Ready To Rumble?!

2014 / Collaboration by JAMIKA AJALON and MARION PORTEN / Live-Talk-Performances, Posters, Photography & Video

In 2013 we have started to work together in the context of Black and White feminism, the agency of Women Of Color, intersectionality* and the (in)visibility of racist structures among feminist movements in history and present time, as well as investigating the problematics of Critical Whiteness**. As Queer women we are both playing with gender by deconstructing socially and politically ascribed roles. During the discussion and work around Harriet Tubman*** Ajalon asked Porten, if they would re-enact the famous poster of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol.

Jamika Ajalon: I wanted to experiment with replicating the series of posters that announced their exhibition together, just because I always have. It has something to do with the fact that I felt as if Basquiat could have been a big brother. I identify with his work and the codes within his work. Also, I guess I was always attracted to that relationship, which somehow verged on queer ... but there was a dissonance also there ... something fabricated ... something evidently unreal. The fact that I suggested the idea of this photo shoot to Marion gives me an agency within the work. I place myself in the frame, choose what I want to wear --  and she and I are interacting with a different purpose in mind. Marion's art is colored by the fact that she analysis the problematics of "Critical Whiteness". We are both aware of playing with the tenuous subject of "Blackness" and "Whiteness". Self consciously so. And I like the idea of playing with gender, however … Always have … And I see this project as opportunity to do just that …

Marion Porten: When Jamika has asked me to pose as Warhol with boxing gloves; I asked, – the photo where Warhol gets bashed? … Suits me! I had no real connection to this pale icon of the Western art but I liked his early drawings and his films a lot; the queer silver world they have created together. Maybe I could create a lesbian Warhol persona; an uptight mixture of Valerie Solanas**** and the aging-super-star-vampire without a wig but with a "SCUM-Manifesto" t-shirt. I asked Jamika if we could record our rehearsals and photo-shootings on video, because I was interested in our interaction within this frame; our body language and gestures, our different ways of acting and presenting oneself … – trying to restage those guys, a collaboration in action. And then, what are we going to do with this replication? How does this "white" cube look today and what is happening in it? What is my personal and our collective responsibility within this cube, being part of it and reproducing it? What are our bodies speaking of today? How do you read them, look at them? And how do we look back at you?

(Exhibition Copie Non Conforme, Kunstraum Niederösterreich, Vienna, 2014) photos: Jamika Ajalon / Marion Porten © 2014

Ready To Rumble?!

The posters (installing and fly posting) … and live-talk-performances

The posters have been exhibited inside the White Cube and at the same time outside in the cityscape. After installing the work in an exhibition space we are flyposting the yellow posters around the town, at "artsy" places and at social/political places of interest. You could either buy the big glossy digital print edition for a high price or get a smaller and cheap outdoor poster, … which you could also just steal when you pass by. So far the work has been exhibited in Vienna, Paris and Berlin.

We have been invited to the program "There are things we need to talk about" (curated by Katrin Hornek und Johanna Tinzl) at the Austrian Association of Women Artists in Vienna (VBKÖ). In our live-talk-performance we discuss the evolving process of our collaborations, from the Harriet-Tubman-project*** to the Basquiat & Warhol posters and videos. We both are trying to create a Queer space for agency, forming allies and asking questions.

Ready To Rumble?!

The video, Full HD, color / stereo / 2014 - (work in progress)

The idea is to work with the video material in the style Basquiat and Warhol did in their collaborations. One started the painting and the other painted over it. Porten has started with a first rough editing; now Ajalon will add, cut and change the imagery and sound level.

So far we recorded our photo shootings in Paris and our fly postings in Berlin. We made a short trailer of some scenes, which we show in our live-talk-performances.

In the collected video material we have found aspects which caught our interest and on which we would like to work and focus in the future. E.g., during the rehearsals Jamika Ajalon took her shirt off because Basquiat is topless in the original photo. Marion Porten immediately took hers off, too - a spontaneous act of solidarity, which opened a discussion between us around representations of Black and White women's bodies and also conditions of "acts of solidarity".

Also, by setting the light in an "amateurish" way, - one small spotlight for the figure in the right part of the image frame -, we created an image of overexposing and underexposing. In this sense we played formally with issues of (in)visibility, "perfect illumination", light setting politics in relation to skin color in films/stage (low/high contrast, etc.). The recordings give us a chance to question visually – How do we create a common space?


photography (posters): Jamika Ajalon / Claudia Czesch / Marion Porten
graphic design (posters): Delphine Alphonse
posters, photos, video stills: Jamika Ajalon / Marion Porten © 2014

*Intersectionality is a concept often used in critical theories to describe the ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another. Third Wave Feminism, especially, thrived on the concept of intersectionality in order to redefine Feminism as inclusive. The concept first came from legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 and is largely used in critical theories, especially Feminist theory, when discussing systematic oppression. (

**"Critical Whiteness" analyzes and deconstructs the political, social and cultural construction of Whiteness as an ideology tied to social status and privilege and - "has been - and continues to be an archive of knowledge from People Of Color, a strategy of survival, it is not a "self-critical study" invented by Whites". (Paraphrased by Peggy Piesche,

see also: Peggy Piesche, u.a., Mythen, Masken und Subjekte, Kritische Weißseinsforschung in Deutschland, Unrast-Verlag, 2005
see also: Araba Evelyn Johnston-Arthur's text "Weißheit", 2004 ,"eine neue Nische am Intellektuellenmarkt" (a new niche at the intellectual market)

***Harriet Tubman (1820/22–1913) became an icon of the "Underground Railroad" by freeing first herself, and than many enslaved people in the US before the Civil War. In her work "Man kann nichts ergreifen ohne es zu verdecken" (One cannot seize without smothering) Marion Porten deals with her learning process of not-speaking "about" Harriet Tubman but rather start to listen. The active listening consists of interviews called "Scenes around Tubman with Jamika Ajalon". During her research on Tubman Porten got in contact with Jamika Ajalon, who has been working with the historical figure and mythical character of Tubman for many years. She visited Ajalon in Paris to learn about her artistic work in relation to Tubman. Ajalon describes specific projects and talks about the agencies of Women of Color, back then and today.

****Valerie Solanas was a us-american radical feminist writer who wrote the SCUM manifesto. 1968 she shot Andy Warhol with a gun.



(Jamika Ajalon and Marion Porten talk at VBKÖ, Vienna, 2014) Images: Johanna Tinzl © 2014
(Jamika Ajalon and Marion Porten talk at VBKÖ, Vienna, 2014) Images: Johanna Tinzl © 2014