Date of Degree

9-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Art History

Advisor

Anna Indych-López

Committee Members

Claire Bishop

Edward Miller

Adele Nelson

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Film and Media Studies | History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology | Latin American Languages and Societies

Keywords

Brazilian Art, Performance Art, Video Art, Mass Media, Feminism, Latin American Art

Abstract

This dissertation considers the work of a group of women artists in Brazil during the period of the military dictatorship (1964–1985), working in the genre of “performance-for-camera” (i.e., performance for film and video, rather than for a live audience). The artists are Lygia Pape (1927–2004), Letícia Parente (1930–1991), Anna Bella Geiger (b. 1933), Sonia Andrade (b. 1935), Anna Maria Maiolino (b. 1942), and Regina Vater (b. 1943). Some of these women were friends and colleagues who collaborated with each other; all of them contributed significantly to the development of film and video art in Brazil. Their works share an impulse to use their own bodies to enact a range of repetitive gestures, actions, tasks, and activities. While these works have been interpreted through the lens of media theory as ciphers of resistance to the repressive military regime, scholarship has not yet tackled the issue of gender and the implications of these performances for a broader understanding of feminism in Brazil during this period.

This dissertation examines these works through a feminist lens, even though most of these artists did not identify as feminists. A secondary aim of this project is thus to address the difficult question of what feminism meant to women artists working in Brazil during the dictatorship. I argue that these artists worked with and against the patriarchal foundations of the authoritarian regime of the Brazilian dictatorship. They used their gender to resist the dictatorship, as well as the paternalism of U.S. socio-economic interventionism in Brazil, but in ways that both exploited and subverted stereotypical femininity: harnessing bodily and affective excess, gendered masquerade, and explorations of private and public space. The use of video and film allowed these works to circulate in ways that afforded some protection at a time when openly voicing dissent was dangerous. This study thus provides one of the first feminist analyses of Brazilian video, film, and performance art. It also provides an analysis of strategies used by women artists under conditions of (national) political repression and (international) foreign influence.

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