Feminine Futures
Curated by Adrien Sina

Feminine Futures - Valentine de Saint-Point
Performance, Dance, War, Politics and Eroticism
Curated and edited by Adrien Sina

Italian Cultural Institute, New York

Exhibition: November 3, 2009 - January 7, 2010

Conversation: Adrien Sina + RoseLee Goldberg
youtube - 6 nov. 2009 - 7 mn

A reexamination of the role of female avant-gardes in the fields of performance and dance: a comprehensive publication with over 2500 color illustrations, together with documentary material on Valentine de Saint-Point, Marinetti, Futurism, Canudo, Russian Ballets, Cubism, Abstraction, German and American Expressionism (original photographs, manuscript letters, drawings, woodcuts, manifestos, first editions and ephemera).

“Feminine Futures”, an exhibition curated by Adrien Sina, was staged for the Performa Biennial at the Italian Cultural Institute in New York in 2009. It focused on the role of early twentieth-century female avant-gardes in the field of performance and dance. Structured around a unique personal collection, it included a significant number of previously unpublished pieces, some of which subsequently featured in “Danser sa vie” at the Centre Georges Pompidou in 2011-2012.

Texts by Adrien Sina, Giovanni Dotoli, RoseLee Goldberg (Performa), Nancy G. Moore, Philippe de Lustrac, Sander L. Gilman, Frédérique Poissonnier, Maja Durinovic, Sarah Wilson, Patricia Guinard, Eric-Noël Dyvorne, Barbara Ballardin.

Feminine Futures. Historical Section, the first half of the twentieth century

Loïe Fuller, Isadora Duncan, Anna Duncan, Ruth St. Denis, Lou Goodale Bigelow, Mata Hari, Cléo de Mérode, Valentine de Saint-Point, Sarah Bernhardt, Rose Caron, Cécile Sorel, Natalie Clifford Barney, Renée Vivien, Liane de Pougy, Colette, Rachilde, Jane Catulle-Mendès, Hedwig Reicher, Maud Allan, Lillah McCarthy, Mina Loy, Gertrude Hoffman, Anna Pavlova, Vera Petrovna Fokina Ida Rubinstein, Tamara Karsavina, Désirée Lubowska, Sonia Delaunay, Eleonora Duse, Lyda Borelli, Jia Ruskaja, Giannina Censi, Enif Angelini Robert, Karola Zopegni, Elena Sangro, Evan Burrows Fontaine, Josephine Baker, Mary Wigman, Charlotte Rudolph, Gret Palucca, Hedwig Hagemann, Valeska Gert, Anita Berber, Tashamira, Tilly Losch, Lucia Joyce, Berenice Abbott, Margaret Morris, Loïs Hutton, Lizica Codreano, Ursula & Gertrude Falke, Edith von Schrenck, Laura Österreich, Yvonne Georgi Chari-Lindis, Sent M’ahesa, Niddy Impekoven, Valeria Kratina, Dorothea Albu, Erika Lindner, Martha Graham, Barbara Morgan, Doris Humphrey, Ruth Page, Myra Kinch

and their intellectual partners

F.T. Marinetti, Ricciotto Canudo, Vaslav Nijinsky, Mikhail Fokin, Léon Bakst, Serge de Diaghilev, Enrico Prampolini, Ardengo Soffici, Luigi Russolo, Umberto Boccioni, Guillaume Apollinaire, Gabriele d’Annunzio, Morgan Russell, Vivian Postel du Mas, Auguste Rodin, Gerda Wegener, Gino Baldo, Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Anton Giulio Bragaglia, Francesco Balilla Pratella, Mario Castagneri, Tato, Elio Luxardo, Harold Eugene Edgerton, Nelson Morpurgo, Armando Mazza, Renato Bertelli, Rudolf von Laban, Harald Kreutzberg, Hugo Erfurth, Siegfried Enkelmann, Isamu Noguchi, Maurice Seymour, Erick Hawkins

Some intellectual and artistic filiations after the 1960's

Aube Elléouët, Gina Pane, Michel Journiac, Carolee Schneemann, Yoko Ono, Hannah Wilke, ORLAN, Marina Abramovic, Ana Mendieta, Martin Scorsese, Pina Bausch, Joëlle Bouvier + Régis Obadia, Sonja Dicquemare, Teiji Furuhashi, Franko B., Ron Athey

The examination of hitherto unknown source material – photographs, films or manuscripts unknown to art historians or public collections opens new horizons here. The premises of modernity are challenged with new material, in particular the documentation of ephemeral actions which left few traces.

The reader confronts the very origins of performance and the interdisciplinary practices that have inspired generations of artists through the twentieth century and up to today. A female history of the avant-garde is pioneered here, freed from the hegemony of the “isms”, defined by dominant male artists. A new repertoire of creations and acts of dissidence may be traced through this magnificent archive and book.

This publication is depicts as well a history of photography. An exceptional filed of convergence is opened in the encounter between dance, movement, body language and photography. Genuine artistic strategies remain behind technical processes and their specific pictorial qualities. The photographic pieces of “Feminine Futures” are also witnesses of the history of photography. Half a century of imaginative mutation between the years 1890' and 1940'... From albumen paper, silver or radium bromides to silver prints, a large chromatic spectrum of chemical experiments are gathered, between stability and self-destruction of the visible matter.

Peaks of plastic and artistic mastery are reached in the collaboration between photographers and choreographers such as Isaiah West Taber or Harry C. Ellis with Loïe Fuller, Hixon-Connelly or Herman Mishkin with Vera Fokina and Anna Pavlova, Lou Goodale Bigelow or Nickolas Muray with Ruth St. Denis, Isadora Duncan and Arnold Genthe, Charlotte Rudolph and Hugo Erfurth with Mary Wigman and Gret Palucca, Barbara Morgan and Chris Alexander or Isamu Noguchi with Martha Graham, Maurice Seymour and Siegfried Enkelmann with Ruth Page and Harald Kreutzberg...

