Exquisite Acts and Everyday Rebellions: 2007 CalArts Feminist Symposium
California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California
March 10, 2007
“Third Wave Feminisms”
Panel speakers: María Cruz, Chitra Ganesh, Emily Roysdon, and Faith Wilding
Moderator: Theresa Masangkay
Theresa Masangkay: I’m Theresa Masangkay, an MFA art student here at CalArts. I’m very honored and excited to be moderating this panel on “Third Wave Feminisms,” a current dialogue of feminism today, which can often be quite confusing. I am also honored to be with these four incredible artists and thinkers.
I want to start by talking about my mom. My mom immigrated to Los Angeles in 1969. As she was assimilating into American society, there was a cultural revolution going on. My mom was not a part of [the women’s] movement but part of a movement of professional Filipina nurses moving to the U.S. looking for what they called “the American Dream,” taking with them the ideologies of the Catholic Church. Today, feminism for me is a journey, trying to cope with this history, trying to understand how to not only deal with the politics of being in a body that is gendered but a body that is racialized, displaced, and assimilated, concepts that I feel we can address at this panel. As an artist I feel compelled to deal with histories, not only of feminism but also of post-colonial theory, whiteness, and queerness. I’d like to see how these ideas can be recognized in the same context or understand how they influence each other.
I would like to give you the questions that I had sent to these panelists before coming here today:
- Is feminism for everybody?
- Is third-wave feminism defined by its greater inclusiveness, multiculturalism, and plurality?
- What is the role of gender and sexual identity in feminism today?
- How do questions of racial identities factor into third wave feminism?
- What is the role of feminism for women in the non-Western world?
- Have the conditions of the contemporary art world changed for women and/or feminist artists?
- What possibilities are opened up by cyberfeminism and net culture?
Hopefully we’ll be able to touch on some of these concepts although I realize a panel could be devoted to just one of these questions.
I will now read the artists’ bios and introduce each one. Then I will then ask María, Chitra, Faith, and Emily to speak for five to ten minutes, after which point I will open the discussion to the floor for the audience to have a dialogue with our panel.
María Cruz is a young queer Latina media artist based in Los Angeles. Her art and activism include producing two video poems through REACH LA, Queer Mexicana and Cruzando la Frontera, which have been screened nationally. In addition to her video work, María has been writing and producing poetic documentary, radio pieces, and acting as a radio journalist with Youth Radio. Currently, María is working with a queer youth activist organization, Q-Team, to develop an LGBT youth media justice workshop.
Chitra Ganesh was born and raised in New York City and currently lives and works in Brooklyn. Her work explores how memories, dreams, and their expression shape personal and social crisis. Recovering varied histories and circulating them into the public in contemporary contexts are critical to her drawing installations and text-based collaborations. Chitra was a board member of the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective and has taught middle and high school for the past ten years.
Faith Wilding is a multi-disciplinary artist, writer, and educator with a BA in Comparative Literature from the University of Iowa and an MFA from CalArts in 1973. Wilding is a Chair and Associate Professor of Performance at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Wilding was a co-founder of the Feminist Art Movement in Southern California, chronicled in her book, By Our Own Hands. Wilding has exhibited in solo and group shows for thirty years in the United States, Canada, Europe, Mexico, and Southeast Asia. Her work addresses the recombinant and distributed biotech body in various media including 2-D, video, digital media, installations, and performances. Wilding founded and collaborates with subRosa, a reproducible cyberfeminist cell of cultural researchers using bio art and tactical performances in the public sphere to explore and critique the intersections of information and biotechnologies in women’s bodies, lives, and work.
Emily Roysdon is a Los Angeles and New York-based interdisciplinary artist whose projects engage language, gesture, and memory. Imaging collectivity and communicatability as metonymic structures, her work tries to simultaneously exhibit ecstatic resistance and structural collapse. She is also an editor and co-founder of LTTR, a feminist queer gender artist collective with a flexible project-oriented practice. LTTR produces an annual independent art journal, performance series, events, screenings and collaborations.
María Cruz: What I wanted to start with is what it means to be a feminist, but I like to say a feminista because I am an immigrant; I come from Mexico City. I have lived here for about ten years so it’s been a half-life here and a half-life there. The feminism that identifies me is more the cultural background of my mother and my grandma. It was never defined as “feminism” up until college when you find out, “Oh, what’s ‘feminism’?” I see my mother and I see my grandma and they’re fierce women, who are full of life and struggling here and there, fighting. They said it’s a patriarchal type of thing with the machismo but in reality it is that mother, that strength that bears the child and raises the family all together. Therefore, it is a feminism in a way. It is not defined as feminism but it’s there. That’s what inspired me into later on identifying as a feminist, but I still don’t call it as my mother or my grandma would. Now I have a different definition but I see where I got it from. I learned to acknowledge that it’s from family background and back in the day, my grandma, my great-grandma, all of the strong women taught me to be who I am right now.
Regarding power and empowerment, and the definition of it, for me, obtaining power is an easy thing to do. Well people already have the power but, for me, to gain it as empowerment is the value that I sought in empowering myself. Becoming who I am, by enforcing that strength in myself and struggling up and down at my job, at my school, with my family, with my boyfriend, everything. That empowerment gives to me everyday rather than just having that identity of “I have power because...”
I personally would like to see more Latinas, more women here trying…like I said, it’s hard to identify the whole meaning of feminism when in your family background it is not identified. But throughout generations and nowadays with third wave feminism, it’s becoming more of a social awareness, a personal awareness, it’s here: Let’s stand up hermanas and sisters! Let’s just stand up and do it! I know that for later generations, it’s not going to be that unequalness of not having, of having that machismo culture that keeps us from going. I’m speaking towards my culture.
