Bureau Phi

My Father Avoids the Sirens' Song

Josée Bienvenu Gallery, New York. March 3–April 28, 2016

The early mythological Sirens, those hybrid creatures that perched on rocky islands to seduce sailors with their honey-sweet songs, were the seed of the idea of My Father Avoids the Sirens' Song. Later, there were deformed and mumbling Sirens who "were neither dead nor alive", living-death creatures symbolizing the morbid embodiment of death and inhabiting the level of purgatory – the location where Dante dreamed of Sirens. For Homer, too, Sirens and their song represent doom. Whoever listens to their voices must die. In Dante, the Sirens' plight was purged "at the final three terraces." It was Dante's gaze that transformed these women with their deformed bodies into an image of beauty with a harmonious voice. The contemporary narrative and reinterpretations of these figures compose a very different melody – one that empowers, and that cannot be interrupted. Sirens, today, chant songs of survival and emancipation.

In 1974, before postmodernism turned out to be the agent provocateur refuting long-established theoretical frameworks of philosophy and cultural analysis, Margaret Atwood wrote a free-verse poem called Siren Song. Not much noticed at the time, Siren Song is now renovated, a cherished mainstay of poetry club websites, literary associations, feminist writings, and educational institutions. The ongoing revisions of women's subjectivity and their place and presence in society gave a shine to Atwood's little-known poem. Today, Siren Song is an ode to female energy and determination. After all, they left the island challenging the male desire to control every situation.

This film and video program was organized with these ideas in mind, after rereading other authors, and studying recent interpretations of Atwood's poem. My Father Avoids the Sirens' Song includes 21 works by 14 women artists from Europe and Latin America who are performing – though almost none of them see themselves as a performance artist – the song of their jouissance, the ballad of their laugh, the sound of their cry, and the joy of their autonomy.

Images: courtesy of the artists