ART ALSO JOINS THE FOURTH WAVE OF THE FEMINIST MOVEMENT

Several uprisings, protests and public initiatives demanding real equality between women and men in our society have given way to the so-called "Fourth Wave" of the feminist movement. We are starring in a historical period that defends that women's rights must be once again on the social and political agenda to settle a debt still pending on the much-needed parity. And in this context, the proposals that want to redeem the historical void that many women have suffered are of vital importance.

Varvara Fedorovna Stepanova, “Jugadores de billar”, 1920, © VEGAP, Madrid (photo via museothyssen.org)

To some extent, this effort to highlight the different professional roles that many women have developed throughout history constitutes a titanic effort. We must keep in mind that this forgetting is not only due to a tendency to relegate them following the dictates of the dominant patriarchal thought, but also to a factual reality, such as the lack of women who could make their way into each historical stage and stand out in their field in adverse circumstances for this. Without a doubt, there would have been many more examples with a propitious context. Let us think that the world population is divided equally between both genders. Seen this way, throughout these centuries, our collective knowledge, our progress and the evolution of our own history has been deprived of the contributions that come from half of society.

As we said, we live in a stage in which projects rediscovering relevant female characters in their respective specialities are in full swing. The objective of these initiatives is not, of course, to change the past, but to open new paths towards the future. The questioning of our location on this path through equality is a reflection of a global society that has matured and that dares to take giant steps in this direction. Self-criticism and the will to amend imply a prior exercise of reflection and analysis. Thus, extolling the work of women who were pioneers in their field shows that history has not always been as they have told us, but, above all, it provides models and examples that can inspire the women (and society) of the future to face their personal and professional development with the certainty that they will not have obstacles because they are women.

Viera Sparza (Mª Dolores Esparza Pérez de Petinto), Virginia, 1956, (photo vía museo.abc.es)

Large institutions also add to this trend. The Prado Museum will open next October 22nd one of the most anticipated exhibitions of the year dedicated to two great women of painting who practically went unnoticed for the history of art. Sofonisba Anguissola (ca. 1535-1625) and Lavinia Fontana (1552-1614) were two outstanding artists who were able to devote themselves completely to their passion despite living in an adverse environment that prioritised male work. This exhibition brings together for the first time 60 works by these two authors and will be a unique opportunity to get to know their legacy. Although the relevance they reached in their time, even in life, was blurred over the years, in recent times a huge interest in their work has aroused, both for researchers, scholars and experts and for the general public. And this is because these creators broke moulds, dismantled stereotypes and questioned some of the maxims long defended by the society of that time about the lower quality of female work in artistic disciplines.

For its part, the ABC Museum of Illustration closed last month its exhibition "Dibujantas", which brought to light the work of 40 women illustrators who collaborated in publications since the end of the s. XIX that, however, remained anonymous on numerous occasions. The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum also contributed to this line with an exhibition dedicated to women of the Russian avant-garde, under the title "Pioneers", which took place from March to June of this year.

Sofonisba Anguissola, “Isabel de Valois sosteniendo un retrato de Felipe II”, 1561 - 1565 (foto vía museodelprado.es)

These proposals fulfil an exemplary and pedagogical mission, with a discourse for equality developed from the position of influence that many of these institutions have, serving as a model for many others. Without a doubt, we are on the right path, walking towards a balance in all areas of society, and this not only applies to art but to any other sector of activity.

 

One of the proposals included in the calendar of the “Art Madrid-Proyector'20” program was the organisation of several meetings with artists within the fair. This gave visitors the opportunity to get to know their work better and open a personal dialogue with them after the presentation of their last lines of work. From Wednesday 26th to Saturday 29th of February, we had the participation of Abelardo Gil-Fournier, Fernando Baena, Mario Santamaría and Maia Navas, a group of creators who work with the moving image, but also with the installation, technological art, performance and video art.

