'Martha Wilson Sourcebook: 40 Years of Reconsidering Performance, Feminism, Alternative Spaces' Book Release
Join us for a special evening with artist Martha Wilson as we celebrate the release of her new book, Martha Wilson Sourcebook: 40 Years of Reconsidering Performance, Feminism, Alternative Spaces, a collection of primary research materials consisting of rare archival documents and excerpts of landmark publications that influenced Wilson and her approach to activism and art.
Martha Wilson Sourcebook is the first in a new ICI publication series that offers a fresh perspective on social, political, and cultural issues impacting and inspiring artists’ practices, comprised of materials that the artist selects from their own archive and annotates with personal commentaries. Wilson's selection encapsulates the contestations around feminism, performance art and alternative spaces, accentuating the ways that identity and positioning are not just self-defined or projected, but also negotiated within one’s environment and through one’s critical reception. This unique selection of materials documents Wilson’s actions and work and reveals her interest in fellow artists such as Vito Acconci, Carolee Schneemann, Nancy Spero and Lynda Benglis and includes in its entirety Lucy Lippard’s exhibition catalogue for c. 7,500, the groundbreaking 1973 exhibition of women Conceptual artists, which first declared the significance of Wilson’s work.
By using this subjective approach, Martha Wilson Sourcebook has become a unique document reflecting both personal and widely experienced issues in sustaining alternative art practices in the United States. As Moira Roth writes in her Introduction, “For me, this extraordinary selection of texts conjures up a library-or perhaps a collection squirreled away in boxes and cupboards-of books, catalogues, journals, and magazines that have been accumulated over the years. When I first looked at the Sourcebook’s table of contents, I had a sense of the last forty years as experienced through Wilson’s eyes, and found myself once again an admirer of her powerful influence on the changing concepts of feminist art and alternative spaces.” Roughly half of this volume consists of texts that influenced Wilson and the remainder is texts by or about Wilson.
Martha Wilson (b. 1947, Philadelphia) is a pioneering feminist artist and gallery director, who over the past four decades has created innovative photographic and video works that explore her female subjectivity through role-playing, costume transformations, and “invasions” of other people’s personas. She began making these videos and photo/text works in the early 1970s when she was studying in Halifax in Nova Scotia, and further developed her performative and video-based practice after moving in 1974 to New York City, embarking on a long career that would see her gain attention across the U.S. for her provocative appearances and works. In 1976 she also founded and then directed Franklin Furnace, an artist-run space that championed the exploration and promotion of artists’ books, installation art, and video and performance art, further challenging institutional norms, the roles artists played within visual arts organizations, and expectations about what constituted acceptable art mediums.
Marvin Taylor, respected cultural historian and librarian, once wrote, “Martha Wilson IS Franklin Furnace!” The mission of Franklin Furnace is to present, preserve, interpret, proselytize and advocate on behalf of avant-garde art, especially forms that may be vulnerable due to institutional neglect, their ephemeral nature, or politically unpopular content. For twenty years, from 1976 to 1996, Franklin Furnace occupied a storefront space in Tribeca in Lower Manhattan, presenting historical and contemporary exhibitions of artists’ books as well as temporary installation and performance art to the public. Since its inception, Franklin Furnace has served the local, national and international community of activist artists—artists who have addressed urgent subjects such as war, poverty, disease, racism, sexism, and homophobia. In the wake of the Culture Wars of the 1980s and 90s, Franklin Furnace came to be identified with artists’ rights to freedom of expression as a result of its presentation and support of the four artists who came to be known as the “NEA 4,” artists whose grants from the National Endowment for the Arts were revoked due to the subject matter of their art. Franklin Furnace “went virtual” on its 20th anniversary, providing artists with a digital platform for freedom of expression.