ACCA’s summer exhibition offers perspectives on art and feminism in the #MeToo age
Now in its ‘fourth wave’, feminism is showing no signs of being redundant – but it sure has changed a lot since the so-called Age of Enlightenment, and the predominantly white middle class movement of the 19th and 20th centuries. The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art’s summer exhibition, Unfinished Business: Perspectives on Art and Feminism only takes in the last five decades, starting with the moment that artists took up the movement in Australia – and even so, it shows how far the understandings of the word and movement have evolved: for example, the line-up includes non-binary artists, and the content is intersectional.
Unfinished Business shows that many of the issues artists and women were grappling with in the 1970s still aren’t resolved: the pay gap, the institutional recognition and representation of female-identifying artists, and abortion rights, to name a few. “What’s important is making a space for female-identifying, gender-queer and trans people to be heard – and also to listen – in order to complete the unfinished business that is ongoing,” says Kristensen.
Works in the show include Ali Gumillya Baker’s 8-metre tall tower of racist books, archival political posters from the 1970s, Sarah Goffman’s compilation of placard slogans from the Women’s March on Washington, and Natalie Thomas’s new performance work ‘Man Cleaning Up’, which involves a man on his hands and knees cleaning up – at the opening, and various events throughout the exhibition’s duration.
“Feminism doesn’t have one concern – nor does this show,” says curator Annika Kristensen, who developed the show in collaboration with ACCA’s artistic director Max Delany and a curatorium of leading Australian artists and curators including Paola Balla (who also co-curated ACCA’s 2016 summer show, Sovereignty), Julie Ewington (former curatorial manager of Australian art at QAGOMA), Vikki McInnes (artist, curator and co-founder of Sarah Scout Presents gallery) and Elvis Richardson (artist and founder of the Countess Report).
At the centre of the exhibition space is a new commission by artist Emily Floyd and legendary furniture designer Mary Featherston: a round table, inspired by an illustration Featherston created for Ripple community childcare newsletter in 1977. “It’s acknowledging the role of the domestic kitchen table as site for gatherings and consciousness-raising conversations,” says Kristensen. It also represents an intergenerational conversation, between the two artists, and it extends the exhibition beyond the ‘official line-up’: “We’re welcoming people to come and utilise this space – bring their own ideas to the table for discussion in a public arena.”