SCULPTURE HUB a network for sculptors

sculptureHUB - research summary and conclusion

After over a year of research, presentations, round-table discussions, studio visits and meetings with sculptors, curators, institutions, gallery owners and self-organized collectives in the Nordic region as well as in New York, we have now evaluated our findings and what we believe is the best way to move forward.

Our Process and Activities

The project started as a research into the uneven gender representation within the sculpture field in the Nordic region titled “Underrepresented: Women Sculptors – A post-feminism perspective”. With the goal of the project being creating a dialog focusing on the underrepresentation of women sculptors in public and private institutions, exhibition venues, galleries and biennales in the Nordic region it soon became clear that it needed a forum. SculptureHUB was created. As a network site and blog where we could present our ideas, advertise open-calls, invitations to meetings and presentations as well a place for women sculptors to connect. The project originated in my own experiences as a woman sculptor, seeing the unusual uneven gender representation within the field, not only in the UK and USA but in Göteborg and Stockholm, Sweden. I wanted to find out if women sculptors in the neighboring Nordic countries had similar experiences and perspectives on the situation. I invited curator Sofia Landström who focuses on feminist methodology and alternative exhibition making and whom I have worked with before, to join the project.

Through a series of talks, presentations and network events we set out to collect as much information as possible from artists that self identified themselves as women sculptors ( we naturally also welcomed artists of all gender and artistic practices to our events) and were based in the Nordic region regardless of origin. The first presentation was held in collaboration with Galleri BOX in Göteborg, Sweden. It was both a launch of sculptureHUB and a discussion with British sculptor Rose Gibbs who had participated in the much talked about all-women sculpture exhibition at Pangolin Gallery in London. During this first presentation and the discussion that followed it became clear that a standard public presentation of sculptureHUB followed by a standard Q&A was not considered the best option. We listened and decided that we would change the format for the upcoming presentations to be more informal and for the rest of the project we called the presentations “Network meetings” where we only shortly presented the background and sculptureHUB, gave each city some examples of their % male/female artist currently on show to move on with an informal round-table discussion. After all we were interested in hearing what the audience had to say on the subject and give them a chance to meet each other. The first presentation also made it clear that there was an interest in discussing sculpture in a broader field but with a focus on subjects, concepts and ideas that felt more urgent to women sculptors than stone carvings of male heroes. The idea of having a parallel artist talk series with this focus was born.

Re-caps of all the talks can be found here on our blog. The talks were; Social Sculpture: Bait al Karama & Slow Food in Palestine with Beatrice Catanzaro and Cristiana Bottigella, Drawing on Sculpture: Graphic Interventions on the Photographic Surface with Jon Wood from the Henry Moore Foundation in Leeds, RE/FORMATIONS: Disability, Women, and Sculpture with Dr. Ann Fox and Jessica Cooley, The Expanding Field & The Collective as Strategy with Sisters of Jam and Carolina Pahlén.

The second sculptureHUB network meeting was held in Helsinki in collaboration with HIAP, the 3rd in collaboration with artist-run Tenthaus Oslo in Norway, the 4th one in Copenhagen at NLHSpace. After each meeting we would consult our notes, discuss and write a summary re-cap of the subjects that had been had talked about, ideas and suggestions put forth. The summary was posted here on our blog and website.

While in Helsinki, Oslo and Copenhagen we also made studio visits with artists that had not been able to make it to the event but had interest in the subject, we also visited numerous exhibition venues and tried to meet with as many other arts professionals with an opinion in the subject. Especially Tenthaus Oslo made an incredible effort creating a day long portfolio viewing day where Marianne Hultman, the artistic director of Olso Kunstförening/Oslo Fine Art Society in Norway also joined in.

In March part of the week-long International Women’s day celebration at a-venue! Academy Valand, University of Gothenburg we were invited to talk about sculptureHUB and our research. We have also had several requests for sharing our findings but have this far held of until we have had time to compile it into writing and also had discussed how best to move forward.

