Theme of Interest
Poison for the patriarchy and medicine for the femmes
with Lady Skollie, Lucinda Mudge and Sanell Aggenbach
Together Lady Skollie, Lucinda Mudge and Sanell Aggenbach’s practice potions make a Bitches Brew. Sexy, prickly, bitchy and wet, Bitches Brew demonstrates the resilience, agency and community we draw from humour. In this week’s Of Interest we interrogate their collective feminist use of satire to survive.
More than commentary on history, pop culture, contemporary and historical violences, Lady Skollie’s practice challenges binaries and prejudices linked to racial identity. Materialising patriarchy’s porosity and fragility while making a mockery of the status quo, Lucinda Mudge offers an escape where dismissing reality helps. Referred to as a feminist mycology, Sanell Aggenbach practice pays attention to decay. Studying the decomposition and knowing it intimately, the artist draws humorous and dark lines between the natural and social.
In 2014, cultural critic, novelist and a professor of English Roxane Gay published the book Bad Feminist. A collection of essays contrasting, comparing and complicating feminist ideology against the lived experience of self-identifying feminists, the text called for exhalation in a sphere that had been tarnished by things like punitive performance and the promotion of a monolithic feminism. In the book, Gay laments about wanting to listen to certain genres of music even though they offend her and are infamous for degrading women. She writes: “The classic Ying Yang Twins song Salt Shaker? It’s amazing. “Bitch you gotta shake it till your camel starts to hurt.” Poetry. (I am mortified by my music choices.) I care what people think.”
A balancing act between hilarious and gut-wrenchingly critical, Bitches Brew by Lucinda Mudge, Lady Skollie and Sanell Aggenbach at Everard Read has similar effect.
Although their disciplines, styles, and processes vary, the three artists’ shared use of satire to critique and address colonialism, exclusion, femme erasure and patriarchy makes for a coherent conversation between their practices. When used by their white male counterparts for similar themes, satire often offers a distance and security that personal interrogations would not.
Take Lady Skollie. Often the human subjects of her works, the narratives pursued in Lady Skollie’s practice are autobiographical. Both an opportunity to reflect on, and take ownership of her agency as a person of so-called coloured descent. An erased or uncontemplated people in mainstream contemporary African art history, Lady Skollie’s repetitive presence of the self gradually floods the canon. A double edged sword the result affects both the past and the present.
For Mudge, the protagonist is the narrator speaking through the ceramics. Under their shimmering surfaces of Mudge’s ceramics are layers of paranoia and tension that, although they reflect the national socio-political record, assert the artist’s personal thoughts.
Where the subjects in satirical works are often antagonists that become targets of an artist’s vitriol, in Bitches Brew, Mudge, Lady Skollie and Aggenbach turn inward to present a satire that centres the protagonist. Consuming this from the feminist public perspective, Bitches Brew makes for medicine. Like a close friend lightening the burden and soothing misfortunes with laughs, the show feels like being seen up-close, a proximity that cannot come from empathy but rather from living the same adversity.