What is beauty anyway?

Alex Greenberger: At stake in Lorenza Böttner’s art was often the concept of beauty itself—what it means to be aesthetically pleasing, and who gets to be considered as such. Western male artists throughout art history have often personified beauty in the form of a nondisabled cisgender white woman—think Praxiteles’s sculptures of Aphrodite or Peter Paul Rubens’s voluptuous females. Böttner’s paintings and performances put that notion to the test by attacking bourgeois images of this sort and cleaving open gender binaries.

[…] One recurring figure in Böttner’s work is the Venus de Milo, the millennia-old ancient Greek sculpture that has been considered a paragon of beauty for many. In its current state, the sculpture lacks arms, much like Böttner. Why, she wondered, do so many people still considered the work beautiful, even if they wouldn’t say the same of her body? To accompany one performance, first staged in 1982, in which she took on the sculpture’s guise, she discussed that paradox. “A sculpture is always admired even if limbs are missing, whereas a handicapped human being arouses feelings of uncertainness and shame,” she wrote in a pamphlet explaining the work. “Changing from sculpture into human being, I want to make people aware of this problem.”

More Lorenza Böttner

More ‘Lorenza Böttner: Requiem for the Norm’ at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art in NYC <3

“Lorenza Böttner: Requiem for the Norm is the first U.S. presentation of the work of Chilean/German artist Lorenza Böttner (1959-1994). Born in Chile, Böttner lost both arms in an accident at the age of eight. Institutionalized in Germany, where she moved with her mother for treatment, she rejected prosthetics intended to compensate for her supposed disability. In art school, she started presenting as female and assumed the name Lorenza. Although her career spanned just sixteen years, Böttner created hundreds of individual works, painting with her feet and mouth and using dance, photography, street performance, drawing, and installation to celebrate the complexity of embodiment and gender expression. Casting herself as a ballerina, a mother, a young man with glass arms, a Greek statue, Böttner’s work is irreverent and hedonistic, filled with the artist’s joy in her own body.”

Lorenza Böttner: Requiem for the Norm

When in NYC (even for one or two days), I can’t help but go to at least one art exhibition. This time I went to the Leslie-Lohman Museum (‘a dynamic and safe space where the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies engage in meaningful and authentic art experiences’) to see Lorenza Böttner: Requiem for the Norm. I was captivated by her work, her life, and her energy. It’s a small museum but I spent more than an hour there, visiting and revisiting her work and feeling her beauty and joie de vivre. Her arms were amputated at the shoulders after a horrible accident when she was a child but she refused prosthetics and wanted to be accepted for who she was in her ‘extreme’ form. She moved freely between names, gender expressions and identities. Sometimes she became an armless Venus, other times wings grew out of her shoulders. She painted with her feet and mouth, worked in multiple media, wrote, danced, and was a beguiling performer. A force of nature.

#lorenzaböttner #leslielohmanmuseum #whatisnormalanyway #alternativebeauty #quintessentialartist #forceofnature #nyc

Read The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali

Still thinking about this wonderful evening and Uzma‘s book. Read ‘The miraculous true history of Nomi Ali’ and learn about “interventions of knowing” that subvert the colonial script. Learn about exile, imprisonment and resistance. From the book:
“She tries to remember colours, sunlight, the breezes that tease the crops of open fields. She tries to catch new rain on her tongue. She tries to remember the song of the koel. She tries to forget what she has left. This effort to remember and to forget comes like the waves she cannot hear but can feel, they are there, under her chains. If she could look outside, just once.”

Photograph by David Maine

#mcnallyjackson #seaportdistrictnyc #themiraculoustruehistoryofnomiali #uzmaaslamkhan #colonialhistory #alternativeknowing #decolonialhistory #exile #imprisonment #penalcolony #beautyofresilience #poweroflanguage

dinner last night

last night after the event @mcnallyjackson seaport in which we discussed ‘the miraculous true history of nomi ali’ by the incredible Uzma Aslam Khan. thank u to all the lovely friends who joined us and to my daughter who made it as well. a beautiful celebration of a unique and powerful book.

