Kartika Affandi Koberl is an artist who certainly expresses a unique perspective, especially as she challenges ideas of gender through her artwork. An interesting sculpture of hers boldly adorns the cover of 10.2, our most recent issue.
So, what was the artist really thinking when she created this potentially controversial piece of art? During an interview with Femspec, Kartika explained that the inspiration for the art first came from a visit to a sex shop in Amsterdam, where she noticed condoms with different heads. A couple years later she made the sculpture, and from reading the interview in 10.2, each penis represents a type of man with the heads serving as symbols of their personalities, etc. The middle phallus represents an arrogant man; the one with a chicken's head represents a philanderer, or as Kartika put it, "a man who is already married but likes to be with other women" (for a chicken always wants more food); the one with a fish head represents a "slippery" man and one who "thinks like a woman;" and the two that are asleep represent men who have worked hard (Kartika in Femspec 10.2, 65-66).
One could say that perhaps the artist is objectifying men by using their sexual parts as representations of the men themselves, as if their phalluses define who they are. Yes, they are defined by their personalities, but why use phalluses to represent men? The truth of the matter is, what other way could she have shown us that the sculpture is about the male gender? We've all been taught that the first way to differentiate between genders is to identify the sexual parts of the person. Women have often been objectified in the same way by the media, society, and men. Do you think the artist was turning the tables and reversing sexism? Or was she mocking the male gender to make up for the objectification and disrespect some men have shown towards women? During the interview, the artist claimed regarding the sculpture: "I'm not trying to shame men. I'm not against men. I'm just having a lot of fun" (Kartika in Femspec 10.2, 66). Some could argue that the fun is at the expense of the male gender. Normally, I would say that if women should not be objectified, then men should not be as well. To rally against the mocking and objectification of women but accept the same treatment of men would make us hypocrites, and would pose a double-standard way of thinking. However, this is ART. Art doesn't have to play by the rules. Perhaps though, when reflecting on Kartika's art we should be a bit more open-minded when witnessing art created by male artists that portrays the female gender in the same light, lest we be caught in the double-standard.
Here are some comments from the artist herself regarding the art: "One says, standing in the middle with the metallic color, 'I am rich, good looking, and many girls are around me.' And the other one with the cock-head says 'I am a simple man but it is easy to find someone beside my wife (chicken are used to being in the garbage).' The other fish head is very slippery, so do we as wives have difficulty understanding what our husbands want? The smaller size, pale blue, says 'Will you please all shut up! I have done my job.' It's all about men's behavior."~Kartika
No matter how one interprets this art or feels about it, it is safe to say that many would agree that this artist is gutsy to create a sculpture such as this, especially since she did so in Indonesia, a country that is largely populated by Muslims. The Muslim culture is known to be strict about many things, some of those things being gender, sexuality, and expression. However, as Kartika mentions in 10.2, areas like Indonesia are not quite as limited now as they were twenty years ago due to globalization. Nevertheless, it is a culture that is still mainly male-dominated, still holds sexist ideas, and still tries to silence or oppress its women. Thankfully, the artist discussed here was neither silenced, nor afraid to express herself as she saw fit.
Now it is your turn to speak up. What are your impressions or interpretations of the art on the cover of 10.2? Did it shock you? Make your comments in the comment area and/or participate in the polls at the bottom of the home page. Thank you for your time and participation!