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by Secretariat for Ghosts, Archival Politics and Gaps (SKGAL)

Dear Sibila: We are Freelance Feminist Instituting from our Homes, Aren’t You?

What does it mean [...] to curate an exhibition or run feminist art organizations that attempt to challenge and undermine dominant structures, modes of production, and forms of art and knowledge? What acts of self-exploitation may be involved? [...] How can creative dark matter[1] and knowledge be made visible without playing into cognitive capitalism’s hands?[2]

These were some of the questions that we—as part of the curatorial team together with art educator and artist Andrea Haas and art historian and curator Véronique Boilard—raised in the exhibition booklet DARK ENERGY. Feminist Organizing, Working Collectively (2019); questions that were tackled by the different channels of the project: a pre-gathering, an exhibition, an accompanying programme, a workshop, and a published translation of an interview.[3]

In a first attempt to reflect upon the economies of art and knowledge production in relation to the project DARK ENERGY, we asked the participating artist Minna Henriksson to work with us on a diagram of the exhibition.[4] While working on the final stages of the exhibition, we mapped the friendships, working relations, common interests, and institutional proceedings involved, and disclosed the exhibition’s budget—how the money was distributed and spent—as well as non-monetary forms of exchange. By then, we were all too well aware that precarity is the common condition in the cultural sector, but one differentiated by class, gender, racism, among other factors. Why else would we have conceived a project focusing on creative dark matter? We knew that the labour realized for this project would never be compensated in the form of an adequately paid salary, and yet we walked the walk.

Minna Henriksson in dialogue with Nina Hoechtl and Julia Wieger, Exhibition Diagram, 2019

Minna Henriksson in dialogue with Nina Hoechtl and Julia Wieger, Exhibition Diagram, 2019, https://tinyurl.com/29snv9a3

Through the diagram, we wanted to show the public the relationships that had led to the budget distribution in making the exhibition. At the same time, the diagram was a way to address our roles as artist-curators within a system built on cultural capital and its unspoken agreement to “labours of love” within the culture and knowledge sector.[5] It is a troublesome reminder that we almost solely worked for affective remuneration and as an “investment” in our future careers. Such a shiny carrot on a stick! Looking at the exhibition diagram now, the tension between these two forms of being “valorised but not valued”[6] reveals itself at once: it shows how much we are invested in this exhibition with our lives; we can recognise the rudimentary contours of our own collaboration and friendship as well as its broader network of friends and working relations; our education levels, our employment, and our institutional involvement. Despite (or because) of our love and enthusiasm for building from and bolstering feminist (art) practices, one purpose of the exhibition diagram was to dis-identify from the working conditions through showing the economies behind the project, including the exhibition’s budget, as the freelance curator and writer Jenny Richards proposed in the conversation with art historian Danielle Child and curator and researcher Helena Reckitt about “Labours of Love.”[7] In this sense, the diagram also puts forward the question of how to counter the dismal effects of over-identification with our labour without withdrawing from what we are struggling for?

Since the diagram was produced on top of all the other work involved in the making of an exhibition, with no further time to critically dwell on the structure of work conditions, it has also turned into a prompt for later reflections. For this text, we have picked up this note to ourselves and taken a closer look at the diagram, to see what might become more visible, to add what we find missing, to annotate and extend in order to show the contradictions traversing DARK ENERGY. Here we are, a year and half after the exhibition’s completion, pondering on our vocation, enthusiasm and “labours of love.” It was also the combination of these three drives that made us apply in November 2019 to the call for papers for an anthology on “Unsettling Feminist Curating. Radical Subjectivities, Caring Alliances, and Striking Relations” and in March 2019 to rewrite the proposal that was then selected for this issue of OnCurating.[8]

Freelance Feminist Instituting on Enthusiasm and Unpaid Labour
Working for more than fifteen years for the most part as freelancers in the cultural and knowledge sector, we have been utterly cognizant that our labour and self-exploitation are part of “the invisible dark matter that keeps the culture sector going.”[9] “[A]part from domestic and care work,” writes the artist Hito Steyerl in 2012, “art is the industry with the most unpaid labour around. It sustains itself on the time and energy of unpaid interns and self-exploiting actors on pretty much every level and in almost every function.[10] At the time we wrote the exhibition proposal, taking Steyerl’s consideration as a key argument, we had yet to realise that we are full-blown enthusiasts like Sibila—the main character of El entusiasmo. Precariedad y trabajo creativo en la era digital [Enthusiasm: Precariousness and Creative Work in the Digital Era, 2017] by the art historian and writer Remedios Zafra—and how much vocation and enthusiasm keep us going.

