Bloody Hell: Mimi Kelly’s New Work

Posted on August 29, 2010


Mimi Kelly, Untitled #7, 2010, digital photographic print, 57.15 x 42.87cm, edition of 5 + 2AP. Photography by Dan Freene, retouching by Wassim Bazzi.

Mimi Kelly, Untitled #7, 2010, digital photographic print, 57.15 x 42.87cm, edition of 5 + 2AP. Photography by Dan Freene, retouching by Wassim Bazzi.

So I’m clearing The Post Post email and suddenly I’m confronted with an image of a nude woman, giving me come a come hither stare while her hand with a missing finger bleeds. No, it wasn’t porn-spam. Or at least not officially. It was a press release from a respected Sydney gallery for New Work by Mimi Kelly .

Now, having no desire what so ever to look at injured, naked women I felt imposed upon. My privacy was vaguely violated and I became a little miffed. What to do? My Mother always advised, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” and Oscar Wilde said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “All publicity is good publicity.” Or was that Andy Warhol? Quentin Crisp? Malcolm McLaren? Anyway, it was some dapper, media savvy gent. I myself am quite fond of the philosophy, “Just ignore it and it will go away.” So bearing all this wisdom in mind I really struggled with whether or not to discuss Kelly’s show at all. But my Mum also used to say, quoting someone else no doubt, “If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”

So here’s the problem. When did it become OK to sexualise and glamorise the mutilation and brutalisation of women? I must have missed that memo. Of course we all know that it goes on in little niche markets pandering to highly specialised kinks. But why are Mimi Kelly’s photos of herself, seductively posed, alluringly made up, naked, mutilated and oozing blood, being trotted out for public consumption in a commercial art gallery?

At what point in our culture did young women start conflating notions of empowerment and ‘agency’ with tottering around the streets in nose-bleed heels, or in this case getting their gear off and pretending to be a victim? How did this happen? Whatever happened to feminism?

Unfortunately I don’t have the answers. Feminism seems to have been defeated, and not entirely by men.

If Kelly gets her kicks posing for soft porn shots as a bleeding amputee, I really don’t care, but I don’t want to see the evidence. I thought long and hard about posting a link to her images here on The Post Post (WARNING this link leads to disturbing images of nudity and lots of blood), since in doing so I’m pimping her out, assisting in the dissemination of art which fetishizes violence against women. Am I now part of the problem?

Call me an old school feminist, but to me, Kelly’s photos are not cool or edgy. They certainly are provocative, but not in a good way. Presenting women as mutilated, bloodied, yet highly seductive, is not a critique of the degradation of women or of the horror genre. It is not funny, ironic or empowering. It doesn’t matter that the violence is fake and self inflicted. Violence against women is never OK. And images of violence against women, eroticised and highly aestheticised, are offensive. This art is not part of the solution.

Tracey Clement

Posted in: The Ugly