The ‘aesthetics of pedestrianism’ and the politics of belonging in contemporary women’s art

Sliwinska, Basia (2015) The ‘aesthetics of pedestrianism’ and the politics of belonging in contemporary women’s art. In: Flâneur – New urban narratives, Lisbon, Portugal.

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Abstract

The flâneur concept, associated with the androcentric account of modernity and the division of spatial experiences based on gender differences, presupposes masculine supremacy and spaces of masculinity. It differentiates between the privileged male observer and the female corporealised other, ‘intervening’ into urban life and subjected to the male gaze. I argue, after Marsha Meskimmon (1997), that adopting the behaviour of the pedestrian, woman can become ‘a sentient participant in the city’, who acknowledges ‘boundaries as embodied’, and embraces the politics of local space and the community. The female urban subject is curious and she is actively participating in the city space, no longer symbolizing the spectacle associated with conventional phallocentric representations of gender. Meskimmon’s proposal of ‘an aesthetics of pedestrianism’ destabilizes masculinization of space and proposes border negotiation through the body as a site of learning. Similarly, Elizabeth Grosz acknowledges the explanatory power of the body and reconceptualises the parallels between bodies and cities.
Through examining practices of contemporary women artists I focus on practices of embodiment, which inscribe the body within spatial production. Walking in the public spaces can be liberating and joyful. It can also point towards more complex issues associated with politics of belonging and female participation and inscription into the public spaces. Walking, as a spatial encounter, becomes an embodied form of experiencing and appropriating space. Women artists explore their corporeality within urban environments and transform places into spaces through purposeful walking. Their movements as pedestrians delineate a multitude of paths weaving space through their bodies. They actively observe and appropriate the city as habitable and produce and practise space through the movement of the body. The female pedestrian subjects deactivate the city as a gendered space objectifying them into an urban spectacle. I argue the aesthetics of pedestrianism facilitates female belonging through awakening locational identity.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Keynote)
Research Areas: A. > School of Art and Design
Item ID: 16553
Depositing User: Dr Basia Sliwinska
Date Deposited: 29 May 2015 13:43
Last Modified: 05 Jul 2017 09:36
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/16553

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