Sibila is a worker in the cultural and knowledge sector, she “is enthusiastic and hard-working. Her name is Cristina, María, Ana, Inés, Silvia, Laura..., even when she is Jordi or Manuel, she is always feminized”[11] and even more vulnerable if not white, heterosexual, able-bodied, at least middle-class and/or holding legal citizenship, among other factors.  In this text, Sibila’s name is Nina and Julia, she comes from a middle-class background, white, heterosexual, able-bodied, and with legal citizenship from an EU-country. We are part of the multitude that Zafra so vividly describes:

A multitude fueled by unpaid scholars, people hired by hours and interns, lone writers of great vocation, nomadic freelancers, pregnant doctoral students, collaborators and cultural critics, versatile artist-curators and permanently connected youngsters who almost always “compete.”[12]

The two of us are dear friends, collaborators as the Secretariat for Ghosts, Archival Politics and Gaps (abbreviated in German as SKGAL), and artist-researchers employed on sessional contracts at more than one university. Like Sibila we are told: “You have an education and a roof over your head. You are privileged, what are you complaining about?”[13] Zafra elaborates that this is referred to as “‘the precariousness of the privileged’ because when the extreme inequality of those who have nothing is normalised and made overly visible, privilege seems to be ‘having the basics and engaging in self-exploitation.’”[14] For this text, while we write, talk, exchange thoughts, and work on the diagram, mediated by screens, several months elapse. Due to SARS-CoV-2 combined with remote teaching, we are not only permanently connected online but we also earn less and are almost non-stop in front of screens at our tables.[15] Confined to our homes, we work for several institutions.

As The Disoeuvre: An Argument in 4 Voices (WASL Table) (2018) by the participating artist, writer, and art educator Felicity Allen distinctly shows, working from home has long been a feminist condition. The photo-essay series features a wooden table that Allen had acquired around the time she co-founded the Women Artists Slide Library (WASL) in 1978. The series conveys how the table supported the work of WASL but also served other purposes for more than forty years: it was used for painting, for a buffet at her son’s party, or for writing her PhD. Reflecting upon working conditions as an artist, Allen makes the point that “women, POCs, and other marginalized people need to work socially and institutionally outside as well as from inside the studio in order to make work and change the structures to allow them in.”[16] Still today, the table is in the artist’s home while we, confined at home, keep on working to change the structures.

We are freelance feminist instituting from our homes. This means that we work, clean, cook, pay for the Internet, do computer maintenance as well as digital bureaucracies, talk, complain, discuss, love, laugh, and cry with the ones we share our homes with. The triple working day—“work outside the home, work within the home, and affective work of producing relations and networks of care”[17]—has now been confined to the home of billions, deepening an already existing crisis of social reproduction and exacerbating nearly every kind of discrimination.[18] While this is not a new situation, during the global pandemic, it has become more widespread and therefore a more visible condition. The curator, cultural theorist, and urban researcher Elke Krasny rightly reminds us that the crisis of the pandemic

affecting the vast majority of the planet’s population of course predates by far the current crisis, as it dates back to colonial capitalism, which has long infected the planet with viral forms of exploitation, exhaustion, extraction, and depletion. The current pandemic amplifies the crisis of care.[19]

At this present conjuncture, we add the three words, confined at home, to one of the questions that theorist and activist Verónica Gago poses in relation to the international and plurinational feminist strikes on March 8: Confined at home, “When do you stop, if after work you keep working at home and in the neighborhood, in all those community spaces that, in fact, expand and overflow the domestic sphere, and reformulate work itself?”[20] In relation to the subjects raised on Instituting Feminism in this issue, we ask if feminist instituting can redefine the very notion of work; if feminist instituting is capable of connecting to proposals of feminist economies.[21] Confined in our homes, what does it entail to challenge institutions and/or to scope out new projects in the cultural sector while we are freelance feminist instituting?  

Feminist Instituting on Open Calls
In 2016, at our respective homes, in front of our screens, together with Andrea we wrote an exhibition proposal for the open call of the Vice-Rectorate for Art and Research at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna on “Artistic Approaches to Economies of Knowledge.”[22] Like Sibila, we believe that a system based on public calls “is fairer than one that favors the arbitrariness of supporting acquaintances, relatives or friends. Sibila believes that and Sibila desires it.”[23] In Austria, in recent years, womxn’s organisations, feminist magazines, trans- and migrant-led associations have been operating under the risk of losing state funding under the pretence of an endless “budget crisis”—which would lead to even fewer opportunities to become acquainted with and explore feminist practices. Thus, it felt pertinent to propose a project to introduce diverse—historical as well as contemporary—feminist collaborative practices and how they are influenced by their general economic set-up. The subject of the call undoubtedly directly addressed our interests, and it seemed to offer plenty of resources.[24] All of this together made us agree to an “exhibition business practice in which budgets become smaller, work more precarious, the market more global, and the competition increasingly intense.”[25] Like Sibila, we readily fell into the trap of knowing but not delving into how the open call itself exploited love, vocation, and enthusiasm. Looking at the exhibition diagram now, it cannot be ignored that the business practice of the call and the labour we put into the proposal is missing. Retrospectively, this seems an important omission since the call determined a priori our working relation with the institution.