Chitra Ganesh: I have a few different interrelated points that I want to make and also there are questions that I would like for us to debate as a group and with the audience. So, the first thing that I wanted to talk about is my understanding of feminism and how the term is used today. I feel like it’s often used as an identity and I think of it more as an ideology or ideological position that is about critiquing certain kinds of social systems. I think that it is important to articulate oneself as a feminist but to also remember the kind of social critique that comes along with it rather than as a predetermined identity.
When I was asked to be on this panel I had to think about what my interactions with third wave feminism had been. What came to mind most immediately were texts that emphasized the importance of personal narratives to counteract what was seen as either mainstream or white women’s feminist narratives. I think that it’s very important to have a plurality of narratives that circulate and provide some kind of alternative or countercultural experience. But what was lacking for me in transnational feminism and other kinds of movements around anti-detention, anti-deportation, and anti-war [issues], was a connection between these personal stories and not a focus on the personal stories without necessarily an equivalent focus on the social or the discursive systems that produce those experiences. I think that is important because it would prevent us from reinscribing the “post-colonial subject” or the “person of color” as somebody who’s speaking from an authentic place of experience without necessarily a framework into which that experience can be located, analyzed, or critiqued.
Even though this wasn’t on our list of questions, I wanted to talk about the question of why somebody might or might not want to identify as a feminist. I think that just like there is a multitude of feminisms, there is also a plurality of reasons why people might not want to identify themselves as a feminist. That may range from someone who feels that this would inconveniently situate their practice in relation to a market-driven economy or it might also include a woman of color who feels that feminism is a white middle-class movement that doesn’t necessarily represent her own philosophical position or experience. It’s important to have a notion that there are different reasons out there why the term might not be taken on. But I think that feminism is for everybody.
I was also thinking about what Catherine Lord was saying earlier about feminism being a gendered term in that it’s gendered as “suspect” and “abject.” I would also include in that even “crippled” or “compromised” and therefore somehow in need of some kind of rescue or reappropriation by the mainstream and institutions. I bring that up because in the same way that feminism has been gendered and taken up as a cause for, say, this year’s mainstream art world trend, it’s also happening across disciplines and social sciences as well. I see this kind of engagement and fascination with feminism happening concurrently with a fascination and interest around what is called the “global self,” and I think that term is gendered in a very similar way. When I said “global self,” I didn’t really know what this term meant but I think it’s the new term for “third world” and it’s basically to talk about everybody’s participation in globalization. So I just wanted to point out that it’s happening here and it’s happening in the art world but it’s also happening in other disciplines in the humanities.
Faith Wilding: Okay, you are probably wondering why I’m up here. I’m here because I asked to be on this panel. When Audrey [Chan] invited me to be on a panel, I said, “I don’t want to be in the history panel.” I’m so tired of being on the history panel. You know, the feminist project is not over. I’ve been teaching feminism for the last thirty years and our work is still so much at the beginning in so many ways. I’m on the endless wave, that’s all I can say. We keep talking about this “intergenerational” thing but we keep having these panels that are not intergenerational. I saw a conference at the University of Chicago a couple of years ago, [“Back to the Future: Generations of Feminism”], which was about generations of feminism, but they only had one generation at that conference. It was all of the big old names, you know, Kate Millett and Gayatri Spivak, and I think the youngest person was maybe Judith Halberstam, but there were no actual younger women, young women like the wonderful ones on this panel. I felt that was a real lack of practicing what we’re trying to preach, which is getting together with people who are not like you and who don’t have the same experience as you do.
I teach a course called “Next Feminisms” at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and it’s usually very packed with very performative people of many different genders, and I have some words of praise for them. In the words of one of my mentors, Luce Irigaray, “I hear you. I see you. I perceive you. I listen to you. I watch you. I am astonished by you. I love to you.” And Irigaray says, “The community will be composed of relations between, and not of one plus one plus one.” I have another couple of juicy quotes from Avital Ronell from the book, Research: Angry Women, which is a fantastic book: “Feminism is a force of intensity. It has to disrupt all officially chartered maps. It calls for the re-mapping of relationships. Everything has to be called into question, including the possibility of love. This is a big, ambitious, crucial project that breaks with what is traditional or ossified. If feminism is anything, it has to be a call and a rigorous call for justice.” And we’ve all confessed to each other up here that we don’t actually know what third-world feminism is, and some of us hadn’t heard of it. I’m sorry, third wave feminism. We could talk about third-world feminism…
Chitra Ganesh: I think we’re going to talk about that.
Faith Wilding: My slip of the tongue—third wave feminism. I was ironically and nastily saying, “Oh yeah, that’s ‘do me’ feminism, isn’t it?” because that’s what people like Naomi Wolf and so on came to be called for a while, as I recall. These are all interweaving strands and Catherine [Lord] made some very nice oceanic references and I think those work well.
I’ve been working for about ten years now with various groups of people who call themselves “cyberfeminists.” In Europe, The Old Boys’ Network, for example, started using this model and they took it quite seriously even though it was sort of an ironic name. All the people in this network were white and European and I was the only one of my age and at first they would not accept me because they said I was an old-style ‘70s feminist who really didn’t belong in the future. Literally, they said that. So that was a challenge to me and for a while I swept the floors and did the dishes and had to prove myself and of course you know I’m not very tech savvy. But to me, cyberfeminism beyond its initial sort of very utopian beginnings where people really had this idea that you could go on the Net and you could be who you wanted to be and any gender and you didn’t have to think of racism and sexism and all those nasty things that hold us back as women, as feminists. Once we got over that euphoric moment, I think cyberfeminism actually does have some validity to it and is actually a way of reaching many people, particularly younger people in very different countries and very different places through this new medium of communication, the Internet. In fact, that is the place where many people first encounter feminism and any kind of knowledge about feminism. So it’s incredibly important to have a critical, political, and activist feminism represented on the Net and actively happening on the Net.
