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“Witch Hunt” at The Hammer and ICA LA
October 10, 2021 - January 9, 2022
A new exhibition on view at both The Hammer and ICA LA, titled Witch Hunt, began with a simple question: “What does it mean to be feminist in the age of Donald Trump?” Although Trump is no longer president, Witch Hunt has been in the works curatorially since 2016, and the inequities that Trump’s presidency made painfully clear are still very much present. The show’s title is a reclaiming of a phrase that Trump tweeted 350 times throughout his presidency, coopting a term that was historically used to bring harm to women in order to make himself the victim. Curators of the exhibition Anne Ellegood and Connie Butler write that they hope the show will “incite and nurture outrage as a productive tool toward change” (“All my life I’ve had rage,” Butler writes later in one of the catalog essays).
While Witch Hunt is a group exhibition, each artist included, all of whom are women-identifying, are given space for impressively sized projects spanning video, sculpture, painting, and installation. Yael Bartana’s film What if Women Ruled The World, pictures a female government cohort at a round table discussing how to steer a country at war towards their pacifist ideals. In Shu Lea Cheang’s immersive video installation, the film’s CGI protagonist wanders a post-apocalyptic computerized world attempting to reboot herself. Lara Schnitger’s towering sculptural forms are abstract figures whose costuming is based on clothing worn during various women’s protests movements. For painter Beverly Semmes’ Feminist Responsibility Project, the artist uses paint to clothe naked women in Penthouse magazine images. Each of the 15 artists on view presents a unique and bold strategy for feminist resistance, using art objects as portals to a more utopian future.
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Photo: Yael Bartana, “What if Women Ruled the World?” (performance view) (2017). Image courtesy of the artist and the Hammer Museum. Photo: Brigit Kaulfuss.