It is therefore noteworthy that in terms of the operating budget, which includes the curators’ fees, the call makes no difference regarding the curators’ relation to the Academy. How and if the work of the curators is remunerated depends on whether one is a full-time or a half-time employee, a sessional teacher, a student, or an independent artist or curator with no affiliation to the institution.[26] The biggest difference being that while external curators or curatorial teams need to fit their fees into the operational budget (in 2016, this was €7500)—which also has to cover artist fees, the production of new artworks, travel and accommodation costs, shipping, and the insurance of artworks, as well as the materials for the exhibition design—staff of the Academy are expected to do their curatorial labour as part of their employment. Due to their employment, Academy staff might find themselves in an economically more stable situation; most likely, though, parts of their labour are also rendered as labours of love. In both working relations, the academic institution either seems oblivious of the labour the curators have to put into the making of an exhibition at best, or it exploits the promise of the open call for its own benefits at worst. In this sense, the problems we know from working at home—e.g., how the difference between work and non-work is blurred, or how work never gets done—can also be found in how the work outside the home has expanded into the academic system. “The academic system would implode,” Reckitt points out in “Labours of Love,” “if we demanded payment for the actual hours that we put in.”[27]

Freelance Feminist Instituting
DARK ENERGY took place at xhibit, the exhibition space of the Academy. With large windows opening onto the street and on approximately 280 m2 on two floors, xhibit embarked on a mission to provide more visibility to exhibitions “at the interface between academic teaching, artistic-scholarly research and the international field of art.”[28] Until then, xhibit had been less noticeable to the public eye on the second floor of the Academy’s main building. The orientation of its new visibility is clear: the space is within walking distance of five renowned contemporary art galleries. Since 1999, these galleries had formed, as one of them advertises, a “new centre of contemporary art and discussion [...], at close quarters to Wiener Secession, Academy of Fine Arts, Kunsthistorisches Museum and Museumsquartier.”[29]

SKGAL, Dark Energy Pie Charts Diagram, 2021

SKGAL, Dark Energy Pie Charts Diagram, 2021


SKGAL, Galleries Eschenbachgasse Pie Charts Diagram 2020 (Crone Wien, Martin Janda, Meyer Kainer, Krobath, Steinek), 2021

SKGAL, Galleries Eschenbachgasse Pie Charts Diagram 2020 (Crone Wien, Martin Janda, Meyer Kainer, Krobath, Steinek), 2021


The renovation for the new space took longer than expected. As the opening of xhibit at its new location was postponed several times, so was the opening of DARK ENERGY. As a result, we worked sporadically on the project over a period of two years. This did not convert into higher fees but provided us with more time for grant writing. Hence, we were able to cover the travel and accommodation costs for three artists and theorists who joined us for a pre-gathering, as well as for three artists and Véronique, from our curatorial team, to install their works in person and be present at the opening. Without a doubt, being able to spend time and be in the same space together in Vienna—to share thoughts about our practices and discuss what motivates us— enabled those moments when we felt our work had paid off. These moments were a substantial part of our affective remuneration for all our self-exploitation. If only we could do that on different terms.

DARK ENERGY was finally inaugurated in March 2019. The whole project would not have been possible without the work and research we had done so enthusiastically, the experiences we had gained, and the practice we had accrued over five years as part of the Austrian Association of Women Artists (abbreviated in German as VBKÖ: Vereinigung bildender Künstlerinnen Österreichs)—a womxn artist-run space with a long and complex history. When other artists’ associations such as the Vienna Secession denied women artists membership, and the Academy of Fine Arts did not allow women to enrol at the beginning of the 20th century, the VBKÖ campaigned for women’s admission into these all-men institutions.[30] Still today, the VBKÖ’s annual state subsidy of around €25,000 is approximately twenty times less than the one of Vienna Secession.[31] Thus, its annual programme of exhibition and events is primarily supported by the enthusiasm and voluntary work of its members. From 2012 to 2017, we too carried out volunteer institutional work and experiments to develop a more permeable approach to curating. The method was to collectively create space in the institution for feminist queer antiracist and decolonising discourses through multiple avenues of entry such as group exhibitions, artists' talks, panels, tours, an annual ball, workshops, symposia, and a German language course for newly arrived citizens. Alongside our institutional work at the VBKÖ, as SKGAL we researched the unsettling history of the association and dug into the archives of other feminist art institutions, such as the Women’s Art Library (WAL), the Women of Colour Index (WOCI) in London, and the practices of the Casco Art Institute[32] in Utrecht, all of which later featured in DARK ENERGY as examples from which to learn and unlearn.

