The 1970's marked a turning point in the feminist movement. The new generation of outspoken young adults cried out against the war in Vietnam, against racial injustices, and against gender constructs and violence. Their art was ground-breaking, both for its use of languages and forms, as for its variety and cleverness.
The explosion of creativity from the feminist movement in the 1970's has been a source of inspiration for the feminists in subsequent generations. It also influenced other movements of collective emancipation.
Barcelona's Center for Contemporary Culture (CCCB) is currently exhibiting "FEMINISMS!" This exhibition explores works of art from the Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s.
It was inspiring to see feminist icons from the past like Ana Mendieta and VALIE EXPORT combined with art of the art of Catalan artists from the same era, who were living in very different contexts. Of the contemporary artists I was particularly impacted by the combination of humor and insight in the O.R.G.I.A. installation.
- Angeline Pittinger, Visual Artist
The project presents over 200 works by 73 women artists such as Cindy Sherman, Helena Almeida, Ana Mendieta, Judy Chicago, VALIE EXPORT, Birgit Jürgenssen, Ketty La Rocca, ORLAN, Gina Pane, Martha Rosler and Martha Wilson. Works include photography, painting, cinema, video and performance.
"I was shocked and somewhat amused to see the old videos of the beauty pageants. I remember seeing them on TV when I was growing up in the 80's. I don't remember thinking much of it at the time. Maybe I even aspired to be like those women as I did the models in the magazines. Now I'm shocked at the ridiculousness and pathetic display of male chauvinistic garbage that we accepted into our common culture. Their fake smiles and scores given (as if they were actually DOING something!) just seem absurd to me today. I had to cover my mouth as I laughed out loud."
- Amelia Johannsen, Artist & Entrepreneur
In the present-day context of the rise of conservatism and the cutting back of rights, the FEMINISMS! project sets out to highlight the crucial contributions of the fight for equality and diversity of feminisms that have definitively changed the way we see the world.
The exhibition also brought to mind the many ways that we have actually regressed in recent years. A woman's right to breastfeed her baby in public is a perfect example.
I went to the exhibit on a whim at the invitation of a friend - it was my first art exhibit after the birth of my son and I was a wary of hauling a newborn through a quiet “artsy” space. But I’m really glad we went; the exhibits were interesting and thought provoking. Even though I can’t say I understood exactly what every artist was trying to say, I appreciated the time and passion it took, and the freedom granted, to make it. Working in a creative field myself, I took a lot of inspiration from the work of these women. I breastfed my baby and walked through their expressions of struggle, defiance, achievement and solidarity, and really felt a connection; I’m not only defined by being a mother or artist. There’s room for art from all types of women in the world, and women like these have helped pave the way. Highly recommended!
- Casey Pierce - Writer and Teacher
The diversification of feminism
"The feminists of today are too plural to fit into a single narrative. In the almost fifty years that have gone by since the seventies, the subject of feminism has been opened up and the term “gender” introduced to indicate that sexual difference (men/women, masculine/feminine) is not natural but conditioned by culture, and that possible manifestations go beyond these opposing poles. The feminist movement has also increasingly joined forces with other fights against inequality: sexism cannot be taken apart from other forms of domination such as racism, homophobia and transphobia, speciesism, and disrespect for poor people or people who are considered disabled or foreign." (CCCB)
With the "Me Too" movement this diversification has never been more apparent. I am proud of the sharing of personal stories and truths that have come out during the evolution of Me Too. However, I can also see how the movement is being abused. In the digital, 'fake news' era anyone can make an accusation and have it go viral, whether it's true or not. I think this undermines the importance of the feminist movement and all of the progress that we've made in recent years. We shouldn't need to be victims in order to have our complaints and injustices heard.
No matter where we stand on the subject, one thing I know for sure is that we need to listen to each other and support women in their continued struggle for equality. There is still a lot of work to be done. And looking back at how far we've come and all of the hard work it has taken to get here is an important part of the process.
A big thanks to the CCCB for sharing this important collection of artwork!