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Feminist Art in Response to the State | TFAP College Art Association Affiliated Society Session
February 23, 2018 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Feminist Art in Response to the State | TFAP CAA Affiliated Society Session
Feminisms inherently engage politics, and by extension systemic State power and the marginalization and oppression of individuals. Current events have triggered a magnified importance and urgency to this engagement. The Feminist Art Project’s Affiliated Society Session at the 2018 CAA Conference will present papers and presentations related to the ways in which art can further respond to politics and amplify resistance to the State.
Participants: Jillian Hernandez, Amber Hickey, Carol Jacobsen, Elizabeth Smith, and Gillian Sneed
Chairs: Rachel Lachowicz and Connie Tell
This dialogue will also serve as an introduction to The Feminist Art Project TFAP@CAA Day of Panels on Saturday, February 24, entitled Feminism and the State: Art, Politics, and Resistance that will be held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, chaired by Jamillah James and Lanka Tattersall.
CONFERENCE ADMISSION REQUIRED FOR ATTENDANCE! SINGLE SESSION RATES AVAILABLE. Learn more about registration
Petty, Porno, & Pink: Queer/Feminist/Trans Cultural Workers of Color and Radical Praxis Beyond Crisis
Drawing from an understanding that life in the settler colony of the United States has always been anti-Native, anti-Black, anti-POC, anti-woman, carceral, and cisheteronormative, this presentation rejects the discourse of contemporary crisis and merges the forms of academic paper and manifesto to draw attention to how the most marginalized artists and cultural workers continue to develop radical practices that push the mainstream to consider and re-consider what it means to challenge the state. For example, Latina artist Rosemarie Romero’s itinerant nail salon Porn Nail$ has provided spaces in Miami for femme and queer communities to meet and imagine politics together. In Chicago, La Keisha Leek, Sadie Woods, and the Art + Public Life’s Inaugural Curatorial Collective organized The Petty Biennial that ran from May-June 2017. The project featured work and programming by queer and woman of color artists, and aimed to unsettle the formation of conventional biennials, rather than replicate or attempt to be included in them. Black women and Black queers have resignified the word petty to denote intimate process of gossiping-chisme. Formerly mobilized to infantilize and trivialize women’s truth telling, contemporary artists are using pettiness as a resource to address community and national concerns around police murder, the murder of Black and trans women, mass incarceration, deportation, and the wider environmental racism and slow death exacted on poor communities of color. These artists, like Yvette Mayorga, Juliana Huxtable, and others, draw on sexual excess, pink, and petty to illuminate a path forward, beyond crisis and beyond survival.
Sovereign Women’s Voices Against the Exploitation of “Resource Frontiers”
In spite of a long history of colonial, military, and extractive industry imposition upon the land and people of Inuit Nunangat, resistance to such efforts has thrived. As resource prospectors eagerly await any opportunity to explore this “resource frontier,” Inuit women and their accomplices put forward alternative visions of land use through filmmaking (Arnait Video Productions) and mapping (the Place Names Program). In this paper, I ask: How have Inuit women addressed the immense divide between financial power held by military and extractive industry forces, and that held by community members?; How have they made themselves and their political perspectives visible despite this tremendous power differential? Through highlighting the work of two womenled initiatives, Arnait Video Productions and the Place Names Program, I argue that Inuit employ visual media to publicly wage their place-based knowledge as a mode of creative intervention against state-supported military and extractive forces. These efforts often compel southerners to reevaluate their approaches to northern development so drastically that projects are abandoned or no longer seen as viable. In putting this strategy into practice, Inuit engage with state-sanctioned systems of governance and jurisprudence, but ultimately re-shape these structures to better suit their own needs and the needs of the Arctic land and sea. The maps produced by the Place Names Program and films produced by Arnait Video Productions play a significant role in ensuring Inuit perspectives and knowledge are at the forefront of shaping more just conditions in Inuit Nunangat.
