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: Alfiah Rahdini, Sri Naura Paramita, 2021. Fiberglass and sandstone. Installation View at Jakarta Biennale 2021. Photo: Opang Darmawan. Courtesy of the artist and Jakarta Biennale 2021
“A Feminine Lexicon” artists include Bandung-based visual artist Alfiah Rahdini (b. 1990, Bandung, Indonesia). Her work focuses on women’s issues and how they engage with the public at large, as she often works with public site-specific sculptures.
In “A Feminine Lexicon”, Alfiah Rahdini showcases Sri Naura Paramita (2021), a large sandstone sculpture that portrays a young, modern woman sitting on a yoga mat above the traditional lotus-shaped base of Buddhist sculpture. Sri Naura Paramita aims to draw attention to how the representation of female figures in public spaces is a cause of conflict in Indonesia and elsewhere, owing to the continual debate around the approved ethics of the image of women, on how women “should” dress, and be represented.
Alfiah Rahdini’s Sri Naura Paramita is featured in the Struggles section of the exhibition “A Feminine Lexicon”, underlining the challenges that feminine identities continue to face today in their public and private life, alone or together.
The Struggles section features works by Alfiah Rahdini, Johanna Toruño, Haruka Sakaguchi, and ChongYan Liu.
PD, ET: How would you best describe your work, Sri Naura Paramita? What has inspired you to create it?
AR: Sri Naura Paramita is a work that I made to reflect on how a human form – and all of its surrounding attributes – is presented to society through a sculpture. It questions public perception through the forms which present: the female body, meditation position, veil, mudra, glasses, lotus, or mattress, make a dialogue with appreciators who have different understanding, backgrounds, and have different associations when seeing a form or an image. An image or a form can be interpreted as a symbol of a certain identity or ideology by each person. So, through this work, I also want to see how each person sees my work.
This work was inspired by an ancient statue of Prajnaparamita in East Java, Indonesia. The statue, which was built around the 13th century, depicted the figure of a bodhisattvadevi who was famous for her beauty. The depiction of feminine power in the statue moved me to reinterpret Javanese aesthetics at that time into the context of contemporary aesthetics. I also try to juxtapose it with the problems of femininity and women today, especially in Indonesia, where women’s discourses are often used as a field of power contestation, whether in the context of religion, economy, or politics.
PD, ET: In your opinion, what are the current struggles that feminine identities face today in their private and public life?
AR: Through my work, Sri Naura Paramita, and several works that show feminine identity to the public, I feel that the presence of feminine identities in public spaces, has always become a medium of fights between various interests and powers. Feminine identities always invite debates from various parties in various aspects, especially if it’s related to bodily matters. The issue of femininity which is present in the body is still being objectified, judged, or contested in society, especially from a particular normative perspective. In my opinion, this is the challenge for feminine identities and their presence in the public sphere. The discourse that exists in the public sphere, in the end, often enters the private sphere and becomes the following problem in itself.
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.