Call drawing by Marie Béney
Drawings by Rose Moreau
At the end of 2020, Helena Reckitt emailed to invite me to contribute to the issue of OnCurating on Instituting Feminism that she is co-editing with Dorothee Richter. Since 2016, I have been acting as director of an art school in Brussels, erg (école de recherche graphique, école supérieure des arts). In this role, I have publicly claimed and attempted to act as a feminist. Feminism, from my position, is fundamentally about asking “who, what, for, and in which conditions, and how?” never taking anything for granted, or as natural, above all within cultural and educational institutions.
When invited by Helena, my first reaction was to write this article with, and give the floor to, a collective of artists who are dealing with, challenging, imagining, and enacting an intersectional and feminist exhibition, in tandem with thinking and doing a contemporary feminist practice.
Comprising current or former students from various Brussels art schools, the “collectif étudiant intersectionnel féministe” (CEIF) was created in 2020, just before, as we now call it, “the second lockdown.” Their “approach is to bring together a diversity of feminisms and gender experiences in a single struggle, united against patriarchy. The artistic forms and expressions that the collective represents and supports are equally diverse.” Invited by the réseau genre ESNU (higher education non-university gender network) to conceive a travelling exhibition, they took time and care to define the protocols of a call to fellow artists and students, the decision-making structures, the curation, and the installation of a feminist intersectional exhibition.
The following, in the words of the CEIF, is the call for projects, as well as their thinking process about the exhibition, preparatory drawings, and references that outline the inspirations and paths for a feminist exhibition.
– Laurence Rassel
“Moving bodies embody a resistance to the immobile and reactionary state.”
– Iris Brey, 2020
“The oppression of bodies by patriarchy–of people who are called ‘minorities’–is a reality, justified by their presumed or real inadaptability to the world.”
–Thelma Gaster, 2021
“The ‘resurgences’: reappearance in the open air, in the form of a large spring, of water absorbed by underground cavities.”
– Miska Tokarek, 2021
In order to reach as many people as possible, we felt it was necessary to launch a call for projects, via a poster campaign in various art schools and streets, to announce the exhibition. The responses were overwhelming.
We felt it was necessary to take care of the welcoming of these people. Presentation times are planned for each person, speech is encouraged, visualisation sessions (see below) or exercises to allow the body to take the space play an important role in enabling people to feel accompanied, respected, and in cohesion with the group.
Building common ground is the source of emancipation of the group. We have materialised this common ground in the form of a group of huts in the exhibition's scenography.
Our constant desire for openness is what allows us to understand, to prevent, to heal, to undertake in empathy with everything that constitutes us and everything that constitutes others.
We were obsessed by the desire to heal the individual while building something common, but how? The image of the village, which today has become much more than an image for us, appeared to us as a metaphor for what we wanted the participants to project themselves towards. A whole made up of individuality, relationships, and intersubjectivity. It allowed us to think about the idea of “system,” which is difficult to grasp in normal times.
VISUALISATION SESSION 1: “Now imagine that we are a village: how is the village organised? the dwellings? [...] what are the circuits of sharing and knowledge? How do we learn yours? How do we transmit? Are there schools? Philosophers, wise men, madmen/women? What are our relationships with madmen and wise men? [...] Is there a leader? Imagine a feminist village.”
After imagining this, the shape of the exhibition begins to emerge. Then we had to think about travel and itinerancy of the exhibition: where is the urgency? At school, in the street, in the museum? Everything seems to be on fire to us, and we envisage the exhibition moving from one place to another, crossing spaces and the borders that are sometimes set up between them.
VISUALISATION SESSION 2 “How do we move together in space? Where do we go? Do we meet in the street? In a museum? In a squat? In an abandoned place? Does the night belong to us? Are we safe or are we putting ourselves in some danger? [...] How are we going to fortify ourselves? To be connected and face this sometimes dangerous, sometimes welcoming world?”
"What if the revolution was not a product, nor a vague and distant promised land, but the relations we have around us, there, now?”
 An informal group of people from the non-university higher education sectors (ESNU), which was created under the impetus of the non-profit organization Sophia (Sophia’s primary aim is to foster research and teaching in the field of gender studies in Belgium. See: www.sophia.be). This group brings together actors concerned with gender and diversity issues. Non-university higher education includes art schools in the French-speaking community in Belgium.
The [CEIF] (feminist intersectional student collective), invites you, current or former students
or any person with an individual or collective artistic practice to participate in a travelling feminist exhibition that will begin in March 2021. Objectivity is the prerogative of the norm. We are not minorities who express our views.
Our subjectivities can become one.
– to meet us during the meetings of the [CEIF], the last two Wednesdays of January (20 and 27 January 2021)
– to respect the principle of gender balance desired by the collective: we invite everyone to join us, women, trans and non-binary men/women, with the exception of cis men, who are not invited.
For more information and to get in touch with us: firstname.lastname@example.org.