Advertisement

Hildegarde Duane

Künstlerhaus Stuttgart, Germany

What should a woman do if she were to find herself with only ten seconds remaining before a nuclear attack? According to Hildegarde Duane, she should get naked and ‘melt’ into bed with the young guy who just happens to be passing at the right (next to last) moment. The title of Duane’s video Meltdown (1982) hints at an equating of orgasm with apocalypse, but also at the type of woman who succumbs to her needs and/or desires by calling into her home whoever might come along – on this occasion, Duane’s co-star Jay Struthers.

The gender politics of Meltdown (which is something like a Chantal Akerman movie in 75 seconds) are ambiguous, with female empowerment somewhat overshadowed by the impending blast. The same can be said of Duane’s solo exhibition at Künstlerhaus Stuttgart, the title of which, ‘Western Women’, states a playful generalization and nods towards the stereotypical roles that Duane often assumes in her videos. This is perhaps most prominent in Pink Slip (1983), which, like Meltdown, is another parody of the random sexual encounters that are so often employed in pornography. As per usual, Duane plays the lead, but on this occasion is paired with a very particular actor: Harold Ramis. When he joined Duane in Pink Slip, Ramis was already well-known in both commercial television and Hollywood. He went on to direct the beloved comedy Groundhog Day (1993), featuring Bill Murray. His appearance in Pink Slip speaks of the mutual permeation of art and entertainment in California in the 1980s. (Many years later, Duane would post a photo of herself and Robin Williams on her Facebook page.) The Long Beach Museum of Art was a focal point for said permeation, and was Duane’s artistic home at the time. Surrounded by artists, musicians and actors, Duane worked as an occasional curator at the institution, while also using the facilities to make her videotapes.

Duane remains active as a filmmaker and, while ‘Western Women’ includes work produced between 1978 and today, the exhibition sets its sights on the earliest period of her production. Pink Slip is emphasized by virtue of its being screened in a separate room, but most of the works included are shown on television screens in the institution’s two expansive exhibition spaces. In the only multi-channel video work, Goat to Woolf (1978), Duane takes Virginia Woolf as a historical emblem of a femininity objectified by various forms of male authority. While Woolf is gently coiffed by a female friend, the voices of a male doctor and a father emanate from a loudspeaker, forcing their way into the women’s ‘room for themselves’.

Hollywood is a constant presence in Duane’s videos, something made literal at Künstlerhaus Stuttgart by a number of garments that are interspersed between the works themselves, introducing a slightly fetishistic element to the glamour-induced plots. Marilyn Monroe – 14 Stations (1982) is a simple yet powerful collection of photographs taken in the homes of the tragic superstar, which, aided by a series of poignant captions, creates a via dolorosa of the celebrity age. The closest Duane ever came to classical Hollywood is probably G.U.N. (1997), a black and white noir with artist David Lamelas in the main role and Duane playing a woman who inhabits a swanky place in Beverly Hills. The man invades this place; the woman awaits him with a gun. The ‘showdown’ is Californian Caligarism at its best: a gunshot, a long fall from the roof.

In Ionesco in Hollywood (2012), a video concerning an ill-fated interview she had previously conducted with the legendary playwright Eugène Ionesco, Duane describes herself as a ‘woman who stands on her own’. This line serves as a good résumé of ‘Western Woman’, an exhibition of a hitherto slightly neglected artist who definitely warrants further interest.

Main image: Hildegarde Duane, Goat to Woolf, 1978, two-channel video installation

Bert Rebhandl is a journalist, writer and translator who lives in Berlin. He co-founded and co-edits Cargo magazine.

Issue 191

First published in Issue 191

November - December 2017
Advertisement

Most Read

Criticism of the show at the Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest comes alongside a nationalist reshaping of the...
A retrospective at Munich's Museum Brandhorst charts the artist's career from the 1980s to the present, from 'fem-trash...
At the National Theatre of Wales, a performance alive with wild, tactile descriptions compels comparison between the...
There are perils in deploying bigotry to score political points, but meanings also shift from West to East
‘It’s ridiculous. It’s Picasso’: social media platform to review nudity policy after blocking Montreal Museum of Fine...
Poland’s feminist ‘Bison Ladies’ storm the Japanese artist’s Warsaw exhibition in solidarity with longtime model Kaori’...
An art historian and leading Leonardo expert has cast doubt on the painting’s attribution
How will the Black Panther writer, known for his landmark critical assessments of race, take on the quintessential...
The dissident artist has posted a series of videos on Instagram documenting diggers demolishing his studio in the...
In further news: artists for Planned Parenthood; US court rules on Nazi-looted Cranachs; Munich’s Haus der Kunst...
A mother’s death, a father’s disinterest: Jean Frémon’s semi-factual biography of the artist captures a life beyond...
Jostling with its loud festival neighbours, the UK’s best attended annual visual art festival conducts a polyphonic...
It’s not clear who destroyed the project – part of the Liverpool Biennial – which names those who have died trying to...
Dating from 1949 to the early 1960s, the works which grace the stately home feel comfortable in the ostentatious pomp...
The disconnect between public museum programming and private hire couldn’t be starker – it’s time for the arts to...
In further news: Angela Gulbenkian sued over Kusama pumpkin; and Pussy Riot re-arrested immediately after release from...
With Art Week in town, a guide to the best exhibitions to see, from sonic surveillance to Ronnie van Hout’s showdown...
Moving between figuration and abstraction, the New York-based painter and teacher made work about in-between spaces and...
Trump’s State Department is more than 3 months late in announcing its national pavilion – testament to the chaos...
The continued dominance of UK-US writers makes a mockery of the Man Booker’s ‘global outlook’
The fashion photographer has been accused on Twitter of ripping off another artist – with both represented by the same...
Katharina Cibulka has stitched ‘As long as the art market is a boys’ club, I will be a feminist,’ across her alma mater...
The punk artists’s invasion of the pitch during the Croatia vs. France match reminded us what Russia’s new ‘normality’...
In further news: Brexit voters avoid arts; New York libraries’s culture pass unlocks museums; Grayson Perry-backed...
If artificial intelligence were ever to achieve sentience, could it feasibly produce art? (And would it be good?)
Nods to the game in World Cup celebrations show how dance has gone viral – but unwittingly instrumentalized for...
‘What is being exhibited at Manifesta, above all, is Palermo itself’
With the 12th edition of the itinerant European biennial opening in Palermo, what do local artists, curators and...
The curators seem set to ask, ‘how civilized is the world’s current state of affairs?’

On View

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018

frieze magazine

June - August 2018