Abelardo Gil-Fournier's work revolves around the hybridization between the real and the sensible. This artist and researcher approaches this question in his works from a perspective in which perception, image and material production merge. Both his artistic and research practice deal with issues related to land use and plant growth without losing sight of these three points of interest. This results in works that incorporate the presence of nature from various perspectives, sometimes as a space of experimentation in which to reflect on the connection between art and politics, the relationship of the human being with the environment or the criteria for landscape intervention.

During his presentation on Wednesday 26th, Abelardo told us about some of his latest projects, in which the presence of technology is key to offering an artistic interpretation of the individual's impact into the territory. All this affects issues such as agricultural techniques, the progressive deforestation or the exploitation of land resources. The result is colour-coded pattern drawings that break down the analyzed landscape and offer a more visual and technology-based reinterpretation of these human behaviours. In addition, in this meeting, the artist explained his work “The Quivering of the Reed”, an installation that mixes video image, sound and material elements, and that plays the role of mixing the sensory with the real.

Abelardo Gil-Fournier

Fernando Baena shared a talk with us on the afternoon of Thursday 27th. This artist has focused a large part of his work on performance, happening and video pieces, many of them designed to capture the result of the action and give the work a second life in a new format. The main subjects that monopolize his work range from the treatment of sexuality and gender issues, to migratory movements and the drama of refugees, the exercise of political freedom and thought ... all of them are far-reaching issues that Fernando addresses from a familiar approach, with the use of common materials and recognizable environments. Another of the characteristics of his work is the presence of Marianela León in many of his pieces, a performer who has been collaborating with Fernando for many years until becoming almost an alter ego of himself and starring in most actions that take place in public spaces.

In this meeting, Fernando was able to explain part of his creative processes and to highlight a key aspect to the performance artist: to understand the reaction of the public. In this way, the impact of a work conceived from the theoretical plane is also analyzed, the meaning of which can completely change depending on the viewer's perception. As he himself explained in the talk regarding his piece "Balsa":

"What started out as a performance with an established script ended up being a happening in which the public participated with sometimes unusual reactions".

For his part, Mario Santamaría, who was with us on February 28th, shared with us a completely different work from Fernando's. This artist is focused on the analysis of the use of data, the feeling of manipulation and lack of control over our information that is produced in the digital medium and the desire to transform into something real some ideas as ethereal and commonplace today as the use of virtual storage clouds, the location of web pages or the data flow over the Internet. Much of his work, documented on video or transformed into technological facilities, is a form of research on the impact of the digital medium on our daily lives. His desire to bring these terms to the material plane, which we handle in our language today without really understanding their meaning, has led him to visit server bunkers, storage warehouses, in addition to tracking the exact location of the servers that host his own website to find isolated places far away from humanity.

Mario proposed a material trip to this reality to demonstrate that we are facing a very fragile system, whose durability is sensitive to natural phenomena, as evidenced by some of the documentation work carried out, where he rescued images of wild animals entering these data centres and endangering the livelihood of the digital world.

Mario Santamaría

Finally, Maia Navas, recently arrived from Argentina, shared with us the afternoon of Saturday 29th in a chat in which she told us about her creative work as well as her experience at the head of Play-Videoarte, a festival entirely dedicated to this discipline that she co-founded in 2012, and that in these six editions has combined an annual exhibition with a program of activities that take place in the City of Corrientes (Argentina), at the Cultural Centre of the University Extension that depends on the National University of the Northeast (UNNE).

Maia has a degree in psychology, as well as a degree in arts and technology, and combine her artistic career with teaching. The impact of psychology among her work topics is evident, and some of her video works try to delve into disturbing and perplexing aspects of human behaviour, such as the series "Procedures" that we could watch during the presentation. In it, the artist portrays the daily lives of people affected by OCD syndrome with an excellent visual narrative that puts the accent, almost with a cinematographic vision, on the personal experience of this phenomenon.

Maia Navas, foto de Marc Cisneros

From Art Madrid, we want to thank all these artists for sharing their creative experience with us and giving us the opportunity to dialogue with them about their present and future projects.