In April we went to NYC to discuss sculptureHUB, all-women shows and the possibilities and interest in staging an exhibition with women sculptors from the Nordic region in New York. We met with The Guerrilla Girls, Art 21, Artist/Gallerist Jen Dalton, A.I.R Gallery, ICI - Independent Curators International, VOCA – Voices in Contemporary Art, Curator Amanda Parmer, ISCP Studio space and curator Saisha Grayson. Everyone we met were extremely generous sharing experiences and giving us suggestions and advise.

In addition we also visited numerous of galleries and exhibition venues.

Results, Experiences and Moving Forward

Through sculptureHUB we got a first hand insight in how women sculptors perceive their current situation in the Nordic art world today. It soon became clear that the situation is much more complex than the obvious number crunching of male v.s female artists shown and represented in galleries, institutions and public commissions ( in the Nordic cities it is still only about 35% female and 65% male with some variations Surprisingly women artists still felt that if they brought up feelings or even hard facts of being overlooked because of their gender, they would be stamped as troublemakers or simply being jealous. Our network events proved to be much needed by providing a “safe” anonymous forum for women sculptors to voice their frustration and exchange strategies but also to network. Interesting enough the meetings that first started out discussing the inequalities and sharing experiences eventually moved into discussions of the sculpture field in general; what it meant to be a sculptor today, public commissions, sculpture v.s installation etc. And the brainstorming while discussing different strategies for changing the gender status qvo was very rewarding.

The initial long term goal of the project was to arrange a group exhibition with Nordic women sculptors outside the Nordic region. But as the project progressed it became clear that the real inequality was actually in the lack of solo opportunities for women sculptors. Venues often had no issue with staging all women group shows or even including a majority of women artists in group exhibitions but when it came to giving women artists solo exhibitions it was a completely different story. The importance of solo exhibitions for an artist career can not be overstated. But for being a signifier of professional achievement, solo exhibitions also provides important visibility and publicity that in turn promotes future opportunities. An example of just how significant solo shows are for the value of artists work is the now common practice by commercial galleries to stage several exhibitions by different artists in the same gallery at the same time but promoting them as “solo” exhibitions. For the artist working towards or planning for a real solo exhibition it is often a extremely rewarding process, an opportunity to see ones body of work over several years interact and interrelate with each other or being able to completely take over a venue for one large piece. While the group exhibitions often help exhibition venues improve the gender statistics (especially if hosting graduation shows from art schools since there is a majority of women art students) they do not seem to be as valuable for women artists nor their careers.

Since the long term plan was to stage an all-women group show, we asked all artists we met with in group discussions, portfolio days or in studio visits if they thought an all-women exhibition was a good strategy for making women sculptors more visible and secondly if they themselves would want to participate in such an exhibition?

The discussions we had in all Nordic countries as well as in New York City, surrounding all-women shows where always vivid, engaging and extremely opinionated. It often started out by being suggested that all-women shows were purely a ghettoization of women artists, a media stunt for exhibition venues and no matter what the curatorial statement said in regards to the selection of the artists, the discussions by media and critics seemed to always be reduced to only discuss the fact that it was exhibitions with only women. The majority of opinion was that an all-women show was a bad idea. But as the discussions evolved there were examples of some instances where all-women shows might be a good idea e.g if the curatorial concept dealt directly with issues specific for women's life such as feminism. Moving along, it became evident that the resistance to all-women shows where not as fixed as initially suggested and if certain criteria could be fulfilled might not be a bad idea. The criteria was; that the concept tying the selected artists together had to be more than just their gender, the quality of the selection of artists, the reputation of the exhibition venue and the size of the artist fee. It seemed that if the exhibition was in an extremely high status venue and that there were really large artists fees and a solid concept that tied the sculptors together but for their gender, that this might be enough to avoid having the exhibition be promoted and discussed only by the fact it lacked male artists. Putting forth this scenario to artists that initially stated they would never be part of an all-women show indeed made them reconsider their stance.