SubRosa was just in a really big cyberfeminism show in Castellón, Spain, which is near Valencia, and there were people from all over the world in it, women from very different places and ages. I just wanted to read you a little quote from the catalogue statement. It was curated by this young woman curator from Madrid, [Ana Martínez-Collado], and the show was called “CyberFem: Feminisms on the Electronic Landscape.” She wrote in her curatorial statement in part: “The exhibition is conceived as an expanded territory, a hybrid space of creation and activism, constructed using new digital technologies. To speak of cyberfeminism today, feminism plus Internet plus art plus activism, is to speak of experimental creation, communication, interactivity, research, and association. The Internet is now consolidated as a space of visibilization of women from a multi-faceted plurality of directions.” Maybe that’s not quite true but we did encounter an incredible variety of subjects, many of which have actually been mentioned today already, issues that deeply concern women all over the world. There was an incredible project there about trafficking of women because a Spanish artist had actually tracked a very strong trafficking route that goes right through the town in which we were exhibiting and she had made an incredible map that made all these connections. There were so many issues about labor and economics and race and sexism in so many different ways represented in that “CyberFem” show. That made me really happy because, for a while there, it looked like feminism had actually been excised from cyberfeminism, in the way that I understand feminism.
Emily Roysdon: I came today just hoping to see what the experience of being here with all these people would be. I’m sure that I was asked to be on this panel specifically because of my involvement in a very active gender queer feminist community and also because I am a great proponent and I think probably an example of the legacy of the feminisms that are being exhibited and historicized at this moment. But like the rest of the people [on this panel] we all have questions about the generational divide and issues of the waves, which makes me wonder why we continue to use these terms if none of us agree that they are useful or that they specifically situate us in ways that we’re comfortable.
I think one of the things that I did want out of today’s discussion for my very own personal experience—I do these panels a lot and I don’t want anything. Sometimes you feel like, “What’s going to happen?” There are so many subject positions, so many things to talk about. Today, I decided to want something. I think that I would love, very personally, to talk about the experience of collectives over time, about different ways that we’ve learned to work together. Looking at the audience and the panel, we all face drama and institutionalization all the time in the things that we try to do. Is there any way that this can be avoided or celebrated? I’m not sure. That’s a question. I think we’re at that position right now.
One of the things that I am using as a tool right now to think about this is something I used most recently to [do writing] in relation to my mentor hero called Eqbal Ahmad. He wrote a text a long time ago called, “How to Tell When the Rebels Have Won.” I was thinking about what’s happening with the “WACK!” explosion and other things right now, and I thought, a lot of things are being exhibited that Eqbal had cited as examples of how to tell when the rebels have won, as strategies—people are repulsed by this word, I love this word, like “queer strategies.” So one of the things that happens, Eqbal says is, “We out-administer. We don’t out-fight. We build parallel hierarchies. We systematically rebuild public institutions.” This happens as part of what feminism has done over the last many years. One more thing is that I think that there is a breadth of language that has developed that we could also all agree has been a great change over the years, so that we can have these kinds of conversations. The one most important thing to say is that obviously no revolution has been won. The best thing that could happen from the “WACK!” show is that we all make more and you decide who is not in the show that you wish was, and we’re going to have a moment for that in a second. And, yes, that this is about personal experience.
One thing that I want to do and I think this is my one good idea here, is that I want to take a moment, and I’m going totally to out myself as a student of Mary Kelly’s although I planned this before she spoke this morning, where we, and I’m going to demand that this is performative because we were talking about it, and I was maybe going to do this feminist collective thing where we vote about how we want to do this, but I am just going to impose this on you. In one second, I want everybody to stand up and make a demand. So I’m going to give you an example, and if you’re shy you can just use my example. I’m going to make a demand that I want feminism to be the best example of accepting all kinds of bodies and radical bodies. You could make a demand that there are collectors for feminist and queer art. You could ask for good sex. Or you could make a list of all the people you wish had exhibitions, and you were really able to see more kinds of aesthetics than regular. So, we’re going to stand up and please humor me. I want everybody to stand up and really just all at once, and if this doesn’t work, this is terrible, okay? Okay, ready? One! Two! Three!
(Audience stands up and shouts demands)
I think that was pretty good, you guys. So yeah, that was it. Good job! Now let’s talk about all those things.
Faith Wilding: Do we believe feminism is for everybody? Feminism is for everybody! Yes! (raises arms and cheers)
Emily Roysdon: We do.
Faith Wilding: We do. We believe it.
Emily Roysdon: It truly is. That’s our greatest gift, that as this generation and I think the one before us, although we get to have new ideas when they’re presented to us as problems, we all know that every one of the struggles that we’re speaking of are interrelated. And nobody here is going to disagree with that. Or, speak up!
Chitra Ganesh: I think that the other trouble with the “waves” is that they imply a certain…well, they’re very American and they also imply a narrative of progress. It’s this idea that we’re progressing linearly along some paths of feminism, and we’ve now achieved some kind of higher plane. It leaves out a lot of other kinds of feminisms that are going on simultaneously that have not been taken into the fold.
Faith Wilding: And we might even have trouble remembering…we need to come up with a bibliography of decent writing about the third wave. If there’s no bibliography, it’s suspicious. Does anybody want to say something about the third wave?
Audience (Jesse Aron Green): I’m not sure this is really a response to anything specific you guys have said, but if the tone of the first panel today seemed to surround ideas and discussions around melancholy, Emily’s performance really indicates that there’s something celebratory about the tone of what’s happening here. I just wanted to know if you guys could speak about that and if that is somehow indicative of how you feel about you, or what’s happening now?
Theresa Masangkay: (to panel) How do people think about feminism being celebratory and today’s ideas around feminism as something that is positive and moving?
Emily Roysdon: This is just again life experience. I perform enthusiasm and it’s natural to me. I also think that there’s something in the way, for example, LTTR organizes, which is not a protest movement, it’s an example of how we would like things to be. We create different kinds of spaces with innumerable participants.
