Curating Feminism Conference

Curating Feminism: a Contemporary Art and Feminism event co-hosted by Sydney College of the Arts, School of Letters, Arts and Media, and The Power Institute, University of Sydney


The Curating Feminism conference and exhibition were held at Sydney College of the Arts, the Art Gallery of NSW and the Museum of Contemporary Art from October 23 - 26, 2014. The conference asked how curating can be an activist practice, especially in the realm of gender; what it means to be a feminist curator, or to adopt a feminist curatorial method; and how an emphasis on process, collaboration and negotiation helps us imagine feminist curating.

Program of events

Thursday 23 October

Event name Time and location Material
Michael Birchall: Activism & Art: for the de-proletarianized petty bourgeoisie 6pm, SCA Auditorium, Sydney College of the Arts, Rozelle Watch the video
Exhibition: Curating Feminism Opening Night 7pm, SCA Galleries, Sydney College of the Arts, Rozelle View the photos

Friday 24 October

Event name Time and location Material
Curating Masterclasses 10am-12pm (2 hours), Sydney College of the Arts, Rozelle

N/A

 

Dr Maura Reilly: Curatorial Activism: Towards an Ethics of Curating: Power Lecture 6pm, Domain Theatre, Art Gallery of New South Wales Watch the video

Saturday 25 October

Event name Time and location Material
Conference: Curating Feminism 10am-4pm, SCA Auditorium, Sydney College of the Arts, Rozelle Watch the videos

Sunday 26 October

Event name Time and location
Contemporary Art and Feminism Wikipedia-Edit-A-Thon 11am-4pm, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

Michael Birchall: Activism & Art: for the de-proletarianized petty bourgeoisie

Michael Birchall

Michael Birchall

6pm Thursday 23 October
SCA Auditorium, Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney, Kirkbride Way, Rozelle

Michael Birchall is a Berlin based curator, writer and the co-publisher of On Curating, a journal devoted to curatorial practice, published by Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK), where he lectures in the postgraduate program in curating. Birchall is a recognised innovator in the field of activist curating, with particular interest in curating as social practice. He writes for contemporary art magazines such as Frieze, Frieze d/e and C-Magazine. Birchall will be critically analysing recent exhibitions and art practices that have responded to the protests and demonstrations that have recently taken place across North America and Europe, fundamentally as a resistance to neo-liberalism. Considering examples such as EVA International (2012), the 7th Berlin Biennial and Documenta 13 that reflect overt and covert political ideas, Birchall asks, are these contributing to Hal Foster’s theory of the neo-avant-garde? Foster’s use of the term has entered a working alliance with the widespread rise of new forms of sociability and praxis in art since the mid-1990s. Beyond this, activism has begun to operate as a testing ground for various social interventions, transformative actions and participatory collaborations, both in and outside of institutions.


Exhibition: Curating Feminism - opening night

7pm, Thursday 23 October
SCA Galleries, Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney, Kirkbride Way, Rozelle

Exhibition from Friday October 24 - Friday 7 November

Opened by Verity Firth, Labor candidate for Balmain and former State Minister for Women, Education and Training, and the Environment.

The curators, in choosing and then working with the artists, were asked to explore the following questions and attempt to develop strategies that bring fresh insights into these pressing issues: What might curatorial activism look like, especially in the realm of gender? What does it mean to be a feminist curator, or to adopt a feminist curatorial method? Curating Feminism addressed ideas around the ethics of collaboration between artist and curator to facilitate the logistics of the laboratory-style approach. It adopted a curatorial model of one curator, one artist/artist collective as a deliberate strategy to decentralize the curatorial process. It included a long installation period to give the curators and artists the rare chance to work in the galleries as a process space, and to explore ideas of activism/feminism in the making/curatorial process as much as in the finished work. Curating Feminism envisaged the gallery as a creative space for discussion, interaction and activism.

Curators: artists

  • Co-ordinating Curator: Jacqueline Millner
  • Kelly Doley : Hissy Fit
  • Elvis Richardson / Virginia Fraser : FEMMO
  • Laura Castagnini : Alice Lang
  • Jo Holder : Euraba Papermakers
  • Brigid Noone : Soda_Jerk
  • Jacqueline Millner : Philipa Veitch
  • Jo Holder / Alana Hunt : Ngali-ngalim-boorroo (For the Women)

Curating Masterclasses

Friday 24 October, 10am-12pm, followed by lunch and plenary/follow-up session.
Venue: Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney, Kirkbride Way, Rozelle

Each masterclass was an informal curatorial workshop of 15-20 participants, lead by an internationally experienced curator (see below). Three masterclasses ran concurrently, followed by lunch, followed by a joint ‘plenary’ session to exchange ideas mooted in each masterclass for general discussion.

1. Maura Reilly: Feminist Killjoy or Happy Humanist?

This masterclass addressed some pressing issues within the context of contemporary art and feminism, especially as it relates to the practice of curating – including, but not limited to: What could equality in the art world look like? How important are quotas and statistics? ‘Is adding women to art history the same as producing feminist art history’ (to quote Griselda Pollock)? How far have we come since Nochlin’s 1971 essay, ‘Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists’? Are restrictive paradigms (like the art historical canon) still sufficient tool vis-a-vis today’s contemporary art? If not, what are the alternatives?

