Betsy Damon “Passages Rites And Rituals”

La MaMa La Galleria

poster for Betsy Damon “Passages Rites And Rituals”
[Image: Betsy Damon "7,000 Year Old Woman, performance at Cayman Gallery, New York, March 21, 1977" Archival print ©Betsy Damon (1977/2021) Courtesy of the artist]

This event has ended.

Curated by Monika Fabijanska

Passages: Rites and Rituals is the first exhibition of Betsy Damon’s radical performance practice (1976-86). It features the documentation of eight public performances, as well as Body Masks – erotic photographs from a 1976 private performative session, which have never been presented publicly.

Activism and community-building have been central to Damon’s feminist practice since the 1970s. A leader among lesbian activists in New York, she co-edited the third issue of Heresies, Lesbian Art and Artists (1977), and participated in the first lesbian art show in the U.S. (1978), curated by Harmony Hammond at 112 Greene Street, and The Great American Lesbian Art Show at the Woman’s Building in Los Angeles (1980). Her early performances addressed the erasure of women’s narratives from history (Blind Beggarwoman, 1979-80, alluding to Homer), and gender-based violence (7,000 Old Year Woman, 1977-78; Rape Memory, 1978-79; What Do You Think About Knives?, 1980-81). Their non-conformist courage consisted not just in their subjects but – strikingly – also taking them out to the streets of New York and other cities, often without an institutional umbrella. All of them placed woman’s agency in the center of public space. Damon’s performances as healing rituals soon grew to include concern for the environment (A Shrine for Everywoman, 1980-88 and Meditations with Stones for the Survival of the Planet, 1982-late 1980s), and she devoted her later practice to public space projects focused on preserving living water.

Today, Betsy Damon (American, b. 1940) is among the most relevant pioneer ecofeminist artists; her social practice attracting a growing interest globally. The exhibition will show how the distinctive vocabulary of Damon’s performances – performing outdoors in city streets, inviting audience and other artists’ collaboration, employing archetypes and elements of ritual, and her engagement with transnational feminism – informed the development of her later ecofeminist social practice.

Betsy Damon. Passages: Rites and Rituals features Body Masks (1976), 7,000 Year Old Woman (1977-78), Rape Memory (1978-79), Blind Beggarwoman (1979-80), What Do You Think About Knives? (1980-81), Meditations on Knives (1981), A Shrine for Everywoman (1980-88), Meditation with Stones for the Survival of the Planet (1982-late 1980s), and Listen, Respect, Revere (1986). The exhibition comprises photographs, videos, documents, and contemporaneous descriptions of these performances by artists who participated in them, such as Su Friedrich, Amy Sillman, Marcia Grubb, Harmony Hammond, and Betsy Damon herself.



from October 15, 2021 to November 21, 2021

Opening Reception on 2021-10-14 from 18:00 to 20:00


Betsy Damon

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