Q&Art Martha Rosler questions and art qandart

female = feminist?

Stedelijk BASE, I’ve written already a couple of times about Stedelijk’s reorganization of its permanent collection. Some critics really have it out for it and hate it. I actually appreciate the initiative to present a lot (700!) of art to the public, there is probably always something there a visitor would enjoy. Honestly, I have no idea why the skinny walls (thin doesn’t even cover it) turned out to be exorbitantly expensive (almost 3 million euros). And I think it’s quite funny to see the “genius” and white American abstract expressionists clumped up. Pollock and Rothko, men, consider yourself dethroned.

So, I don’t really get my shorts in a bunch over subversion of the good ol’ mystifying process that makes perceiving art a holy experience. What does drive me up to a wall is when someone put a couple of female artists not all strictly occupying themselves with feminism in a room and calls it the “feminist room”. Seriously? This room presents the works of Martha Rosler, Cindy Sherman, Simone Forti and a beamer projects alternating moving images of the artists Marina Abramović, Dara Birnbaum, Joan Jonas, and Ulrike Rosenbach.

Martha Rosler is a fantastic artist, using many politically involved themes, on which anti-war and feminism are perhaps most frequently used. But the works presented here are not necessarily the starting points as one can read here. Except for one, as a critique, they bring the war closer to the people.

Marina Abramović and Cindy Sherman are surely interesting artists but they do not make feminist artworks. As Sherman has stated: “I know I was not consciously aware of this thing the ‘male gaze.’ It was the way I was shooting, the mimicry of the style of black-and-white grade-Z motion pictures that produced the self-consciousness of these characters, not my knowledge of feminist theory. I suppose, unconsciously, or semiconsciously at best, I was wrestling with some sort of turmoil of my own about understanding women.” And more straightforwardly, Marina Abramović has stated: “I am the most non-feminist human!” and “I’m a woman. I’m an artist. But I’m not a feminist artist. Artist has no gender.”

And it’s not that the themes are loosely interpreted in the rest of the presentation. It’s quite strict. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the pop-art section only includes pop artists working from around the 60’s, and there are only Abstract Expressionists that were part of the original New York School.

Of course, feminism itself is very expansive, it might be better to call is feminisms (plural), but that is not what I’m aiming at. And when you are a feminist, such as Martha Rosler, that doesn’t mean that everything you produce should be called a feminist artwork, right? Art has to at least loosely be situated in the ballpark of Feminist Theory to be called Feminist Art. So, to end my rant, Stedelijk, do you really don’t have enough works drawn upon feminist theory to fill a tiny room? If not, you shouldn’t have a feminist room.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #23, 1978 and Untitled Film Still #54, 1980


Simone Forti, Angel, 1975-1977



Marina Abramović, Art Must Be Beautiful, Artist Must Be Beautiful, 1975-1976


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