American feminist performance artist, Martha Wilson is best known as founder and director of Franklin Furnace Archives, which she founded in New York in 1976. The organization is now considered a main historical reference for performance art and artists' books. To celebrate its 40th anniversary, it was the subject of a major exhibition at the MoMA, New York, in 2016 (Back in Time with Time-Based Works: Artists’ Books at Franklin Furnace, 1976–1980).
Following the recent exhibition at the Kunstraum, Vienna (The Two Halves of Martha Wilson's Brain), mfc-michèle didier is honored to reveal Martha Wilson's work for the first time in France, and contribute to her recognition as a real pioneer in using performance as an artistic medium in itself. The exhibition will gather an exceptional set of photographs and videos, allowing to (re)discover a complex, subversive and committed work. At the occasion of this exhibition, mfc-michèle didier will also announce the future publication of Martha Wilson's diaries, written from 1965 to 1981.
Staging the Journals presents a set of photographs and videos reflecting Martha Wilson's work began in the 1970s; a real pioneer in using performance as an artistic medium in itself, Martha Wilson stages her body, and as an actress would do, grinds and transforms herself, creating multiple self-portraits becoming subversive characters. She creates innovative photographic and video works exploring her female subjectivity through role-playing, costume transformations, and “invasions” of other people’s personae.
She founded the group DISBAND in 1976, active from 1978 to 1982, a defining moment in her career, whose exhibition also presents video works. Composed exclusively of women artists based in New York, the group is made up of Barbara Ess, Ilona Granet, Donna Henes, Daile Kaplan, Barbara Kruger, Ingrid Sischy, Diane Torr, and Martha Wilson. Non-musicians members produce music by singing, shouting, and stomping, blurring the line between performance and live music thanks to their a-cappella songs and their imitations of political figures such as Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush or Tipper Gore. The group reunited in 2008, thirty years after its inception, at the occasion of the exhibition WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution organized at MoMA / P.S.1 in New York.
Wilson's early work is now considered prescient. Many of her photo-text pieces point to territory later mined by Cindy Sherman, among many other contemporary artists. Her role as an artist, but also as a federator through the creation of Franklin Furnace Archives or DISBAND, has earned her to be considered by New York Times critic Holland Cotter to be as one of the half-dozen most important people for art in downtown Manhattan in the 1970s.
Staging the Journals tends to reflect Martha Wilson's pioneering contribution to conceptual and feminist art, through her subversive approach, as well as her collaborations with other women artists.
Martha Wilson's work can be found in public collections such as the MoMA, the Whitney Museum of American Art, or the Guggenheim (New York).