The Style of Self-Performance in the 1970s
Two narratives dominate existing accounts of feminist art in America in the 1970s. One says that this art was politically and aesthetically naïve, based too firmly in consciousness raising. The other selects a few artists or works to rescue from this decade and celebrate as precociously deconstructive. In feminist theory of the 1980s and 1990s, the favored model for such anti-confessional, ironic performance is drag. This chapter focuses on the work of two performance and conceptual artists of the 1970s who fit neatly into neither of these stories. Linda Montano and Eleanor Antin each blended self-revelation and roleplay, confession and drag into a single practice, which they insisted was basically “autobiographical.” Placing these two artists in their West Coast feminist context (e.g., in relation to the Feminist Art Program), and rereading the history of drag performance itself, this chapter theorizes “camp sincerity” as, in fact, the signature style of self-performance in the 1970s.
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