Dissident feminisms, anti-racist politics and artistic interventionist practices

Some very recent examples of artistic interventionist practices

In the following I describe four examples of artistic interventionist practices in Austria, beginning with one in greater length. If I talk of very recent artistic practices then we have to name Marissa Lôbo, born in Brazil, who lives and works in Austria and is a black activist and a member of MAIZ. One of Lôbo’s most impressive projects is Iron Mask, White Torture, a performance and installation that was presented as part of the group exhibition “Where do we go from here?” presenting new positions from Austria and Central Europe at the Secession in Vienna in 2010. After the opening of the show an article was published in the main daily newspaper Der Standard in which not a single word was written about Marissa Lôbo’s performance Iron Mask, White Torture. This omission is very telling and disturbing alike as the performance consisted of nine Black women and Women of Color, wearing black outfits and having bright blue eyes. The blue eye represented a reference to Anastácia, a slave in Quilombo region in Brazil, whose struggle for freedom became the symbol of anti-colonial resistance. Performers in the project were Agnes Achola, Alessandra Klimpel, Belinda Kazeem, Flavia Inkiru, Grace Latigo, Steaze, Sheri Avraham, Njideka Stephanie Iroh, and Marissa Lôbo. The performance was impossible to miss at the opening of the exhibition!

1Iron Mask, White Torture, performance and installation, conceived by Marissa Lôbo (1)

Marissa Lôbo, Iron Mask, White Torture, performance and installation, Secession, Vienna, 2010

The curator chose the title “Where do we go from here?” for the group show. The question “Where do we go from here, Vienna?” was commented on by Marissa Lôbo and Sheri Avraham as an ironic question to be asked when as they stated “your history is imprinted in every corner, and at the same time we revile openly and legally a deep-rooted racist structure” (Lôbo 2013: 272).star (*2) They commented on a recent Austrian election campaign, in which legislation was discussed that would enforce laws imposed on those defined as “aliens,” citing those coming from non-EU countries (Lôbo 2013: 272).star (*2) Lôbo refers to the parliamentary elections in Austria in 2008 and to the subsequent reinforcement following the major amendments to the “Aliens Act” and the Asylum Law in Austria adopted in 2002.

I will now describe the performance in detail and make a direct reference to a text presented online:*11 *(11) One long empty table is slowly occupied by nine Black women and Women of Color. They sit next to each other and stare directly at the audience. The group articulates and gives voice to all objects exhibited in art museums that have been object of theft, violence, lies, and silence. The reading starts with a repetition of the name Anastácia by each of the nine performers. Then each woman, one after the other, firmly exposes thoughts by Black feminists. Thoughts that concern racism and sexism, African Diasporas, Black identities and colonization are juxtaposed with critical migration politics and with “rethinking Black feminism as a social justice project.” In the last minute of the performance they take out the blue eye lenses and leave the space — some applause comes from the audience. This applause can be understood as a violent moment of contemplation on the art work, and the strong voice by Grace Latigo asks “Is there something to be applauded here?” Not to forget the question that does not want to be silent: “Where do we go from here?” “Nowhere! – We are here to stay!”

The project and performance are important as they develop a relation to the role of “empowerment,” “agency,” and “choice” in terms of who speaks and the role of epistemology as well as the role of art institutions, such as galleries, museums, etc.

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Anzaldúa, Gloria / Moraga, Cherríe L. (2002): This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. Berkeley, CA: Third Woman Press.

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Lôbo, Marissa (2013): Iron Mask, White Torture: What is Anastacia Keeping Silent? What Does Anastacia See? In: The Editorial Group for Writing Insurgent Genealogies (eds.): Utopia of Alliances, Conditions of Impossibilities and the Vocabulary of Decoloniality. Vienna: Löcker, pp. 269–275. Translated from the German into English by Njideka Stephanie Iroh.

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Lugones, M.: Heterosexualism and the Colonial/Modern Gender System. Hypatia 22, no. 1 (Winter 2007), pp. 186–209.

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Caixeta, Luzenir (2013): Minoritized Women Effect a Transformation in Feminism. In: The Editorial Group for Writing Insurgent Genealogies (Carolina Agredo, Sheri Avraham, Annalisa Cannito, Miltiadis Gerothanasis, Marina Gržinić, Marissa Lôbo, and Ivana Marjanović) (eds.), Utopia of Alliances, Conditions of Impossibilities and the Vocabulary of Decoloniality. Vienna: Löcker, pp. 145–148. Translated from the German into English by Aileen Derieg.

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MacCarroll, Margaret Catherine (2005): May Ayim: A Woman in the Margin of German Society. MA Thesis. Florida State University. Online: http://etd.lib.fsu.edu/theses_1/available/etd-04102005-231408/unrestricted/MaggieC.MacCarrollThesis2Sp05.pdf (last visited: January 10, 2014)

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Mohanty, Chandra Talpade (1984): Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses. In: boundary 2, vol. 12/13, Spring–Autumn, pp. 333–358.

