detruire dit-élle /il （Art and Gender）
Venue : Setagaya Art Museum
Organization : Setagaya Art Museum, The Asahi Shimbun Company
Yayoi Kusama, Eva Hesse, Matthew Barney, Janine Antoni, Minako Nishiyama, Kazuhiko Hachiya, Ma Liuming, Mona Hatoum, Soo-Ja Kim, Marina Abramovic, Vito Acconci, Rebecca Horn, Marie-Ange Guilleminot, Go Kato, Robert Gober
Degenderism is an unfamiliar word with an embarrassing stammering quality, somehow awkward and irritating.
It represents a vigorous criticism of the art theories and practices connected with discussions of gender in the sociological sense (masculinity and femininity) which flourished in the eighties, even though it recognizes some of their positive effects. It also implies the abandonment of all semiotic analysis, speculation, and defenses directed toward things occurring “here and now” in the late nineties and proposes accepting them as aspects of the body, of sheer physical existence. It has the two meanings of re examining, one might use the word deconstructing, certain ideologies, philosophies, and ism's, including gender theory, which had a function in the past, and reassembling them.
The vision informed by degenderism contains a desire for order within disintegration and chaos, power in weakness, the energy needed to exist in a disquieting, strange situation. It is not a planned, established, articulated order or force or state of existence but something being constantly transformed, which regenerates itself as it is disintegrating. It recalls the decentralization spoken of by Trinh Minh-ha, understood not “as chaos or absence - the opposite of presence - but as a marvelous expansion, a multiplicity of independent centers” The absence of boundaries does not necessitate a strong, new form, only the slow, obsessive work of making new forms after the destruction of previous form. We need patience and courage to “allow that form to shape itself by itself, just as a crust grows hard by itself … allowing a meaning, whatever it may be, to come to the surface.”
This vision is an answer to a call for deconstructing gender rather than deconstructing ideology. The male principle, which advocated the rationalism, universalism, and logocentrism of twentieth-century modernism, no longer functions as effectively as it did in the past. As a consequence, renewed attention has been given to the female principle - chaos, particualism, and non-intellectualism. This was the reality behind
discussions of gender. Helene Cixous defines “femininity as keeping alive the other….Loving to be other, another without this having to entail necessarily the debasing of the same, of the self.” This working hypothesis effectively suggested the view point of the other. Certain values which had been historically neglected came into view through the theoretical projects of genderization. This was an important achievement, but as theory and research became more refined, the theory of gender became rigid and dualistic like previous ideologies and isms. The values which were discovered in this process have functioned in many ways to assist our survival in the twentieth century. Yet, the purpose of degenderism is to take up the tools of sociological analysis once again and return to the wisdom of physical existence. That is why the subtitle of this exhibition is “Return of Physical Existence.”
One thing I would like to emphasize is that this differs from “a return to physical existence” which takes the form of a criticism of intellectualism. The willing subject, dragging reason along, does not reconfirm the body. The “returning” subject is the body itself and the place to which it returns is “the unknown other.”
(Excerpt from the catalog "Degenderism" Yuko Hasegawa)