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Book Review – SCUM Manifesto Reconstructed: Justine Kurland’s Feminist Journey of Reclamation


Justine Kurland’s “Scum Manifesto” emerges as a daring and uncompromising initiative, inspired by Valerie Solanas’ groundbreaking feminist tract, the SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) Manifesto. In her transformative volume, “SCUMB Manifesto,” Kurland embarks on a powerful journey of reclaiming history, dismantling the patriarchy, and subverting the male-dominated photographic canon. Through the medium of collage, Kurland disrupts the conventional narratives, questioning the imposition of straight white male perspectives in art and challenging the very essence of visual and social representation. This feminist review delves into the intricacies of Kurland’s work, exploring the potency of collage as a feminist strategy and the defiant female visions woven into her artistic creations.

All images – Courtesy of the artist and MACK.

The Collage as a Feminist Strategy:

Kurland’s artistic expression in “SCUMB Manifesto” draws upon the rich tradition of collage as a feminist strategy. The nature of collage, with its heterogeneous and shape-shifting characteristics, lends itself to challenging established norms and reimagining new possibilities. By cutting up and reconfiguring photobooks authored by male artists, Kurland symbolically dismantles the patriarchal structures that have dominated the photographic canon for far too long. This transformative process reflects the essence of feminism, which seeks to deconstruct oppressive systems and create space for diverse voices and perspectives to emerge.


Reclaiming History and Dismantling the Patriarchy:

“SCUMB Manifesto” is more than a mere artistic endeavour; it is an act of restoration and reclamation of history. Kurland’s deliberate act of cutting up and reconstructing male-authored photobooks represents a radical act of questioning and dismantling the male-dominated narratives that have shaped the art world. Through her collages, Kurland challenges the notion that the photographic canon is an exclusive domain reserved for straight white men. Instead, she reclaims history by disrupting these established narratives, infusing them with feminist consciousness, and reclaiming the agency that has been denied to women for too long.


Gender Inversion and Subverting Possession:

In her collages, Kurland initiates a powerful gender inversion, disrupting the conventional terms of possession associated with art and creative expression. The act of cutting up male-authored photobooks subverts the notion that these works are the exclusive property of their creators. By reshaping and reconfiguring these books, Kurland challenges the patriarchal notion that art belongs solely to men and that women are merely passive consumers. Through her work, she empowers women to assert their own agency, demonstrating that they have the power to shape and reshape artistic narratives and cultural representations.


Offsetting Income Disparity:

Beyond the realms of artistic expression, Kurland’s work also addresses the issue of income disparity that often affects women in creative fields. The act of dismembering the patriarchy through her collages becomes a modest attempt at challenging the economic inequities that have plagued women artists throughout history. By making a statement against the monopolization of the photographic canon by straight white men, Kurland opens up avenues for greater visibility and recognition for women artists, thus contributing to the ongoing battle for gender equality in the art world.

Continuation of Defiant Female Visions:

Kurland’s “SCUMB Manifesto” stands as a natural progression of her earlier photographic projects, such as “Girl Pictures” (1997-2002) and “Mama Babies” (2004-07). Through all these works, she consistently portrays defiant female visions that challenge societal norms and questions the limitations imposed upon women. The collages in “SCUMB Manifesto” are a powerful extension of her earlier themes, amplifying the voices of women and highlighting their resilience in the face of societal constraints.


The Electrifying Call for Freedom:

“SCUMB Manifesto” resounds with an electrifying call for freedom – the freedom to create, destroy, imagine, and reshape the visual and social world. Through her collages, Kurland dismantles the existing power structures and paves the way for a more inclusive and diverse artistic landscape. Her work becomes an invitation to break free from the confines of patriarchal oppression, encouraging women and marginalized voices to embrace their creativity and challenge the status quo.


Justine Kurland’s “SCUM Manifesto” is an emancipatory and audacious journey of feminist reclamation. Through the powerful medium of collage, she challenges the male-dominated photographic canon and reclaims history from the grips of the patriarchy. Her defiant female visions disrupt conventional norms, celebrating the diversity and agency of women in the art world. “SCUMB Manifesto” becomes a testament to the resilience of feminist art, urging us to imagine and create a world where artistic expression knows no bounds and where equality and liberation reign supreme. In this process, Kurland’s work exemplifies the transformational power of art to pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable future.

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Joanne Carter, creator of the world’s most popular mobile photography and art website—— TheAppWhisperer platform has been a pivotal cyberspace for mobile artists of all abilities to learn about, to explore, to celebrate and to share mobile artworks. Joanne’s compassion, inclusivity, and humility are hallmarks in all that she does, and is particularly evident in the platform she has built. In her words, “We all have the potential to remove ourselves from the centre of any circle and to expand a sphere of compassion outward; to include everyone interested in mobile art, ensuring every artist is within reach”, she has said. Promotion of mobile artists and the art form as a primary medium in today’s art world, has become her life’s focus. She has presented lectures bolstering mobile artists and their art from as far away as the Museum of Art in Seoul, South Korea to closer to her home in the UK at Focus on Imaging. Her experience as a jurist for mobile art competitions includes: Portugal, Canada, US, S Korea, UK and Italy. And her travels pioneering the breadth of mobile art includes key events in: Frankfurt, Naples, Amalfi Coast, Paris, Brazil, London. Pioneering the world’s first mobile art online gallery - has extended her reach even further, shipping from London, UK to clients in the US, Europe and The Far East to a global group of collectors looking for exclusive art to hang in their homes and offices. The online gallery specialises in prints for discerning collectors of unique, previously unseen signed limited edition art. Her journey towards becoming The App Whisperer, includes (but is not limited to) working for a paparazzi photo agency for several years and as a deputy editor for a photo print magazine. Her own freelance photographic journalistic work is also widely acclaimed. She has been published extensively both within the UK and the US in national and international titles. These include The Times, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Popular Photography & Imaging, dpreview, NikonPro, Which? and more recently with the BBC as a Contributor, Columnist at Vogue Italia and Contributing Editor at LensCulture. Her professional photography has also been widely exhibited throughout Europe, including Italy, Portugal and the UK. She is currently writing several books, all related to mobile art and is always open to requests for new commissions for either writing or photography projects or a combination of both. Please contact her at: [email protected]