Chitra Ganesh: When you asked the question about “celebratory,” I was thinking about the work that I’ve been doing with the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective and this is actually the tenth year that it’s been around, and we’re going to have our tenth anniversary, and we’re going to be doing an exhibit that will be all collaborative and participatory works that are going to be created for the show. Things like that definitely make me excited to see how this kind of organic convening of people who were interested in exploring the same ideas in a café or in someone’s basement actually transformed into a sustainable practice that incorporates a lot of different bodies and strategies. I was also thinking that sometimes the "celebratory" thing can be self-congratulatory, and I find that part of it annoying.
Faith Wilding: To pick up on Avital Ronnel’s words, “affirmation” for me is a better word, Jesse, than “celebration.” There are a lot of things to celebrate and there certainly has been celebration going on in the last two weeks but one of the most moving things to me about the opening of the “WACK!” show was actually getting together again with a lot of the feminist artists, many of whom I hadn’t seen for twenty-five years or something like that and to see what incredibly steadfast lives there have been and struggle and adherence to principles and values over such as long stretch of time. People were still working, people still had this very affirmative relationship to the world and to their lives and were still activists, many of them. Some of this is not really reflected in the exhibition, which is full of really amazing and beautiful objects. But a lot of the back-story of the kind of activist involvement out of which a lot of this work comes and the context in which it was made is not visible in the installation. So there was a feeling that our presence as artists—and it came out well in that tour [of “WACK!”] that Catherine [Lord] and Jennifer [Doyle] organized—was really important to say that it’s not really a celebration, it’s an affirmation of the struggle.
Audience: I have a comment about third wave feminism. The problem for me is that I associate this term actually with the early ‘90s and 1994 when I was a sophomore in college and heard Bikini Kill for the first time. That seemed like third wave feminism. But it was also the moment of “bad girls” and soon “riot grrrls” were transformed into “Spice Girls.” So I very much appreciated the comment about progression because it doesn’t make any sense to me to think that we are progressing in a linear manner. I don’t have a term that could be used to talk about new feminism but I wanted to propose the model of the Marxist notion of uneven development as a way of thinking about feminism, that there is an uneven development that has taken place globally and also here across class lines and geographically. Many of us talk about our mothers perhaps [because] many of us had mothers who were feminist, but I certainly didn’t. Anyway, that’s just one way of talking about non-linear progression.
Audience: Earlier, I think it was Andrea [Fraser] who spoke about an idea of feminist methodologies and when Leslie [Dick] showed the work that had gone on here in the ‘70s, that was pretty amazing, a group show that was not only all female and under the guise of feminism but also all conceptual. Chitra, when you were speaking, you were talking about a kind of investigative, interrogative approach to work and to art and other kinds of discourse or other kinds of disciplines. I’m wondering if you would talk a little about this notion of a feminist methodology or methodologies and how that also might include this idea of the collective or anything else.
Chitra Ganesh: Well, I think the importance of collective and collaborative and participatory work is especially crucial now in terms of [the historical emphasis] on the singular male artist and the idea of genius but also how that gets played out now in terms of the market and creating art stars and in terms of what kinds of books get published. Having those models is a way to resist the trend of focusing on an individual’s ability to shine light on a broader range of issues for the people and enlighten them or emancipate them. It challenges what I see as a mainstream or a dominant emphasis on shaping a certain kind of personality or figure that might be palatable to the market or to passive consumers, and molds this person into a set of ideas or as a concept that can be distributed and sold. These ideas, when you work collectively or in a participatory way, are dispersed and multiplied and they’re not uniformly articulated.
Faith Wilding: In relationship to the “WACK!” show, there has been some discussion of the fact that there aren’t [wall] labels, that there isn’t adequate contextualization of how a lot of these works arose, and where and how they were made, that perhaps that pushes them again into a more “museumy” “art worldy” kind of discourse of, this work holds up, this work doesn’t hold up, this work is good, and this work is not so good, which perhaps at that time wasn’t a relevant discussion about a lot of the work. I think Catherine [Lord] was alluding to that in what she was saying earlier today. So one of the important things is how do we continue now to talk about feminist art in a way that takes into account both its critical and activist past and the fact that it’s entering a different sort of world now.
A lot of young feminist artists are looking to that tradition—it’s a tradition now, whoa—or are looking to that early making, and I see it all around [this exhibition] in a lot of these works. Then I ask myself, “Are these works ironic? Are these works an homage? Are these works sly and humorous?” For example, those works over there [Matrilineal (2007) by Emily Eklund] which I find quite stupendous, when I saw those, I went, "Oh my god." I remember back in Fresno when we were trying to formulate this cunt alphabet and Judy Chicago was sitting there with colored construction paper, cutting and pasting and making a cunt alphabet, which looked very much like that. But I think she destroyed it. I don’t think anybody ever saw it. It’s really interesting to me how these tropes keep coming back and so I’m wondering if we’re beginning to get this kind of meta commentary on the aesthetics as well as the politics of feminist art through this remaking and this echoing.
Audience (Millie Wilson): I’m Millie Wilson and I would like to say, first of all, that I have experienced multiple waves today and that’s good. I thought we might have been drowning earlier but maybe not. What I want to talk about, because I teach also, and some of us did at one time or another, and to me I think that so much of this has to be a pedagogical issue because the conditions of the production of that work often do not get addressed, and I’m including this place. I’ve been here twenty years and it’s still a struggle. There is just so much embedded masculine privilege, basically, and ignorance. So I’d like for someone to please talk about how we can on a day to day basis deal with this because I’ve found that in my classes, just talking about subjects like this, whether it’s queerness or color or whatever, is virtually impossible and I think that a lot of other teachers may feel unwilling to engage it because it is such a gnarly mess. So if someone could please, let’s just talk about what we can do everyday.