2. Michael Birchall: Curating in times of crisis: immaterial labour and the rise of the entrepreneur

Since the economic crisis of 2008, the way we operate in the global art world has changed significantly. Curators now produce an ever-increasing amount of content far beyond the exhibition format, to include projects, publications, screenings, fundraising events, symposia, and more. The current crisis continues to affect not only curatorial and artistic but all forms of labour. Can curatorial labour be subverted, altered or challenged? This masterclass offered artists and curators an opportunity to present their own projects and discuss models for working in times of crisis, by adopting alternative curatorial strategies, and perhaps moving towards an entrepreneurial model against the neoliberal state.

3. Tess Allas, Director of indigenous programs, UNSW, and Miranda Samuels, Honours candidate, UNSW Art and Design: ‘Girl genius’: redressing gender imbalance

Most Australian Art schools attract more female than male students and the representation of women in course syllabuses and the representation of women in the gallery system once students graduate is reversed. There is a distinct lack of critical engagement of women artists throughout history and in the contemporary art discourse in the media, in arts reviews, in scholarly texts and in ‘in-class’ discussions. This masterclass presented an open discussion with participants to tease out some of the reasons behind these blatant gender imbalance issues, followed by a papermaking workshop with the Euraba Papermakers.


Dr Maura Reilly: Curatorial Activism: Towards an Ethics of Curating: Power Lecture

Maura Reilly; photo by Tracey Moffatt

Maura Reilly; photo by Tracey Moffatt

6pm Friday 24 October
Domain Theatre, Art Gallery of New South Wales

Dr Maura Reilly, founding curator of Elizabeth Sackler Centre for feminist art at Brooklyn Museum, NY, and co-curator with iconic feminist art historian Linda Nochlin of Global Feminisms, major international exhibition of feminist contemporary art at Brooklyn Museum 2007. Dr Reilly spoke on curatorial activism, a term she has coined to describe the practice of organizing art exhibitions with the principal aim of ensuring that large constituencies of people are no longer ghettoized or excluded from the master narratives of art. It is a practice that commits itself to counter-hegemonic initiatives that give voice to those who have been historically silenced and, as such, focuses largely on work produced by women, artists of colour, non-Europeans, and/or queer artists. In her keynote, Dr Reilly examined current art world statistics with a careful eye toward sex-race ratios, and posits several strategies that might be employed by activists to address these disparities. Her lecture included a conversation with Linda Nochlin where the two analyse developments in curating feminism since Nochlin’s famous 1971 call to arms. Dr Reilly’s lecture was sponsored by the Power Institute, Sydney College of the Arts, and School of Letters, Arts and Media, University of Sydney.


Conference: Curating Feminism

10am-4 pm Saturday 25 October
SCA Auditorium, Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney, Kirkbride Way, Rozelle

Panel 1 – Curating feminism: Speaking to the exhibition

10:00 - 11:45am
Chair: Catriona Moore, Art History and Film Studies, University of Sydney

  • Co-Directors of LEVEL (Courtney Coombs, Caitlin Franzmann, Rachael Haynes, Anita Holtsclaw, Alice Lang, Courtney Pedersen)
  • Kelly Doley, artist/curator
  • Elvis Richardson and Virginia Fraser, artist/curator
  • Brigid Noone, curator

Panel 2 – Curating public space

11:45am - 1:15pm
Chair: Jacqueline Millner, Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney

  • Bianca Hester, artist and postdoctoral research associate, SCA
  • Jo Holder, Director, Cross Arts Projects
  • Sophia Kouyoumdjian, Director, Parramatta Artists Studio
  • Gillian Fuller, Design and Art Australia Online (DAAO)

Panel 3 – Curating regionalism

2:30 - 3:45pm
Chair: Jo Holder, Director Cross Arts Projects

  • Beth Jackson, Bimblebox, Far North Queensland
  • Meryl Ryan, Lake Macquarie Regional Gallery, NSW
  • Jasmin Stephens, freelance curator

Contemporary Art and Feminism Wikipedia-Edit-A-Thon

11-4pm Sunday 26 October
The National Centre for Creative Learning, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

Wikipedia's gender trouble is well documented. In a 2010 survey it was revealed that less than 13% of its contributors identify as female. The practical effect of this disparity is clear – with more articles on notable women missing when compared to Encyclopardia Britannica – Wikipedia is clearly skewed. This represents a huge inequality in an increasingly important repository of shared knowledge. An all-day communal updating of Wikipedia entries on subjects related to contemporary art and feminism took place at the MCA, and included floor talks by members Brown Council about their work in the MCA collection and Senior Curator Natasha Bullock on women artists in the collection.


Presented by

SCA logo SLAM logo AGNSW logo
Power Institute logo Cross Art logo MCA logo