Keep the IS in FEMINISM is a collection of new Feminist slogans commissioned for the Contemporary Art Gallery’s street front vitrines. For this project we invited prominent feminist artists along with emerging artists both female and male to “reinvent the ‘f’ word: feminism,” a directive taken from the renowned New York artist and activist collective Guerilla Girls.
Faith Ringold’s “Woman, Freedom, Now” from 1971 still has a resonant tone, but its sense of urgency has waned. We wanted a new round of slogans to capture that original urgency by inflecting the very notion of Feminism back into a contemporary conversation. It’s not only that women are under represented in politics and over represented as objects, it is that women, young and old, no longer identify themselves as feminists. Even with the best of intentions there has been a slow fading of “feminists” as we watch them slide into the history books.
In the last two years there has been an active looking back to feminist art practices of the 1970s. Two prominent references include the traveling block buster WACK: Art and Feminist Revolution, which was at the Vancouver Art Gallery. WACK elicited numerous responses from local artists and galleries such as Centre A’s TentEvent: Generating Exchange and Artspeak’s Persistence: An Archive of Feminist Practices. Also, Frieze magazine’s 2007 feminist issue gave a detailed look at historical feminist work as well as featured new activist practices. Renowned art critic Lucy Lippard declared at The Feminist Futures conference at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2007 that “we’ll be post-feminists when our goals have been met, and not before.” The return of Feminist discourse to the contemporary art table is not a surprise: the time is ripe to pay new attention to this now forty year old practice, to rejuvenate the terms of feminism to better understand what it has effectively achieved and lay out what still needs to be done.
The title of the exhibition was taken from the list of new slogans and is by Winnipeg-based writer, psychoanalyst and performer Jeanne Randolph. Sixteen slogans were displayed over two months. From November 21 to December 21, 2008 we featured slogans by Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby, Hadley + Maxwell, Randy Lee Cutler, Kelly Mark, Micah Lexier, Myfanwy Macleod, Isabelle Pauwels, Jeanne Randolph, and Martha Wilson, and from December 22, 2008 to January 18, 2009 we featured slogans by Kate Davis, Dave Dyment, Kristina Podesva, FASTWÜRMS, Kelly Mark, Jeanne Randolph, and Elizabeth Zvonar.
The Contemporary Art Gallery is generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the City of Vancouver and the Province of BC through the BC Arts Council, the BC Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch and the BC Arts Renaissance Fund which is administered by Vancouver Foundation. We are grateful for the support of Vancouver Foundation and our members, donors and volunteers.