#themiraculoustruehistoryofnomiali #uzmaaslamkhan #mcnallyjackson #seaportdistrictnyc #decolonialhistory #decolonialhealing

book discussion at mcnally jackson seaport in nyc

dear friends in and around nyc, this is happening tomorrow evening at 7pm @mcnallyjackson seaport in ny. i cannot wait to discuss ‘the miraculous true history of nomi ali’ with uzma aslam khan. it’s an extraordinary book that restores to life forgotten histories. pls join us and be a part of the discussion. link to tickets here. hope to see u then!

Interview with Director Mara Ahmed about A Thin Wall – A Documentary about the Partition of India

a short version of my very interesting interview with rochester indymedia’s Theodore Forsyth back in 2015. the topic was my film ‘a thin wall’ so we ended up discussing colonialism, partitions, nation states, nationalism, capitalism, and the process of decolonization (beyond borders/silos/labels). u can now listen to an edited portion of the audio.

thank u ted for all ur work on this and for the excellent excellent questions <3

u can watch ‘a thin wall’ on amazon (usa, uk, canada) or on vimeo on demand (the rest of the world).

on a day such as this…

on a day such as this, when a woman’s right to do as she pleases with her own body is taken away, what a pleasure to be in community with women. after dropping off my artwork at the huntington arts council, i had lunch with a friend from high school. the last time we met was decades ago in islamabad where we studied together for two years. she was one of the most brilliant girls in my class and unsurprisingly is now a brilliant doctor, with brilliant kids mashallah. i still remember the radical ideas we shared as very young women, the questions we had about accepted norms and precepts, how i read a lot of bertrand russell back then but also allama iqbal and the rubáiyát of omar khayyám. i still remember our discussions, activated by azra’s probing questions and skepticism. such thrilling times when our confidence was extreme and we could ace the world. maybe we still can. it’s just a matter of perception.

#friendsfromhighschool #womenfriends #friendshipisagift #womenempowerment #womensrighttochoose #womensrights #abortionisawomansright #womenshealth #womensagency

A convo with Uzma Aslam Khan at McNally Jackson Seaport

I am honored to engage in conversation with the brilliant Uzma Aslam Khan about her new book, The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali, on June 28th (7pm) at McNally Jackson Seaport (4 Fulton St) in NYC.

Beautifully written and part of the important process of decolonizing history and literature, Uzma’s book brings to life revolutions that have been erased and forgotten, and exposes (oh so eloquently) the mechanics of colonial oppression. It’s a stunning book that demands a rich convo.

Pls join us for a discussion, reading and book signing in NYC. Tickets are available here. Pls invite others and share widely!

my work selected for the ‘uncommon threads’ exhibition in huntington

my artwork ‘embroidered dreams,’ which is inspired by my grandmother niaz fatima, has been selected for a juried exhibition organized by the huntington arts council! the show is entitled ‘uncommon threads.’ it focuses on fiber arts in all their unconventional forms. my collage is an homage to my grandmother’s embroidery and is partly constructed with pakistani fabric. yes, long island!

The Amber Heard-Johnny Depp trial was an orgy of misogyny

Moira Donegan: For their part, Depp’s fans seem to not so much deny Depp’s alleged violence against Heard, but to approve of it. “He could have killed you,” says one viral Tiktok supporting Depp, the text superimposed over photos of Heard’s bruised face. “He had every right.” The post has more than 222,200 likes.

The backlash to #MeToo has long been under way. Critics of the movement painted women’s efforts to end sexual violence as excessive and intemperate from the start, claiming #MeToo had “gone too far” before it really got under way at all. And yet the Heard trial does feel like a tipping point in our culture’s response to gender violence. The forces of misogynist reaction are perhaps even stronger now for having been temporarily repressed. Where once women refused, en masse, to keep men’s secrets, or to remain silent about the truth of their own lives, now, a resurgence of sexism, virulent online harassment, and the threat of lawsuits, all aim to compel women back into silence – by force.

In some ways, one could see the defamation suit itself as an extension of Depp’s abuse of Heard, a way to prolong his humiliation and control over her. The only difference is that now, the legal system and the public have been conscripted to take part. This seems to be at least partly how Depp sees it. In 2016, as their marriage broke apart, Depp texted his friend Christian Carino, vowing revenge against Heard. “She is begging for global humiliation,” Depp wrote. “She is going to get it.” From the Guardian.