Theresa Masangkay: I went to a panel in New York for the College Art Association. It was moderated by Coco Fusco and she opened up with saying that she’s tired of having students run to her almost crying about how other students are upset with them because they’re making the kind of work that they’re making, whether it deals with their identity or that it doesn’t just conform to a formal read of their work. She was describing students who had asked another student to have a meeting out of the classroom to discuss why…to basically tell this person that they need to stop making the work that they’re making, work that deals with identity. And, I don’t know, I feel it in my classrooms. I feel that when I present the kind of work that I make that I get hit with harder questions and specific questions dealing with, why is this important to you, you don’t have to make this kind of work, and I think those questions are very annoying questions because I feel that other work basically doesn’t have to answer to those questions.
Audience (Millie Wilson): I just wanted to say that there is a chilling effect. It’s one of those really subtle things that happens, and it happens on a number of fronts. It’s not even a matter of saying, “Don’t do this.” It’s just a matter of not engaging it, and not engaging it over and over again and also saying, “We’ve done that. That’s over now.” I’m really interested in more students speaking about their experience in this regard because I certainly have talked to a lot of people who are crying.
Chitra Ganesh: I think that one of the things that one of my professors in grad school said that was really interesting and informative was this idea of the structure of critique as sport and replicating a model of one-upmanship, of a way of taking up space, of a masculine kind of authority asserting itself when you are talking about the work. I just bring this up because I think that it’s—I don’t teach on the college level, I teach high school—but I think that paying attention to those dynamics that are at play in the conversation and what seem to be more subtle power differentials that happen when people speak or make seemingly benign comments or comments that are supposed to be helpful. It’s important to investigate those social conditions of talking and speaking and a conversation as much as the object itself.
Emily Roysdon: I was recently asked to participate in an experimental classroom situation and I went on several days besides my own day. And these are all people from different parts of life but largely people who have [been] overeducated and are choosing to then do another kind of school. I was seriously shocked that nobody, none of the other teachers who had preceded me—I mean for the very few that attended—noticed that all the boys were talking. I was shocked. It was really not casual. So, the very first thing I did was say that each time something happened, everyone in the room responded. And once people got used to hearing each other’s voices, there was more fluidity and other people were able to speak. But I was genuinely shocked.
Faith Wilding: In terms of feminist pedagogy, you know, we talked about this a lot in the Feminist Art Programs [at CSU Fresno and CalArts] and people had very different ideas about it. I would not necessarily say that that was a situation without authoritarian heavyweight power being thrown around in various ways. To try to hear everybody’s voice was a really difficult thing. I teach classes and I always consider my classroom a feminist classroom no matter what I’m teaching. So there are always certain things that I just take for granted: everybody’s going to speak, people are going to listen, there’s going to be respect for what people say. I find that you can’t necessarily take that for granted in today’s classroom, if you ever could. A simple thing like a European student walking into class and coming up and greeting the teacher changed my whole class. All of a sudden people were greeting each other when they came into the room and recognizing each other, acknowledging each other, in a way that really changed the class dynamics and class relationships and I try very consciously to make sure that we hear from everybody on a regular basis. So, I think there are a lot of things that we just have to do, Millie. You can’t take it for granted that it’s just going to happen. It seems like we have to really think about and talk about this very openly. This is what’s necessary to do. It’s necessary to listen. It’s necessary to be respectful. It’s necessary to acknowledge each other, to welcome each other, also in critiques. When you have a critique situation like we have at the [School of the] Art Institute [of Chicago], where we have critique week and there are five heavyweight teachers with one student in the room, people start vying with each other for who can say the cleverest thing. That’s just not right. It’s not acceptable.
Emily Roysdon: Something that’s just come up over and over and over again in these conversations is the value of shared experience. I was in an active community when I went back to college and the kinds of conversations you have in classrooms are so different and really not necessarily always the kinds of things that you learn from. When I think about what María does and all the kinds of work that we all do, it’s when we teach each other and also it’s this thing about experience, it’s the difference between us being on a panel or having roundtable discussions. Like, what kind of meet and greet would be a different model for learning from each other and expressing different kinds of views? That offers no answer to any question but it’s constantly what I keep thinking about.
Audience (Dorit Cypis): Can I ask something from here? I’ve been teaching, myself, in and out for the last thirty years and I have found quite a flatness in the discussion of pedagogy. We don’t really discuss pedagogy. I don’t think most of us are very trained in pedagogy and understanding strategies. I recently completed another study in conflict resolution and found some very useful tools, perhaps to add to this discussion, for example, listening. Listening itself is a very complex mode of sensory awareness. There are many different levels to listening. Two obvious ones, at least in conflict resolution, are active listening versus passive listening. Most of us listen passively and reflexively. That is, listen to where it is like us, where it reflects back onto our own experience and interiority and project that back out. Active listening is actually recognizing who is speaking and from where one is hearing what is being said. There is a lot of ground to cover between just those two poles and that is in itself many subtle layers of pedagogy. So, I think we don’t really discuss pedagogy. It’s a huge canon that is undiscovered, certainly in the teaching of art as I’ve known it in the many universities I’ve taught in, both in the Midwest and in the south of California. For a lot of my peers, of no fault of anybody’s own, we have not been taught pedagogy. We’ve been taught art. That doesn’t mean we know how to critique the subtleties of the act of teaching.
Audience (Michelle Dizon): I was very glad for Faith’s invocation of Irigaray’s “I love to you” because of course what is so essential within Irigaray’s formation is the “to,” the question of how can I say “I love you” without appropriating you? And thus the “to” in a sense offers a distance from that appropriation. I think this is a question of what we’re calling “feminism” here, which is how Mary Kelly began her talk. How is it that a feminism can offer a form of community without speaking for? What has been very profound for me on this panel has been a communication of the complexity of trying to address what feminism is alongside questions of migration and racialities. What I heard again and again was a kind of silencing, especially from the first young woman [María Cruz] who spoke, that there was a way in which you felt that the term “feminism” maybe didn’t include you. I guess I just wanted to hear more about that, if you would want to share that difficulty. I think it’s a really productive difficulty and if we’re going to speak about what the future of this thing we’re calling “feminism” is, it certainly has to account for those silences. Since we’re talking about this question of what third wave is, for myself, it was actually about reading a lot of texts that dealt with precisely these complexities that you’re speaking of and in particular texts that brought together works by women of color in the United States: This Bridge Called My Back[: Writings by Radical Women of Color], Gloria Andalzúa, bell hooks, Angela Davis. In my own experience, it was those kinds of texts that offered for me the very beginnings of an articulation for which I had no words at the time. They found me.
