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To a certain extent, Tracey Rose belongs to the „second generation“ of feminist art; artists like Valie Export and Judy Chicago, Marina Abramovic and Adrian Piper already produced most of their feminist works in the 1960s and 70s. It’s no wonder then that Rose’s art often references these role models. Like these artists, Tracey Rose focuses on the female body in her performances, photographs, installations and films. The video Ongetiteld (Untitled), 1998, filmed by a surveillance camera, for example, depicts how the artist shaves off all the hair on her body. This aesthetic game in a tenuous “see and be seen” setup, as is with her work in general, can be categorized in the context of identity politics which reflect critically, albeit passionately, about the gender and race problematics of society. In later works, Tracey Rose, who often plays a role in her performances and videos, employs the means of theatrical travesty and satire. The Russian culture critic Michail Bachtin once claimed that the “people’s culture,” travesty and satire, were the only possible means of critical commentary, the only possible “counterculture” under restrained conditions. As the position of women in society even today is still not self-determined, Rose’s precise employment of carnivalesque means seems particularly apt. With her quasi-slapstick stagings in a punk DIY aesthetic, she consciously undermines aesthetic standards.

Hence, the artist goes against the very conventions that are in tacit agreement in the still male- dominated art system. A good example of this artistic strategy can be found in Rose’s video installation Ciao Bella, 2001, exhibited at the 49th Venice Biennale. The 13-minute long three-channel projection depicts a feminist parody of Leonardo Da Vinci’s legendary painting, The Last Supper (1495-98), but also obviously refers to Judy Chicago’s installation, The Dinner Party, 1979, in which 39 historical and fictional female characters convene around a table. In Ciao Bella, Tracey Rose presents an entirely female table of guests, in which the artist plays the role of protagonists such as Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, Marie Antoinette or Ilona “Cicciolina” Staller, the temporary muse of Jeff Koons. Altogether twelve different characters meet in a subversive dramatic composition that stages an ensemble of twelve female roles which have been tailored (by man) to the female gender in western societies.

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