Location: Dining Room
Installation by Mary Margaret Hansen
Mary Margaret Hansen: The concept of installing Women Under Siege in a home, a domicile where a family lives the real, the mundane, the joys and upsets of family life gave urgency to each artist’s work. A gallery would have abstracted the artist’s intent, but setting the videos, the dance, and the conversations inside the everyday helped to change the context, making the art all the more powerful.
Collaborating with other women added to the intensity of the interlocking pieces of work. Each artist brought her own story, her particular ‘seeing’ and ‘knowing.’ We could play off one another, both as we met to discuss what we would create and then as we installed work, making decisions about the placement and timing of events for the greatest impact.
Perhaps for me, the most intimate and interesting installation was the tent we constructed in the study of this home, draping the ceiling, walls and couches with white fabric and canvas drop cloths. The effect was dramatic, and telling our stories in this white space gave them intensity and intimacy. The shoes left at the exhibit’s door added the sense of entering a private safe space.
The videos playing in the kitchen and home office had an amplified effect because those are places that families normally watch videos and television, yet these were no ordinary videos.
I experienced a ‘give and take’ among our group of artists; each of us fomented ideas and felt free to offer them for discussion. The whole became greater than each of us as parts.
Finally, all those who entered this private home as viewers and participants in Women Under Siege became an integral part of the work. Participant responses added significantly to the whole. Women Under Siege was intended to highlight women’s struggles for equality, fair treatment and parity. It did this by offering individual narratives in a normally private space and thus, the installations and performances delivered a real punch.
The title ‘Women Under Siege’ accurately reflects the barrage of roadblocks recently put before the women of Texas. We thought we’d ‘come a long way, baby’ since the 1950s, those days without the pill, legal abortion, Title IX or the “Ms.’ prefix. Over a 50-year time span, women were given the tools to control reproduction, enabling them to seek more education, define new career paths and have families. Women still don’t earn as much as men in the marketplace. That’s a fight still to be won, but we do have choices on which to act.
I am 70 years old and women of my generation lived all these changes. It is with dismay that we now look at the current assault on women’s bodies and healthcare. We thought the issues had been addressed and a new century was underway where women were as independent as many men have always been. Instead, women’s rights are being relentlessly hacked away, primarily in state legislatures. The civil rights we fought for are truly under siege by those who liked ‘women’s place’ as it ‘used to be’ 100 years ago.
My installation for Women Under Siege attempts to show the effects of this angry process of hacking and cutting. A red mannequin is draped in courtly velvet that trails to the floor and across the room. It is a trail of blood and hope and anguish, children and dreams, born or unborn. The mannequin’s womb is a pouch filled with more babies. Is her body her own or does her body belong to the State? Her head is a basket of ornaments and streamers. Without choices, will she be mindless, disconsolate?
The mannequin is restrained in a corner by delicate ropes strung with text – stories told by women friends, and statistics that document both violence and social changes.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS:
Mary Margaret Hansen (Houston, USA), a visual artist and writer, who is celebrated for conceiving and producing ‘Second Seating’ in a metal building on the edge of downtown Houston. She has exhibited her photographs at FotoFest and Houston Center for Photography. In January, she was listed as ’100 Creatives 2012’ by the Houston Press.