Let’s take a closer look at the WOCI, created more than thirty years ago. In 1987, the UK-based African-American multi-media artist and archivist Rita Keegan—a key figure in the British Black Arts Movement—joined the Women’s Art Library (WAL) to establish the Black Women Artists Index, later called Women of Colour Index. In an interview, Keegan told the participating Black artist, designer, and archivist Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski that she got paid for creating this Index at the end of the 1980s:

I got paid, you know I survived on it, it wasn’t a massive amount of money, but it was a job. Though you know, I would have done it with or without the job, but getting paid was gravy. It was, you know, it was originally two days a week at minimum wage, but it was 2 days a week on minimum wage. [laughs][33]

Keegan’s words convey her enthusiasm for documenting as much as her relief at regular pay. After Keegan left, the WOCI “laid dormant” for more than twenty years until the arts, archives, and research group X Marks the Spot (Lauren Craig, Mystique Holloway, Zhi Holloway, Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski) provided a novel access point to the Index through their publication Human Endeavour: A Creative Finding Aid for the Women of Colour Index in 2015.[34]

Although WAL and WOCI are part of the Special Collections at Goldsmiths, University of London, it is readily apparent that, in the current precarious era, ongoing work with and activation of WOCI are unfeasible. As there is a lack of staff who could solely focus on the WOCI, to update and activate it, and not enough budget to invite artists/curators/researchers to work with it consistently, the WOCI and the Human Endeavour, although the latter is permanently accessible online, lie almost dormant as a commentary on the WAL collection. Exploitation and sacrifice are visibly increasing in contexts related to culture and knowledge —including those of WAL and DARK ENERGY. “The sacrifices that artists have historically made in their devotion to their art,” Helena Reckitt points out, “are now expected of everyone who works in the cultural sector.”[35]

Considering our experience of working for the VBKÖ, and from what we learned from other feminist art organisations, it becomes apparent that the exhibition diagram is truly a diagram of creative dark matter. In this diagram, like the VBKÖ, many of the feminist organisations and archives rely on underpaid or volunteer work by artists, activists, and other enthusiasts of our own generation as well as the generations before us—the creative dark matter nurtured the exhibition, while its dark energy holds the potential to expand fixed ideas about artistic creation and to question exploitative modes of production and working conditions. Looking at this web of creative dark matter and dark energy now in relation to the pie chart of the exhibition’s budget, we see that the labour of love of the web is not reflected in the pie chart of how the budget was distributed. Bringing feminist (art) practices of dark energy into the exhibition space of the Academy of Fine Arts—with its orientation towards an international business of artistic-scholarly research, if not the art market—inevitably creates friction as its different economies collide. Reflecting today, it seems important to pay attention to such transitions between divergent economic and organisational contexts. After all, it makes a difference if one works for very little money for a state-funded public institution or an underfunded self-organized feminist art organization.

Feminist Instituting in the Digital Era
The feminist art institutions and practices featured in DARK ENERGY have faced dynamics of discrimination and exclusion which are still or yet again active, although we are in a different era. It is a digital one. As Zafra shows in El entusiasmo, in our current digital era, the ways cultural workers’ vocation and enthusiasm are exploited has to be understood in the context of today’s infinite digital activities which are predominantly embraced as pleasurable.[36] “While our creative life is committed (and in it I as a brand) to today’s online activity, scrutinised twenty-four hours a day,”[37] the leisure- and desire-driven, mostly unpaid activities of social media users, like Sibila, contribute as unremunerated forms of work, activities, and connections that profit a few Internet companies.[38] At this present conjuncture, the global pandemic has accelerated the cultural and knowledge sector’s turn to the digital arena. In the world of culture, this has meant podcasts, art blogs, live streaming, Internet exhibitions, virtual show days/walkabouts and studio tours, among others. In a time when the audience needs to stay home, these are means chosen by cultural organisations to engage their public in order to maintain their role as a resource for cultural production and consumption.[39] But this is just one part of the picture. For the most part, online content, such as live-streaming and virtual touring, is (still) accessible (for free). However, access to smartphones and the cost of data as well as the great pollution caused by Internet data transmission need to be considered before providing URL links or big file attachments as an all-encompassing solution for engaging diverse audiences across the socioeconomic divide. These pressing considerations need to be taken into account while (freelance) feminist instituting (from home), connected 24/7 to the Internet!

