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I unconsciously identified the male with society, rigidity, rules, the system, the military, all the negative things. The women are representative of issues that I have or that I have problems with and I prefer to extend these to a large group.
Vanessa Beecroft in an interview with Helena Kontova, ‘Modern nomads: Marina Abramovic, Vanessa Beecroft and Shirin Neshat’, Flash Art International, July–September 2007
The women stared into space, aloof and indifferent. Occasionally they stretched, crouched or walked slowly around... So little was happening that when one model strolled slowly among her colleagues, as through an orchard, it counted as drama.
Roberta Smith, ‘Standing and staring, yet aiming for empowerment’, Critic’s Notebook, New York Times, 6 May 1998
In 1999 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney for a Kaldor project, Vanessa Beecroft presented VB40, the 40th in her ongoing series. For this work, 19 models were dressed in flesh-toned bras, red stockings and red high-heel shoes, and one wore heels only, standing nude in the centre of the group. Presented in formation, the reference for the piece was the Australian swimming team (the Olympic Games were to be held in Sydney the next year) and participants were selected for their athletic, ‘Anglo-Saxon or Irish’ physical characteristics and recruited from surf and lifesaving clubs as well as modelling agencies.
Surrounded by their audience, the women stood for a period of two-and-a-half hours for each performance; positioned by Beecroft and following her rules of deportment, which included (somewhat contradictory) instructions to ‘be still’, ‘move naturally’, ‘don’t let your mood show’, ‘if bored, show it’.
Beecroft’s statement in the VB40 exhibition brochure explained: ‘The purpose is to work on a specific subject and to create an image or a portrait that has the effect of a monument, even if it lasts briefly. The references are classical paintings and portraits, the girls are contemporary models. The practice is to stand, not talking, and to wait until it ends, being watched as a picture and photographed as though on a photo shoot.’
Read more about Vanessa Beecroft.
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12th Kaldor project Vanessa Beecroft’s performance work VB40 presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney