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Forbidden room


The title, clear as regards place and time, gives information that contradicts, or does not really apply to, the alienating revelations of the pictures and of the actors of both sexes. For what does Mia Unverzagt really do with her distortion and twisting of the usual? She plays disrespectfully with gender relation. She denies respect to the works as well as to the act of contemplation in masculine attire, which is the type of gaze that is usually trained on female nudity. Here she enters feminist territory, which she undermines with an equal lack of respect. We are familiar with the analyses that speak of the male gaze, of the exposed female body, of the way in which women must avert their own gaze in order to indicate that they are the object of men´s gaze, wish, desire.

Worshipful humilitation of women – this is the paradox in which female nudes are usually entrapped. It becomes even more pronounced when the gazing men, fully clothed, enter the picture along with the female nakedness and initiate a relationship to the female object, display lasciviousness or indifference, carry on with activities or act as if the gap between dressed and undressed body were not one power.

This is where Mia Unverzagt intervenes, initially by means of simple reversal. The observing women are clothed; the male body is presented naked. The effect is stunning, provocative. For you notice right away that in gender relations there can be no simple reversal. The naked men, as divided as they are from their own nakedness, do not, in any case, become objects; they remain subjects – naked subjects, to be sure, but subjects nonetheless. They must display themselves. This makes them more naked than the women were. Initially, therefore, they appear ridiculous. The clothed women, for their part, lack the possessive gaze of power; frequently they do not completely abandon the accustomed object role.

In this way, the actors as well as the onlookers become entangled in the action that constitutes the picture. You are pulled, along with your accustomed prejudices into a transformation in the course of which you yourself cannot remain unchanged. For example, the first spontaneous question - „Aren´t naked men ridiculous in comparison?“- must be examined. By feeling this way, we find ourselves to be participants in the usual relationships of degradation, unable to even attempt a reversal of power relationships within our perceptions and feelings. The pictures are inflammatory. They should be contemplated collectively in seminars and groups, and a discussion about perceptions, feelings, offensiveness, laughter and possible change should be initiated.

Frigga Haug