Arts » Theater + Dance

How Difficult Women came to GPC

Indy's feminist mixed media performance art is bringing in international names, and we're so excited.


Mary Ocher is a musician, videographer and artist who is killing it in Berlin, the Middle East and all over the world. - MARY OCHER
  • Mary Ocher
  • Mary Ocher is a musician, videographer and artist who is killing it in Berlin, the Middle East and all over the world.

Erin Drew had no idea that what started as a one-time popup shop would snowball into one of the most innovative feminist and queer performance art spaces around town.

The show titled Difficult Women was born out of Drew just needing a name.

"I like to name projects that I am working on, even if they are one night shows," says Drew. "Just because naming makes this cohesive and a little easier to conceptualize."

RELATED: Dianne Reeves talks powerful women

Drew is the co-founder of Difficult Women and a member of General Public Collective. When a performance artist friend of her's, Jill Flanigan, was coming through Indy in April, she quickly reached out to Hen and Copy Culture to pull together a three-part performance art show.

"I like the idea of blurring the lines between visual art and music," says Drew. "For some reasons those scenes ... don't co-mingle as much as you would think."

Apparently Drew isn't the only one who wants to see those lines blur. The show is currently a mix of music, multimedia work and video performance pieces. The first show had over 100 people RSVP to the event. And the upcoming night in September will house Mary Ocher's live music, Hen's two piece punk dance recital pageant and video work by Bad Psychic and Copy Culture.

Shows like this allow for those who are systematically silenced by — yes, even the art world — to have a space that celebrates their experiences.

And it helps when you have a killer name like this one.

"I thought it was funny," says Drew. "I was thinking of an umbrella term to describe the artists and musicians who were going to play in that first show, without being too literal. The term "difficult" got stuck in my head as something that could be a slur or deterrent ... I like choosing to own difficulty."

RELATED: Q&A with Mary Ocher

So do Taryn Cassella and Anna Martinez, the duo that make up the Copy Culture collective here in Indy. The two have been shot down for several grants in a row — something that would beat down many artists — but it doesn't keep them from going bigger and bolder with conception and design.

Both women have a background in painting and window merchandising (which is reflected in much of their work). Cassella tends to learn toward three dimensional functioning forms; while Martinez thrives in the two dimensional mediums. Right now Martinez is mulling over the idea of free-standing paintings where you are intended to see the back as well as the front. The combination of their work leads to provocative installations that utilize space and composition to create an abstract, subtlely forcing you to reconsider your interaction with each piece.

Taryn and Anna of Copy Culture - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • Taryn and Anna of Copy Culture

Their work is starting to be known for being anticlimactic. Something that they see as a mark of success when the viewer feels that way. As Eric Booth said, isn't art just making connections outside of what you already know?

The two applied for an Art Prize grant a few months ago, only to be turned down. One of the the concerns from judges was that they wouldn't be able to build the freestanding wall that their exhibit required. Instead they are moving the whole show outside and building an entire shed. (They have a Kickstarter to help with costs.) Take that difficulty. Even though they didn't get the grant, they are still showing their concept at the end of September in Grand Rapids.

When Erin approached them about doing the first Difficult Women performance, it turns out she was pushing them into mostly unknown waters. The two only had done a small amount of performance work in the past, but the idea fit right into where they wanted to take Copy Culture.

The focus of their next filmed performance piece will center on object fetishism (and how the body is an object itself).

"Our process starts when we get the objects," says Cassella. Their first Difficult Women video was them in track suits interacting with various materials. At first they had a strict story line about competition. In the end they decided against the stereotypical narrative.

When they were planning for this first show, they admitted to talking themselves in circles over the idea of a feminist show.

"It was the '70s feminist, Judy Chicago type shit," laughs Cassella. "Which there is nothing wrong with that. It was just way too sterile ... I think we figured that out this time. We stuck out and everyone got it, which was nice."We try and keep in mind more of our feminist ideals [for these shows]. Even though we are inherently like that anyway."Their work is always show specific, and this round is no exception.

"It's not more obvious that we are feminists, but it's a different kind of feminism than our personal work," says Martinez. "For me I like to have the platform for people to see it in different forms ... A lot of people might see our work for different reasons, but Difficult Women is for women and non-male artists and maybe it inspires them to do more ... to feel comfortable in their own skin."

Cassella and Martinez seem to be right in line with Ocher's thoughts about her music.

"There is no doubt in my mind that we need to keep raising our voices on matters of social injustice (in the gender sphere as much as the others) — yet I wouldn't want to dedicate my entire focus to that particular subject, that would force me to miss out on the vastness of the human experience. Just because I was born a woman and experience certain barriers in the social sphere, I'd be putting more chains upon myself instead of breaking out of them if I did. Even the very fact that this question is ever-present in all sorts of variations, shows that we have internalized a certain lack of emancipation, what we should be doing is actively living the life we had envisioned for ourselves." says Ocher.

Mary Ocher - MARY OCHER
  • Mary Ocher
  • Mary Ocher

Difficult Women

When: Sept. 13, 8-11 p.m.

Where: General Public Collective

Tickets: We suggest you be the decent kind of folk and give 'em $5, no one will be turned away though.


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