The Art and Politics of Feminist Confrontations with the Criminal-Legal System
The history of women’s criminalization is a history of state violence and injustice. From minor property and drug offenses to murder, women’s crimes are produced by their struggle to survive and processed within a regime that imparts harsh, gendered modes of punishment. Drawing on long-term relationships, activism, filmmaking and public education with women on both sides of the prison fence through my roles as artist, political organizer, educator and Director of the Women’s Justice & Clemency Project in Michigan, a grassroots nonprofit working to free women wrongfully sentenced to life and to report human rights abuses in the women’s prison, this presentation offers a view of the ways I have worked together with incarcerated women, attorneys and others find strategies of resistance and hope for freedom by challenging a criminal-penal system named by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as among the worst in the nation for human rights violations against women in custody. This presentation will include other feminist anti-criminalization projects by artists, including the NHI Project in San Diego (1992), the Legislative Art Project by Lorie Jo Reynolds (current), and Tracy Huling’s Prison Public Memory Project (current), as well as short clips from my films narrated by women prisoners, 9 of whom have been freed from life sentences by the Women’s Justice & Clemency Project.
Resistance through Propaganda
In the early 1940s, During the Nazi occupation of the island of Jersey, Lucy Schwob and Suzanne Malherbe (also known as Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore), began a resistance campaign dedicated to anti-Fascism. Referring to their activism as unsere Zeitung (our newspaper), Schwob and Malherbe designed, authored, and disseminated anti-Fascist propaganda under the penname of a fictional anti-Nazi German officer: “the solider with no name.” Their intent was to coerce German soldiers to overthrow the Nazi regime on the island of Jersey. Schwob and Malherbe structured a collaborative anti-Fascist project that adopted-and then recoded-the aesthetics and language of wartime propaganda. This paper will explore Schwob and Malherbe’s strategies, but also locate their feminist-activist legacies through the advertisements produced during the 1990s and early 2000s by Dyke Action Machine! While the formal practice of détournement emerged in the 1950s from the Letterist International, this paper considers the ways in which “hijacking” or “rerouting” is deeply indebted to queer and feminist artists and artist collectives who utilized these strategies to counter oppressive and deadly state regimes. Dyke Action Machine! (DAM!) employed a similar strategy: from 1991 to 2004, the two-person art project,bcomprised of Carrie Moyer and Sue Schaffner, hijacked the visuals of advertising campaigns that have been used to reinforce a heteronormative, patriarchal, and capitalist society. DAM! produced advertisements that responded to former President Bill Clinton’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, the lack of lesbian representation in American popular culture, the growth of Far-Right Christian militias, and the Iraq War.
Masochism and the Domestic Sphere: Violence and Resistance in Brazilian Women’s Performances-for-Camera, 1974-1982
This paper examines the performances-for-the-camera (live performances recorded in film and video) of Brazilian women artists working during the last decade of the Brazilian military dictatorship (1964-1985), characterized by state-sponsored censorship and violence. While some of these artists considered themselves “feminists,” others repudiated the term. Nonetheless, I argue that all of their works can be read through a feminist lens by using theories of embodiment and affect to underscore the gendered subjectivity at play in them. The works I analyze-including: Sônia Andrade’s videos “Thread, Hairs, and Cages” (all 1977); Letícia Parente’s videos “In” (1975), and “Task I” (1982); and Anna Maria Maiolino’s film “X” (1974)-associate traditional female domestic and beauty tasks (i.e. ironing, sewing, and depilation) with bodily violence and torture (i.e. being bound, caged, or hung). These works link gender oppression to broader political oppression by revealing how authoritarian violence was directly correlated to patriarchal relations in the domestic spaces of daily life. I argue that these artists “inscribed the feminine” into their artworks to stage a poetic form of resistance to both patriarchy and political oppression under the dictatorship. Performing quotidian actions associated with the “feminine” domestic sphere in ways that become masochistic and violent, I demonstrate how these artists marshaled a response to gender oppression in daily life that paralleled violence under dictatorship.