The Way That We Rhyme: Women, Art and Politics
Curated by Berin Golonu
March 29 through June 29, 2008
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
The Way That We Rhyme features artwork with a political conscience made by group of women who know how to speak their minds. For many of these artists, the work that they make is inseparable from the way they lead their lives. Creativity becomes a strategy for critiquing current injustices as well as envisioning a more humane world for themselves and others. There is a noticeable “call and response” between the past and the present which is reflected in the intergenerational mix of artists included here. This comparative display invites an intergenerational dialog, coextensive with a series of public programs and conversations. Addressing the fact that social imbalances and gender inequalities are as systematically prevalent as ever, the works in the exhibition examine identity construction through the intersectional lenses of gender, sex, race and class to show how a variety of oppressions intertwine with one another.
A central focus of the exhibition is the use of collective or collaborative practice to amplify artists’ voices, generate dialog and distribute their messages. To highlight one example, Suzanne Lacy and Leslie Labowitz showcase Restricted Access, an archive of ephemera documenting their collaborative feminist artistic practice, public art projects and urban interventions, from the 1970s to the present. Lacy and Labowitz invite a younger generation of women artists, educators and curators to look through their archive and discuss how the information conveyed in these historical documents relate to or contrast with their experiences today. The exhibition also features work by women-driven collectives such as subRosa, the Toxic Titties, LTTR, and Joanie 4 Jackie, a video chain-letter sent between young women filmmakers, initiated by artist Miranda July.
Several of the artists in The Way That We Rhyme utilize tactics of performativity to underscore the structural constructs of gender. Performance artist and experimental film maker Vaginal Davis undertakes spectacles of femininity, queerness and blackness to complicate and problematize mainstream hetero-normative culture. The exhibition features Davis’ Present Penicative, a bedroom installation that the artist refers to as a “vagina dentata.” The artist will also be present to host two separate salons for the public on March 29, one for the women, and one for the men. Through her performance practice, Nao Bustamante also engages performativity to reveal the literal pain at the heart of female and queer embodiment. In addition to featuring her video installation Neapolitan in the exhibition, Bustamante will conduct a live performance on the evening of March 29.
Many of the artists in The Way That We Rhyme practice forms of appropriation and intervention to push their political agendas forward. Aleksandra Mir’s video documentation of her public art project The First Woman on the Moon (1999) is an imaginary revisionist history that creates a media spectacle around a fake moon landing. Mir commemorates the 30th anniversary of the Apollo 16 moon landing by recreating the event on a Dutch beach, with a group of women cast as female astronauts. Stephanie Syjuco’s The Counterfeit Crochet Project takes cue from the do-it-yourself ethos of Riot Grrl punk subculture. Syjuco distributes instructions on how to knit counterfeit luxury accessories in crochet, offering the public a do-it-yourself alternative to purchasing corporate brands. She has assembled a selection of these one of a kind, luxury rip-off masterpieces and accessories for display in the exhibition. Even though many of these items are exquisite, none can be bought or sold. In order to possess a work of Counterfeit Crochet, gallery visitors must learn how to make the items themselves. Syjuco will be holding a series of workshops in her installation to teach gallery visitors how to crochet their own counterfeit designer accessories.
The Way That We Rhyme (in print)
The Riot Grrl movement originated in response to the male dominated punk culture in efforts to create spaces of inclusion and respect for female musicians. Zine-making was an important component of building networks and distributing the messages of this sub-culture, both nationally and internationally. Zine making also offered an independent media platform, allowing women to define their work, their music, and their subculture on their work terms. In addition to featuring a selection of Riot Grrrl zines on loan from the Independent Publishing Resource Center, Portland, the exhibition also features a “handbook” inspired by feminist zine production. It contains original content commissioned by the artists in the exhibition; content that was generated specifically for the printed page. Download a pdf of the handbook here.
The Way That We Rhyme features work by: Lisa Anne Auerbach, Andrea Bowers, Nao Bustamante, Tammy Rae Carland, Vaginal Davis, Eve Fowler, Deborah Grant, MK Guth, Taraneh Hemami, Joanie 4 Jackie (organized by Miranda July & Shauna McGarry) LTTR, Leslie Labowitz and Suzanne Lacy, Aleksandra Mir, Laurel Nakadate, Shinique Smith, subRosa, SWOON with Tennessee Jane Watson, The Counterfeit Crochet Project organized by Stephanie Syjuco, The Toxic Titties, Jessica Tully and Riot Grrl zines from the Independent Publishing Resource Center, Portland.
Download the invitation and list of public programs here.
Exhibition preview in Artforum (Jan 2008)
Exhibition review in X-Tra Art Quarterly
Exhibition review in SF Guardian (April 15, 2008)
Exhibition review in the SF Examiner (March 28, 2008)
Review of We Interrupt Your Program in Frieze (May 5, 2008)