But finally, considering our findings and experiences during this project it is clear that to provide real visibility and lasting value for women sculptors we should work towards convincing a well established exhibition venue to agree to dedicate one full exhibition year to stage 7 solo shows by women sculptors. SculptureCenter in Long Island City is a forerunner in the field with all of their solo exhibitions during 2016 being dedicated to women artists.

Let´s see if we can get a Nordic venue to agree to do the same!

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We would like to express our gratitude to everyone that has met with us and so generously shared their work, ideas and reflections upon the subject. We would also like to thank the organisations that generously have collaborated with us; HIAP- Helsinki, Tenthaus Oslo, NLHSpace Copenhagen and Gallery Box, Göteborg., Göteborgs Konsthall, Akademi Valand and Röda Sten Art Center.

And we are grateful for the financial support from our main funder the Nordic Culture Point and Göteborg Stads Kultur for their support in the Sculpture Talk series, Längmanska Art Foundation, SWEA North Carolina, IASPIS and Helge:AX Johnsson Foundation. Thank you!

 

Creating value around women artists: the chief curator’s view

Interesting article in The Art Newspaper by Julia Halperin in which Los Angeles Moca’s Helen Molesworth explains why the gender imbalance in museums persists and what can be done to remove it.

Here follows an excerpt, read the full article here

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Helen Molesworth

 

In our May print edition, we examine new initiatives in the US and UK that aim to promote female artists—and ask curators, collectors and artists whether such philanthropic endeavours can make a difference. According to research by the Freelands Foundation and The Art Newspaper, female artists in the US and UK receive fewer than 30% of all solo shows at major museums. 

Molesworth spoke with us about why the gender imbalance in museums persists, why we must expand the definition of “genius” and what hard choices institutions must make in order to create a truly balanced programme.

The Art Newspaper: Recent studies in both the UK and the US found that women get around 25% of the solo shows at major museums. Why do you think this disparity still persists today?

Helen Molesworth: People always stay “still today” as if something happened to change the patriarchal system that we live under. As far as I can tell, the patriarchal system is still firmly in place. Since the movement in the early 20th century to get the right to vote, we haven’t had that long a battle in terms of changing the institutions that shape our culture. That’s why the percentages are the way they are—in the Senate and the House of Representatives and Fortune 500 companies. I don’t think the art world has any special purchase on patriarchy.

But people talk about the art world being progressive, a place for ideas—as if it should be ahead of other institutions.

It is a place for ideas and we are a progressive and liberal community, but that doesn’t set us apart from the larger cultural forces at play, which have for the past several hundred years promoted the idea that genius and men and power and money are all very intertwined with one another. Unravelling centuries’ worth of discrimination doesn’t happen overnight, or even within decades.

...

How do you think things have changed over the past five or ten years? I spoke with the artist Deborah Kass about this, and she said that things have only got worse since art became an asset class.

The rise of art as an asset class has made a lot of things worse for a lot of people—women and men. It’s a low moment in the development of Western civilisation. But I do think some things are better and I think there have been really important shows of work by women. A handful of people around the country make diverse schedules. We could have had this conversation 40 years ago but I wouldn’t have been a chief curator and you wouldn’t have been an editor. That progress is slow and the ascendancy of art as an asset class has only slowed that progress down.

Why should museums open up their ranks?

Two reasons. First, I believe that museums reflect the ideas and values of the culture that they live in, so they need to expose us to all the possibilities and diversity of that culture. The second, more important, reason is because museums in the West are bound up with democracy. The Louvre became the first public museum in the wake of the French Revolution. They help people understand where they come from, where they are and where they might be going. I don’t understand how we can get any better at being democratic if we aren’t making a programme that represents the fullness of human capacity.

Portfolio-viewing day for women artists working with sculpture and/or in the expanding field of sculpture.

"Speed-dating style portfolio-viewing day for women artists working with sculpture and/or in the expanding field of sculpture and have a connection to the Göteborg Region" at Galleri BOX, Wednesday May 18th.

