'our creation is that guru; the duration of our lives is that guru; our trials, illnesses and calamaties is that guru. There is a guru that is nearby and a guru that is beyond the beyond. I humbly make my offering to the guru, the beautiful remover of ignorance, the enlightenment principle that is within me and surrounds me at all times.'
Guru Stotram

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Newsflash folks... Feminism is cool! And the best thing is a Feminist doesn't have to be this way or that way or any other way. Nope, in 2011 there's no such thing as a Bad Feminist. You can be any way you want (except a tragic little misogenist!) and still be a Feminist.

For inspiration, just whilst you get your Feminist wheels oiled, here's are a few 'cool' styles out there.

There's Caitlin Moran's strident, funny, ladette How to be a Woman Feminism: “What is Feminism? Simply the belief that women should be as free as men, however nuts, dim, deluded, badly dressed, fat, receding, lazy and smug they might be.” Woop.

There's Tracey Emin: “I know having a penis definitely affects your wage packet, but I’m not bitter and twisted. I’m grateful to all the women that work so hard to enable women like me to have a voice. And I’m still shouting.”

There's Lady Gaga's blue armpit-hair wearing Feminism: “I am a Feminist. And I want to change the way people view women.”

And now... there's Helen Carmel Benigson aka Princess Belsize Dollar.

Bigged up on these very pages back in July 2009 after I first spotted her at her Slade BA degree show, and now, just two and a bit years later she's solo-showing it around London, seducing from the pages of Vogue, noted as the one to watch in The Independent's list of successors to Hirst and Emin and performing at Frieze – in short, she's on the way to Made-It-Land.

To walk into The Future Queen of the Screen at ROLLO Contemporary is to walk into a palace, an homage, a (smallish) cathedral, to over the top, in-yer-face, girlie hyper-femininity. It's sassy, it's sharp, it's pop culture with a capital P. It's ironic and sincere, it's direct and abstruse, it's multi-narrated and multi-faceted. It's Benigson and it's Feminism and it's Now. It makes words like 'Girlfriend!' just want to spring right out of my mouth! It wears short-shorts, heart shaped sunglasses and hooped earrings the size of Saturn's Ring. Sometimes it even wears nothing. It flirts outrageously with men twice it's age, it swears in a squeaky little girl voice, it giggles about sushi and chocolate and guns and what's more, it apologises for none of it. It's reclaiming tits and arse with a raw, inimitable style all of its own. But don't make the mistake of thinking it's benign. If you cross it it'll deck you and no messing. It's Miss Piggy in a baseball cap and converse. It's Tracey Emin on speed with de Beauvoir on the side. In other words, it's totally awesome.

The Future Queen of the Screen
features multi-layered video-work, print, photography, installation, sculpture, and performance, not to mention stools she's made for you to sit on whilst you watch it all unfold. At the opening she's upstairs rapping for the audience, whilst downstairs a live poker game is taking place. There's nothing she can't turn her hand to in weaving her intricate world of multi-identities and alter-egos. Even @PrincessBelsize crosses the line between reality and fantasy, virtual and actual, art and life. The morning after the opening she writes: “i loved all my sexy boy poker players and i love @gali223 the most xxxx”. Is this an artist remarking on her own private view or is this a work of art in itself?

As far as I can see there is no clear distinction between Helen Carmel Benigson and Princess Belsize Dollar, between her cousin who features in a lot of her work and looks almost indistinguishable from her, the avatar she's created of herself, Helen the academic, Helen the goddaughter of Tamar Garb, Helen the artist, Helen the girl, Helen the woman. It's a maze she leads us into, giggling and wiggling, and leaves us there, lost but amused. Her power is in that she subverts from within. It's not all cupcakes and thongs. Behind the frothy facade the questions she's posing are serious, intelligent and spot on.

It all reminds me of one of my favourite Feminist quote of all time by Mary Beth Edelson: “'The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.' To which I say: Fuck his house—who goes there anyway?" Benigson sure doesn't.

written for Spoonfed:
Future Queen of the Screen
at Rollo Contemporary Art
Until 13 January 2012

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