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Preciado, Beatriz (2007): Reportaje después del Feminismo. Mujeres en los márgenes [Report after Feminism: Women on the Margins]. In El País, January 13, 2007, http://webs.uvigo.es/pmayobre/textos/varios/despues_del_feminismo.pdf, (last visited: March 8, 2011)

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Preciado, Beatriz (2013): Pharmaco-Pornographic CapitalismPostporn Politics and the Decolonization of Sexual Representations. In: The Editorial Group for Writing Insurgent Genealogies (eds.): Utopia of Alliances, Conditions of Impossibilities and the Vocabulary of Decoloniality, Vienna: Löcker, pp. 245–255. Translated from Spanish into English by Marina Gržinić.

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Quijano, A. (2000): Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism, and Latin America. Nepentla: Views From the South 1(3), 2000, pp. 533–580.

Katharina Oguntoye is a historian and has influenced the Afro-German movement; she is a co-editor of the book Showing our Colors (1986)
and is the founding member of the “Initiative of Black People in Germany.”

FeMigra (abbreviation for: “Feminist Migrants”) in Germany is an activist women’s group mostly consisting of members with an academic background or work in the social sector. They are also involved in strong networking activities with other ethnic, migrant, and Jewish women in Germany. FeMigras’ theoretical reflection of how to act politically as feminist migrants is strongly influenced by the reception of post-structuralist, black and post-colonialist authors such as Gayatri Spivak, Nira Yuval-Davis, Adrienne Rich or Angela Davis.

Lale Otyakmaz works at the University of Duisburg-Essen on and with questions of Diversity Management.

Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez works at the Institute of Sociology Justus-Liebig University Gießen (Germany) and is known for the book Decolonizing European Sociology. The book challenges the androcentric, colonial and ethnocentric perspectives eminent in mainstream European sociology. Cf. http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9780754678724

The Combahee River Collective was a Black feminist Lesbian organization active in Boston (USA)from 1974 to 1980. They are perhaps best known for developing the Combahee River Collective Statement, a key document in the history of contemporary Black feminism and the development of the concepts of identity as used among political organizers and social theorists.

Gloria Anzaldúa (1942–2004) was a scholar of Chicana cultural, feminist, and queer theory. Her most well-known book, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987) is on her life growing up on the Mexican-Texas border and incorporated her lifelong feelings of social and cultural marginalization into her work.

Gloria Jean Watkins (1952), better known by her pen name bell hooks (written without capitals), is an American author, feminist, and social activist. Her writing focuses on the interconnectivity of race, capitalism, and gender and what she describes as their ability to produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and class domination. Primarily through a postmodern perspective, hooks has addressed race, class, and gender in education, art, history, sexuality, mass media and feminism.

Angela Davis (1944) is an American political activist, scholar, Communist, and author. She emerged as a nationally prominent counterculture
activist and radical in the 1960s, as a leader of the Communist Party USA, and had close relations with the Black Panther Party through her involvement in the Civil Rights to abolish the prison-industrial complex. Her research interests are in feminism, African-American studies, critical theory, Marxism, popular music, social consciousness, and the philosophy and history of punishment and prisons. Her membership in the Communist Party led to Ronald Reagan’s request in 1969 to have her barred from teaching at any university in the State of California.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (1942) is an Indian literary theorist, philosopher, and university professor at Columbia University, where she is a founding member of the school’s Institute for Comparative Literature and Society. Spivak is best known for her contemporary cultural and critical theories to challenge the “legacy of colonialism” and the way readers engage with literature and culture. She often focuses on the cultural texts of those who are marginalized by dominant Western culture: the new immigrant, the working class, women, and other positions of the subaltern. Her best known essay was published in the 1980s with the title “Can the Subaltern Speak?” is considered a founding text of postcolonialism.

The description is taken from the text published online. See http://grzinic-smid.si/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Rear2010tikulacija10111213.pdf (last visited: December 5, 2013).

The references are from Araba Evelyn Johnston-Arthur. She is a social justice activist born and raised in Vienna to a Ghanaian family. Johnston-Arthur, as reported by Kali TV, succesfully co-founded a pan-African movement in Austria, “Pamoja,” which has brought together young Africans in Austria to fight for their rights and against racism in Europe. Published online March 26, 2013, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIiXyjOJj9U&feature=youtu.be (last visited, December 5, 2013)

Grada Kilomba’s book Plantation Memories. Episodes of Everyday Racism, (Münster, Germany: UNRAST Verlag, 2008), deconstructs the normality of racism, making visible what is often made invisible; the book is described as essential to anyone interested in Black Studies, Post-colonial Studies, Critical Whiteness Studies, Gender Studies, and Psychoanalysis.

Audre Lorde (1934–1992) was a Caribbean-American writer and civil rights activist. She described herself as “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” and dedicated both her life and work to confronting and addressing the injustices of racism, sexism, and homophobia.

Unfortunately, the pdf-Version is not able to convert some of the special signs. We apologize for that!

Marina Gržinić (2014): Dissident feminisms, anti-racist politics and artistic interventionist practices. In: p/art/icipate – Kultur aktiv gestalten #04 , https://www.p-art-icipate.net/dissident-feminisms-anti-racist-politics-and-artistic-interventionist-practices/