Sunday, January 25, 2009

re.act: it's a wrap

Cafe at ADK, Berlin; photo by Val Phoenix

So, all done then. The final speakers discussed the importance of archiving and different underlying philosophies. Chris Regn spoke about Hamburg's Bildwechsel, running for 30 years now and documenting work by women + (this includes queer work). She also conducts interviews for the Performance Saga series of DVDs on women performance artists. I missed speaking to them, through an odd series of crossed wires, but they are presenting live events in Switzerland in February.

Martha Wilson, featured in the exhibit and archive, spoke about the strange journey of her New York performance art archive Franklin Furnace, starting as a space for live art in 1976, pilloried by the culture wars of the 1980s and now in its online incarnation, digitising work produced at the venue. She commented acidly that it's easier to get grants to preserve work by Karen Finley than to present work by said artist, such is the shifting political climate.

I had an interesting chat with Wilson, curious about a comment she made in one of her pieces on show. In the early '70s she had explored various identities, including male and female archetypes, which she photographed and then wrote comments on the frames. Trying on Lesbian for size, she wrote: "her sexuality is so misplaced that the rest of society ignores her". To which my response was: Eh? Not very sisterly, Martha.

So, I asked her about it, and, blushing, she acknowledged that it was a negative comment and then explained that it was her view in 1974, that the photos hadn't been shown in 30 years and she knew she would take some flak for it. But, she is obviously made of stern stuff since she left it intact, despite identifying as a part-time lesbian. (Were the full-time vacancies not available? Damn this recession!)

Anyway, conference goers seemed buoyed by the proceedings and by the resurgence of interest in feminism and feminist art.

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