Party’s Over | Introducing the Feminist Uncanny
Author’s talk | An illustrated lecture by Alexandra Kokoli | Freud Museum
In an illustrated lecture introducing the ‘feminist uncanny’, Alexandra Kokoli investigates the deeply flawed yet influential concept of the uncanny through the lens of feminist theory and contemporary art practice.
Not merely a subversive strategy but a cipher for the fraught yet productive dialogue between feminism and psychoanalysis, the uncanny makes an ideal vehicle for the aggressive defamiliarisation of the familiar and familial, and acts as a constant reminder that feminism and psychoanalysis are never quite at home with one another. Translated verbatim from the German unheimliche as ‘unhomely’, the uncanny inflects a range of art practices that grapple with, resist, and campaign against patriarchal regimes of social reproduction.
Approached as irreverent ‘genrefuck’, the feminist uncanny in art practice contaminates history with story-telling and revolutionary world-making and boldly repurposes established genres as intersectional feminist critique. In addition to a wide range of examples from art informed by and committed to feminism, we will focus on Lorraine O’Grady performances as a black feminist killjoy, crashing private views and calling out the whiteness and sexism of the artworld.
Dr. Alexandra Kokoli is Senior Lecturer in Visual Culture at Middlesex University London and Research Associate at VIAD, University of Johannesburg. An art historian and theorist originally trained in comparative literature, Kokoli researches the aesthetic mobilisation of discomfort to political ends, focusing on art practices informed by and committed to feminism, the fraught but fertile relationship between feminism and psychoanalysis, mourning and shame. She curated ‘Burnt Breakfast’ and other works by Su Richardson (Goldsmiths, 2012) and, with Basia Sliwinska, Home Strike (l’étrangère, 2018), and has published widely on feminism, art and visual culture in journals including Art Journal, Women and Performance, n.paradoxa, Performance Research, Oxford Art Journal and Hypatia. Her books include The Feminist Uncanny in Theory and Art Practice (2016); and (as editor) Feminism Reframed: Reflections on Art and Difference (2008); and The Provisional Texture of Reality: Selected Talks and Texts by Susan Hiller, 1977-2007 (2008). Kokoli was awarded a Paul Mellon mid-career fellowship (2019) for her research into the legacies of the women’s peace camp at Greenham Common, focusing on the aesthetics and politics of feminist anti-nuclear activism.
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