Daniela Comani analyzes the patriarchal structure of society and the family, where clichés around gender roles are hard to eradicate. Rewriting history through innovative narrative strategies, she subverts notions of gender with a mix of irony and aching awareness. For example, in the artist’s book Ich war’s. Tagebuch 1900–1999 (It Was Me. Diary 1900–1999, 2002/2005), Comani provides a firsthand account of major events of the past century, casting herself as the sole protagonist in each.
Over the past ten years, Comani has collected newspaper reports on incidents of domestic violence and femicide in various countries. For her solo show “YOU ARE MINE”—a title whose emphatic capitalization alludes to the sense of entitlement or ownership at the heart of many of these attacks—the artist has selected fifteen clippings, which she has digitally manipulated, enlarged, printed on canvas, and mounted on aluminum in such a way as to retain the crumpled appearance of discarded newsprint. But in a key twist to the chronicle, Comani inverts the gender of the victims and perpetrators, so that we now read about wives and girlfriends who take revenge on their men, acting out of jealousy or possessiveness. By swapping their roles, the artist renders the violent actions implausible, allowing the descriptions of the attackers’ motivations, professions, and ages to border on the ridiculous. The sleight of hand leads us to interpret these distorted stories as grotesque and surreal; when we remind ourselves that, in reality, the victims were women, it seems obvious how tragic, wretched, and intolerable these events were. We are confronted with how inured we have become to certain narratives of violence against women. The serial structure of the body of work, installed in a long corridor connecting two wings of the museum, indicates that the story is still open-ended and could theoretically continue—that is, as long as male chauvinism remains unchecked.
Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.