Kleines Glasportal, Bellevue Kreuzlingen (Small glass portal, Bellevue Kreuzlingen), an art work using cotton and latex as material by artist Heidi Bucher. The work was shown in Parasol Unit on 19 Sep to 9 Dec 2018.
(Author own, 2018)
Kleines Glasportal, Bellevue Kreuzlingen (Small glass portal, Bellevue Kreuzlingen),
Heidi Bucher, 1988, textile, latex, approx. 304 x 465 cm
Heidi Bucher used latex and textile to present the past to the present. By casting Bellevue psychiatric clinic near Lake Constance in Krenzligen, she brings up the memories and history to people from a place had been abandoned. ‘It isn’t just the past. Past and present and everything- it’s one world. And people from today and yesterday come together. It’s all one thing.’ (Heidi Bucher, 1978). Other than the content itself, as a conceptual art, by the act (production of the work) and the fade of material are also as one.
A glass portal from the architecture Bellevue psychiatric clinic- a building which is in danger of disappearing, was present to show the relation between space, people and time. Seeing a life size 2D surface the Bellevue psychiatric clinic let visitor to illusion a 18th century private psychiatric clinic is just right in front of you. But in fact, the psychiatric clinic had already reconstructed into commercial space and residential area, which is no longer exists and be seen again. Heidi Bucher used an image-like or sculpture to bring modern people back to the past, to let people who have connections and the history happened in it to be unforgotten. Hence, to connect people now with the people in the past by memories, histories and imaginary with the reproduce of a disappeared building. The material makes the work ghost and fabric-like, which makes you imagine when the wind blows, the work will follow. Also, the transparency and the architectural design gives people a sense of memory and solemnity. ‘Bucher’s process invariably preserved a haunting imprint of an architectural surface or an object which was simultaneously both a physical encapsulation of and a liberation from the memories these things held for her.’ (Laura Cumming, 2018). What we can see physically, is just an old building, but what it’s trying to say is that a place/ space can have a different meaning for different people, and she is trying to share those different memories, escape, clear or capture. ‘She thus made it clear how strongly the human body remains bound up with architectonic reality, and how memories, obsessions, dreams are materialized in the surface of interior space.’ (Karen Marta, Simon Castets, 2014, p.11). In this work, artist present a psychiatric clinic in front of the audience. When considering psychiatric clinic, most of the people will think of poor and sad stories that happened inside, ‘A psychologically occupied space that represents control and the exercise of power in the sense of meant by Foucault: a place where the human being is naked, reduced to his skin, and exposed to total surveillance.’ (Karen Marta, Simon Castets, 2014, p.59) In her work, people cannot share the same experience, but the memories and the sense of powerlessness in others’ situation. Perhaps, in the meaning of the space, people can find their own memories of their past. A work as memory.
Everyone would have a place that meaningful to them and want to keep an object inside or remember the space well with they leave. Heidi Bucher chose to use latex to take the outlook of an architecture surface. By using latex, a material that easy to fragile and discolor because of its susceptible to oxygen. It would become darker and browner as time pass, which become like shrouds. After she applied latex, she torn away the ‘skin’ from the original building. Meanwhile, latex is a material that good to depict texture and have a strong tension when pulling away, it also peeled off some color pigment, sand and wood which show the traces of the building itself and the memories of people.
(Author own, 2018, details of Kleines Glasportal, Bellevue Kreuzlingen)
(In the film HEIDI BUCHER, Bellevue, Kreuzlingen, 1990, 8:57 mins.) In the film, we can see that the tension of the ‘skin’ and Heidi Bucher is pulling it very hard. It almost explaining people try hard to take away something with them in a space to not forget it. “To create her skinnings, Bucher first covered her chosen surface with gauze, pressed liquid latex into it, then when it was almost dry she peeled it off” (Parasol unit, 2018). It explained why when the work is hanging on the wall, it shows a sense of overhang by its own force and strength, so to give people a sad and untouchable feeling. But because of the fragility of the material, it is not long lasting, the work will fade away one day. ‘I’m not sure whether Bucher’s performance is one of embalming or exfoliating, of holding on or letting go’ (Amy Sherlock, 2014, Frieze). When the day the work fade, everything would be gone, both the work and the traces it peeled from the building, and other way to understand the work is that Heidi Bucher may want to clear the trace of the building, taking away the sad memories that happened in the space, to give a new life of the building and the people.