Freeing Up Time and Energy: Let’s Imagine!
It was a mix of vocation, love, and enthusiasm that drove our versatile artist-curator work and fuelled the productive machine of DARK ENERGY. Through all of it ran the exploitation of selves and “the impossibility to see where our work begins and ends, where our work ends and our desires begin.”[40] Clearly, it is a bad habit of all the enthusiasts like us! “Not distinguishing between work and life” is one of the almost twenty bad habits that Child, Reckitt, and Richards identified we collectively share.[41] In the course of working two years on and off on DARK ENERGY, each of us earned all in all €400. There is no doubt that we are full-blown enthusiasts![42]

Installation views, DARK ENERGY

Installation views, DARK ENERGY

Installation views, DARK ENERGY

Installation views, DARK ENERGY

Installation views, DARK ENERGY, with works by Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski and Aida Wilde, ff. Feministisches Fundbüro, Martha Fleming and Lyne Lapointe, Felicity Allen, Belinda Kazeem-Kamin´ski, Anti*Colonial Fantasies – Imayna Caceres, Sunanda Mesquita, Sophie Utikal, Felicity Allen and Althea Greenan, filmprogramm by Anne Golden with Chantal DuPont,Vera Frenkel, Tanya Mars, Diane Poitras, Martha Rosler, Vidéographe; Joyce Wieland, xhibit, Vienna 2019. Photo: Lisa Rastl.

Installation views, DARK ENERGY

Installation views, DARK ENERGY

Installation views, DARK ENERGY

Installation views, DARK ENERGY, with work by Annette Krauss and the shifting team at the Casco Art Institute, and with archival materials
from La Centrale galerie Powerhouse with works by lamathilde, Anne-Marie Proulx; Minna Henriksson, Althea Greenan, xhibit, Vienna 2019.
Photo: Lisa Rastl.


Sibila is the name which Zafra gave to all these enthusiasts. It is important to remember that Sibila’s life belongs to hundreds and hundreds of womxn, students, colleagues, and strangers. “After the enthusiasm comes exhaustion and perhaps disorientation,” describes Zafra but, it seems to her, “that ‘consciousness’, ‘solidarity’, and ‘imagination’ can be great allies for them (us).”[43] Indeed they are great allies for us. Let’s imagine what to do for the coming feminist strike on March 8! As Gago points out, there is a “double dynamic to the strike: to stop certain activities, to free up time and energy in order to give time and space to others (both existing ones and those to come).”[44]

In this respect, we want to direct the energy we put into this text—the labour of love enthusiastically writing such a feminist killjoy text as well as the unpaid work hours and worked-through weekends— away from expanding our curriculum back to our web of creative dark matter and dark energy. We imagine freeing up time and energy, and calling our friends and colleagues to collectively explore “Can We Imagine a Feminist Economy of Culture?”[45] First, we would collect our experiences of feminist instituting from inside and outside the institutions, and we would discuss, for example, the economies of open calls in the culture and knowledge sector. Later, we would delve into the possibilities for art and knowledge workers to (completely) unlink from current economies, to build alternatives, parallel infrastructures that sustain themselves outside the capitalist system, meeting the urgent demand of planetary ecological justice.

In an attempt to connect to proposals of feminist economies in our freelance feminist instituting, we ask: Can we come up with agreements of cultural production—such as an open call—“based on the principles [...] of social and local economies”?[46] Can we imagine what exhibitions at state-subsidised institutions, and even private ones, would look like if they had commons-based models of cultural production?[47] Can we think of ways to organise cooperative forms of cultural production and consumption? How can we challenge the unsustainable cultural production and consumption to realise planetary environmental justice for humans and nonhumans alike?

Looking at the exhibition diagram now, we see there are more things which are not addressed. We realise that the tonnes of carbon footprint produced, as well as the work of external staff, are missing. We did not make time to consider ecological dark matter as inextricable from artistic, social, political, and economic forces. Nor did we think about how our labour as external curators relates to the work of the external cleaning staff or the external workers of the security firm. How can we enable sustainable practices? How can we build alliances with other groups affected by precarity? How can we spark solidarity and reach other bodies in struggle outside the cultural sector to share common contradictions? How can we make ecological commitments “in order to take the best care of our broken and infected planet”?[48]

Collectively making diagrams might enable us to more clearly address unsustainable working conditions and ecologies in the cultural sector. It might also allow us to engage more effectively in the contradictions at the heart of (freelance) feminist instituting and to convert them into purposeful referents and creative power rather than obstacles. Sibila out there—at home, in the institution—strike and imagine on March 8! Let’s create affective structures through which hope, fear, anxiety, desire, as well as common struggles and as such possibilities for change are constituted. Here’s to a big desire of freelance feminist instituting!


