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F*CK U! In The Most Loving Way

Exhibition catalog for "F*CK U! In The Most Loving Way" created by the Northern California Women's Caucus for Art.

In

In response to Judy Chicago’s feedback, the Exhibition Executive Committee (Leisel Whitlock, Priscilla Otani, and I) decided conjointly to expand the show to include a critical tribute to Womanhouse in a designated space. The major problem with expansion was the dearth of exhibition space. Arc Gallery has a main gallery and a side project gallery for exhibition space. Most of the works selected by the juror, Shannon Rose Riley, were to be exhibited in these two spaces. The only available space to exhibit additional artworks was the office space adjacent to the gallery. Truth be told: NCWCA’s annexation of the office space for the duration of its exhibition was probably a bit more than what was originally envisioned when the four Arc Gallery’s partners agreed to donate its space for the exhibition. Nevertheless, Priscilla Otani as Gallery Managing Partner persuaded Arc’s three other partners that it would be in their best interest to temporarily convert the gallery office into an additional exhibition space called “Revisiting Womanhouse.” Early Steps The planning for F*ck U! In the Most Loving Way coincided with the later stages of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Campaign, election, and immediate aftermath. Our hopes for the outcome of the election influenced our decision-making, as did our dismay about what we regarded as the deterioration of civility in public discourse that was trickling down to the private sphere. The NCWCA Exhibition Collective refined its ideas for the exhibition continuously leading up to the opening; however, we also had some fixed ideas right from the start. As already mentioned, we wanted the exhibition to be a critical reconsideration of the issues presented and implied in Womanhouse from a myriad of contemporary feminist perspectives to reflect current realities for all those who identify as women. We aimed to include multiple mediums in the show, including painting, drawing, sculpture, assemblage, fiber art, performance, video, and film. Given the gallery’s limitations, we reluctantly decided against exhibiting new media, internet art, and installation art. As part of the exhibition programming we would ultimately organize an afternoon for performance and two evenings of video and film screenings. We were honored that the 9 th Street Independent Film Center donated its space for exhibition performances and screenings over two days on January 13-14, 2017. We all agreed that it was crucial for the show’s success to exhibit work that was chosen through a blind jury process with an outside juror. We were also serious about putting on a show comprised of multiple voices, which is why it was organized by a committee of a numerous key players and decision makers. It would be a bit of an experiment, but we were confident that this collaborative multidisciplinary process would create a synergy that would be greater than any of its individual parts or contributions. We had done our research on the history of Womanhouse: we knew that while its concept was ………….. 28

originally suggested by art historian Paula Harper, the installation was created by 21 students in the Feminist Art Program at CalArts under the direction and tutelage of their teachers, artists Judy Chicago and Miriam Shapiro, with contributions from three other artists. The two-month process of getting Womanhouse ready was neither easy nor smooth, and we did not expect ours to be any different. We were up to the task, willing to take on the challenges of collaboration in order to reap its benefits. Aiming to strengthen the links we were creating between Womanhouse and F*ck U! In the Most Loving Way, we sought to include as featured artists those who were part of the original Womanhouse exhibition. We were thrilled when original Womanhouse artists Faith Wilding, Nancy Youdelman, and Karen LeCocq accepted our invitations to participate in our show, as did filmmaker Johanna Demetrakas, who had made the documentary about Womanhouse, also titled Womanhouse (1974). Although we did invite Wilding to perform again her iconic Womanhouse performance Waiting, she had another idea. She proposed to perform welcome-waiting, a collaborative performance with San Francisco artist Việt Lê, with collected images by Michelle Dizon. The performance, welcome-waiting addresses a number of political issues that concerned Wilding during the time when Womanhouse was created, such as American colonialism and the Vietnam War. According to Wilding, Womanhouse did not explicitly exclude the larger issues of the day—some of the performances certainly alluded to them as did collages hidden in the kitchen drawers that showed anti-war protests, Angela Davis speeches, civil rights marches, etc. . . . Waiting was more a statement of the status quo of the gendered division of labor (women’s work) and a drama of a women’s (supposed) passive role in life as experienced in the modern white Western world. The collaborative welcome-waiting text looks at Waiting very differently—as a possible work of solidarity, of being with others, in like-minded expectation, coalitions and struggles. Thus, I think it has everything to do with the state of identity and gender politics today, as well as world-wide conditions of exclusion, emigration, imprisonment, gender discrimination and violence, racism, and sexism. I imagine welcome-waiting as an action of recognition, welcoming and making common cause with others. It is about a kind of self-care that sees the self as inextricably connected with other sentient beings and the world. Corny as this might sound it is what “loving” means to me. It is for this reason also that I think it could be meaningfully connected to “welcoming” in the sense of active invitation, engagement and connection (not just of “tolerance”). It is overwhelming to think of how many prisoners and refugees are “waiting” all over our country and the world. 3 Supplementing Wilding’s comments, Lê has eloquently detailed their collaborative process for welcome -waiting: As for how the collaboration evolved, artist-scholar Michelle Dizon asked me to write poem in response to a series of National Geographic images, in which she excised the original text, ………. ….. 29