(In the film HEIDI BUCHER, Bellevue, Kreuzlingen, 1990, 8:57 mins.)
(In the film HEIDI BUCHER, Bellevue, Kreuzlingen, 1990, 8:57 mins.) In the film, when Heidi Bucher taking away the ‘skin’ her face is strong and no hesitation, keeping walking forward, it makes me believe that she wants to ‘clean’ and free the space- the trace of past. Bring away the traces of people and clean the evidence and the sad memories that they were here before. Sense of keeping it, but because of the materiality, it would fade, and everything in the space include the history, feelings and memories will fade and slowly forget.
Kleines Glasportal, Bellevue Kreuzlingen is a physical work made by textile and latex, but it is just a part of the work, what makes the work complete is the action of Heidi Hucher peel off the ‘skin’, the physical work and the fading of the latex and the work. ‘A quintessentially “Conceptual” manner disregarded time and space limitations’ (Lippard, L, 1997, p.15). A work without time and space limitation become a whole for the work. By taking the ‘skin’, the action, of the historical building to a gallery space, showing people the history and the time- fade of the work because of its materiality. The work keep change in its own, which is an important process of the work, presenting the history of the work and the meaning of forgetting by time in content by the work fades in the future. ‘Through this slow decay, Bucher brings us closest to the provisional nature of memory that she was trying to describe. As we carry our past around with us, it creases and crinkles, losing its shape, little by little, along the way.’ (Imogen Greenhalgh, 2018, Studio International). As the artist passed away, I feel that she knows the work will soon ‘pass away’ with her, and the memories of the space as well. The people who have relation with the space is no longer exist, the work and the building itself will become less meaningful for people in the future. A sense of letting go of the history. A beauty of incapable of the work, memory and the history. Do Ho Suh, an artist who is also taking the outlook of buildings and objects to discover the concept of a space, both physical and emotionally. He measures all parts of the space and remake it by silk and metal armature.
(Victoria Miro, 2018)
Seoul Home/Seoul Home/Kanazawa Home, 2012
Do Ho Suh, Silk, metal armature, 1457 x 717 x 391 cm
The transparency, the theme and the display, are like Heidi Bucher’s work, but the difference between them is that Do Ho Suh’s work will remain unchanged in time, which can be preserve forever, just like time stops in a moment. Whereas, Heidi Bucher’s work keep changing every moment, the color and texture of the work is unperceivable because of the material. The material and the content matches perfectly and even make it sublimate. The place disappeared, the memory is disappearing, and the work will be disappeared, it is all a process and as one.
One thing that worth to notice about the work is that it will slowly fade away as the artist wanted to by the materiality. As people will have a feeling with the work as they stay together for a long time, but one day it will fade away and disappear, like life. Some people want to preserve it unchanged, but the aim of the work itself is to change and disappear. There is contradiction but also a beauty of evanescent. From the time of the work ‘finished’ to now, its already 30 years. A historical building from the 18th century, maybe there are still some people who can relate with it physically. But imagine 50 years later, everything would be changed, no one can ever relate to the building anymore. ‘A related notion, also designed to avoid the isolation of art from the “ordinary” world.’ (Lippard, L, 1997, p. 8) Perhaps, the world does not need the work anymore, it may be better for a sad history and memory to be forgotten. Other than keeping the memory and space physically, it is better to be kept in mind. It is just a concept. The work is progressing with time, and itself.
? Amy Sherlock. (2014) Heidi Bucher. Frieze [Internet]. Issue 161. Available at: [Accessed 15 January 2018]. ? Do Hu Suh. (2012),Seoul Home/Seoul Home/Kanazawa Home. [online image]. Available at: [Accessed 17 January 2018] HEIDI BUCHER, Bellevue, Kreuzlingen (1990), Directed by Michael Koechlin. Switzerland. 16mm SWF3
Heidi Bucher. Kleines Glasportal, Bellevue Kreuzlingen (Small glass portal, Bellevue Kreuzlingen) (1988), textile, latex, London: Parasol Unit
? Imogen Greenhalgh. (2018) Heidi Bucher. Studio International [Internet]. Available at: [Accessed 15 January 2018]. ? Julie Boukobza. (2014) APPEAL CAST AWAY. PIN-UP [Internet]. Available at: [Accessed 15 January 2018]. Karen Marta
Gender Experiences and Representations in Facism
Analyse the ways in which gender was thought about, experienced and represented under Fascism.
