Cunt Art was the First Art is an evening about the role “cunt” played in early feminist art and consciousness raising, touching on the role of female genitalia in popular culture today. Between 1968 and 1974, women artists attempted to reclaim a positive female identity by creating what they termed “cunt art.” The legacy of cunt art was absorbed by feminist sex education and sex-positive third wave feminism.
The program includes a historical account of feminist cunt iconography by Sasha Archibald; a short film about labia typology, Labial Quintet, by Courtney Stephens; and a rare screening of Near the Big Chakra, a 1971 experimental film by Alice Anne Parker (née Anne Severson). This event was organized by Veggie Cloud, an arts space in Los Angeles, where it was originally presented in May 2015.
Near the Big Chakra (Dir: Alice Anne Parker (née Anne Severson, 1971, 14min)
Described by Agnès Varda as “a new approach to our femininity,” Near the Big Chakra is a 14-minute silent film comprising extreme close-ups of 37 women’s vulvas. Made in 1971 and screened internationally in the early 1970s, audiences’ reactions to the film—disgust, mockery, fist fights with the projectionist—made clear the degree to which Severson radically upends conventional imaging of female genitalia.
Labial Quintet (Dir: Courtney Stephens, 2015, 11min)
Created specifically for the 2015 Cunt Art event at Veggie Cloud in Los Angeles, Labial Quintet was prompted by a claim made by a waxing aesthetician that there are five distinct varieties of labia shape. Browsing pornography, a live waxing session, surgical footage, and other visual “evidence,” the film explores the veracity of this claim, and what it means to typologize a body part.
Sasha Archibald is a writer and curator in Los Angeles. Her essays about picture-making, obsolete spectacles, and historical byways have appeared in The Believer, Rhizome, Modern Painters, Los Angeles Review of Books, and other publications, and in a number of books and exhibition catalogues. She is an editor-at-large at Cabinet magazine, and works at the non-profit arts space Clockshop.
Alice Anne Parker’s films from the late 1960s and early 70s have been screened at Cannes, New York Film Festival, Whitney Museum, and other venues, and were the subject of a retrospective at Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley. Parker has since left the art world, and is currently a celebrated psychic in Honolulu. She is the producer of a radio show, a frequent public speaker, and the author of the best-selling Understand Your Dreams (HJ Kramer/New World Library, 2001).
Courtney Stephens is a filmmaker and writer based in Los Angeles. Her films, on subjects ranging from rummage sales to female exile, have screened internationally. She attended the American Film Institute, and was a Fulbright Fellow in India from 2011-2012. She has lectured at The Royal Geographical Society, The Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, and elsewhere.
Kate Wolf is a writer based in Los Angeles. Her essays, journalism, and fiction have appeared in such publications as Art in America, East of Borneo, X-TRA, Black Clock, The Los Angeles Review of Books, where she’s an editor at large, and Night Papers, a newspaper of art and writing she edits with the Night Gallery.
Veggie Cloud is a wide-ranging film and lecture series in Los Angeles organized by Courtney Stephens and Kate Wolf. In addition to regular, free programs at their space, Veggie Cloud has guest-programmed screenings at the Getty Museum and Human Resources, and collaborated with institutions throughout Los Angeles, mostly recently on the citywide Chantal Akerman retrospective “Contre L’Oubli: Against Oblivion.”