|Photo by Marcus Paul McDonald|
I was introduced to the layered electro pop of singer-songwriter Renè Kladzyk's project Ziemba during a night at Elvis Guesthouse curated by SoftSpot's Sarah Kinlaw back in 2015, and immediately noted both the artistry and precision of Kladzyk's loop based art pop. While I've done rather a poor job of following her career since then (she's released her debut full length Hope Is Never since then), most recently she released the third part of a series of concept records entitled ARDIS based around an utopian vision of Earth and the steps Kladzyk invisions need to be taken to get there.
Though she just released the third part earlier this month, this week saw the release of the video of "Ugly Ambitious Women" from the first part of the project. Inspired by a Youtube comment "Ambitious women can't help being ugly", Kladzyk turned the sexist comment into an artistic statement both on the nature of misogynistic attempts to control and define femininity and her own self reflection of what womanhood is as society defines it. "Ugly Ambitious Women" is both a radical reclamation and cheeky derision of what other people decide. "Ambitious women can't help being ugly, look at me" Kladzyk sings with a smile and an eyeroll. Her lyrics are mostly mocking, barely concealed distate with the antiquated notions of womanhood and femininity: "hysterical, too quick to cry, built to break, delicate rose, got a complex, silly old bleeding a mess". Kladzyk lists a series of stereotypes and her contempt is evident despite a notable lack of bile. And that in itself is her playing into another stereotype of the calm, placid feminine - her voice an angelic chirp even when voicing obvious displeasure.
Visually, Kladzyk leans fully into her anima, embodying the various roles men expect women to play and women are told they have to conform to - she's the radiant, nuturing goddess, the bubbly, fun one, the voluptuous beauty. But Kladzyk also gets to fulfill the roles she wants - clad in a power suit, fierce and fashionable, wearing ornate head pieces and costumes. There's a certain power in appealing to the stereotype - to deceive, to Trojan Horse your own particular point and that's essentially what Kladzyk does here - lampooning society's definitions of femininity through dressing up in its various costumes. Femininity may be a prison but Kladzyk wears it as her armor as she attempts her jailbreak.
Watch the video for "Ugly Ambitious Women" directed by Veronique Halbrey: