f******* Towards New Perspectives on Feminism.
By guest contributor Christa Joo Hyun-D’Angelo
Katharina Grosse, Installation view,
Dirt acrylic, dirt on styrofom acrylic on canvas, 240 x 388 cm,
Courtesy Galerie Nächst St. Stephan/Rosemarie Schwarzwälder, Vienna
© Katharina Grosse and VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, 2013,  photo Peter Cox

The battle for gender equality is far from being over.  Not only are women still under represented in politics, higher education, and other positions of influence, but they are also inadequately represented in many fields within the arts.  At present more than 50% of students attending art college are women, yet male artists dominate the contemporary art market. Consequently, the majority of contemporary art collections, exhibitions and retrospectives feature artists who are men.  The Prado Museum in Madrid contains artworks by 18,000 male artists and 35 women artists — unsettling figures. Today, we need a broader representation of female artists. But we also need a new understanding of what it means to perceive and experience works of art — from both sexes.

For Bettina Springer, who manages the art space Espace Surplus with Babu Krijanovsky in Berlin, ‘feminism’ is a loaded word, one that conjures cultural taboos with negative cultural connotations.   According to Springer, many young people in Germany react to feminism as something that has been accomplished and no longer concerns them. Many simply refuse to even discuss it.  However, for Springer, feminism is a living concern, not just for women but everyone in our society. Feminist discourse, she argues, should not be neglected at a time when many reject it as irrelevant.
f******* Towards New Perspectives on Feminism, Berlin
Image from Symposium – photo and © Heinrich Hermes, 2013
More than a year ago, Espace Surplus and Goldsmiths University in London were organizing the project f******* Towards New Perspectives on Feminism.  The program presented various positions on the topic of feminism, manifested in an assortment of events — exhibitions, a concert, a newspaper campaign, and a colorful array of symposiums — that attempted to both popularize and investigate contemporary feminism in all its discursive matrices.

Perhaps the highlight was the discussion “Gender Politics and the Art Market” featuring gallerist Philomene Magers,  Marián López Fernández-Cao, president of MAV, Madrid (Mujeres en las artes visuales/Women in Visual Arts) and artist Katharina Grosse, which made compelling points about the activity of women in the arts and about the marginal representation of women in the art world.  Artist Katharina Grosse was a strong force, raising salient points about why gender equality is far from being achieved and how juries and administrations should  adjust to meet the demands of a more balanced representation of men and women.  Grosse an instructor at Düsseldorf Academy of Fine Arts, pointed out of the 28 professors in the academy 24 are men and 4 are women. She also said that many of the male professors do not wish to discuss (or change) these numbers, creating little availability or even chances for change within the school.

Philomene Magers, from Galerie Sprüth Magers Berlin and London, another fascinating participant, testified that she has both seen and created important new opportunities for women artists in her many years of working as a gallerist. Thanks to efforts from galleries like Sprüth Magers leading female artists like Cindy Sherman, Rosemarie Trockel and Jenny Holzer have now come to prominence both in Europe and America, Magers said that in her view, people are more aware of the gender problem within the art world.  Magers also pointed out that for many collectors, art is seen as an investment, with a piece’s monetary value superseding its artistic value.  Interestingly enough, Magers mentioned that many female, as opposed to male artists, express more reluctance about making work that will fit the parameters of what is ‘sellable’ and market friendly – ‘commercialization’ is a card many women artists, it seems, refuse to play.

Katharina Grosse, Installation view,
Two Younger Women Come, 
Acrylic on latex and pvc,
Courtesy and © Katharina Grosse and VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, 2013 © photo Peter Cox

The low visibility of women’s artwork in museums, collections and galleries seems to offer a limited scope when it comes to gazing into our shared society: In art, the world is seen predominately through the perspective of a man.  The program  f******* Towards New Perspectives on Feminism sought to problematize gender inequality in our culture while creating a platform for engaging people and, just maybe, opening up the possibility of a new future — one that willingly embraces change for both the younger and older generations of men and women fighting for the voices of women to be heard.

f******* Towards New Perspectives on Feminism: A project of Espace Surplus (Berlin) together with Goldsmiths University London in cooperation with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k.) was a Symposium at Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k.) held 1st–3rd of February 2013.

Christa Joo Hyun D’Angelo is an American artist who has been based in Berlin for more than six years.  Her work investigates the presence of commodity fetishism in our cultural consciousness through a process that deconstructs society’s insatiable visual appetite by appropriating and altering images intended for the masses. She has been featured in many group exhibitions and she had two solo exhibitions in 2011 at Arts & Sciences PROJECTS, New York and  Galerie Suvi Lehtinen, Berlin as well as participation in VOLTA NY and Preview Berlin. Recently D’Angelo curated VIRTUAL REALITIES FILM WEEK whose program tried to reach beyond our culture’s traditional benchmarks for defining identity at Kino Central in Berlin last December. She recently spoke at University of the Arts in London about Queer Feminism in her work and is preparing for a residency in Finland this fall.

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