RX & SLAG, Paris

Tirtzah Bassel

Little Deaths

Opening view on Saturday, October 14


For her first exhibition at the RX&Slag gallery in Paris, Tirtzah Bassel adds a new chapter to a project started 3 years ago, «Canon in Drag», the first part of which was presented in 2022 in New York at the Slag&RX gallery. Those works revolve around the deconstruction of social patterns frozen by patriarchy, based on a Mesopotamian myth, that of Inanna/ Ishtar, a powerful and independent goddess of love and war. From this story, transmitted by the first known poet of history, Tirtzah Bassel overturns the codes and revisits the history of art. New images to «reboot» minds.


The title surprises, but Tirtzah Bassel explains and immediately sets the tone of the exhibition: «'Little Deaths" refers to an euphemism for the orgasm» The female orgasm to be precise, the artist’s aim being to tackle images and models forged by patriarchy. For this, she designs new symbols and rethinks the issue of gender, sexuality and social models. «When a woman knows the source of her pleasure, she moves in the world in a fundamentally different way» she shares. So, she created a new canon that would be a new reference, the «Canon in Drag», which she initiated three years ago and which she has built by attacking the largest broadcaster of images and stereotypes of all time: art history. She questions what we project there by going back to prehistory, by integrating Laussel’s Venus into Venus Girl with Adult Toy – After Vermeer. Looking back and mirroring ancient and contemporary societies is a way of realizing that early human times were ahead of us and that the very idea of progress definitely does not really exist!


Inanna, a guardian figure

This is what the myth of Inanna tells in some ways, whose story was written by the first known poet, Enheduanna. We are in the third millennium BC – the pyramids of Egypt already dominate the Giza Plateau – in this Mesopotamia that has provided many founding stories that will be taken up in the Old Testament, such as the Flood or Moses saved from the waters. Inanna, who will be called Ishtar among the Babylonians, is a powerful woman of the caliber of Lilith, the first wife of Adam whom God failed to tame and whom the Hebrew accounts presented under the aspect of a demon with masculine attributes.

The models of strong women existed before patriarchy and have been erased from memory, so it is fair to give them back their full dimension by placing them at the heart of reflection and feminist fight to debunk a sclerotic system. Overthrow the world? As the carnival allows for a timeless moment, with a reversal of genders, freedom from transgression, sexual license? No, it is rather a question of returning to the sources of the first civilizations, where the stories were already written.


New archetypes to think differently

Tirtzah unravels the thread of a new story and imagines new archetypes: Rodin’s thinker is bottle-feeding a baby, Venus on her rock is in full orgasm, Matisse’s Dance is played by hermaphrodites, Inanna orgasm under the dexterity of her lover practicing a cunnilingus, the girl of Vermeer holds a sex toy and not a letter, the Virgin and Saint Anne are two men, the angel of the Annunciation comes to bring the message to a mortal... “The message is clear: you will have a son and become the father of the Messiah. The reception of the spiritual message manifests itself physically in the body. The climax of his masculinity lies in his imminent role as father.”

After a brief moment necessary to readjust or superimpose on these masterpieces that we all have in mind, we are ready to perceive a new world emerging...

“In our society, motherhood tends to reinforce femininity, considered a positive quality. On the other hand, masculinity is not perceived in the same way. We are used to images of sexualized or eroticized mothers caring for babies (as in Rubens' The Birth of the Milky Way, which I have reimagined here), but when we see an eroticized man doing the same thing, it’s disturbing and unfamiliar. As a painter, I am interested in these images.”