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The Feminist Art Project at the 100th Annual College Art Association Conference

Organized by Audrey Chan and Elana Mann

Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

February 25, 2012

The 2012 Feminist Art Project day of panels organized by artists Audrey Chan and Elana Mann gauged the present and future of feminist artistic thought and practice. What are the stakes—and who are the stakeholders—of the feminist future? The day’s conversations reflected the greater inclusivity of a contemporary feminist art that embraces a multiplicity of identities and philosophies. 


Topics of discussion included: feminist art educational models, the roles of men in feminist art, interventionist art strategies, radical queer art making, and feminism as a daily humanist practice. These panels build upon a tradition of feminism in Los Angeles through new readings and modes of engagement with this vital movement. Speakers shared their perspectives as artists, educators, curators, art historians, filmmakers and writers who are invested in the feminist future. This event featured podium and video installations by CamLab.

Panel Discussions:

Feminist Art Education: Renewal and Revision

Chairs: Nancy Buchanan, California Institute of the Arts; Christine Wertheim, California Institute of the Arts | Panelists: Kaucyila Brooke, California Institute of the Arts; Claudia Slanar, Independent Curator and Writer; Barbara McCullough, Savannah College of Art and Design

What is the value of feminist arts pedagogy today? In the years since Judy Chicago initiated the first Feminist Art Program in 1970, women students have called for their own opportunities to define and discuss their relationship to feminism. At CalArts, twice in the past 15 years, students have unearthed the documents of the Feminist Art Program, and organized symposia to convene multiple feminist generations for discussion. What do current scholarship and art practices reflect, regarding feminism? Is there a need for women-only studio classes? In addition to a lively discussion of these questions, we will screen “Define,” a video meditation on the semiotics of ethnic female identity by O.Funmilayo Makarah, and scholar Claudia Slanar will deliver an illustrated lecture on previously undiscovered 1970s feminist works.

Colleagues, Co-conspirators, and Partners: Perspectives from Feminist Men

Chairs: Audrey Chan, J. Paul Getty Museum; Elana Mann, Scripps College | Panelists: Tavia Nyong’o, New York University; Glenn Phillips, Getty Research Institute; Howard Singerman, University of Virginia

Looking back upon the history of feminism, it is evident that men have played a vital but under-recognized role in the feminist movement as colleagues, co-conspirators, and partners in the ongoing project of reimagining society and culture. This panel seeks to embrace the diversity of practitioners of feminist art scholarship today, particularly men who are influenced by and contribute to these expansive bodies of thought. Panelists will address such questions as: How has the professional training of artists been influenced by gender dynamics? Who were the men of the Feminist Art Movement? How has queer performativity shaped the way women and men make art together or independently? Panelists will also discuss their relationship to contemporary feminist discourse.

Tactics are the New Strategy

Chair: Pilar Tompkins Rivas, UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, Artist Pension Trust | Panelists: Nao Bustamante, Independent Artist; Carolina Caycedo, Independent Artist; Sandra de la Loza, Independent Artist


Tactical stratagems in contemporary art may serve as devices that enable women artists to weave threads between multiple layers of public and private settings, feminist and post-colonialist discourse, and to navigate the complexities of a socio-political landscape. This panel discussion focuses on women’s artistic practices that are rooted in activist strategies and which address the nature of power structures
throughout the Americas. Whether through guerilla-style tactics, institutional critique, urban intervention or subversive participation in mainstream media, artists examine radical politics, the effects of American policies and popular culture, institutionalized racism, and gender and economic inequities. Aligned with contemporary discourse about public practice, these artistic dialogs address participation in the economies of the art world leveraged by an engagement in alternative and informal economies.

Destabilizing a Destabilized Existence
Panelists: Zackary Drucker and A.L. Steiner, Independent Artists


Complicating notions of female realness and political identity, this open-format artist discussion will address intersections of queerness and feminism in art-making practice and as it manifests in the artists individual and collaborative film/video and photographic work. Referencing the rich history of feminist and radical queer art-making, the panelists will reflect on “outsider” identities, and how a potential future
without gender binaries could catapult feminism into uncharted territory.

Artist, Woman, Human: Feminism in Practice

Chair: Anoka Faruqee, Yale University | Panelists: Mariángeles Soto-Díaz, University of Iowa; Erika Suderberg, University of California, Riverside; Dorit Cypis, Independent Artist


Materialist, pragmatist philosophies, such as the neo-humanism of Edward Said and engaged secular Buddhism, strive to define social theory apart from dogma and lament the lack of methodologies of “practice” (as in relation to the prosaic and the body, for example) in Western philosophical traditions. We will discuss conflicts between dogma and practice, defining “practice” as artistic, activist or even religious,
with a focus on feminist histories. Ultimately, to address systemic inequities in society, including entrenched patriarchy, no gesture is too small. In 2012, social inequities can be subtle enough to seem invisible; and resistance may function in a similar way. The myth that activism must be singularly fierce to be committed needs to be challenged. We need to think of activism in the plural and open form. What shapes do activism and feminism take during the day: at home, in the classroom or in the studio?

The Feminist Art Project is an international collaborative initiative celebrating the aesthetic, intellectual and political impact of women on the visual arts, art history and art practice, past and present. The project promotes diverse feminist art events, education and publications through its website and online calendar; and facilitates networking and regional program development throughout the world.

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