A group exhibition featuring diverse female artists titled Violent Femmes takes place at Art.b Gallery in Bellville, Cape Town, from 5 to 26 June, 2021.

Interrogating the femme fatale archetype, the exhibition features Anina Deetlefs, Antoinette du Plessis, Carla Botes, Jo Roets, llse Nieman, Larissa Mwanyama, Laurette de Jager, Lee-Ann Ormandy-Becker, Lerato Motau, Lizl Bode, Marike Kleynscheldt, Shenaz Mahomed, Talitha Deetlefs and Yvette Hess.

Carla Botes Equinox gouache and ink on paper
Carla Botes Equinox, gouache and ink on paper

Feminist heroines

Says curator Laurette de Jager: “We are the Violent Femmes, not the folk punk band from the 1980’s post punk era, who ironically didn’t have any female members, but the collective femme fatale force of the post-truth pandemic era. The term femme fatale originates from the French, meaning dangerous woman. She emerges in art and literature as Judith, painted extensively by Artemisia Gentileschi, who felt an uncanny kinship with this muse. Julia Kristeva (2011) wrote in her book The Severed Head: Capital Visions, about the relationship between Gentileschi and Judith, painting them both as feminist heroines. The male dominated world conversely describes them as being simultaneously precarious, dangerous and trouble.”

Laurette De Jager, Her land II oil on canvas
Laurette De Jager, Her land II oil on canvas

Dangerous times

According to De Jager, conceivably dangerous times call for dangerous women: “Anna Tsing (2015:2) describes the precarity of our times in her wonderful book, The Mushroom at the end of the World, saying ‘it seems that all our lives are precarious—many of us […] confront the condition of trouble without end’. While theorist Donna Haraway (2016:1) describes the need for women to make kin as a way to flourish in a damaged world – ‘the task is to make kin in lines of inventive connection as a practice of learning to live and die well with each other in a thick present’.”

The artists in this group exhibition do not necessarily engage with the femme fatale concept on a thematic level.

De Jager explains: “It would be too literal to expect a group of diverse women to interpret such a topic solely on the content of concept and theme. We, the artists, are the embodiment of what it means to be female in this precarious time where making kin trumps fighting tooth and nail for our place in society. We have emerged from the fight fought by our second and third wave predecessors to a place where we must work together if we are to ensure a future for ourselves and those who will come after us.”

De Jager concludes: “As diverse as this group of artists are, varied in media, concept, background and environment, we are informed by the same unifying thread. An ethic of care, which emerges from working alongside each other, to strengthen, encourage and support not only each other, but also the world around us. ‘We are kin, learning to live and die well together in this moment, stirring up trouble as we grow alongside each other, restoring a broken world while building quiet places (Haraway 2016:1)’.”

Art.b is also known as the Arts Association of Bellville. Covid protocols in place.

View the exhibition online here.

What: Violent Femmes Art.b Gallery
When:  5 – 26 June 2021
Info: artb@artb.co.za, 021 917 1197, www.artb.co.za
Where: Art.b Gallery, Bellville Library Centre, Carel van Aswegen Rd, Bellville