María Cruz: I mentioned before that feminism, at the beginning, did not define me. It’s true. Growing up in a culture where you didn’t hear [about] feminism and if you speak of feminism, it was something that defined white middle class women who fought for that. While they were fighting for that, my grandma was working in a sweatshop or doing something else that had nothing to do with that for her. Therefore, feminism later on was not there for me. It didn’t define me. It didn’t define my culture. Up until learning about it, as you say, looking into books, having those women of color writing about it, it becomes something that is not only for white women, it’s for everyone. Acknowledging that, it just made me realize, feminism is for women, feminism is for trans women, it’s global like so many other people have said, it’s for everyone. But it is a struggle because the information, the teaching is not there, it wasn’t there.
Emily Roysdon: One of the things in [Michelle’s] evocation of those texts and what [María] just said, is thinking about what potentially third wave feminism would be. It would be about the different kinds of bodies and the fact that feminism has always addressed simultaneous injustices. Specifically now in this third wave, other bodies are visible and are able to find feminisms that fit them. I don’t think that it’s always a question of how far feminism goes to reach what we’re looking for but it’s about things becoming available for people to find themselves in.
Audience (Eungie Joo): As someone who was taught too much pedagogy, I want to ask about the ways—and this is actually not as aggressive as it may sound—but I want to ponder the question of the way in which we’re being disciplined by the university, very specifically, as well as the museum with regards to this concept of "feminism." María, you say that it didn’t apply to you or it wasn’t there for you until you read enough to understand that it did apply to you. You say it didn’t apply to your culture but your culture is also changed by the university, by all of us who have been overeducated. I want to know if you have any comments about the disciplining effects of the university.
Faith Wilding: One of the big hopes for feminism, of feminism, was that we were going to change all of the basic patriarchal institutions. We were going to render them useless: the church, the state, the family, we can add the university, the art world. Obviously we have done some damage, but to break down these structures, these institutions, you’re challenging the very deep structures of patriarchy itself. That’s a very long battle and I think again and again it seems an overwhelming responsibility to be a feminist faculty—and they can be of all genders—to keep this as strongly in mind as possible all the time because the current is so against it. Every meeting you sit in, every critique you’re in, every classroom, every situation with a student. It’s so deeply ingrained, it’s so naturalized how we are supposed to relate to each other. This is what is so amazing to me about Irigaray’s writing is how she analyzes that and begins to try to figure out ways in which we can break that down through this language and through the ways we listen to each other and the ways we actually relate to each other in space. It affects everything; it affects our bodies, our body language, the way we dress, the way we speak to each other. It’s very deep what you’re talking about, Eungie, it’s just really deep. It applies so much also to difference of every kind and how to listen to it and how to engage with it productively. All I can say is, sure, we’re incredibly disciplined and in the constant rebel model, at least I am. You get punished a lot, but what are you going to do?
Chitra Ganesh: What came to mind with what María was saying and what [Eungie] was talking about was the university changing your social position or a certain social mobility acquired in cultural capital that may put you in a different place from where you came from. All of that definitely has a great impact, and there also seems to be a trend towards professionalization, and really specific higher study that is isolated maybe from other disciplines. If there were more conversation or more cross-pollination between disciplines, I might have realized sooner than five years after I finished college that feminism was as much tied to land and water and housing as it was to many of the other things that I read about. I think the disciplining happens by keeping people within their discipline. That is true of art and artists, and artists who talk to other artists and make art about art and about the art world, which is all great but there could be other things too that spice it up.
Audience (Nancy Buchanan): I’d like to ask María if you could give us a couple of concrete descriptions of some of the workshops or projects that you’ve done, which is a kind of teaching outside of the institution.
María Cruz: I made two videos, one of them is Queer Mexicana, which speaks mostly for a description of who I am. It doesn’t only identify myself as a feminist or a queer woman. It also defines myself as an immigrant, Latina, a young woman, and it’s like a collage of myself. Everything that I write is just to portray who I am. I know there are many other women that identify [as I do], it’s not only one identity, but many. There’s also another video called Cruzando la Frontera which means “crossing the border.” It portrays what it was like to cross the border as a Mexican immigrant coming to the United States at the age of ten, what’s the experience, what’s the other view. In the news, you always see the other type of view of [immigrants] crossing the border on a hill or in this way, but what does it mean to a ten-year-old? What does it really mean, “crossing the border”? When I was ten years old, it meant a game and just going to see my parents and I would have to disguise myself as Whitney, or whatever name I had at that point. I made those videos just to reflect who I am and to speak to others and to [portray] the other perspective and not what the media portrays on T.V. I just want to make a difference in a real type of portrait of what I see. There are a lot of things that we see on T.V. and we don’t all identify with that. Therefore, I try to make things that will be, oh, I identify with that, oh, I see that in me. I don’t see a model who is white, blonde, blue eyes at a college, Ivy league school, I don’t see that, that’s not me. I want to write and portray something that identifies myself and other sisters.
Right now, I’m working on a video workshop for social justice, for other teenagers who don’t have access to art. They don’t know how to use a camera, therefore, how are they going to be doing this work if they don’t know how to do that? So if I acquired that knowledge, then I’m going to share it. We’re doing some workshops and we’re working with teenagers, young people who want to make videos, who want to make things, and portraying things that we don’t see on T.V., things that we want to see now on T.V.