For our 6th and last presentation in the Sculpture Talk series we decided to mix things up a bit in our goal to raise visibility for women sculptors. Instead of having a formal presentation followed by a Q & A session we decided to have a portfolio viewing day.
10 Sculptors were selected through an Open-Call whom got a chance to share their practice with 5 curators; British artist/curator Rose Gibbs, Ylva-Li Ahlstöm och Elin Aldén from Galleri Slätten in Malmö. 

We had two sessions in which 5 artists moved between 5 curators the first one running from 1:30-3 pm the second one from 3:30-5:05. The day provided an informal meeting space for artists and curators. It was interesting to see the many different forms of expression, media used, concepts and aesthetic approaches.

As an artist active in the Göteborg Region I have myself often found that there is a real lack of curators and/or artistic programming directors from institutions coming through that are actually interested in meeting with local artists based here as opposed to only giving a formal presentation of their curatorial practice. This is a challenge for any artist choosing to live on the outskirts of the main capitals and cultural hubs and an issue that should be of highest priority for the arts council and the regional cultural development agencies that supposedly have a formal mission to improve the conditions for artists to be active in the region.

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Slätten is a gallery with focus on women´s artistic practice. We wanted to create a place where we are the norm, where we are always number one and where we never need to compete with each other. We wanted this because the combination of women and creativity, equals a fantastic place where anything can happen.

Gallery Slätten in Malmö exhibits female artists working in all media. We present a new exhibition every month. The opening receptions have many visitors and the response to our concept has been positive. It is obvious that our focus fills a gap, or rather that we have created something completely new. A gallery just for women.

Gallery Slätten is run by photographers Ylva-Li Ahlström and Elin Aldén who first met at Östra Grevie folkhögskola. Their common starting point in their art practice is that they have both made a conscious choice. They only photograph women. And in their gallery work they only collaborate with women.  Ylva-Li received her BFA in Fine Art Photography from Akademi Valand in Göteborg. She mainly works with film and photography, always focusing on women´s stories. Elin studied photography at Fotoskolan in Gamleby, Östra Grevie folkhögskola and at Kbh film og fotoskole. Her photography focuses mainly on sisterhood and struggle.

Galleri Slätten

Rose Gibbs uses sound intervention, sculpture and participatory performance as a way to consider the possibilities of consciousness-raising. Most recently she has used speech and the voice as a way to explore how iteration and re-iteration affects our feedback loops. She questions if we can become something other than we are, if we can escape our own reflexive loops, by experiencing and speaking other people´s words. She uses the voice to explore the space between the collective and individual experiences of identity, inviting participants to join communal readings. Similarly her objects become an invitation for group making, where the object can serves as a vessel for temporary community and conversation, creating a provisional space or carrier for a coming together in group action. All of these are attempts to reconsider the dual program of feminism: both a method that seeks to recognize gendered group treatment, while also finding a route to autonomy and liberation from such categorization, where these two aims are often felt to be at odds with one another. Her practice seeks to reflect and harness this oscillating movement in an attempt to disrupt ideological hegemony without resting easy.

London based Rose Gibbs has organized the discussions; Taking Up Space –Women Only Shows – hosted by The Contemporary Art Society and Central Saint Martins, as well as a Reproducing Motherhood at Shoreditch House. Recent performances have included Performing Protest, Becoming Radical and Slogans for Becoming at The Function Room London, and Invitation at Wysing Art Centre. She writes a blog for Huffington Post, and works with the grass roots feminist activist organization The East London Fawcett Group and in 2013 was director of The One Billion Rising Arts Festival.

www.rosegibbs.com

sculptureHUB is a networking site and blog for sculptors, created by Snowball Cultural Productions in response to the uneven gender representation within the sculpture field. Aimed at women sculptors in the Nordic countries with aspirations to reach beyond the field and geographical boundaries and the long-term goal to organize an exhibition. Run by Josefina Posch and Sofia Landström.

