FKW : Zeitschrift für Geschlechterforschung und visuelle Kultur
Year of publication
This paper analyses The Mystery is Looking, a video produced in 1995 by the Polish artist Alicja Żebrowska. The video presents a close-up of the artist’s vulva being transformed into a strange looking eye staring at the viewer. With this shocking sight, the artist subverts the tradition of the viewer as a panoptic voyeur dominating the object of his gaze. The work’s critical potential therefore lies in its ability to affect the viewer. Żebrowska’s work intervenes in post-communist debates over the ban on abortion, a discourse that sought to control female sexuality in order to push women into the domestic sphere of the family. This strategy excluded women not only from the labor market but systematically excluded them from economic-political participation and publicity. The central theme of Żebrowska’s artistic work are the constraints of female sexuality and the objectifying mechanisms of conventional representations of women in art.
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