Inspired by the iconoclastic feminist SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) manifesto by Valerie Solanas, SCUMB Manifesto is a project through which we are introduced to Justine Kurland’s photographic work, a project that is characterized by its ability to produce itself within a freedom that knows no compromise and that precisely in this radicality finds one of the most characterizing signs of its authorial and identity project.
Presenting a collection of collages that the author has made by cutting out and recombining the photographic books of 150 straight white male artists in her library, Kurland engages in a work of revision and purging of those cultural postures that have dominated the imaginary and practices of Western representation and narration throughout the history of photography.
Through her work, strong and not without irony, Justine Kurland organizes a questioning of the photographic canon that has monopolized visual culture to date, giving rise to a process of analysis and reinterpretation from which images of great communicative power emerge.
Through a wild and allusive linguistic exercise, fragments of past authorial gazes recombine into a new, animated and libertarian form: the image of a semantic revolution whose object is the understanding of the world and its narration.
The nature of collage, precisely because of its peculiar character that indulges and encourages shifting, interrupted, fantastic, ironic, cyborg combinations, is a technique that has seen appropriation by many feminist authors.
Babbling and deferred, Kurland’s images tell of a restorative and loving process. Each new image is an attempt at a reclamation of history, a dismemberment of the postures of patriarchy, an inversion from the gendered process that determined the narrative, a modest but important attempt to reposition the terms of a discourse to this day still heavily flawed by inequality.
Although the female gaze and the challenge introduced by these compositions differ in style, SCUMB Manifesto is a continuation of those represented in Kurland’s previous photographic projects, Girl Pictures (1997-2002) and Mama Babies (2004-2007).
The images in SCUMB Manifesto are many things, an attempt to reposition the female role within a narrative, an urgency to produce a meaningful critique of the determination of an imaginary, but most of all a desire to assert the freedom to create, destroy, imagine, and reshape our social and visual imaginary.
Justine Kurland (American, b.1969) is a Contemporary Fine Art photographer who is known for her large c-print tableau pictures of childhood secret places and wastelands. She was born in Warsaw, NY, and graduated from The School of Visual Arts in New York with a BFA in 1996. She received her MFA in 1998 from Yale University in Connecticut. She is heavily influenced by her Yale instructors Gregory Crewdson and Philip-Lorca diCorcia, and is known for her elaborate staging of photographs.
Kurland’s work has been seen in Monte Clark Gallery in Canada, CEPA Gallery in New York, and Elizabeth Leach Gallery in Oregon. She is one of the leading photographers of primal imagery and nature, and she influences many artists. Kurland currently lives and works in New York.