Audience (Liz Glynn): I’m wondering if people on the panel could address the issue of feminism’s shifting targets. In terms of addressing issues of the market and institutions, one thing that strikes me is the fact that over the last ten or twenty years, often in the case of gallery owners, it’s a lot of women that are making the decisions about who’s getting exhibited and who gets a museum retrospective, for example. I’m wondering if people could talk about the changing nature of these institutions and how we can continue to further a specifically feminist political agenda?
Emily Roysdon: I’m not sure exactly what you asked because in terms of women having positions of power, we all know how sometimes what happens is that you mime the power that you are given and you make different kinds of decisions. I felt like at a certain point you began the question by saying “shifting targets.” Do you mean that feminism changes its mind about…
Audience (Liz Glynn): I’m asking more about how one can address these issues when a quick answer to the question would be, but it was a woman, a female curator, or a female gallery director who made the decision to show this artist, or something.
Emily Roysdon: Like we all know, just because someone is a man or a woman doesn’t mean that they’re not a feminist or anything in between. Especially in the realm of aesthetics, when people are expressing their personal taste, and especially in regards to politics or people making specific declarations, then you’ll encounter every kind of dribble.
Audience (Catherine Lord): Okay, well, two things that I was thinking, one is that there seems to be a tendency in this room to separate feminist art from the people actually in this room. Just to say the obvious, to do this event is feminist practice. It is feminist art. It’s not about it; it is it. The other thing is just about the issue of pedagogy. If you look at the “WACK!” show, it’s really fascinating the ways in which you can trace self-education and learning. I just remembered this thinking about feminist education, whatever that may be, and the connection of feminism with other liberation movements is that for me exactly the time that I was in college, a completely male bastion of privilege, was also the time that there were so many strikes and demonstrations that really for the last three years of my college education; I was barely ever in school. That, I think, really enabled a kind of pedagogy and a very clear lesson about what not to take seriously at all.
Faith Wilding: At that point, I was at Fresno State University and we were founding programs like crazy, at the free university we started the first feminist class. There were Black Studies and Chicano studies going on. We were all in coalitions together, constantly meeting together. I too spent a great deal of time on the picket line, so I got a D in my Race and Ethnic Relations class, which is to me such an incredible irony, and I kept feeling that I should have gotten an A for all of the actual activist work I was doing. I was draft canceling, I was marching with the Black Panthers, I should have gotten an A for that. The actual life experience that was going on was so much more valuable than a lot of the classes that we were sitting in. The fact that we were able to constantly discuss all of this together and to actively work through it, both theoretically and practically, was incredibly invaluable to me.
Audience (Anna Huff): I have formulated forty different questions that keep shifting around. I came from a really alternative…I came from Olympia, Washington, which was an extremely exciting place to be, there were a lot of conversations going on. I think there was a sense that the women kind of ruled there and that created these side issues or debates. What I found when I left was this sense that I have to constantly remind myself that there are a lot of problems with how we think about the economy of being an artist, of being a woman. Even at CalArts, this idea of specialization and the idea of genius and how it’s so hard for us to actually think ideologically about things. I think we are institutionalized and I have to ask myself, will I take a risk and try to stand on a space that is a web of language that I’m comfortable with? Emily, I know you use the word “strategy” and that you said you liked that word. What would be some strategies, if you have thoughts about that, to create spaces that have power, like alternative schools? Why are there not more alternative higher education spaces? Or, how do you create a space that feels powerful in a world where we’re conditioned to really not think in that way or in terms of localized communities, or just the space that happens outside of institutions? That may have been all over the place, but maybe that can go somewhere.
Emily Roysdon: That was all over the place in terms of thinking about different structures and energies in different communities. You spoke about power and strategies. I don’t really know. I don’t know what you want to know. Like, how does everybody do something each time they do it? Why is each school created? Because there is a need and because people take great pleasure in what they do and sometimes make sacrifices. My answer, generally, is to try to get as much pleasure out of what you do as possible because that’s the only way that it’s going to be sustained and that you’re probably not going to get a lot of money. I think it’s the deep need for connection and general life experience. I’ve always considered art to be labor; it’s what I want to do with my time, with how I want to do things, and so I think every decision you make in regards to your activities and your friends and your community, all of those things become the body of your practice. If you need to make a school, that’s what’s going to satisfy you, or be a performance artist, I don’t really know. I threw that in more places than you even asked.
Chitra Ganesh: I was actually participating in this conversation with Martha Rosler, and one of the things that she had talked about was this idea of the pilot light that’s always lit and the slow burn and having some kind of an understanding of the long term effect or figuring out your long term goals rather than trying to get everything done right away, and just having a vision. I think that, in addition to the pleasure, is something that sustains a lot of activist efforts too, in this day in age, of “his majesty, the baby,” as [Christine Wertheim] said.
Faith Wilding: My students sometimes say, “God, I wish we could have the ‘60s again. That was so cool!” I always say, “You know, the ‘60s didn’t just happen. They were made.” We all worked damn hard and the feast is all around you. You can do it wherever you are and it really depends on what are you willing to risk? What are you willing to pay for? Because you know, if you want to play, you’ve got to pay. That’s still the way it is, but it can really be worth it. I’m in my first full-time tenure track position, I actually got tenure, and I waited until almost the end of my teaching career to actually belong to an institution in the way that I now “belong” to the [School of the] Art Institute [of Chicago]. I just felt so uncomfortable that I was going to be sucked into that against my will, against my knowledge. And maybe I have been sucked in. It’s as Emily was saying, in a way you choose to stand your ground. What you could think about is, what is going to happen at CalArts when we all go home tonight? What is going to happen next week? I know there’s a fervor and an excitement right now and I can tell you, it’s a hundred percent different than when I was here for the “F-Word” conference [in 1998]. I’ve been doing critiques on campus and I spoke on campus and it was so different. I feel a big difference already here. So what are you all going to do tomorrow or next week? When it’s exam time or final show time or review time? Are you just going to fall back into the routine that you were in, good or bad, or is there a way to sustain?
