Since 2016, a LOVA committee organises the LOVACompetition biennially, focussing on a specific theme in line with LOVA’s mission to enhance feminist anthropology and ethnographic gender studies. While it previously focussed on photography, in 2022, the organizers of this year’s edition ethnovision decided to usher in LOVA’s first multimodal edition and welcome different formats. ethnovision is a collective of visual anthropologists, consisting of Lin Visser, Julia Zvobgo and Lise Zurné. Participants were invited to submit a picture, drawing, short video, or animation on the theme of shame & power.
Images have the power to confront, inspire and mobilize us when exposing inequality, misconduct, and injustice. They may produce a wide array of emotions: while some force us to look and respond, others may be triggering, humiliating and paralyzing to the extent that we rather look away. Inspired by the ongoing #MeToo movement and the theme of our 42nd journal Harassment in the Field, we invited all artists to reflect upon the role of shame and power in our own lives and society as a whole.
Opening the competition to various formats proved to be successful: we have received videos, photographs, mixed media works, and (images of) artefacts. We would like to thank everyone who submitted their work: the great variety and the quality of the submissions made it extremely hard for us to decide. Therefore, we have decided to choose 1 Winner and a Special Mention for the 2022 edition.
Special Mention: Lianne van Holten & Rosalie van der Wolf, Abortuskliniek (video, 1 min).
Abortuskliniek is filmed within a taxi: the camera is situated in the middle-back seat, directed at the front where we see two phones connected to the dashboard, one featuring Google Maps, the other presumably an app used by taxi drivers such asUber. The viewer looks through the front window as the vehicle drives through Amsterdam’s cityscape, we are only able to see the silhouette of the person behind the wheel.
Abortuskliniek is a 60-second long shot of a taxi ride that starts off with the sentence ‘Ik had een paniekaanval/ I had a panic attack’. The video itself is in black and white and forms the backdrop to a poetic first-person narration by filmmakers Lianne van Holten and Rosalie van der Wolf. The narration describes how the main protagonist views herself through the eyes of the driver, and how she contemplates the various ways in which the driver may express disapproval of her decision to go to an abortion clinic.
Lianne van Holten, who works as a midwife and anthropologist, has researched the accessibility of abortion care in the Netherlands. In the accompanying text, she explains how shame proved to be an important barrier and that women did not feel completely autonomous in their choices regarding abortion due to, among other things, the many regulations such as the mandatory 5-day waiting period. Lianne decided to work together with copywriter and poet Rosalie to make poems out of the interview transcript. By selecting all the I- sentences and extracting words, they composed a short narration that would capture an anonymous yet poignant personal perspective on the feeling of shame leading up to the visit to the clinic.
It is of course not possible to see this video separate from current developments, particularly in the US where on June 24, 2022, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that affirmed the constitutional right to abortion. Over decades, research has demonstrated that abortion bans most severely impact people in marginalized groups. The argument for bodily autonomy has been central in debates surrounding this issue, as injustice against women, in particular, is often manifested as a lack of power over their bodies. A similar lack of autonomy was expressed in the research of Van Holten, particularly with the obligatory five-day waiting – or rather ‘contemplation’ – period. On 22 June 2022, two days before the overturning of Roe vs Wade, the First Chamber in the Netherlands agreed to abolish the mandatory period. Petitioners described it as ‘patronizing for women’ and ‘unnecessary because most women who visit a clinic have already thoroughly thought about their abortion wish’.
Taking into consideration recent events, the Jury of the LOVA Competition 2022 has decided to give a special mention to Abortuskliniek for this personal and poetic narrative video. Congratulations, and thank you for submitting this work, Lianne and Rosalie!
Winner of the LOVA competition: Paulina Trejo Mendez, Aqui no pesada (mixed media).
Aqui no pasa nada is a mixed-media image that is composed of different colorful components. In the middle, a saint-like figure is presented, whose smiling mouth is overemphasized by thickly lined red lips, the white bright hair encircled with thick black stripes of a halo. The saint’s eyes are covered by a white box, which reminds us of the black strip used to protect identities in mugshots, or the blindfolded figure of justice. Both of the saint’s shoulders are covered with pink roses, against a backdrop that consists of different kinds of floral wallpaper. In the lower half of the image, right below the saint, a photograph of a desert with eight pink crosses is displayed, accompanied by the text: Aqui no pasa nada which translates as nothing is going on here.
In the submission, artist and scholar dr. Paulina Trejo Mendez writes that her work is about femicide in Mexico, meaning the intentional killing of women because they are women, because of their gender. The pink crosses have become important symbols for the remembrance of the victims of femicide in Mexico. Mendez references anthropologist Marcela Lagarde who argued that feminicide should be analyzed in relation to the state, as its denial and impunity is perpetuated in these crimes. Mendez explains how the saint-like figure in the image consists of two people: the body is a photograph of Pope Pius XII, who was head of the Catholic Church from 1939 until his death in 1958, while the figure’s face represents the current Mexican president Andres Manuel López-Obrador. Both have been criticized for their traditional perspectives on gender equality, and have often been dismissive and condescending to record-high levels of violence against women. Protests against this gender-based violence have been met with riot police, and the state has focussed on the protection of buildings and the city rather than the women who inhabit them . The saint-like figure smiles shamelessly while holding a machete as a kind of mockery. Mendez writes “he represents someone in a position of power, the state as an institution that does not care about women and girls. A misogynistic state that despises the feminine”.
The work submitted by Mendez immediately and unanimously caught our eyes because of the tension between its bright colors and flowers and the violence it symbolizes. We immediately discussed the various references and visual cues we were able to extract, and were impressed by the multiple layers of the work. The work of Mendez presents us with a compelling image of the role the church and state have in controlling women’s bodies and lives, including death and its aftermath. We have therefore selected Aqui no pasa nada by Paulina Trejo Mendez as the winner of the 2022 LOVA Multimodal Competition! Congratulations Paulina!
The award winners will be gifted with a picture or book voucher of fifty euros and a two-year LOVA membership. Winning contributions will be published in the LOVA Journal, added by some other best pictures selected by the jury. The winning contributions will also be published on the LOVA website.
On behalf of the LOVA board and ethnovision
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