Fascism is defined by Victoria De Grazia as ‘culture of consent’ because all levels of society were monitored and controlled. Mussolini regulated every aspect of people’s lives, including gender and identity of Italians. Teresa de Lauretis has remarked that gender in any given period is a cultural construction rather than a simple derivative of biological difference, and as a cultural construction in this paper it will be shown how it reflects the Italian misogynistic society of that time. In this essay, this construction will be presented and it shall demonstrate that gender during Fascism was thought, represented and built in manners which would have supported Mussolini’s goals, the regime’s interests and the creation of the empire. Firstly, the Fascist idea of gender roles will be introduced and its usefulness will be analysed. Next, it will be shown that, like other elements of the dictatorship, this concept of gender was contradictory. Further, the impact that these new norms of gender identity had on people’s lives will be examined. Finally, will be analysed how gender was represented. Before understanding why a certain image of ‘new man and woman’ was needed and created under the regime, it is necessary to understand how sexuality was considered.
In Fascist virilities Spackman argues that Marinetti’s view strongly influenced how gender was thought about. In Contro il matrimonio Marinetti wrote: ‘La donna non appartiene a un uomo, ma bensì all’avvenire e allo sviluppo della razza’ and ‘Sara’ finalmente abolita la mescolanza di maschi e femmine che nella prima eta’ produce una dannosa effemminazione dei maschi.’ The poet argues that marriage and family are threats to virility. Moreover, in the Manifesto del futurismo he glorifies militarism, war, patriotism, scorn for women and the destruction of feminism. Fascism, influenced by this idea, claimed that women and men were different by nature and their education and development should have been different. They also underlined that, for biological reasons, men were superior to women. Still, as Willson shows in Peasant women and politics in Fascist Italy, others argue that there was an equality of the sexes since no individual of either sex had rights. Instead, both sexes had obligations to the state.
There were different roles that women and men had in Fascist Italy, being useful to the regime, some were strongly encouraged through campaigns and propaganda, while others were tackled. The ideal Fascist woman was the donna madre, who was considered the ‘new woman’, but represented a shift back to a traditional ideal about females. She must obey, take care of the house, serve her family’s needs, yet at the same time serve the state. Her main job is to produce children. Motherhood is the only element that defines her, she is the mother of the nation who would fulfil Mussolini’s pronatalist policies. The donna madre is depicted as traditional, patriotic and rural. The model of massaie rurali was especially exalted, and propaganda extolled them as the most praiseworthy of Italian women since they were the most prolific. Secondly, there is the donna tipo 3, she worked all day in the office, didn’t respect her husband and was reluctant about maternity. Thirdly, the worst was the donna-crisi, she was thin, hysterical and sterile. Contrarily, masculine identity was virile, strong, heroic and dominant in society and family as we can see that from the words of the magistrate Giuseppe Maggiore: ‘Il Fascismo e’ maschio. Il Fascismo e’ suscitatore di virilità contro ogni infemminimento e infrollimento dello spirito.’ During these twenty years, great importance was given to virility, especially through the exaltation of militarism. We must remember that Fascism developed between the two world wars. Thus, the ideal ‘new men’ were the Roman soldier and the rural man, in his natural and untamed masculinity. Instead, the modern, bourgeois civilization would have caused the decay of virility, as well as the intellectual, who was passive and fragile.
