Aesthetics strategies and sociological shifts. Bodies, sex and gender in the practices of women artists from the sixties and the seventies, in Europe and US
Île de France (75) Université Paris 3 - Sorbonne Nouvelle France,
Early in the sixties, the first performances gave a glimpse of how a great part of the late twentieth century artistic objects would become: embodied. During the following decades, woman artists in particular incessantly turned their practices towards body policies in artistic representation; quite frequently, they focused on its sexed and gendered structures. In those works, bodies no longer appear as static forms but rather as dynamical sites, relaying interaction processes as subjectivation or objectivation, empowerment, awareness-raising and individuation. It seems that though such practices are obvious as objects for sociological investigation, an appropriate qualitiative approach, starting with intern analysis, has to be specify. We will argue here that from these bodily practices, one can get onto contemporary shifts in sociology of arts, challenging both its fields and methods.
Some of the recent (crediting intern analysis) proposals in sociology of arts suggest to question how artistic objects get their status (Zolberg, 1997), considering them as processes (Esquenazi, 2007), in which the physical forms would only be steps in broader social becomings; moreover, attention should be paid on how they express their production, and interpretation contexts. We will point out that through body art objects, this approach might be narrowed on precise types of social relationships: one may study the empowered and normative conditions of artistic practices first, and then their potential epistemic impact in terms of knowledge.
We might argue first that studying artistic production contexts, one has to pay attention to the material and symbolic coercion weighting on artistic gestures: indeed, many women artists used explicit and critical strategies, accusing the fact that the feminine presence in the art worlds has often be reduced to the position of passive objects. But still, the unfolded presence of those bodies in their works (alternatively staged through their biological, but also their cultural and technological intricacies) evokes various enunciative positions about corporeity: it appears that these positions came up, at the same time, in other social fields. We will focus on the discursive field, questioning the appearance of bodies, sex and gender in some contemporary western theories (among others: Butler, Haraway, Héritier).