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A Sexist 1960s Film Remake Rewrites Cinema History

Artist Nadja Verena Marcin confronts the film industry’s sexist legacy in her exhibition 'Cinema Pirata.'

Andrew Nunes

How to Undress in Front of Your Husband, Nadja Verena Marcin & director of photography Guillermo Cameo, 2016. All images courtesy of the artist

The astronomical working gap between male and female directors is as absurd as it is constant; a perpetual phenomenon since the medium’s inception, hardly altered throughout. Artist and filmmaker Nadja Verena Marcin explores the past and present of this unfortunate fact in Cinema Pirata – How To Undress in Front of Your Husband, her ongoing exhibition at New York’s SOHO20 Gallery.

How to Undress In Front Of Your Husband - on view at SOHO20 Gallery from Nadja Verena Marcin on Vimeo.

Cinema Pirata is divided into three unique components. The first is an immersive installation on view at the gallery, which attempts to bring the viewer into the office and mental space of a male filmmaker working in the 1980s. Made in collaboration with architectural designer Terrence Schroeder, the darkened room possesses a series of traditionally masculine elements and signifiers like a blue leather casting couch, an idle cigar cutter, and bottles of whiskey, punctuated with artificial hair extensions, functioning as feminine ‘growths’ of sorts throughout the highly male space. “I’d say that rather than making the office feminine, we made it masculine with subversive intrusions such as hair,” Marcin tells The Creators Project.

Filmmaker’s Office, Nadja Verena Marcin & Terrence Schroeder, 2016

Screened within the installation is Marcin’s film and the namesake of the exhibition, How To Undress in Front of your Husband. The black-and-white film is a scene-by-scene recreation of a legitimate 1960s ‘how to’ video of the same name, an unpleasant relic of stark 20th century sexism. Despite the closeness of its recreation, Marcin’s bold artistic touch is evident through her casting decisions:

How to Undress in Front of Your Husband, Nadja Verena Marcin & director of photography Guillermo Cameo, 2016

“For my reenactment, I performed all four roles that appear in the original film. From narrator to peeping Tom husband, from the perfect wife to the undesirable wife, I am bending my characters with signifiers such as simulation of clothing, demeanor and improvisation,” Marcin reveals. “At the core, I aim to express that the full world of gender and the breadth of its expression has the potential to exist within one person, and that person is also the almighty oppressor or oppressed—depending on how we want to see it.”

Cinema Pirata Distribution Vehicle, Nadja Verena Marcin, 2016

The final part of Cinema Pirata solely exists outside of the SOHO20 space. Somewhat reminiscent of Kunstraum’s bootleg video store (of which Marcin is also a founder), the artist has arranged for a pirate DVD shop to be operated out of a station wagon through the duration of Bushwick Open Studios next month. As the station wagon pops in and around Bushwick, Marcin’s video works will be shown on display accompanied by mock DVD cases. Yet unlike your neighborhood DVD slingers, Marcin’s pirate shop won’t be selling anything at all.

Cinema Pirata, Nadja Verena Marcin, 2016

“The distribution vehicle is not about distribution, it is about a free offering of inspiration to promote creativity and to encourage DIY production; be the star of your narrative and do not accept Hollywood ideology unfettered,” adds Marcin. “Just as authentic cinema comes from within a culture and not from outside, a genuine challenge to the patriarchal system needs to emerge also from the margins.”

How to Undress in Front of Your Husband, Nadja Verena Marcin & director of photography Guillermo Cameo, 2016

Cinema Pirata – How To Undress in Front of Your Husband will be on view at SOHO20 Gallery until October 9th. Be on the lookout for the artist’s anti-capitalist station wagon cinema during Bushwick Open Studios, on October 1st and 2nd. More of Nadja Verena Marcin’s work is viewable here

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