How are these gender roles connected to Mussolini’s plan? As De Grazia claims in How fascism ruled women: ‘Every aspect of being female was thus led up to the measure of the state’s interest and interpreted in light of the dictatorship’s strategies of state building.’ Firstly, the new woman had to be inferior in order to fix the crises of masculine identity, caused by the humiliating defeat of Caporetto. Her image is created in order to confirm male superiority. Secondly, in order to build his empire, Mussolini needed more people, specifically, more soldiers, otherwise Italy would have been unable to stand up the other European powers. This is clear in his discorso dell’ascensione, a speech given on May 26th 1927. The Duce said: ‘cosa sono 40 milioni d’Italiani di fronte a 90 milioni di Tedeschi e a 200 milioni di Slavi? Signori, l’Italia, per contare qualche cosa, deve affacciarsi sulla soglia della seconda metà di questo secolo con una popolazione non inferiore ai 60 milioni di abitanti.’ and ‘Se si diminuisce, […] non si fa l’impero, si diventa una colonia’. The falling birth rate was considered ‘the problem of problems’ and was portrayed as a national emergency. His goal was to increase the population to 60 million. This is the origin of the ‘Battle for births’ and unprecedented official attention to women, which now were considered important for the country and had the opportunity to serve it with childbearing. This is how the image of the donna madre was originated. The proof of that are the numerous pro-natalist and pro-marital measures such as the ‘bachelor tax’, prizes and benefits for prolific mothers and repressive measures against fertility control. Moreover, from 1933 a ‘Mother and a Child Day’ was celebrated and prolific mothers were publicly honoured for the numbers of their offspring. The other reason why the role of mother was exalted is that a growing population provided Mussolini with a reason for demanding colonies and supplied the military manpower needed to conquer them, in fact, an article in Il Popolo d’Italia stated ‘we need soldiers rather than philosophers’. To conclude, it will be clarified how the characteristic of ‘queen of the home’ of the ideal Fascist woman/mother was created. The origin of that is the economic crisis, which developed after the first world war. While men went to war women took their jobs. After the war, men wanted it back and the result of that is the gender struggle, as Graziosi says. Men claimed that women’s employment was causing men’s unemployment and commanded them to go home, where they really belonged. Women had to stop working and this was obtained through the legge Sacchi. They were excluded from the labour force and segregated in a few non-existent vocational jobs, such as segretaria sociale and assistente sanitaria. These measures and reforms show the connection between the construction of gender and the regime’s interests.
Their assertion fails when we underline some of the regime’s contradictions. Women were first prevented from working, because it caused the crisis and the low birth rates, as Pickering-Iazzi underlines: ‘Only men involved in economic production are figured as capable of sexual reproduction, whereas involvement in economic production is presumed to destroy the women’s ability to reproduce.’ In order to validate that in 1934 Mussolini outlined the dangerous effects that work had on women: it causes physical issues, estrangement from home and family life. Nevertheless, in 1939 they will be called to substitute men who left for the war.
In the next paragraphs, the impact that Fascism had on people’s lives will be analysed, focusing on women. Pickering-Iazzi said ‘the regime constructed new apparatuses in the forms of policies, programs, and institutions designed to cultivate and manage a patriarchal agenda for female culture.’ In this essay we are investigating that gender was built in a way that would have helped the regime to reach its goals, in fact, to pursue its population politics, Fascism sought to establish control over female bodies, especially reproductive functions. This started in 1926 with the Italian low birthrate and the pro-natalist campaign that led to many reforms that restricted women to the reproductive function, resulting in estrangement from the public sphere. The state criminalised abortion, banned the sale of contraceptive devices and sex education, supported by the Church. Women were uninformed and they blindly accepted their condition of mothers. Moreover, the regime created birth bonuses, maternity insurance and established the national agency Opera Nazionale per la Maternita’ e Infanzia to oversee maternal and infant welfare. On 1933 they created the annual ‘Mother and Child Day’ to honour prolific mothers, presented as the best sample of the race. Regarding men, they only instituted a tax on bachelors. The dictatorship’s misogyny was manifest in its policies toward schooling young women and the employment legislation. It excluded and discriminated them since work was considered contrary to the female physiology, dangerous for reproduction and risky because it reinforced women’s independence. They weren’t allowed to become headmistresses, they were banned from teaching most prestigious subjects and excluded from the private sector. Once in school, they were educated as wives and mothers, learning childcare techniques and domestic science. Afterwards, girls were discouraged to undertake higher studies, with discriminatory fees from which boys were exempted. These amendments confirm that Gentile’s reform was openly sexist.
