154MC: Critical Reflection of Linder’s exhibition at the IMMA
Whilst on a recent trip to Ireland, I visited the thought provoking Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA). Here is where I found the interesting artist named Linder, whose work happened to relate to my own photography at the time, which was helpful. Her series of work Untitled was exhibited in the Primal Architecture exhibition inside the IMMA. The Primal Architecture exhibition “borrows its title from an iconic work by the influential American Artist Mike Kelley in which the artist uses sculptural forms to map a history of his personal genealogy. Exploring ideas inherent in Kelley’s piece the exhibition brings together works by the Irish and international artists that further elaborate on Kelley’s interest in pseudo- autobiography, identity, power and nostalgia. Compromising sculpture, video, drawing, photography and performance, Primal Architecture unfurls as a sequence of chapters, each offering exhilarating interpretations of the human condition and the complex ways we encounter and narrate the world around us.” (IMMA, 2015)
Linder was born named Linda Mulvey and is originally from Liverpool, but she changed her name to Linder in the 1970s when she lived in Manchester, to follow the pattern of the Dada artists George Grosz and John Heartfield. The punk scene may best know Linder as she created posters and record sleeves for her friends the Buzzcocks. She was very close to the Buzzcocks and the spirit of punk, which was an anti-establishment on the politics of Dada. When I refer to Dada I’m talking about the artistic movement, which came about due to the reaction of World War 1.
My own interpretation of the body of work Untitled, inside the IMMA Primal Architecture exhibition, is that Linder is distinguishing the divide between men and women, the cultural expectations and stereotypes of women and the sexist treatment of their bodies. This is shown through the use of either pornographic or housewife/domestic magazine cut ups and stuck on either women’s faces or parts of their body. The way the montages are placed is amusing; the work is effective in challenging the media’s exploitation of women. I believe I only know this about her work due to my current project looking at similar discussions to do with feminism and sexism, without this knowledge I may not have this kind of interpretation to her work. Examples of her work include an iron magazine cut out being placed on a woman’s face, or a flower covering the female dignity in between her legs. Her most well known montage was a cover for the 1977 Buzzcocks single Orgasm Addict, featuring a naked woman whose head is covered by a roughly placed iron, and two lips with teeth to cover her nipples. Being Linder’s most iconic cover, this record sleeve highlights the purpose of her work; it confronts the objectification and sexism of females.
Inside the exhibition, there was no artist statement, hence why I mentioned my own interpretation of her work. I liked the way Linder’s exhibition in the IMMA was laid out. It was simple. With the body of art at eye level, it allowed the viewer to get close and personal to the work, maybe this was in hope of the viewers to create their own understanding. This could be Linder’s reasoning for not having an artist statement, or maybe she just thought that sexism and feminism should be so well known that there should be no need for her to explain herself.
The purpose of the body of work is to challenge the way that women are usually represented and exploited by in the media, in particular images of their body. It is successful in achieving this by mimicking this vision and exaggerating it within her images to make amusing montages, which show this sexist stereotype in our culture.
An example of some more recent work by Linder has been exhibited at the Modern Art in London. Her imagery is still shocking, yet more up to date whilst still continuing her well-known style of work. The photographs were exhibited large-scale, displayed in light boxes, evidencing her work to be more up to date. The photographs are juxtapositions of images taken from modern porn magazines and mainstream cosmetic and lifestyle magazines. This work is very similar to Linder’s first montages, yet due to the bodies, objects and colour, is recognisably more modern. Her recent work has also expanded to include film, photography and performance, with more themes including non-conformity and outsider identity.
Another artist, similar to Linder, who was also a Dada artist, feminist and made pornographic photomontages is Hannah Höch. Her work between 1920-1930 was shocking; it also challenged the stereotypical ideas of female bodies and beauty. Linder’s Untitled collage, and Höch’s photomontage Strange Beauty are very similar as they both feature naked women in alluring positions and stick amusing cut ups on top highlighting the cultural monstrosities of that time. Hoch’s photomontage is slightly more shocking due to the focus on the pair of slanted eyes on an abnormally small head, which by this she may be suggesting or referring to the gaze. Yet Linder’s Untitled montage is clearly, deliberately referring to the gaze as she makes comical, stereotypical montages emphasizing women as a desired subject, or furthermore object. Both Höch and Linder, well known feminist artists of the time, would have inspired many women whose bodies are submissive objects of desire to men through their montages.
To conclude my thoughts upon Linder’s exhibition, her work achieved its purpose of what she clearly set out to do and was very stimulating in doing so. Linder confronts the cultural monstrosities in the 1970s with her explicitly, expressed montages, bringing women together as one. Her feminist stance is what makes this body of work; I and other women will feel empowered through her work. It makes me want to promote girl power! It’s an engaging and necessary body of work for the 1970s, once Linder’s purpose is understood you can fully appreciate her art. But for viewers seeing the exhibition for the first time, with no previous knowledge of Linder, it may be difficult to grasp the full concept. This is the one and only downfall of Linder’s exhibition.
Artspace (2013) Linder Sterling [online] available from http://www.artspace.com/linder_sterling [28th April 2015]
Dillion, B. (2011) Linder, the artists with the hex factor [online] available from http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/sep/02/linder-sterling-photomontage [28th April 2015]
Manchester, E. (2007) Linder Untitled [online] available from http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/linder-untitled-t12501/text-summary [28th April 2015]
The Hepworth Wakefield (2015) Linder [online] available from http://www.hepworthwakefield.org/Linder/ [28th April 2015]
Irish Museum of Modern Art (2015) Primal Architecture. Leaflet