For the past few years curator Sofia Landström has focused on the analysis and writings concerning feminism, exhibitions and feminist theorizing. Her interest for exhibitions as a place for discussion and dialog began during her time as chairman at Galleri Pictura in Lund, where she realized how the exhibition premises not only encompasses that what is hung on the walls but is also influenced by everything that is taking place outside; politics, economy and social changes. Landströms current interest takes departure in the `Women-Only-Shows´ concept, using three Swedish exhibitions as starting-point; `Kvinnfolk´ (1975) , `Störning´ (1993) and `Syster´ (2014). She investigates questions surrounding dissent but also in what way these exhibitions can be seen as `models of resistance´ where new narratives are being created as oppose to ghettoized phenomenon. At the moment Landström is in the middle of finishing up her MFA in Exhibition Studies at Central Saint Martins in London.

http://curatingjournal.com

Gothenburg based Josefina Posch works with a number of different techniques and media; installation, drawing, sound, aromas and social experiments – always from a sculptors perspective. She explores the dividing line between the private and the public, working with the tension between a scientific and a voyeuristic form of observation, with focus on the point where technology, cloning, averages, ideas and fiction meet. Posch has had solo exhibitions in Sweden,China, USA and the UK and participated in several Artist-in-Residencies around the world. Posch is also active as a curator and is the founder of Snowball Cultural Productions that organized and produced exhibitions and seminars such as;
nordic art / Between Miracles at CCA-Tbilisi, Georgia and the Nordic Tour of the Guerrilla Girls. Currently Josefina Posch is developing a network and seminar series titled; Female Sculptors as forum for dialog concerning dissent and 3D art, that focuses on Nordic Female Sculptors, supported by the Nordic Ministry of Culture. Since 2012 she is gallery manager at Galleri Box and representative on the IASPIS Gothenburg chapter board.

www.josefinaposch.com
www.snowballproductions.com

Sculpture Talk V: The Expanding Field & The Collective as Strategy

Saturday May 14th at 2:30-4pm, Galleri Box in Göteborg, Sweden

In our fifth Sculpture Talk we expanded upon the field of sculpture and presented Sisters of Jam - Mikaela Kristensen in dialog with Karolina Pahlén curator at Borås Art Museum. We also showed part of S.O.J video installation from Kate Millett Farm. “It takes a million years to be a woman”, video 10 min. The talk also included The Temporary Separatists - artist Rose Gibbs and Sofia Landström.

The discussion took departure in the women collective Kate Millet Farm and the evolution of that community to expand into the ideas of sisterhood and working in collective. The dialog continued to revolve around the pros and cons with all-women-shows as a strategy to make women artists more visible especially when organizing exhibitions that does not have clear feminist or women issues as the core concept to tie the artists to one another. Since our sculptureHUB research and in extension the series of talks can be seen as explorations of different strategies for making women sculptors and artists visible, this conversation served as a good way of tying up the lecture series that have touched upon varying subjects such as; material, aesthetics and social practice.

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Documentation images by Martin Hultén

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S.O.J Video Still from “It takes a million years to be a woman” 

S.O.J. – Sisters of Jam was founded in 2008 by Moa and Mikaela Krestesen they have been working in interdisciplinary art projects using multiple media – photography, video, drawing, installation and text – in an ongoing investigation of community, solitude, historiography and continuity. Their work seeks to address a feminist dialogue over generations and geographies. A dialogue that is both virtual and allegorical; that reaches backwards and forwards and at the same time tells us something new. Sisters of Jam use collaborative work methods to overcome boundaries of genres and become wider, greater and stronger. www.sistersofjam.com

Karolina Pahlén is since 2010 curator for moving image at Borås Art Museum. With an education in visual art, film and curating at the International Center of Photography (NYC, University Collage of Arts (Sthlm) and the University of Stockholms , her curatorial practice focuses on the moving image as well as the creation of platforms for art and knowledge production. Amongst her latest curatorial projects are; the Screens & mirrors, exhibition at Borås Art Museum; Archaelogy & Exorcisms: Moving Image and the Archive, seminar and publication with Steven Cairns (ICA, London), the exhibition Syster in which Sisters of Jam participated and they are also collaborating in the project IN 21ST CENTURY ZESTERHOOD. http://systerboras.blogspot.se/2014/11/antligen-far-vi-ta-plats.html

