Unfortunately the first feminist art seminar at the ICA I attended also happened to be the last in the series. What a shame! It had more the feel of an intimate lecture as opposed to a seminar, although there was a brief period for discussion at the end. Nevertheless the two hour session Genealogies or cartographies of feminist art led by Katy Deepwell (editor of n.paradoxa – the only international feminist art journal in the world) was a fascinating exploration into a less well researched approach to global feminist art practises. Throughout the talk Katy Deepwell urged those undertaking research to integrate a new approach to their understanding in a more rounded study of feminism geographically as opposed to simply historically. She made the point that the generational ‘father/son’ framework that has been made to dominate the western canon of art history is not easily applied to feminism (what would be ‘mother/daughter’ does not really exist). For me this was just one of the points that made me think a bit harder about how I perceive feminist art. I wondered if perhaps this has occoured because by the time the movement was definable, this kind of linear art history was already being contested by academics, yet with nothing quite ready to take its place. As a result the historical model has proved insufficient to gain a full understanding of what feminist art is and has been, the speaker citing several instances in which striking similarities can be made between works only a few years apart, whose significance has not yet been considered due to their geographical location.
The emphasis of the discussion was to encourage a trans-geographical comparative feminist study. It was also suggested that this structure may help to overcome a number of problems faced by current studies into feminist art. For instance, in some ways the collectivity of feminism could appear to be getting lost under a desire to create the ‘top women artists’ and single them out. Similarly the desire to place historical time at the core begins to frame and set limits in which the at itself exists. Deepwell pointed out that in terms of art history, the ‘wave’ model for the definition of feminism creates a huge gap from the 1980’s to the mid 1990’s in transition from second to third wave .
These are just a few of the areas discussed within this session, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that the ICA might re-establish the n.paradoxa seminars in future programmes. While most of the audience seemed to be seasoned feminists with substantial academic reasons for attending, as a first year History of Art undergraduate still developing my own feminist views I was inspired by the potential generated by everything brought up. Even if the seminars don’t continue I would urge you to pick up the next copy of n.paradoxa (avaliable from the ICA Bookshop), or visit their website with back issues available for free download – a priceless resource. Furthermore I look forward to the release of the digitised films of the six seminars, organised by the publisheres KT Press and due to be avaliable by the end of 2011.