Sekretariat für Geister, Archivpolitiken und Lücken / Secretariat for Ghosts, Archival Politics and Gaps (SKGAL)
 (Nina Hoechtl/Julia Wieger)

www.skgal.org Through artistic means, the SKGAL deals with archival politics and historiography, particularly embedding feminist and decolonising perspectives. In lecture performances, workshops, texts, videos, exhibitions, and programmes, SKGAL grapples with materials, documents, and archives in order to set up a continual, multi-perspective, and collective historical work. Thereby, they weave together different times (from the K.u.K Monarchy to Austrofascism to the 2nd Republic and the neoliberal present), materials, and art practices. SKGAL’s feature film Hauntings in the Archive! (2017) on the archive and the her/history/ies of the more than 100-year-old Austrian Association of Women Artists (Vereinigung bildender Künstlerinne Österreichs, VBKÖ) won the Women’s Voices Now Best Documentary Feature in 2018.

In 2019, DARK ENERGY. Feminist Organizing, Working Collectively explored feminist forms of organisation and knowledge production in the cultural sector. It gave centre stage to the visual, material, and performative characteristics of feminist collaborative practices. It asked how these forms of organisation and production are influenced by their general economic set-up, and what begins to sway politically in this context. Which forms of creative dark matter and knowledge can be practised, produced, and disseminated when, where, and how?

At xhibit, the exhibition brought together a diverse range of efforts that tackle these questions in different contexts and times. Through the work of the participating artists, archivists, designers, and activists, the exhibition provided insights from feminist, queer, and decolonising perspectives into the forces that collide with(in) art institutions and organisations.

Curators: Véronique Boilard, Andrea Haas, Nina Höchtl, Julia Wieger

Participants: Felicity Allen; Anti*Colonial Fantasies – Imayna Caceres, Sunanda Mesquita, Sophie Utikal; Chantal DuPont; ff. Feministisches Fundbüro; Martha Fleming und Lyne Lapointe; Vera Frenkel; Anne Golden; Althea Greenan; Minna Henriksson; Belinda Kazeem-Kamiński; Annette Krauss and the shifting team at the Casco Art Institute; lamathilde; Tanya Mars; Diane Poitras; Anne-Marie Proulx; Martha Rosler; Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski; Sekretariat für Geister, Archivpolitiken und Lücken; Vidéographe; Joyce Wieland; Aida Wilde.

[1] Gregory Sholette, Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture (London: Pluto Press, 2011).

[2] Véronique Boilard, Andrea Haas, Nina Höchtl, Julia Wieger, “Introduction,” in DARK ENERGY. Feminist Organizing, Working Collectively (exhibition booklet, Vienna: Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, 2019), 11. See: https://tinyurl.com/2p8cv5je

[3] After the opening, Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski and Aide Wilde, with the funding and support of The Academy Goes to School (Agids) programme, convened a printing workshop with high school students with histories of migration. The high school students’ posters were presented in DARK ENERGY as part of Ahaiwe Sowinski and Wilde’s installation.

For the translation of the interview, see: Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski, Rita Keegan, “Nachdenken mit Rita Keegan, der Erfinderin des Women of Colour Index (WOCI),” in DERDIEDAS bildende, WA(Ä)HL[EN] 7(2019). For more on the pre-gathering, see: https://tinyurl.com/y6qb2k8r; on the book launch and guided tours, see: https://tinyurl.com/yxrluhgl; and on the screening, see: https://tinyurl.com/y2ocqktj.

[4] We would like to thank Minna for working with us on the diagram within her artist fee of €300. This artist fee had been allocated from the operating budget to all the participating artists. Minna’s travel, accommodation, and production costs of €1000 were covered by the Frame Fund of Finland.

[5] Danielle Child, Helena Reckitt, Jenny Richards, “Labours of Love,” Third Text 31:1 (2017): 147-168.

[6] Emma Dowling, “Valorised but Not Valued? Affective Remuneration, Social Reproduction and Feminist Politics beyond the Recovery,” British Politics 11, no. 4 (December 2016): 452–468.

[7] Child, “Labours of Love,” 162.

[8] CFP: Unsettling Feminist Curating, in: ArtHist.net, September 29, 2019, accessed January 10, 2021, https://arthist.net/archive/21679.

[9] Hito Steyerl, “The Politics of Art: Contemporary Art and the Transition to Post-Democracy,” The Wretched of the Screen (New York: Sternberg Press, 2012), 96. In London, the Carrot Workers’ Collective and the Precarious Workers Brigade organise around the conditions of free labour in contemporary economies, in particular the cultural sector. See: https://carrotworkers.wordpress.com/, https://precariousworkersbrigade.tumblr.com/.

[10] Steyerl, “The Politics of Art,” 96.

[11] Remedios Zafra, El entusiasmo. Precariedad y trabajo creativo en la era digital (Barcelona: Anagrama, 2017), 41.

[12] Ibid., 21.

