Despite progress in recent decades in Western societies in what women are permitted to do, normative expectations continue to create boundaries for how women can and should be(have). Gender norms are, as Judith Butler (1990) states, continuously reproduced in the reiterative process of ‘doing’ gender.
This reproduction of gender norms constituted in the repetitive performance of gender in accordance with such norms is the source of inspiration for CAGED (2023). Reviving the tradition of tableau photography, the series invites the viewer to complete narratives in which women are portrayed in intimate moments of solitude. The women turn away from us, leaving their characters unexplained. We are thus asked to make meaning from the situations with which we encounter them; to make dynamic connections between interior spaces and the possible characters of the women depicted.
Although the photographs seem to point backwards in time at first glance, looking more closely at the details will reveal that they are, in fact, situated in the present. This play with historicity is also expressed stylistically in that the photographs deliberately dialogue with paintings from earlier centuries, where women were portrayed as anonymous muses, yet are, in fact, carefully constructed from a female gaze: each photograph is the result of a performative act where I, in repetitively using my own body, make visible the process of performativity, thereby opening up for a re-signification of the compulsory repetition of gender’s norms.
The title of the series is a subtle reference to A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) by Mary Wollstonecraft. The series has arisen in response to recent regressive trends in Western societies, which make increasingly visible that the progress we have achieved is a fragile construct that can be easily overridden by the reiteration and reconstitution of centuries-old expectations for what women can and should do.