This research and exhibition project repositions feminism and its collaborative, inclusive, community-based tenets at the center of contemporary social practice.
The first iteration of this project is Revolution at Point Zero, the first exhibition of its kind to position the feminist art as the progenitor of contemporary socially-engaged art. The featured projects generate conversations which reframe social practice with intersectional feminism at its core, and support a new feminist-centered theory for defining the field at large. The exhibition reclaims the feminist movement's collaborative, inclusive, community-based strategies as central to contemporary social practices. Point Zero is also the springboard for a publication and traveling exhibition.
The exhibition features women-identified, North American artists whose work focuses on radical acts of the personal and political. Selected works include: Laura Andrson Barbata'sJulia Pastrana: A Homecoming, including the gender-subverting, history re-envisioning burlesque performance with Fem Appeal; Marisa Jahn'sThe Careforce, with a public performance choreographed and performed by activitsts of the domestic labor movementl Las Nietas de Nono'sIlustraciones de la Mecánica, participatory theatre of untold narratives about reproductive health in Puerto Rico, Megan Young’sLongest Walk, with Angela Davis Fegan, an installation of female identifying bodies in public spaces created in protest of politics as usual; and a featured recent work entitled Snow Workers' Ballet by Mierle Laderman Ukeles, one of the pioneers of the social practice movement.
Co-curated by Jessica Cochran and Melissa Potter
According its proponents, socially engaged art blurs the lines between politics, community organizing and art. Projects such as community gardens and centers, interactive and multi-generational workshops, educational programs, and public art invoke the spirit of urgent social transformation. The exhibition initiative Social Paper charts the evolution of the art of hand papermaking in relation to recent discourse around socially engaged art and points specifically to craft, labor and site specificity, as well as the collaborative and community aspects of hand papermaking as contemporary art practice.
From urban elementary schools to indigenous tribes in Latin America to communities of international war veterans, hand papermaking artists and practitioners translate this medium into meaningful activity with diverse constituencies. To date, no major exhibitions or discourse around this important and timely theme exist. This exhibition will contribute to new scholarship in the field of craft arts and specifically hand papermaking, as well as feature the work of the Center for Book and Paper Arts, a unique institution in Chicago, and the world that supports critical discourse and interdisciplinary activity in the book and paper arts. A digital copy of the catalog is available here.
Pulped Under Pressure
co-curated by Reni Gower and Melissa Potter
With traditional hand papermaking at its core, Pulped Under Pressure (first exhibition at the Tidewater Community College Visual Arts Center January 16 - March 3, 2016) underscores important contemporary issues steeped in history and craft. Enticed through touch, these works encourage a contemplative slowing down even as they urge acknowledgement of some of the most pressing issues (environmental crisis to global marginalization) facing civilization today.
At the turn of the 20th Century, a renewed interest in handicrafts reflected the idealism of designers, artists and thinkers like William Morris and the Roycrofters. In a direct response to the mechanization of industrialization, these practitioners believed in the transformative nature of hand work, which continues today in what is often described as the “DIY” aesthetic. The rise of technologies then, as they do now, always invoke a return to the haptic and hand-held.
Like many crafts including clay, glass and fibers, interest in hand papermaking as an artistic medium started in earnest in the early 1970s. Collaborative studios like Dieu Donné created spaces where the medium could be explored in many incarnations, such as fine art editioning to micro-industry initiatives. These institutions are now international treasures that create diverse contemporary works in what were once utility-based traditional crafts.
Educational institutions and crafts schools followed suit with programs highlighting hand papermaking and its relationship to book, paper and print. In the few decades since, they have populated the contemporary art and crafts world with generations of paper-based artists interested in the ways in which the medium offers a distinctive voice. Its labor intensive process encourages collaboration, and so quite naturally community-based, interactive projects abound. Its scientific process also encourages artists to study its inherent biology and technology through its relationship to farming and plant stewardship. For all paper practitioners, its infinitely mercurial nature—which often changes by climate, studio, location and time of year—is part of hand papermaking’s challenge and appeal.
In very unique ways, these artists consider paper beyond its most common function as a passive surface of record. Instead, the material is transformed and imbedded with content that turns communication into a public practice. By challenging assumptions, the artists of Pulped Under Pressure create artworks that are both beautiful and brave. --Reni Gower and Melissa Potter
Exhibition card for Pulped Under Pressure, co-curated with Reni Gower