Audience: How is it different, Faith?
Faith Wilding: How is it different? People actually know something about the feminist past of CalArts. Remember in the “F-Word” [conference] they told us they discovered it because it landed in the garbage. So that’s really different. People actually took a class on Womanhouse and the Feminist Art Movement and people were very excited about feminism. So in many ways, it just feels very different, the atmosphere, this show, you know, it feels different. Is it only skin deep? I don’t mean to offend these incredible students who have been doing this, because I don’t think it is skin deep, but you know this is where you have to deal with it for real.
Theresa Masangkay: I want to thank you, everyone on this panel, Emily, Chitra, Faith, María, for having this conversation. It’s great. And I wanted to respond to Anna [Huff] and tell her that she was a part of something. She did two performances of aerobics and was a part of Exquisite Acts and Everyday Rebellions, which started through a conversation between Audrey and Nancy Buchanan. I was living with them at the time in their living room, and we just got out a notebook and it was like, we just want to invite these people and have a conversation. It grew to this exhibition, it grew to [Anna] performing and all these other performers, it grew to the Graphic Design department doing such a wonderful job, and everyone coming [together] collectively and I see the dialogue that’s happening here at CalArts and I think it just happens really small with something that you did with a couple of friends. For me right now, it’s really great to see that.
Audience (Anna Huff): Do you feel like you guys broke the rules of the school, though?
Theresa Masangkay: It’s hard to see what’s happened from this perspective because this is my first time doing public speaking, and I’m kind of overwhelmed. So maybe after I step back, I’ll be able to give you that answer.
||MARIA CRUZ is a young Queer Latina media artist based in Los Angeles. Her arts and activism include producing two video poems “Queer Mexicana” and “Cruzando La Frontera” through REACH LA which have screened nationally in various film festivals including OUTFEST 2005 & 2006, Fusion – Los Angeles Film Festival for Queer People of Color 2006, the Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival 2006. Maria has presented her videos to Queer youth audiences at the Models of Pride Conference at Occidental College, The LOVE Conference - Manual Arts High School, Pitzer College and LA Freewaves. Her video poem "Queer Mexicana" is featured on REACH LA's Qycrashpad.com website.
In addition to her video work, Maria has been writing and producing poetic documentary radio pieces and acting as a radio journalist with Youth Radio. Her radio documentaries have been podcast through the Youth Radio website and have aired on public radio stations nationally. Currently Maria is working with the Queer youth activist organization Q-Team to develop an LGBT youth media justice workshop. Maria's media artwork focuses on issues of immigration, feminism and Latina Queerness.
qycrashpad.com | reachla.com
||CHITRA GANESH was born and raised in New York City, and currently lives and works in Brooklyn. Her work explores how memories, dreams, and their repression shape personal and social crises. Recovering buried histories circulating them into a public and contemporary context are critical to her drawing, installation, and text-based collaborations, A graduate of Brown University (1996), and MFA from Columbia University in 2002, she received awards from the College Art Association, Astraea Foundation, and NYFA. From 1998-2003, Chitra was a Board Member of the South Asian Women's Creative Collective (SAWCC), and has taught middle and high school for the past ten years. Her work has been shown locally and internationly, including The Queens Museum of Art, Bronx Museum, White Columns, Apex Art, Exit Art, Asia Society, Fondazione Sandretto in Turin, Nature Morte in New Delhi, and the Gwangju Contemporary Arts Centre in South Korea. chitraganesh.com
||THERESA MASANGKAY is a Los-Angeles based artist working in film, montage, sculpture, and video installation. Masangkay addresses technology and appropriates her family's photographic archive to pose personal, social, and political questions relating to history, memory, contemporary context, media, post-colonialism, and relationships. She received her MFA in Art from the California Institute of the Arts. theresamasangkay.com
||EMILY ROYSDON is a Los Angeles and New York-based interdisciplinary artist whose projects engage language, gesture and memory. Imaging collectivity and communicability as metonymic structures, the works tries to simultaneously exhibit ecstatic resistance and structural collapse. She is also an editor and co-founder of LTTR, a feminist genderqueer artist collective with a flexible project oriented practice. LTTR produces an annual independent art journal, performance series, events, screenings and collaborations. Roysdon's work has been shown at Participant, Inc, NY; MIT List Visual Art Centre, Cambridge; The Kitchen, NY; Art in General, NY; Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania. Roysdon completed the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in 2001 and an Interdisciplinary MFA at UCLA in 2006. emilyroysdon.com
||FAITH WILDING is a multidisciplinary artist, writer, and educator with a BA (Comparative Literature), University of Iowa, and an MFA (Performance/Installation/ Feminist Art), California Institute of the Arts, 1973. Wilding is Chair and Associate Professor of Performance, School of the Art Institute of Chicago. (2002-present). Wilding was a co-founder of the feminist art movement in Southern California, chronicled in her book By Our Own Hands (Los Angeles,1976). Wilding has exhibited in solo and group shows for thirty years in the United States, Canada, Europe, Mexico, and Southeast Asia. Her work addresses the recombinant and distributed bio-tech body in various media including 2-D, video, digital media, installations, and performances. Wilding founded and collaborates with subRosa, a reproducible cyberfeminist cell of cultural researchers using BioArt and tactical performance in the public sphere to explore and critique the intersections of information and biotechnologies in women’s bodies, lives, and work. subRosa produces artworks, performances, workshops, contestational campaigns, publications, media interventions, and public forums. Wilding lectures and publishes widely both nationally and internationally. Publications include:Domain Errors! Cyberfeminist Practices. Autonomedia, 2003; and numerous essays, including in The Power of Feminist Art, Abrams,1995. cyberfeminism.net
Cameras - Adam Feldmeth, Nicholas Grider
Video Editor - Audrey Chan
Sound - Emery Martin