You are here

Feminist demands in art and on the street

mumok insider

Feminist demands in art and on the street—for International Women’s Day on March 8

Social situations surrounding feminist demands, actions, and protests are currently being exacerbated across the globe. Discriminatory working conditions are being reinforced by the Corona crisis, and abortion rights, for example in Poland, are being debased and attacked to the detriment of women’s health—to name but two examples.

In 2021, the 100th international demonstration for women’s rights will take place on the streets and online on March 8 (often on March 19 previously): solidarity against discrimination based on gender and sexuality in patriarchal systems, against sexualized violence, femicide, homophobia, transphobia, racism, social injustice, and sexism, and against stereotypical ascriptions.

Much of what is designated, disseminated, and accepted as “natural” or “normal” correlates to white, male perspectives and systems. And it was with deliberations such as these that Linda Nochlin opened her 1971 text “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”* In it she formulated her answer, one which to this day remains fundamental: they cannot exist because it is not possible in a patriarchal society. No luminary emerges by their singular, individual capabilities, but rather is created socially: in institutions, educational establishments, and texts, through polyphonic speech, writing, and repetition—and the foundation for this is to be “white, preferably middle class and, above all, male.”

Some things have meanwhile made a positive turn, not least due to feminist, antiracist, and postcolonial intersectional critique—yet fundamentally the situation has not changed. Which leads to a further aspect of Nochlin’s essay: What understanding of art does the traditional cultivation of myths and luminaries promote? And from a feminist perspective, is an art that stands in opposition to these individualistic, hierarchical systems not viable or in demand? A question that today is particularly important to reflect upon and discuss and one that we will be engaging with during the Zoom tour Feministisch Betrachtet (From a Feminist Viewpoint) on March 12, 2021.

Since International Women’s Day is also about the street and because “the star” of Pop Art Andy Warhol is being exhibited, I’m presenting here the Straßenbilder Wien (Vienna Street Pictures) (1967) by and including Kiki Kogelnik, who, although she never counted herself as a Pop artist one, can be and is often regarded as one. In 1967, also with respect to feminist movements of the time, she roamed Vienna with her so-called Cut Outs. These bodily forms are cut outs of plastic sheeting following the outlines of friends and family members. In regard to concepts of the body and gender, technology, and commodities, Kogelnik’s work is extremely relevant and inspiring today. 

You can also see pictures by the feminist group DIE DAMEN (THE WOMEN; Ona B., Evelyn Egerer, Birgit Jürgenssen, and Ingeborg Strobl). Around 1990, this “agency for self-confident art by women” repeatedly attacked patriarchal structures in the arts (scene) and society, through interventions at exhibitions, performances, photo shoots, and publications. One of the founding members of the group, Ingeborg Strobl, is currently on display in a retrospective at mumok (until April 11, 2021). On April 8, 2021, at 6 p.m. we are also devoting a time slot to DIE DAMEN in our Facebook series #Gemeinsam Live in the exhibition Having LivedIngeborg Strobl.

Mikki Muhr

* Linda Nochlin, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?,” ARTnews 9 (1971), pp. 22–39 and pp. 67–71, available online here. The essay first appeared in the compendium Woman in Sexist Society: Studies in Power and Powerlessness (New York 1971) edited by Vivian Gornick and Barbara Moran.