Erotic Faculties

Joanna Frueh, Author University of California Press $24.95 (215p) ISBN 978-0-520-20082-1
What starts as a well-conceived, even brave proposition-to unite academic writing and Eros-results in a collection of short essays that are of limited interest for being so problematically self-absorbed. Blending art history, autobiography, stream of consciousness, facts about female bodybuilding, poetry, drama, gender studies and other forms of postmodern discourse, this book rebels against traditional ""unsloppy"" scholarship, of the sort Frueh has already demonstrated in an admirable catalogue of the work of contemporary artist Hannah Wilke. Given the sensual undercurrents that always inform the art experience, and the fact that historically, this experience has frequently been conveyed through representations of women's bodies, Frueh's concept comes across as a worthy feminist project. Unfortunately the writing, passionate though it is, doesn't deliver. Essays documenting the author's lecture-performances make a point (and this quickly grows wearisome) of her ""sexy"" attire, makeup and buff physique. Diaristic descriptions of sexual encounters, photographs of the author in states of erotic abandon, her blunt admissions of desire and frequent lapses into a metaphorical ""she"" (""`I am a Wordswoman,' she said, `Swordswoman and I use wordplay as a weapon from the head and lips'"") all work hard to shock. But, as historian Frueh herself should know, the radical edge of explicit rawness has already been effectively tempered by such pioneer feminist performance artists of the 1970s as Lynda Benglis and Carolee Schneeman. Perhaps Frueh's own work is best experienced as performance. But judging from the scripts, this reader doubts it. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/03/1996
Release date: 06/01/1996
Hardcover - 215 pages - 978-0-520-20081-4
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