- Feminist Social Practice:A Manifesto
The Feminist Social Practice Manifesto excerpt published here calls for the definition and implementation of a feminist social practice in contemporary art. Drawing on our curatorial work for the 2017 exhibition Revolution at Point Zero, we offer this declarative statement, inspired by the immediacy and urgency of a manifesto. Taking our cue from Silvia Federici's formative Marxist text, Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle, we render visible the invisible labor and legacy of feminism in contemporary social practice and seek to position feminist strategies at the nexus of the social practice art movement. This Manifesto offers a way forward for social practice artists, scholars, critics, and curators to engage with the enduring legacy of feminism in socially engaged art.
She co-curated exhibitions including Social Paper: Hand Papermaking in the Context of Socially-Engaged Art, the first exhibition considering hand papermaking in a socially engaged art context and is currently writing a history of hand papermaking at the Woman's Building in Los Angeles in a forthcoming essay for Hand Papermaking Magazine. Her critical essays have been printed in BOMB, Art Papers, Flash Art, and Metropolis M, among others. She is currently an Associate Professor in the Art & Art History Department of Columbia College Chicago. [End Page 335]
We declare an end to the invisibility of feminist artists' labor in contemporary art, and specifically in the socially engaged art movement where feminist tactics are routinely used and rarely, if ever, credited. We support the crux of Silvia Federici's argument that women's labor is invisible. We identify the labor of feminist artists—from performance to protest, to consciousness raising, to collaboration—in order to make this labor visible and equal to any other form of artistic practice, and to reveal the influence of these artists on social practice. We reject the prevailing art world's bias toward revolutionary feminist tactics as didactic, narcissistic, irrelevant, anti-aesthetic, or otherwise lesser than "great art." We believe this narrative of trivialization, however subtle or obvious in its deployment, directly contributes to the erasure of the feminist legacy from the past, present, and future of socially engaged art. Feminist social practice is an art practice; it is also an activist strategy. We call on curators, artists, art workers, scholars, and audiences to locate the legacy of feminism in all contemporary artworks, especially community and socially engaged practices. We likewise call for the proper attribution of this legacy in writing, conversation, theory, and practice for artists whose work has been identified as feminist, as well as those who may resist the feminist label. We invite others to challenge the dominant exclusionary narrative by using our feminist curatorial criteria in discourse and the curating of exhibitions.
How does one identify feminist social practice? Designed and developed through more than four years of research, exhibitions, interviews, consciousness-raising events, and a symposium on the subject, the following criteria elucidate our strategy for identifying, articulating, and enacting an interdisciplinary Feminist Social Practice. These criteria assert the feminist legacy in socially engaged art by identifying strategies such as collaboration, pedagogical interventions, shared authorship, performance, and personal narrative as testimony, among others. A feminist social practice thereby:
1. promotes core feminist values
Embodies the feminist axiom, "the personal is political."
Highlights undervalued and exploited labors.
Promotes equality of the sexes.
Uses intersectional theory to challenge race-based oppression, especially in feminism and art.
Makes domestic labor, care-giving, and other service work visible and legitimate artistic practices.
Considers eco-feminism, food justice, and the environment.
Exposes violence as a tool of patriarchal control.
Uses empathy to empower audiences.
Creates community-centered projects.
Uses interdisciplinary, pedagogical strategies.
Promotes marginalized narrative.
2. challenges the embedded values of the art establishment
Resists white, male, cis-dominant narratives.
Questions the privileging of object over process.
Opposes fixed notions of artistic practice based on patriarchal, hierarchical institutions and models.
Refuses artificial delineations between education and pedagogy, community-based works, collaboration, and the art market.
3. engages feminist strategies
Honors and reveals collaborative process. Promotes process-based artistic practice. [End Page 337]