This post is the online version of a paper presented at the Women*, Art and Feminism in Australia since 1970 symposium, at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne. The summary states:
Women*, Art and Feminism in Australia since 1970 seeks to bring together diverging and complementary views on feminism, its history, practice and critical positions in the visual arts. The symposium ran from 21 to 23 February 2018.
I respectfully acknowledge the people of the Boon Wurrung and the Woi Wurrung who have danced their dances, sung their songs and lived their culture on this land for tens of thousand of years.
The title of my paper Giving Voice to the Feminine refers to a personal journey through my work as an artist and researcher.
In part, the title of my presentation refers to a failed research project, where, back in the 90s, I had planned to explore the Goddess and Gaia in the context of women artists in a postgraduate Art History thesis. My proposed topic was canned by my supervisor who advised me instead to focus on the role of Theosophy and abstract art in Australia during the interwar years. Although still a worthy topic, I was, nonetheless, disappointed to not follow this line of interest.
Around this time I was reading a lot: Spivak, Faludi, Klein, Grosz, Paglia, Haraway, Plant, Pinkola Estés, Huggins, Acker, Starhawk, Lippard, Carlson, the list goes on… Many of these writers had very different perspectives and all were informing my understanding of what it means to live as a woman and how ‘woman’ is figured within in society’s structures.
My influences are many – Kruger, Schneeman, Moffatt, Sherman, VNS Matrix and many others.
As we heard so powerfully yesterday from the “Feminist Futures in Colour” panel, western constructions of power and knowledge are not working for many people. This is because of many things, but not least the need to neatly compartmentalize knowledge into safe boxes described by discipline. Also the binaries of good, bad, light, dark, passive, active, rational, irrational are structures that do not work. Binaries only serve to colonise to define, locate and box people and life experiences.
Lived experience however does not work like that. As humans we are all connected to each other and to all other living things. The web of life. In an ecosystem, once one element is changed then all is changed, through the follow on impacts. The ecosystem relies on balance.
How to we short-circuit this endless need to colonize and compartmentalize knowledge, culture and each other? We all know that identity is not fixed and singular, it is fluid, layered and rich.
For me, exploring collaboration and working on transdisciplinary projects seems to be an appropriate way to work. No one form of knowledge is deemed more valuable and all contributors have equal footing.
In an earlier blog post I talked about the role of tangible and intangible knowledge and transdisciplinarity:
Transdisciplinarity is seen as having the potential to change how we see the world and understand each other and ourselves. It supports a Gaia principle, where human and non-human are all considered sentient beings with agency which exist within a cosmology. What interests me greatly are how those elements are intrinsic to Indigenous forms of knowledge – for example the dreaming of many Australian First Nation cultures. The dreaming comes forth in the form of stories and also speaks of how to look after the environment, how the land was made and social values and norms. Western science is starting to ‘get’ how important this knowledge is and how relevant it is to land management and environmental sustainability.
So how can we include more broadly ideas related to spirituality and empowerment within an inclusive understanding and appreciation for the environment and our connectedness?
A big question.
I would like to touch on how these issues have manifested in my work as an artist by discussing some examples. An abbreviated trip down memory lane. Sometimes you need to look back to see where you are going 🙂
- Scalpland (1995, 1996)
- My Country (1997)
- The forgotten decade…
- Fauxonomy (2007-2013)
- Finding Balance: Mura Gadi (2013)
- Waters of the past (2016-)
More recently, some of my earlier interests in ideas of ceremony and ritual also started to manifest in interesting ways. Last September at Crawick Multiverse, I worked with UK based artist Kate Vega to create a ritual – The Calling. While we held our event in Scotland, other collaborators in the US, Norway, Australia, Aotearoa and Vanuatu all contributed water blessings and ceremony. We wanted to connect through the ‘one water’ to offer healing and to create a space to allow ritual to be included in our thinking about community, earth healing, creativity and technology.