Are battles over gender equality and equal rights still important? In what way is feminism relevant today? SKMU Sørlandets Kunstmuseum contributes to the debate with the exhibition The Beginning Is Always Today, featuring forty Scandinavian artists whose works address feminism in the last twenty years.
My impression is that feminism is almost a taboo word in Sørlandet (southern Norway), in the rest of Norway, and also in certain other parts of Scandinavia. Why? Are all the battles for equality won, both here and in the rest of the world? Do we enjoy so much justice and equality that there is nothing left to fight for? And if so, is that any reason to be provoked and irritated by the very concept of feminism?’, asks museum director Karin Hindsbo at SKMU Sørlandets Kunstmuseum.
With The Beginning Is Always Today, SKMU is the first museum to focus on feminism today in all the Scandinavian countries. The exhibition is also the culmination of SKMU’s commemoration of the centennial for women’s suffrage in Norway.
‘Earlier this year we presented the works of Else Marie Jakobsen and Yayoi Kusama, and in both cases, pointed to the battles waged by artists of earlier generations. Now we spotlight art and feminism today and give insight into the conditions and challenges that still exist. I can think of no better way to celebrate one-hundred years of voting rights in Norway then to allow today’s feminist artists to speak’, Hindsbo reasons. This fall she invites the public to experience serious, sometimes intrusive, other times extremely humorous art at SKMU.
NO LONGER ONLY BIOLOGICAL GENDER
During the 1970s, the stereotype for feminist art was works dealing explicitly with the woman’s body and problems related to the home. Feminism’s scope is much wider today, for it encompasses themes related to minorities, power and global issues.
‘One very interesting development is that women’s roles are no longer presented first and foremost from the perspective of biological gender, but from a much wider social perspective. This includes, among other things, a critique of the status of women in history writing, the hierarchical ranking of ethnic minorities, discrimination of immigrant workers, and mass media’s sexualization of women’, says Hindsbo.
Even though Scandinavia is considered to be far ahead in terms of sexual liberation, gender equality and equal rights, the feminist art scene is relatively unknown to those who are not involved in it.
‘There was clearly a need for this project. Due to the inadequate documentation of art and feminism in Scandinavia, SKMU has done extensive research in advance of the exhibition. We are therefore launching a book that sheds light on important aspects of the field of feminist art from the last twenty years’, says Hindsbo.
THE BEGINNING IS ALWAYS TODAY
‘The title for the exhibition and the book is a quote from the eighteenth-century feminist pioneer Mary Wollstonecraft. It emphasizes that some battles never end, but must be renewed each and every day’, concludes museum director Karin Hindsbo from SKMU Sørlandets Kunstmuseum.