Violent Femmes

Museum of Modern Art
Through March 26, 2012

From my window on the 69th floor of the Temperance Building, I can see the monument to Rosa Luxemburg that Chancellor Nirenberg erected in Zapruder Park after President Manson resigned and The Bund took control of the city. The first thing they did was to tell everyone that we no longer had to worry about The Flu; the virus had mutated and was now known as The Plague. Infection was spread through physical contact, most often rape (Katya and I had a good laugh at that), and the resulting zombies it produced were now wandering the city. Mostly they come at night. Mostly. Posters of women in sunglasses are plastered on walls. They warn what’s left of the panicked population that one side effect of the zombification is dilation of the pupils, until the whole eye turns black. Zombies look for the whites of the eyes. Sunglasses, the posters tell us, are a fashion-must this season.

I am staring at the sculpture in the square, the golden lady atop a tall obelisk. I know that it says “kunst” on the side facing me. I can’t remember what it says on the other three sides. I have only been outside once since they put it in the square. Just once, when the Neroin ran out and I had to get more. There was a full clip in the Glock before I went out, but now there are just two rounds left: one for Katya and one for me. Ha Ha. Katya’s breathing is slow and ragged. She is starving to death. So am I. I don’t get my period anymore, but I have cramps all the time. They distract me from the hunger. Without more Neroin we aren’t going to make it much longer. And, besides, I want to see what the other words on the sculpture are before I die. The red handbills, crumpled like leaves, flutter in the wind around the square. They inform us that there are now Red States and Blue States. Red States are for the zombies. We now live in a Red State.

I go over to Katya, who is lying on the bed. She hasn’t slept in six days. Her eyes barely open. “I’m going out,” I say. She whispers, “Under the moonlight? The serious moonlight?” “Oh, baby,” I say, “Just you shut your mouth. I have something to help you sleep.” She smiles, turns her head away for a moment. The shell casing makes no sound as it hits the carpet. I lock the door carefully as I am leaving, but not before I pile extra blankets on top of Katya to keep her safe and warm. I am going to be ravenous when I get home.

Sanja Iveković, feminist, activist, artist, and video pioneer, makes art that blurs the boundaries between the reality that we know and the realities that we can imagine. Her retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art covers four decades of her career and includes such seminal works as Sweet Violence (1974), Personal Cuts (1982), and the monumental sculptural installation Lady Rosa of Luxembourg (2001).

Rosa is impressively installed in the museum’s lobby. The gilded figure of a pregnant woman atop a 34-foot-tall obelisk, with words such as “kunst,” “kitsch,” “la justice,” and “bitch” inscribed at the base, creates a recontextualized, feminist take on the phallocentric Barnett Newman sculpture, which often occupies the same space. Made for a temporary public art project in Luxembourg, Rosa is a full-scale replica of that city’s Gëlle Fra (Golden Lady) war memorial, except that that the original figure is the Greek goddess Nike, and the pedestal is inscribed with quotations celebrating national, male, war heroes.

Her series Women’s House includes a set of poster-sized photographs appropriated from ads for high-end sunglasses, each depicting a model hiding behind a pair of Foster Grants. The ad copy is obscured by the story of an abused woman, upending the image by suggesting the glasses hide black eyes and broken noses. Unlike her contemporary Marina Abramovic, who last year was encamped in MoMA, sitting eight hours a day staring at the visitors, Iveković creates art that intervenes between the viewer and a potentially hostile world -- works of art that hurl themselves in front of us, both as interrogations of our contemporary cultural assumptions and warnings of things to come. - Bradley Rubenstein

The Museum of Modern Art is at 11 West 53rd Street in New York, New York.

Mr. Rubenstein is a painter, story teller, and smart culture aficionado.


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