[13] Remedios Zafra, “The Precariousness of the Privileged,” Barcelona Metropolis 113, "Emerging Vulnerabilities" Issue (November 2019), accessed November 5, 2020, https://www.barcelona.cat/metropolis/en/contents/the-precariousness-the-privileged.

[14] Ibid.

[15] In 2020 in Austria, self-employed artists could apply for a one-time state subsidy of up to €10,000 to cover COVID-19 related losses of income.

[16] Allen in DARK ENERGY, 27.

[17] Véronica Gago, Feminist International: How to Change Everything (London: Verso, 2020), 27.

[18] It goes beyond the scope of this text, but it is important to add that seeking refuge from the danger of the virus means being confined to a situation no less dangerous for some womxn: a situation of domestic violence and abuse. Further, care work is overwhelmingly relegated to womxn, and working-class womxn, and especially womxn of color and/or with a history of migration, are not only more at risk of contracting COVID-19 and dying from it, they are also over-represented in essential care work roles including nursing, elderly care, childcare, food service, and domestic labour. In Austria, the Verein Autonomer Österreichischer Frauenhäuser (Associaton of Autonomous Austrian Shelters for Women), which provides a domestic violence helpline for women, has noticed an increase in violence against women and children since the outbreak of the Corona crisis. In July 2020, they stated that they “usually receive 22 calls per day, currently there are up to 36 calls per day, and this figure is rising.” Elisabeth Buder, “Gewalt gegen Frauen und Mädchen während Covid-19,” UN Women Austria, accessed February 21, 2021, https://www.unwomen.at/2020/07/08/gewalt-gegen-frauen-und-maedchen-waehrend-covid-19/.

[19] Elke Krasny, “Radicalizing Care: Living with a Broken and Infected Planet,” in Provisions: Observing and Archiving COVID-19, Site Magazine (2020), accessed January 8, 2021, https://www.thesitemagazine.com/elke-krasny.        

[20] Gago, Feminist International, 27.

[21] Regarding feminist economies, we are specifically thinking of proposals, practices, and theories conceived by the DAWN School of Feminist Economics. See: https://dawnnet.org/movement-building/social-mobilization/the-school-of-feminist-economics-sfe/, https://www.economiafeministadawn.org/.

[22] xhibit, the exhibition space of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, was founded in 2010, and its programme consists of three exhibition formats: the graduation show, the solo show for a graduate selected by a jury, and the curated exhibition for which the Academy publishes a yearly call. The call is addressed to staff and students of the Academy, as well as to artists and curators outside the institution. Over the last ten years, though, in most of the selected curatorial teams, at least one member was affiliated with the Academy. For more on the 2016 call, see: https://www.akbild.ac.at/portal_en/research/art-research-service/ausschreibungen-wettbewerbe_en/2017/xhibit-call-for-exhibition-proposals-fuer-das-studienjahr-2017-2018/Call_xhibit_e_2017_18.pdf.

[23] Zafra, El entusiasmo, 68.  

[24] In Vienna, there are currently only a few art institutions, all of them independent, that put out open calls for exhibitions: the Kunsthalle Exnergasse (https://www.wuk.at/kunsthalle-exnergasse/), the IG Bildende Kunst (https://igbildendekunst.at/en/home/), and recently the VBKÖ (https://www.vbkoe.org/) and Haus (https://haus.wien/), all of which provide a smaller operating budget than the Academy.

[25] Vera Lauf and Barbara Mahlknecht, “A PROPOSAL TO CALL,” exhibition text, Kunsthalle Exnergasse (Vienna, 2015), accessed January 9, 2021, https://www.wuk.at/en/kunsthalle-exnergasse/kunsthalle-exnergasse-archive/2015/11/a-proposal-to-call/.

[26] When we handed in our proposal, two members of our curatorial team came from inside the Academy and two from the outside. At that moment, Julia was employed part-time, and Andrea was starting her PhD, while Nina and Véronique had no affiliation with the Academy. At a later stage, still before the opening, Andrea had paused her PhD studies, and Julia’s contract had run out.

[27] Reckitt, “Labours of Love,” 149.

[28]      xhibit statement, accessed November 24, 2020, https://www.akbild.ac.at/portal_en/art-exhibiting/exhibition-space-of-the-academy/xhibit.

[29] Galerie Martin Janda, overview text, Basel 2019, accessed November 24, 2020, https://www.artbasel.com/catalog/gallery/1542/Galerie-Martin-Janda.

[30] Vereinigung bildender Künstlerinnen Österreichs Archiv/Archive of the Austrian Association of Women Artists, VBKÖ ARCH 32. For more on the campaigns of the VBKÖ, see Megan Brandow-Faller, “An Art of Their Own. Reinventing Frauenkunst in the Female Academies and Artist Leagues of Late Imperial and First Republic Austria, 1900–1930” (PhD dissertation, Georgetown University, 2010), 51–273.

