Exhibition and Conference: Feminist Avant-Garde


Exhibition: Woman. Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970ies from the Sammlung Verbund Collection, 6. 5. – 3. 9., mumok, Vienna

From May 2017, mumok is presenting more than 300 artworks from the SAMMLUNG VERBUND collection that show how women artists in the 1970s first began to collectively redefine their own image of woman. As this significant artistic movement has been neglected in art histories to date, the collection director, Gabriele Schor, coined the term ”feminist avant-garde” and introduced it into art-historical discourse—with the aim of highlighting these artists’ pioneering work. This thematic exhibition at mumok and a comprehensive scholarly catalogue both contribute to expanding the male dominated avant-garde canon.

In the 1970s women artists emancipated themselves from the roles of muse and model, rejecting their status as objects in order to assert themselves as subjects actively participating in social and political processes. One-dimensional role ascriptions as mothers, homemakers, or wives were radically challenged—often using strategies of irony. Key themes were the discovery of female sexuality, the use of women’s own bodies, countering clichés and stereotypical images of women, the dictate of beauty, and creating awareness for violence against women. The women artists of this generation were united in their committed rejection of traditional normative notions of how women were expected to live. “It is exciting to see that these artists developed comparable strategies of the image, even though they did not all know each other,” Gabriele Schor explains.

The exhibition is divided into four sections:
The Reduction to Mother, Housewife, and Wife
Alter Ego: Masquerade, Parody, and Roleplays
Female Sexuality versus Objectification
The Normativity of Beauty

“It is important and fortunate for both the city of Vienna and mumok to be able to show these works on the feminist avant-garde from the SAMMLUNG VERBUND collection. These works complement mumok’s own collection with its focus on socially relevant art of the 1960s, such as Vienna Actionism—a movement that was implemented entirely by men. Here, many questions and issues were raised that were to play a role in the 1970s with a new and broader perspective—this time in developments that were largely implemented by women. In their works, they formulate answers to the ways in which men approached their work as artists. I am delighted to be able to present this significant collection at mumok,” says mumok general director Karola Kraus.

This exhibition is not a women’s exhibition, but a thematic exhibition. It brings together artists born between 1930 and 1958. There is a total of 48 European, North and South American artists, including eight Austrians: Renate Bertlmann (born 1943), Linda Christanell (born 1939), VALIE EXPORT (born 1940), Birgit Jürgenssen (1949–2003), Brigitte Lang (born 1953), Karin Mack (born 1940), Friederike Pezold (born 1945), and Margot Pilz (born 1936).

Conference: Feminist Avant-Garde, 6. 5., 2pm to 7 pm, mumok, Vienna, free entrance

In conjunction with the exhibition WOMAN. FEMINIST AVANTGARDE of the 1970s from the SAMMLUNG VERBUND Collection, mumok and the SAMMLUNG VERBUND are hosting a conference on Saturday May 6, 2017, from 2 pm. Sixteen of the artists with works in the exhibition will be present. In the 1970s, these artists, from the USA, Canada, and Europe, were among the most provocative voices in contemporary art, and their socially critical works still resonate today.

In the 1970s, these artists began for the first time to create their own collective image of women, emancipating themselves from the roles of muse or model and from woman’s status as object. These artists saw women and themselves as self-determined subjects actively participating in social and political processes. They radically challenged stereotypical definitions of women as mother, housewife, and wife—often with a great deal of irony. Key concerns were the “discovery” of women’s sexuality, the use of their own bodies in art, breaking down stereotypical images of women, challenging the dictates of beauty, and creating awareness for violence against women. These women artists of this generation shared a commitment to rejecting traditional and normative ideas of how women should live their lives.

The symposium will be introduced by Gabriele Schor, founding director of the SAMMLUNG VERBUND, with a talk entitled Why Is It Important to Call the Feminist Art Movement in the 1970s an “Avant-garde.” Schor coined the term “feminist avant-garde” so as to emphasize the pioneering nature of the work of these artists. This introductory lecture is followed by three panel discussions with several artists represented in the exhibition, moderated by mumok curator Eva Badura-Triska, by Camille Morineau, director of Monnaie de Paris and president at AWARE: Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions, and by Gabriele Schor.

This symposium is a unique opportunity to hear the thoughts of influential women artists from nine nations on the situation of women in the 1070s, the feminist movement, and their own personal approaches and experiences.

Participants: Eva Badura-Triska, Anneke Barger, Renate Bertlmann, Linda Christanell, Renate Eisenegger, Kirsten Justesen, Suzy Lake, Brigitte Lang, Karin Mack, Camille Morineau, ORLAN, Ewa Partum, Margot Pilz, Ulrike Rosenbach, Gabriele Schor, Lydia Schouten, Annegret Soltau, and Martha Wilson.