To exploit women’s desire for social engagement they established new kinds of gender-segregated youth organisations. From 6 years old girls were under the Fascist control, enrolled in piccole/giovani italiane and giovani Fasciste. The socio-cultural practices led by mass organisations endorsed the patriarchal values that the Fascist state represented in order to build their idea of gender identity. Girls were convinced that their only mission was maternity and were trained in feminine jobs such as childcare, cooking and gardening. Their treatment was unequal to that of the boys, who did competitive sports and paramilitary activities to fight femininity and form the masculine identity that would have furnished the future soldiers of the 3rd Rome. Italians’ leisure time was also supervised by the regime, through Dopolavoro circles where they were harassed with propaganda. Women were excluded from many centres of social life, like bars and cafes and forced to turn to mass leisure activities, that reinforced the vision of the traditional woman. The female version of Dopolavoro was the section of Massaie rurali, rural women promoted as essential players in the empire building. They organised propagandistic events such as rallies, trips to Predappio and LUCE’s documentaries projections that gave women the illusion of escapism from home into the public sphere.
If the regime was so misogynistic, why women like Majer Rizzioli and Labriola supported it? In How fascism ruled women De Grazia suggests that the fact that the regime gave importance to women and defined their rights and duties might be interpreted as a signal of progress, but Gentile’s and the pro-natalist campaign’s reforms confirm Fascism’s anti-modernism. Nevertheless, many women joined the Fasci Femminili and loyally supported the party. It is argued that Mussolini actually ‘supported’ women and their right to vote, as he declared in discorso al congresso dell’alleanza internazionale pro-suffraggio femminile of 1923: ‘io penso che la concessione del voto alle donne avra’ delle conseguenze benefiche, perche’ la donna portera’ nell’esercizio di questi nuovi diritti le sue qualita’ fondamentali di misura, di equilibrio e saggezza.’ These women aimed for more presence in the Italian’s political scene and were blinded by Mussolini’s promises, the public recognition and prizes that they were given to balance out. Afterwards, the regime showed its real intentions and the proof of that are the many sexist reforms.
One of the weapons used by the regime, in order that its totalitarian project would penetrate in all levels of society, was the constant propaganda. They tried to define canons of female beauty and masculine identity, in order to fulfil Mussolini’s purpose of an empire full of soldiers and submissive fertile women. They did that especially by glorifying virtues of the rural lifestyle, as Bellassai points out in The masculine mystique: ‘the normative representation of masculinity and femininity were essential ingredients of the rhetorical effectiveness of the antimodernist message.’ Propaganda material included calendars, newspapers and films. At the same time, women’s magazines introduced an image of femininity opposite to the Fascist one.
In order to suppress the new awareness of the feminine body and to control the desire of emancipation, the Fascist government produced its own models of bellezza muliebre, and women would become confined by their biology. The ‘authentic’ Italian woman had large breast and wide hips, was traditional, prolific and patriotic: she looked like maternity incarnate. Only in this way she would have been a good companion, able to take care of the house and family. With the help of some pictures, the ideal woman that Fascist propaganda tried to inculcate during the Ventennio will be analysed. Magazines were the most diffused form of propaganda. La donna fascista was a weekly magazine of social female education, managed by the female organisations of PNF. As can be seen from the covers from pictures 1-3, propaganda glorified the virtues of rural life and peasant women were often represented. They were surrounded by children, solid and robust in stature and old in appearance. They were not feminine at all, but femininity was confined at the level of cultural practice. For them, real femininity was in the ability to reproduce. It is always represented a desexualised image that shows a woman who lacks the time to take care of her appearance. The magazines also contained many illustrations and photographs: massaie at a political event, competition prize winners and prolific mothers. Meanwhile, in Italy the riviste femminili like Grazia and Lidel were created, and they advertised a completely different canon of femininity since they were not controlled by the regime. For instance, in the next group of pictures can be seen a woman that shows great modernity, she doesn’t wear rural clothes but she is elegant, sensual, feminine, independent and doesn’t need either a man or a child. These models were imported from America and appealed the feminine public.
