The Re-appropriation of Sensuality
On Scriptings #41: an exhibition, performance, workshop & publication by Emma Haugh in collaboration with Janine Eisenächer & Sonja Gerdes, Berlin July 2014 - April 2015
by Kim Littler
"A space of becoming more than a sex club, an autoerotics of architecture conceptualised by and designed for women, a space transcending established and exclusive systems of representation."
On entering the gallery space one is confronted with a room within the room, suspended from the ceiling from hooks attached to chains, placed in the tops of wooden frames with an almost Japanese inspired paper façade that drapes all the way to the ground in sections the width of a newspaper. The room is a square, constructed out of newspaper that have been painted white and attached to one another to create an enclosed space. There are view holes cut out of one section on each side of the square giving the viewer an opportunity to investigate what lies beyond the floor to ceiling structure, to engage the space within. From the outside the room is stark, lacking purpose an abstract object in a gallery. On closer inspection however one can see colour through the gaps and breaks in the temporary wall. The paintings on the inside of the room were produced over an evening by Emma Haugh’s collaborator Sonja Gerdes, responding to the feminie. What it means to be a feminie in realms of architecture, desire and sex. The resulting works, which line the inside walls of the space, are bright, round and subtle in the depiction of what it is to be feminie, alluding to the female sex, the body and the intimate space between.
Haugh’s work in performance was showcased at the opening of the exhibition 25 April, with a collaborative performance piece staged inside the room within a room with Janine Eisenächer. The viewer was obstructed by the limited openings in which to experience and participate in the performance thus making the space become more than its physical self. The performance became about more than the visual; one was able to focus more on the sound and role of the structure itself; what the structure represents in feminist discourse around safe female only spaces of desire, where women can freely explore their sexuality within a wholly feminie environment, beginning with the architecture.
The workshop, that accompanied this exhibition, explored ideas about what each participant would include in her own design of a women’s only sexual space. At the end of the workshop we all sat in the room within a room and discussed our visions for a safe feminie space. Surrounded by a room that was no longer just made of newspaper temporarily erected in a gallery, but a room filled with the hope of future engagement, acceptance and free of fear. The room within a room became the embodiment of the artist’s intention; hope for vigorous discourse around the autonomy of women’s spaces and by extension sexuality and freedom.