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On Feminism (Through a Series of Exhibitions)

In the midst of documenta 12’s dense entanglement of narratives, themes and formal displays interrogating different art histories, the recuperation of feminism and its critical discourses proved one of the highlights…


  • As an example, I would like to point to the staging of the exhibition ‘Women’s Work: Homage to Feminist Art’, at Tabla Rasa Gallery in New York in the spring of 2007, curated by Cindy Nemser, editor of the Feminist Art Journal. The exhibition was organised as a protest to certain exclusions in the exhibition ‘Global Feminisms’ at the Brooklyn Museum, also New York in 2007. See Adam Rathe, ‘Sacklash!’, The Brooklyn Paper, 24 March 2007. Also available at /30/12/30_12sacklash.html (last accessed on 21 November 2007). See also the intense debate that sparked off around Martha Rosler’s collage Body Beautiful or Beauty Knows No Pain: Hot House or Harem (1966-72), which Connie Butler used for the cover of the catalogue of ‘WACK!’, which she curated for the Los Angeles MOCA, also in 2007. Both ‘Global Feminisms’ and ‘WACK!’ will be discussed in this text.
  • Tirdad Zolghadr, ‘Tough Love. Feminism and its Thresholds’, frieze, Issue 105, March 2007. Also available at (last accessed on 21 November 2007).
  • Cornelia H. Butler, ‘Art and Feminism: an Ideology of Shifting Criteria’, in C.H. Butler and L.G. Mark (eds.), WACK!, op. cit., p.15.
  • Chantal Akerman, in C.H. Butler and L.G. Mark (eds.), WACK!, op. cit., p.212.
  • It is true that there have been exhibitions addressing feminism and feminist art practice over the last three decades – a selected chronology of exhibitions from 1943 to 1983 can be found in the ‘WACK!’ catalogue (Cornelia H. Butler and Lisa Gabrielle Mark (ed.), WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution (exh. cat.), Los Angeles: MOCA, 2007, pp.473-500). However, I would like to suggest that the concentration of large-scale exhibitions in a short period of time in major institutions makes this a remarkable moment.
  • Bettina Steinbrugge, co-curator of ‘Cooling Out – On the Paradox of Feminism’, told me this was her motivation for developing the project. That is perhaps not the case with the exhibitions in the US that are also discussed in this text.
  • Kunsthaus Baselland, Muttenz/Basel (13 August-17 September 2006), Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Cork (1 September – 26 November 2006) and Halle für Kunst, Lüneburg (16 September – 29 October 2006).
  • Polly Staple, ‘Ah Feminism’, frieze, no.105, March 2007. Also available at (last accessed on 21 November 2007). The theme of this issue of frieze magazine was feminism.
  • ‘Cool Out’ press release, available at (last accessed on 21 November 2007).
  • Rosi Braidotti, ‘Affirmative Ethics and the Question of Pain’, keynote speech presented at the opening symposium for ‘If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want to Be Part of Your Revolution – Feminist Legacies and Potential in Contemporary Art Practice’, 28 October 2007, De Balie, Amsterdam.
  • Roger Buergel, ‘Beyond Identity and Difference’, lecture presented at ‘Eindhoven Caucus’, 11 November 2007, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven.
  • Anne Enright, Making Babies. Stumbling into Motherhood, New York: Vintage, 2005, p.6. There were three referenda in Ireland in two decades (1983, 1992 and 2002) centred around the right to abortion.