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Mia Unverzagt Femininity and Power



Mia Unverzagt presents two series depicting Mexican women and men. Under the title Femininity and Power the artist reflects conversations she had with the people being portrayed. They were invited to choose among a few garments, which they put on, and to select a piece of fabric, which the men have draped across their legs and the women as a backdrop. The women were asked when they had had power; the men were asked when they had felt the most feminine.

Of these questions, of the answers and of the resulting dialogues, however, only an image remains – an image that is linked with others to become a series and thereby show its conceptual context. We can only imagine what the story behind the picture might have been. Prompted by the title and the serial nature of the images, we will in any case allow ideas about gender and roles to inform our ideas about the story.

Since Mexico is a patriarchal society with a pronounced culture of machismo, we immediately recognize the provocation inherent in the artist’s questions and in the pictures that stand for her conversations with the subjects. Femininity, in a Mexican man’s clichéd notions about his role, is not one of his characteristics. And power, in such clichéd ideas about gender roles, is not granted to women. Mia Unverzagt shows her photographs in large format, allowing each image to come into its own as a high-impact picture, and the uncertainty and disapproval elicited by her provocative questions are actually visible in some of the photographs. However, we can also perceive a very self-confident opinion on the part of some respondents; for them, male femininity and female power do not after all appear to be irreconcilable.

At this point viewers of these series must ask themselves whether they are not perhaps projecting their own notions about gender roles, or at least their prejudices, on the images. Mia Unverzagt thus not only analyzes Mexican society from her location on the outside but also very subtly, and from the inside, interrogates our own socialization and opinions.