Feminine Futures, curated by Adrien Sina for Performa 09, displayed at the Italian Cultural Institute an exceptional collection on early 20th century feminine performative contributions to the European and American avantgardes. These critical and radical experiments played the most fundamental role in the birth of performance as a discipline, establishing for the first time the artist's body in a conceptual action as a work of art. Over 360 paper-based pieces were presented on two floors in 32 specially designed plexiglas boxes and show-cases: original photographs, letters, manuscripts, drawings, manifestos, first editions and ephemera... This corpus of mostly rare items, not existing in any museum collection or unknown to art historians, aimed to open new reasearch perspectives for rethinking Futurism.
Broadening the field of Futurism, Feminine Futures explores the wide range of possibilities leading to the construction of the futurist woman, surpassing the only marinettian point of view. Without these competing tensions between Marinetti and some women artists such as Valentine de Saint-Point and Enif Angiolini Robert, Futurism would remain a male fantasy made for men and machines.
The feminine contribution to the avant-garde movements is always under-evaluated, considering women artists as followers or assistants. It's forgetting about the strength of their critical and radical, constructive or destructive positions which played the most important role in the birth of Performance as a new discipline in the field of the arts, while men were still experimenting traditional mediums such as painting and sculpture.
Beyond all the ‘isms' initiated by male artists (Futurism, Expressionism, etc.) female artists are building their own avantgarde experiments as a reply to originary forces, mostly rooted in the psychology of desire and the reconstruction of a feminine mythology which confer them the political power they have lost since the industrial revolution, up to the point of having less rights than in their ancestors centuries before.
Strong historical streams link together feminine performative actions since the origins of political tragedy in ancient Greece, initiated by Aspasia, cultural and political muse of Pericles, head of the first democracy, 3rd century BC. Their performances are political, eroticized, rooted in the figures of ethical and political resistance to iniquity such as Antigone, Hecuba, Iphigenia or Medea, up to tragedy and self-sacrifice...

'La femme, incitatrice charnelle, immole ou soigne, fait couler le sang ou l'étanche, est guerrière ou infirmière. Elle est l'individualité de la foule. Voilà pourquoi aucune révolution ne doit lui rester étrangère'
Valentine de Saint-Point. Manifeste de la Femme Futuriste, 1912.

The ground level

was structured around the French aristocrat Valentine de Saint- Point, the first and only woman artist to be part of the executive board of the Futurist movement, the only futurist who performed in New York (1917). In her ‘Manifesto of the Futurist Woman' (1912) and ‘Futurist Manifesto of Lust' (1913), she theorized broadened territories of artistic activities, linking questions of flesh, desire, gender, war, to political and civilization issues. These ideas were the components of the ‘Feminine Action' that she initiated as a new cross-disciplinary field. Her ‘Art of Flesh' was developed with Ricciotto Canudo, another avant-garde leading challenger for F. T. Marinetti in this stimulating love triangle.
The ‘flesh-work' encompasses the history of tragedy, dance and performance, and culminates with her conceptual quest ‘we must make lust into a work of art'. Following her intellectual partnerships, the exhibition dedicated a large section to F. T. Marinetti, then moved to the main figures of Futurism such as Luigi Russolo, Enrico Prampolini, Ardengo Soffici, Anton Giulio Bragaglia, Mario Castagneri, Nelson Morpurgo, Armando Mazza, Enif Angiolini Robert, through issues of theater, performance, war, eroticism and futurist loves.

The second floor

traced a wider scene of radical experiments, with artists responding to forces rooted in the psychology of desire and in the reconstruction of feminine mythologies and political power which persisted in performance art through the 1960s and beyond. Loïe Fuller, Isadora and Anna Duncan, Ruth St. Denis, Mata Hari, Gertrude Hoffman, Anna Pavlova, Vera Fokina, Ida Rubinstein, Josephine Baker, Giannina Censi, Mary Wigman, Gret Palucca, Hedwig Hagemann, Valeska Gert, Ruth Page, Myra Kinch, Martha Graham... A film program of mostly unseen early performance films completed this section.

A history of photography

An exceptional convergence filed is opened in the encounter between dance, movement, body language and photography. Genuine artistic strategies remain behind technical processes and their specific pictorial qualities. The photographic pieces of Feminine Futures are also witnesses of the history of photography. Half a century of imaginative mutation between the years 1890' and 1940'... From albumen paper, silver or radium bromides to silver prints, a large chromatic spectrum of chemical experiments are gathered, between stability and selfdestruction of the visible matter.


1 Adrien Sina. « Feminine Futures », pp. 230-235. Catalogue de Performa 09, Back to Futurism. Sous la direction de RoseLee Goldberg. Performa, New York, 2011.
2 Adrien Sina. « Cérémonies Charnelles », pp. 198-201, « Cérémonies Sacrificielles », pp. 382-383. Catalogue de l'exposition Traces du Sacré. Centre Pompidou. Paris, 2008.
3 Adrien Sina. « Avant-gardes féminines du début XXe siècle, dans le champ de la performance et de la danse », pp. 110-117. Catalogue de l'exposition Danser sa vie - Danse et arts visuels aux XXe et XXIe siècles. Centre Pompidou. Paris, 2011.
4 Adrien Sina. « Action Féminine - Valentine de Saint-Point », pp. 44-47. Tate etc., n° 16. Publication associée à l'exposition Futurism, Tate Modern. Londres, 2009. 

© Adrien Sina