[31] Nina Höchtl and Julia Wieger, “‘Die Kunst der Frau’, interview by Fiona Sara Schmidt, an.schläge 6 (2016), accessed November 15, 2020, ”https://anschlaege.at/die-kunst-der-frau/.         

[32] Binna Choi and Yolande van der Heide, “Decolonizing Art Institutes,” Notes on Curating 35 (December 2017): 87-98, accessed November 28, 2020, https://on-curating.org/issue-35-reader/decolonizing-art-institutes-from-a-labor-point-of-view.html.

[33] Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski, “Reflecting with Rita Keegan―on 4 September 2015,” in Human Endeavour: A Creative Finding Aid for the Women of Colour Index, eds. X Marks the Spot, Joan Anim-Addo, Althea Greenan (London: Goldsmiths, University of London, 2015) accessed November 28, 2020, http://research.gold.ac.uk/id/eprint/19685/.

[34] Catherine Grant and Althea Greenan, "Lost and Found: Feminism, Archives and the University under Lockdown," Goldsmiths Press (2020), accessed December 11, 2020, https://www.gold.ac.uk/goldsmiths-press/features/lost-and-found/.

[35] Reckitt, “Labours of Love,” 149.

[36] Zafra, El entusiasmo.

[37] Zafra, “The Precariousness of the Privileged.”

[38] It goes beyond the scope of this text, but it is important to point out that in this digital era, the corporate power of a few US and Chinese digital companies is on the cusp of achieving “quantum supremacy” from “network-data”—the accumulation of data-as-capital that makes up capitalism’s digital age. See: Anita Gurumurthy y Nandini Chami, "The Intelligent Corporation. Data and the Digital Economy," State of Power 2020, January 16, 2020, accessed December 11, 2020, https://longreads.tni.org/stateofpower/the-intelligent-corporation-data-and-the-digital-economy.

[39] In Vienna, major state cultural institutions, from the Belvedere to the State Opera, have put almost all of the city’s cultural treasures online, currently offering selections from its archive of artworks and video performances, as well as a VR/360-degree experience. See: https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/belvedere, https://yourstage.wien.info/en-us/article/staatsoper. Until January 2021, galleries could apply to the Federal Ministry for a Digitizing Grant of max. €5000 for realising projects until the end of March 2021. It is very unlikely that the online presence of the Belvedere or the State Opera was realised with this amount of money. See https://www.diegalerien.at/index.php/foerderankuendigung-2.

[40] Silvia Federici, Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle (Brooklyn: PM Press, 2012), 20.

[41] Child et al., “Labours of Love,” 156.

[42] We would like to thank Stephanie Damianitsch, who worked with us as the Academy’s exhibition manager, for her dedication, good spirits, and positive energy! Without her commitment, DARK ENERGY could not have been realized!

[43] Zafra, El entusiasmo, 243.

[44] Gago, Feminist International, 25.

[45] Javier Rodrigo, “¿Es posible una economía feminista de la cultura?,” Nativa, November 9, 2015, accessed December 7, 2020, https://nativa.cat/2014/11/es-posible-una-economia-feminista-de-la-cultura/. For the German translation "Können wir uns eine feministische Ökonomie der Kultur vorstellen?," see pages 85-88: http://diekamion.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/kamion_01_aus-den-kreislaeufen-des-rassismus.pdf.

[46] Rodrigo, “¿Es posible una economía feminista de la cultura?”

[47] On the question of commons-based models of cultural production, see the inspiring work of the Casco Art Institute: Working for the Commons and its long-term engagement of cultivating and sustaining commons through art. See: https://casco.art/en/about.

[48] Krasny, “Radicalizing Care.”

Go back

Issue 52

Instituting Feminism


by Helena Reckitt and Dorothee Richter

by Secretariat for Ghosts, Archival Politics and Gaps (SKGAL)

Emelie Chhangur interviewed by Jennifer Fisher

by Husseina Hamza, Joyce Jacca, Tracey Jarrett, and Janna Graham

by la Sala (Alba Colomo & Lucy Lopez)

by Alex Martinis Roe and Helena Reckitt

by Romane Bernard, Sofia Cecere, Thelma Gaster, Jeanne Guillou, Barbara Lefebvre, Séraphine Le Maire, Oksana Luyssen, Rose Moreau, Jeanne Porte, Laurence Rassel, and Miska Tokarek

by Ann Sutherland Harris, Daria Khan, Rosa Martínez, Camille Morineau, Maura Reilly, and Catherine de Zegher

by Ève Chabanon, Anna Colin, and Madeleine Planeix-Crocker