A spotlight on radical feminist artist Renate Bertlmann, pioneering member of the Vienna Secession and her explorations of sexuality, eroticism and new representations of the female body.
Bertlmann is an Austrian born artist with a craft in photography and performance art. During her studies of painting and technology at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, Bertlmann experiences an awakening where she then begins to focus on the Women’s Liberation Movement and “the engagement with female creativity; the analyses of patriarchal mechanisms of repression, and all the personal experiences connected with this.”
For the past 50 years, her artworks focus mainly on feminism but also delve into topics such as sexuality, love, gender, and eroticism within social context. Since the 1970s, she has explored these subjects in other forms such as collages, drawings, and photographs. In the end, what was being seen was a formation of masculinity that was never closed without a sense of play or humor.
One of her most acknowledged works is “Tender Touches” (1976). It includes a series of photos captured in a way to physically feel the sense of electricity and tenderness among inanimate objects. She also presents and photographs items such as condoms in situations outside of intimate context creating a particular sensation of an everyday environment. “Pregnant Bride with Collection Bag” (1979) is her most illustrious performance artwork. She had dressed as a pregnant bride, asking visitors for money towards the upkeep of a holy relic on display at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven and Centre Pompidou in Paris. Her collection bag took the form of an outsized condom. Scores of outraged attendees called for the artist to be prosecuted.
Words: Maylyn Bertorelli / @twiggymay