Iconic Artworks by Feminists and Gender Activists
8 – 10 November 2018
In this conference, participants identified and explored a range of other works by feminists and gender activists that might be regarded as iconic in the sense that they have proved influential in particular contexts because of their relevance and distinctiveness. The topic was grounded in the understanding that the forms of art by feminists or LGBTI activists may have assumed, and their overall impact, differ from one geographical context to another. It was also underpinned by recognition that, given the momentous political and cultural shifts that have occurred since second-wave feminism began to exert impact on aesthetic practices in the United States, Britain and Western Europe, new works engaging with gender are necessarily inflected or shaped by different sets of concerns, whether these be related to the impact of the internet, social media and a digital age or new manifestations of violence, civil war and nationalism, threats to the environment or understandings of identity in the context of diasporas, for example.
"Mistress-Pieces" riffs on "Old Mistresses", the ironical term that Roszika Parker and Griselda Pollock used within the title of their important volume first published in 1981. This conference did not seek to develop a history of women artists in the west, however, but rather focused specifically on artworks informed by feminist and gender discourses that have emerged since the 1970s in an international context. By offering this perspective, it is hoped that this conference, and the edited book that is to follow it, will enhance recognition of not only commonalities but also contrasts between different manifestations of gender politics in the visual arts.
The conference took place at the offices of the SARChI Chair in South African Art and Visual Culture. There was a post-conference trip to the Artists' Proof Studio.
Brenda Schmahmann is editing a book of essays derived from selected papers presented at the conference, to be published by Routledge in 2021/2.
Click here for the Mistress-Pieces: Iconic Artworks by Feminists and Gender Activists Programme