9 months ago

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.


The slightly disordered books and art supplies on the back shelves were in my mind to reflect women’s ongoing struggle to “have it all.” Moreover, the minute disarray was also meant to suggest that it is perfectly fine to not obsess about every detail when thinking about the bigger picture. Rokudenaishiko’s work points to the Buddhist practice of gratitude, as not everyone is fortunate to have a home. After the 2008 economic collapse many who were previously securely housed had their homes foreclosed. Economic precarity has resulted in many living one paycheck or illness away from homelessness. A defiant response to the economic injustices and threats of bank(ster) foreclosure is addressed in “Revisiting Womanhouse” by an acrylic painting that Shannon Rose Riley selected as one of the juried works, Phoebe Ackley’s My House (2016). In her short film Black Is Blue (2014), featured artist Cheryl Dunye considers the challenges of homelessness faced by a transman of color named Black. With its challenges to transphobia, economic injustice, racism, and heteronormativity, Black Is Blue can be regarded simultaneously as a comprehensive critical response to Womanhouse, an invitation to viewers to check their own privileges and biases, and an intersectional queer transfeminist call to action and activism. Black Is Blue was shown outside of “Revisiting Womanhouse” as the featured presentation for the exhibition’s video showcase that took place at the Ninth Street Independent Film Center on the evening of January 14 th , 2017. Tidy Aftermaths The next time I returned to the gallery after the exhibition opening I observed that the cubby holes in “Revisiting Womanhouse” had been tidied up. Apparently someone did not approve of the disordered books, the cluttered papers, and haphazard piles of supplies. Everything had been straightened up perfectly. Some of the more unsightly items were missing or had been removed, such as a Trader Joe’s reusable plastic shopping bag that I stashed for safekeeping into one of the cubbies as the opening was about to start. The bag contained my personal exhibition notebook with all of my exhibition notes that I had been accumulating for six months. After several extensive searches the shopping bag’s fate as trash was a foregone conclusion. It wasn’t the first time objects in a gallery were thrown out by mistake. In 2001 a cleaner at Eyestorm gallery in London threw out the impromptu installation that Damien Hirst arranged during a pre-opening reception party. The installation consisted of ashtrays, coffee cups, beer bottles, paintbrushes, and more. Hirst’s installation was allegedly a recreation of an artist studio...and arguably a reflection of the presumptive chaos of the artistic process of some artists. 16 In 2004 a janitor at the Tate Britain in London threw into a compactor a clear plastic bag filled with crumbled paper and cardboard, presuming it was trash. Turned out it was part of the installation Recreation of First Public Demonstration of Auto-Destructive Art by the late artist Gustav Metzger, who ….. 36

is known for coining the term “auto-destructive art.” The bag was found damaged, so the artist replaced it. 17 More recently, in 2015, a recently hired team of cleaners at Muesion Bozen-Bolzano in northern Italy discarded 300 empty champagne bottles and other items such as confetti and cigarette butts that were part of Sara Goldschmied and Eleonara Chiari’s Dove Andiamo a Ballare Queste Sera? (Where Shall We Go Dancing Tonight?), mistaking the installation for the detritus left after a gallery reception. Since the materials, which the cleaners had sorted out for recycling, had not yet been picked up to be thrown out for good the installation was able to be quickly reinstalled. 18 I found the minute changes to “Revisiting Womanhouse” intriguing. The alterations opened up an unintended durational aspect, as the exhibition space changed over time. Granted the tidying up was not a big deal—it was not a violation of the integrity of the space as when a self-identified housewife from South Wales attempted to make the bed and clean the sheets in Tracey Emin’s installation My Bed when it was first exhibited at the Tate Museum in 1999. 19 Nevertheless, the every-so-slightly altered “Revisiting Womanhouse” as a perfectly arranged space communicated something other than what I had intended. That someone made a judgment that the room’s arrangements were not complete or “neat” enough speaks volumes about how women (and here I am making some gender assumptions) feel compelled to clean up after others. Rather than try to “fix” the room and return it to its previous, originally intended arrangements, I chose to let it go. I also elected not to say anything. What would making the tidying up an issue accomplish? It didn’t really matter who had done the tidying. It could have been anyone: a gallery visitor, a fellow exhibition committee member, one of the exhibition artists, a gallery employee, or one of my student volunteers. I would have bet money that whoever straightened up probably believed that I was too much of a slob to notice. I’m also pretty certain that whoever cleaned up was concerned about the show’s aesthetics, not realizing what the aesthetics informing “Revisiting Womanhouse” actually were. Admittedly, I curated “Revisiting Womanhouse” not considering the possibility that the space was still being used as an office since gallery viewing hours for the public were limited. In retrospect I acknowledge that what was viewed by some as a critical provocation for the exhibition could have been seen by others as a deterrent for business as usual. The experience of curating “Revisiting Womanhouse” spotlighted for me perhaps one of the bitterest political lessons of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Differing perspectives can have consequences, that can range from nothingburgers—such as the tidying up in “Revisiting Womanhouse”—to …………….. 37