013-2014. Her work questions the notions of illusion and disappearance through still life or visual rebuses playing with the ambiguity of perception. With the eyes of both an architect and a poet, Delphine Burtin builds surreal compositions in an original scenography that play with the viewer’s visual comprehension.

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With similar concept, Jessie SCHAER (1997, Switzerland) will display seven artworks from her series Perception, from void to shape, dated 2019. Her work is about an ephemeral encounter between objects and space. She questions her environment and the immediate reality with few interventions, filling the “blank” in a minimal way, often with irony, never with arrogance. 

Insignificant and poor materials, captured by the magical lens of the young artist seem to dance face to the viewer, like “volatile acrobats”.

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Pursuing the issue of the perception of reality, Mauren BRODBECK (1974, Switzerland) inquires how photography can be influenced and transformed through digital and computer manipulation. Fascinated by the beauty of colors and nature, she explores landscapes and floral still life photography, using different camera and lighting techniques. In the displayed series A Moving Image of Eternity, dated from 2019, Mauren Brodbeck combines photography and performance, permeating still images with vibrant life through long exposures, collage and digital art, and achieves thus to create images of an eternal reality – in reference to Plato who defined the physical world in those words.

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Questioning the photographic medium while challenging its boundaries, Catherine LEUTENEGGER (1983, Switzerland) explores the omnipresence of digital technology and the materialization of the virtual world. Her series New Artificiality – 3D printed buildings (2015-) investigates the emergence and advancement of 3D printing, from nano to monumental scale, in various business sectors. In China, where a company has built one of the world’s largest 3D printers and is producing entire houses, she photographed these monumental “prints”. But this process with seemingly limitless potential is still an experimental one, and raises questions about reliability and stability, as well as its ethical implications. Interested in its failures and distortions (New Artificiality – 3D printed failures), Catherine Leutenegger points with some pleasure the weakness of a new technology not yet fully mastered.

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Katrin NIEDERMEIER (1978, Germany), meanwhile, explores different levels of reality with a 3D animation, Reality island is elsewhere, dated 2019, and develops the issue of feminine identity construction through a confrontation between two fictional characters, Rosa and her avatar Tessa, evolving in an artificial environment. Rosa, alter ego of the artist, is searching for realness and meaning in life, while Tessa is an avatar, an «ideal» sexy woman bought on internet for 35 dollars, apparently waiting for some sexual intercourse with the viewer. If this experience showed Katrin Niedermeier how the virtual space is dominated by male visions and sexism, it enabled her to come into contact with herself, questioning her identity as a woman, as a mother, as a wife, as a former fashion designer, and ultimately, as an artist.

While the woman’s body has been excessively exhibited, imposing beauty standards along centuries, what about the ones for men today? Anna MELNYKOVA (1983, Netherlands-Ukraine) raises sensibly the question with her series Largo (2014), in which common men take the pose naked, taking on the role of past iconic figures – Appollo, Zeus, Pan or Jesus Christ – and creates unconventional touching visuals. Interestingly, one should mention that she is the founder and curator of the Ukrainian Women Photographers Organization.

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Kourtney ROY (1981, Canada-France) tackles head-on the body, too – but her own body. Similar to the approach of American artist Cindy Sherman, her work consists of photographic self-portraits, depicting herself in many different contexts and as various imagined characters, with a significant sense of self-derision. In her series The Ideal Woman (2010), the characters that Kourtney Roy portrays seem sorry and resigned, stuck into ordinary life and role that allude to past decades. A cheerleader, a secretary, a maid, an air hostess, a showgirl, a bride and a beauty queen are all posing in a same way, surrounded by a same cinematographic background. The seriality and repetition of the poses and expressions accentuate thus the deep-rooted stereotypes that embodies each woman.

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Johanna REICH (1977, Germany) investigates on past women – women artists of the 19th and 20th centuries that have “disappeared” from art books and history. Her series Resurface I & II brings together the work of more than 400 women artists. The first part (not included in our exhibition) consists of a three-hour film that featured 160 Polaroids revealing the faces of those who have been “forgotten” by History. For the second part, focused on the more famous but still underexposed artists, it is about large-scale portraits, all from Polaroids scanned at the first stage of the development when the outlines emerge – creating fascinating ghost-like portraits of uncredible talented female artists such as Claude Cahun, Leonor Fini, Corinne Michelle West, Frances B. Johnston, Tarsila do Amaral, Gertrud Arndt or Jessie Tarbox Beals. Johanna Reich’s work continues with the creation of a Wikipedia profile for each artist she presents – so that the names will remain.

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It is about memory, too that Despina ZAIMIS (1971, Greece) talks in her displayed series Eternal Stones, dated 2019. A series of photographic compositions depicting ancient stones, rocks and old marble walls, all of which Despina Zaimis photographed along the Via Sacra, inside the Roman Forum in Roma, Italy. With the aim to evoke their minimal beauty and imposing historic presence, the artist isolated these stones from their surroundings during the editing process, and recomposed them in essential, sometimes abstract ways. While taking photos makes her feel connected to the physical world, editing her images becomes a process of connecting to her inner self.

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Reconnection with her Greek roots and traditions represents the recent photographic research of Ioanna SAKELLARAKI (1989, Greece), realized through her series The Truth is in The Soil, dated 2019.  After the death of her father four years ago, she started to explore traditional Greek funerary rituals and focused on the collective mourning and ritual laments of the last communities of professional mourners on the Mani peninsula. At the border between performance and staging, ritual laments enable to create a space where death can exist and would represent an encounter with family, religion, mythology and the self. A space materialized in Ioanna Sakellaraki’s enigmatic and silent artworks.

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In a similar approach, where photography is at the crossroads between reportage and setup, Sarah CARP (1981, Switzerland) unveils modestly her private sphere and family. In her last series, Parenthesis Covid-19 (2020), in which everyone can identify, she stages her two little daughters during the hard time of confinement, evoking loneliness, expectation and wonder. Starting from the intimate, she creates timeless narratives that reach the universal, with delicate and moving compositions.

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Starting from her own family environment, too, Laurence RASTI (1990, Switzerland), born to Iranian parents, looks at Swiss and Iranian codes and conventions to understand the influence of gender roles in society, but also the consequences of migration and the non-respect of fundamental rights. Sensitive to the questions of gender identity and equality , she develops in her series There Are No Homosexuals in Iran (2014-2016) – in reference to an allocution of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – an evocative visual language, where beauty and modesty merge – without forgetting to point out that homosexuality is still punishable by death in Iran.

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The work of Lena Mucha (1983, Germany) focuses on stories related to human rights, gender aspects, and social changes within societies and ethnic groups that are mainly under-reported.  In her series Los Primos – Indigenous transgender Women in Columbia, dated 2018, Lena Mucha shows the reality of transgender women belonging to the Emberá ethnic group, forced to leave their communities to live freely their identity in small coffee farms, where they are accepted and recognized. Los primos (cousins) – is the way they are familiarly nicknamed.

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With a similar determination, Julia GUNTHER (1979, Germany), whose work focuses on social justice and especially on the role of women in sub-Saharan Africa society, presents committed women fighting against inacceptable gendered conventions. Her series No Sex for Fish, dated 2019, presents local women from fishing villages on Lake Victoria (Kenya), who created a cooperative called No Sex for Fish to oppose “jaboya”, the common practice of offering sex in return for fish. Together these women own several fishing boats, allowing them to source their own fish. They can thus break out of the traditional and highly gendered roles that govern most fishing villages, where men do the fishing and control the supply, and where women sell the fish but are forced to bargain with sex to secure their product.

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