The new digital project “A Feminine Lexicon” by Arts Curating students Pia Diamandis and Elena Tortelli opened in May at museo.ferragamo.com.
Their project took inspiration from Museo Salvatore Ferragamo’s “Women in Balance”, an exhibition curated by Stefania Ricci and Elvira Valleri that celebrates the history of Italian women during the economic boom and the rapid changes in their identities. “A Feminine Lexicon” continues this conversation into what is considered feminine today through the works of eleven international contemporary artists and their testimonies.
In the digital exhibition, through audio recordings, all the artists describe their works and how they relate to a larger feminine lexicon in their own words. An excerpt of these reflections is gathered here for I’M Firenze Digest readers as a way to help them dive deeper into the exhibition.
By Pia Diamandis & Elena Tortelli. Cover image: Reba Maybury, Faster Than An Erection, detail, 2021, installation view at Museo per l’Immaginazione Preventiva, MACRO, 2021. Photo: Simon d’Exéa. Courtesy of the artist
“A Feminine Lexicon” artists include London and Denmark-based visual artist, writer, and political dominatrix Reba Maybury (b. 1990, Oxford, UK). In synergy with her works as a professional dominatrix, her aesthetic research often uses her clients as an integral part of her works.
In “A Feminine Lexicon”, Reba Maybury showcases her installation Faster Than An Erection (2021), conceived when she was invited to MACRO in Rome, and she used the room set aside for her to hold a closed-door session with one of her submissives. Ultraviolet lights then showed the marks left by the client’s body on the museum floor. Their dense blue hue highlights their visual dimension, reminiscent of Yves Klein’s Anthropométries. Here, gender dynamics are overturned.
Reba Maybury’s Faster Than An Erection (2021) is featured in the Representations section of the exhibition “A Feminine Lexicon”, underlining how retelling and representing are ways of caring and, at the same time, of defining one’s identity.
The Representations section features works by Stacey Gillian Abe, Haruka Sakaguchi & Griselda San Martin, and Reba Maybury.
PD, ET: How would you best describe your installation at MACRO in Rome? Where did the idea to make it come from?
RM1: This work shows the bodily traces of a man who pays for sex on the floors of the museum under blue lights. The lights have been hung at the height of the average Italian man’s penis when standing.
Sadomasochism and sex work are not subterrean, they are forms of labour and behaviour that exists everywhere and not only in places usually considered ‘subcultural’ or ‘underground’. For this work Faster than an erection, Maybury aims to show how the consumer of sex, who is most often a man, has his traces everywhere but these are invisible. The consuming man is able to uphold veneers of respectability where the sex worker, and even the feminine population is blamed. The artist also wanted to see what female perversion looks like, she has kept this man’s DNA alive for you all to spectate.
PD, ET: In your opinion, how has the representation of feminine identities evolved today? Do you think that visual art can change how we can represent, narrate, and ultimately see others?
RM: Under capitalism how we understand the feminine can never stop changing as we are sold ever morphing concepts of how to be female, hopefully art does challenge this.
A Feminine Lexicon is an online exhibition curated by Pia Diamandis and Elena Tortelli, students in Arts Curating at Istituto Marangoni Firenze for Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, available at museo.ferragamo.com.
Reba Maybury is a visual artist, writer, and political dominatrix. She lives and works between London, UK and Denmark.
Pia Diamandis and Elena Tortelli are undergraduate students of Arts Curating at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.
1. Reba Maybury is speaking through the voice of one of her submissive clients