THE SECOND SEX by JOSEPH BADALOV. VENICE ART BIENNALE 55
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THE SECOND SEX by JOSEPH BADALOV. VENICE ART BIENNALE 55

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Art
About This Project

Curated by Alinda Sbragia & Sabina Stevenson

  This exhibition of Joseph Badalov’s work is a collection of portraits of  “other women”,  who rejected the identity officially imposed upon them as female citizens of the Soviet Union. It is a study of the misery of womanhood and the struggle to survive in a totalitarian state. 

                               The artist  does not use literary references,  or claims to historical authenticity to portray his heroines. Instead the work expresses his personal understanding of women as the “second sex’ and pariah of the egalitarian system.  The project which consists of four chapters: Fabrica, Purge, Ballet and Belle de Jour.  

                                It spans half a century – from the 1930-ies  to the 1980-ies,  reflecting different stages in the  development of the Soviet experiment with socialism, throughout  which   “other women”  challenged the official gender stereotypes imposed upon them by the authorities although their protest was never acknowledged or recorded. 

                                The concept of “gender equality” first announced as the Bolsheviks gained power in 1917 turned out for most Soviet women to mean nothing less than “equality in slavery” – to use a phrase coined by the Russian feminist Svetlana Aivazova. The new egalitarian state methodically eradicated gender differences and forced all citizens to dedicate themselves to the “socialist cause”. More precisely, ordinary people were made subservient to the  Communist party and the military top brass. Both organizations were almost entirely run by men. 

                                 In his exploration of women’s characters in the early years of the USSR,  the author sidesteps the usual stereotypes of vigorous Soviet womanhood slavishly promoted by party ideologues. Films and posters at the time were redolent with athletic, asexual women whose facial expressions and bodily proportions differed little from those of men

 In these   series   Joseph  Badalov  invites us to take a different perspective on the role of women at the time of the Soviet Union’s frenzied industrialization. He introduces fragile characters – “the second sex” – in a dream-like confrontation with the industrial equipment in a factory – or Fabrica . Once inside, they are naked and defenseless against the machinery, transformed into a kind of industrial waste. The photographer dwells on the Soviet version of  “women’s  liberation”,  defined at the time as  a willing and happy participation in the industrialization of the country.

He presents the supposed road to freedom for “ the second sex”- a source of pride for the communist authorities –   as both comic and macabre.  

 These  first decades of the USSR were marked by the ruthless annihilation of the very nature of     women, their health and psychological wellbeing undermined by  backbreaking  work with heavy machinery all for the sake fulfilling national economic goals.