FETISH 4-5 FEBRUARY 2023 MAMA 10 GREATOREX STREET LONDON E1 5NF
MAMA is proud to present ‘Fetish‘, its inaugural group exhibition consisting of 11 intergenerational and international women artists. This exhibition is a celebration that seeks to reframe the ‘fetish’ as something equally experienced and seen by women.
While ‘fetish’ is still often viewed from the domain of masculine sexuality, we open and untangle the notion of the fetish to a broader experiential spectrum of physical pleasure and iconography – through vision, touch, taste, smell, even sound. In that sense, a fetish becomes both: a desire for an embodied state, stimulated by aesthetic and sensory stimuli like fabric, clothing, food and of course, nudity and the body, but also an idealised/sanctified entity, almost to the point of parody.
‘Fetish has always been a word of sinister pedigree, … discursively promiscuous and theoretically suggestive’ wrote William Pietz in his anthropological study of its history. And while fetish as a sexualised notion began to crystallise at the end of the 19th century, the unchanging and transhistorical elements of its meaning are irreducible materiality and inherently problematic relationship to women.
Heavily explored by the Surrealists, fetish became almost site specific to the female body – a trope that not only furthered the social objectification and subjugation of women, but crucially, which undermined the autonomy of the figure of a female artist. The association of ‘woman’ with male fantasies which permeated so much of Surrealist work, stood in stark contrast to the female artists’ need for creative freedom and expression. A construct of the Surrealist fetish, women were thus seen as sites or objects of desire, rather than agential subjects, equally capable of experiencing it.
Famously theorised by psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud, fetish was for a long time a phenomenon observed almost exclusively in men and by men. One of the first artists to break the tradition was Meret Oppenheim whose Dejeuner en Fourrure (1936) became a spectacle and public fixation to the point of becoming a fetishised object in itself.
The artists featured in the show continue the tradition of breaking with the stereotype of the hypersexualised transgressive fetish, suggesting that it extends far beyond into the realms of sensory delight and aesthetic fulfilment. In our approach, we stick to the notion of fetish as imbued in materiality; the fetish is physical, embodied and by consequence, fundamentally experiential, adding a phenomenological lens to the exploration of pleasure and desire.
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