"Girls" Just Want to Have Fun?

Awkwardness, angst and mental illness take center stage at the Blaffer

Salla Tykkä's video Thriller (2001) centers around a young girl who spends a lot of time staring -– out the window, into a mirror, while lying in bed -– all to a dramatic soundtrack. (Supposedly it's all about sexual awakening.) The setting is a bleak Scandinavian farm, and images of the staring girl are interspersed with footage of a young woman and young man engaged in obscure farm chores -– dragging branches, leading sheep, launching a rickety boat. The video culminates with the staring girl shooting a sheep. Tykkä is better off than Nipper, but her wordless video and its labored symbolism need to push further into the unsettling -– or the ironic -– to actually work. It's too much like something a first-year film student would make after watching too many Bergman films.

This show was sponsored by Neutrogena. In a "sponsor's statement" the company wrote: "Neutrogena has an insightful understanding of women...Like this exhibition, Neutrogena celebrates the power of the female identity..." Gee, do you think the whole "girl" movement has gotten a little commercially co-opted? I'm leery of contrived "women's art" exhibitions. Are "girl" shows the latest iteration of the Judy Chicago-esque vagina-thons of the 1970s?

In Elina Brotherus's images, self-involvement overwhelms any other content.
Courtesy of gb agency
In Elina Brotherus's images, self-involvement overwhelms any other content.


Through April 1
Blaffer Gallery, 120 Fine Arts Building, University of Houston, 713-743-9528.

But the main problem lies in the number of affectedly arty, convoluted and self-involved works included in this show. They aren't interesting art, nor are they the kind of art interesting women make. Whether you jump on the "girlness" bandwagon or not, it could be far better represented than it is in "Girls' Night Out."

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