Rose Gibbs uses sound intervention, sculpture and participatory performance as a way to consider the possibilities of consciousness-raising. Most recently she has used speech and the voice as a way to explore how iteration and re-iteration affects our feedback loops. She questions if we can become something other than we are, if we can escape our own reflexive loops, by experiencing and speaking other people´s words. She uses the voice to explore the space between the collective and individual experiences of identity, inviting participants to join communal readings. Similarly her objects become an invitation for group making, where the object can serves as a vessel for temporary community and conversation, creating a provisional space or carrier for a coming together in group action. All of these are attempts to reconsider the dual program of feminism: both a method that seeks to recognize gendered group treatment, while also finding a route to autonomy and liberation from such categorization, where these two aims are often felt to be at odds with one another. Her practice seeks to reflect and harness this oscillating movement in an attempt to disrupt ideological hegemony without resting easy.

London based Rose Gibbs has organized the discussions; Taking Up Space –Women Only Shows – hosted by The Contemporary Art Society and Central Saint Martins, as well as a Reproducing Motherhood at Shoreditch House. Recent performances have included Performing Protest, Becoming Radical and Slogans for Becoming at The Function Room London, and Invitation at Wysing Art Centre. She writes a blog for Huffington Post, and works with the grass roots feminist activist organization The East London Fawcett Group and in 2013 was director of The One Billion Rising Arts Festival. www.rosegibbs.com

 

The talk is part of the series of talks with sculpture focus organised by Josefina Posch - sculptureHUB / Snowball Cultural Productions during 2015/16 in collaboration with Galleri Box also supported by Göteborg Stads Kultur.

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Sculpture Talk V: The Expanding Field & The Collective as Strategy

Saturday May 14th at 2:30-4pm, Galleri Box in Göteborg, Sweden

In our fifth Sculpture Talk we expanded upon the field of sculpture and presented Sisters of Jam - Mikaela Kristensen in dialog with Karolina Pahlén curator at Borås Art Museum. We also showed part of S.O.J video installation from Kate Millett Farm. “It takes a million years to be a woman”, video 10 min. The talk also included The Temporary Separatists - artist Rose Gibbs and Sofia Landström.

The discussion took departure in the women collective Kate Millet Farm and the evolution of that community to expand into the ideas of sisterhood and working in collective. The dialog continued to revolve around the pros and cons with all-women-shows as a strategy to make women artists more visible especially when organizing exhibitions that does not have clear feminist or women issues as the core concept to tie the artists to one another. Since our sculptureHUB research and in extension the series of talks can be seen as explorations of different strategies for making women sculptors and artists visible, this conversation served as a good way of tying up the lecture series that have touched upon varying subjects such as; material, aesthetics and social practice.

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Documentation images by Martin Hultén

 

sculptureHUB research trip to NYC

Last week SculptureHUB went to New York to meet with curators, institutions and artists based in the city. We are happy to have met so many inspiring people and thankful for everyones feedback on our project. The input will be helpful in our summation of our research and for the planning of our future exhibition project.

Amongst others we meet with Guerrilla Girl Frida Kahlo, who generously invited us to the preview opening of Agitprop! Exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in which they were participating. We also had the pleasure to make connections for our future project with independent curators and organizations such as Independent Curators International -ICI with their own expansive networks of institutions and artists. The many interesting questions we were asked made us further consider how to work with information, create comprehensive research material, connect women and build up confidence amongst women artists and how to strive to explore categories and labels.

We would like to express our gratitude to everyone that took time to meet with us and voice their opinions concerning our project. A special thank you to Helge Ax:son Johnsons foundation for supporting Sofias travels.

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