Another means of propaganda were posters, the majority of them were created by ONMI. They all represent mothers, often in rural clothes, surrounded by children. It’s important to underline the fact that they are faceless and the figure is stylised because also in the representation we can see that importance is not given to their identity, but only to their function of bearers of children. Through the last poster, we understand that propaganda boasted the idea that motherhood was a service to the nation and presented it as a privilege. Moreover, the only identity allowed to women, massaia and mother, was also trumpeted through LUCE’s cinegiornali and documentaries in which the right behaviour of Fascist women was shown. ( https://patrimonio.archivioluce.com/luce-web/detail/IL5000023009/2/massaie-rurali-nella-casa-del-fascio-incontrano-maria-jose.html?startPage=0 https://patrimonio.archivioluce.com/luce-web/detail/IL5000025566/2/donne-tutta-italia-acclamano-duce.html?startPage=0 https://patrimonio.archivioluce.com/luce-web/detail/IL3000052373/1/scuole-pratiche-economia-domestica.html?startPage=0)
At the same time, the government fought against the female counterpart of the bourgeois male, which was the donna-crisi. Her caricature was designed to symbolize the dangerous effects of modernization and the sense of independence instilled in Italy’s female population. She was depicted as masculine, thin and sterile. (pic. 6) Since this kind of woman was counter-productive for the regime’s interests, Mussolini launched an anti-slimming campaign and ordered the press to eliminate ‘sketches of excessively thin and masculine female figures who represent sterile female types.’ Showing this kind of images women would have aimed to turn into the donna madre and the regime would have eliminated the risk of female emancipation.
The reconstruction of the new empire required a new man. Mussolini needed a country of soldiers, that’s why virility became a defining characteristic of the ideal Italian. The new model was masculine, courageous and strong. Furthermore, he was virile, patriotic and devoted to the regime. Images produced by propaganda (Pic7), especially posters and statues, focused on the beauty of sturdy Fascist men, depicted as “eternally young and powerful”, and presented as a model the Roman soldier, recalling the idea of heritage from the Roman empire. Nevertheless, the leading model was Mussolini himself. He was the heir of the glorious Romans and the embodiment of masculinity to which everyone must strive for. Propaganda promoted the Duce’s virility and athleticism and depicted him as the ultimate sportsman, knight and warrior (pic8), personifying the ideal uomo nuovo.
Starting from the definition of people’s gender inside society through biologically determined roles, Fascism managed to create a certain social hierarchy in which women were slaves. ‘La donna deve obbedire. […] Nel nostro stato essa non deve contare’. The Duce’s words and the campaigns, reforms and propaganda analysed in this essay demonstrate that it was a misogynistic society, in which it didn’t count the person’s life but the interests and success of the ‘community’. Actually, the community was not the people but Mussolini, and the only interest was the creation of the 3rd Rome.
Pic.1 Pic.2 Pic.3
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 Pickering-Iazzi, R. (1995). Mothers of invention. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, p.76.
 Spackman, B. (2008). Fascist Virilities. Univ Of Minnesota Press, pp.7-8.
 Ibid., p.12.
 Willson, P. (2014). Peasant Women and Politics in Facist Italy. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, p.2.
 Sandro Bellassai, La mascolinita’ contemporanea, Carocci, Roma 2004, p.84.
 De Grazia, V. (2005). How fascism ruled women. New York: ACLS History E-Book Project, p.7.
 Mussolini, B. (1927) Discorso dell’Ascensione [speech to Camera dei Deputati], 26 May.
 G. Gamberini, ‘Sistematizzare la fede’, Il Popolo d’Italia, 4 April 1928, cited in La Rovere (2002), p.61.
 Pickering-Iazzi, R. (1995). Mothers of invention. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, p.28.
 Ibid., p.101.
 Ibid., p.XI.
 Perry Willson, Women in Mussolini’s Italy, 1922–1945, ed. by R. J. B. Bosworth (Oxford University Press, 2012), p.206.
 Willson, P. (2014). Peasant Women and Politics in Fascist Italy. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, p.161.
 Dittrich-Johansen, H. (2002). Le militi dell’idea. Torino: Leo S. Olschki, p.68.
 Bellassai, S. (2005). The masculine mystique: antimodernism and virility in fascist Italy. Journal of Modern Italian Studies, 10(3), p.314.
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