THE FOURTH SEX, Non-definition of Gender – Reassertion of Pleasure

THE FOURTH SEX, Non-definition of Gender – Reassertion of Pleasure

From the 27th of January to the 25th of February 2017

In January 2017, Le Cœur invites Marie Maertens to curate its winter exhibition. Following Only Lovers curated by Timothée Chaillou in February 2106, the tone is set with The Fourth Sex. Radically opposed to Saint Valentine’s Day, this annual exhibition at Le Coeur, brings together a great number of artists who will expose original pieces at a range of affordable prices. This reflects the commitment made by Le Cœur to open up the traditional exhibition space (both literally and figuratively), to change its boundaries, to break down barriers providing new forms of expression to artists, at a reasonable price.

Non-definition of Gender – Reassertion of Pleasure

In 1949 the book Le Deuxième Sexe (The Second Sex) was published, establishing itself across several generations as the cornerstone for existentialist and feminist theory.
The first of its kind in France, it allowed Simone de Beauvoir to describe the status and treatment of women from a serious sociological point of view. Written across different chapters, the first volume of this dense work is called Facts and Myths (with biological, historical and psychanalytical data), ending in volume 2 with a reflection on the Independent Woman, having discussed the young girl, sexual initiation, the Mother vs the Whore…
This revolutionary work shocked many at the time. One notable quote came from François Mauriac, who once worked at the magazine Les Temps Modernes, (founded by de Beauvoir
and husband Jean-Paul Sartre), who wrote to the paper to proclaim “Now I know everything about your boss’s vagina”… It was while she was having a passionate affair with the writer Nelson Algren that the philosopher decided to write this work, notably after having been in an open marriage, free for both of them to have affairs, when her husband told her “that she had not been brought up like a little boy”… For more than 60 years, The Second Sex has been at the heart of debates, notably on questions of gender identity, something that Simone de Beauvoir refutes, by asserting equality, going as far as to deny the female body and the very nature of her subject matter, putting it on an even par with a man’s.
The film The Fourth Sex was made in 1961 by director and producer José Benazéraf. The film didn’t go down in cinematic history but the resume is quite amusing.
In Christophe Bier’s Dictionary of French Pornographic and Erotic Films, the film is described as follows; in Paris, the heiress of an American billionaire provides for a dubious group of young girls…”The arrogant heroine, who we think is a lesbian, falls madly in love with Michel, a young, penniless painter who resists her advances. Unhappy, she abandons her immoral lifestyle to try and win him over, while Caroline, his sister, freshly arrived from out of town, is in love with Paul, a friend of her brother’s.” Quite the story…
Even if this film was discovered after the title of this exhibition at Le Coeur was chosen, it fits perfectly with the blurred lines of gender and identity.
Because as opposed to seeing oneself pigeon-holed as one sexuality, a new generation of artists are motivated by the lack of definition. The analogy could even have been made by Jeffry Eugenides in his novel Middlesex, which was published in 2002 and talks of pseudo hermaphroditism, training genital organs to resemble those of another, or how to be intersex…”I had two births (says his hero/heroine as a preface). First as a little girl in Detroit on an exceptionally clear day in January 1960, and then as a teenage boy at the emergency department in a hospital near Petoskey, Michigan in August 1974.” More than a century after the birth of Simone de Beauvoir, those who have benefited from sexual, feminist or identity revolutions or the respect for homosexual rights, barely hide their erotic or egotistical pleasure and reveal themselves through the execution of their art; haptic sculptures, “matiériste” paintings and videos, divulgation through photography or drawings, appropriation of fetishisms… Beyond studies on “Gender Issues” that we have seen over the last few years, they reaffirm an almost 70s-like sexual freedom, without going back to the moral and intellectual battles of old. This generation mix the mediums as much as an open-minded attitude towards the representation of oneself or others and reinvent the codes of Romanticism. This new sex, the fourth, appears more hedonistic than theoretical, installing a new understanding of emancipation.

Marie Maertens, January 2017

Marie Maertens
Marie Maertens is a journalist, art critic and independent curator. She is the author of Collectionner l’art video et digital (Collect video and digital art) published in 2015 by Presses du Réel. Recently she has organised the following exhibitions, Phase B of Performance (MAC/VAL), Spirit your mind (during Art Basel Miami 2015) and Desdémone, between desire and despair (Arab Institute, Paris). She is currently working on The Surface of the East Coast for summer 2017.

With 29 artists :

Iván Argote, Michael Bailey-Gates, Pauline Bastard, Genesis Belanger, Julie Béna, Julien Carreyn, Bastien Cosson, Julie Curtiss, Cyril Debon, Charles Derenne, Elsa & Johanna (Elsa Parra et Johanna Benaïnous), Cédric Fargues, Julien Langendorff, Rafaela Lopez, Marianne Maric, Marie-Claire Messouma Manlanbien, Nelson Pernisco, Frank Perrin, Laure Prouvost, Janneke Raaphorst, Rose Salane, Loup Sarion, Lisa Signorini, Emily Mae Smith, Apolonia Sokol, Jean-Luc Verna, Sara de la Villejegu, We Are The Painters et Chloe Wise.


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Visuels : Thomas Smith












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