metropolis m

Susan Conte, Days @ the Paintings Bathing, 2015

The group exhibition Does Not Equal, on show until April 12 at the W139 gallery in Amsterdam, brings together a wide variety of work by emerging mainly female artists. Their contributions to the project – installations, film, but also talks and performances – are the result of a collective study of feminism. The exhibition and programme did not start from the desire to support of feminism, but rather from the wish to examine what feminism means to the artists, and potentially to viewers as well.

Instigator of the project is Dorine van Meel, a Dutch artist currently residing in London. Van Meel described having a lingering interest in feminism and saw Does Not Equal as the opportunity to delve into this topic through the practice of art. She brought together artists in London, New York, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and arranged for regular book clubs via Skype in order to share knowledge and have discussions. Testament to the theoretical focus of the exhibition is the study room right at the entrance of the gallery, where visitors can read feminist classics.

Van Meel did not act as a curator, but rather as facilitator for the discussions and artistic practices that led to the end result now on show in W139. This approach mirrors the new organizational structure of the art space, which has recently switched from being led by a director to a ‘flatter’ organizational model in which artists are given space and carte blanche. We may therefore expect more exhibitions and programmes that are the result of a collective process, rather than a curatorial vision.

Most of the art works on show reveal a concern with feminism in rather subtle ways. Anne-Marie van Meel’s film To be as beautiful as a human body, the building should be strictly symmetrical starts off with a shot of the leg of a chair. Slowly the camera climbs up along the piece of furniture, then shifts to altogether different kinds of legs, two pairs of human ones to be precise. The first pair, clothed in a white pencil skirt, belongs to a woman, the other pair in black trousers belongs to a man. As they walk the street, side by side, different in appearance yet similar in functionality, the viewer wonders what it is that defines the quality of legs, their style or their function. Could it be that the most beautiful legs, those of the woman, immediately become the less equipped too, simply because of their aesthetic appeal? Since the work is more of a question mark than an exclamation point, it is illustrative of the inquisitive attitude of the entire show.

Gabrielle Le Bayon, In Ecstasy, 2015, HD video
Ninna Bohn Pedersen, Tremor, 2015, HD video, silk, string

The installation Tremor by Ninna Bohn Pedersen takes a more abstract approach. A film, consisting of fragments that sometimes hint to a narrative but mostly just show a play between colours and shapes, is projected onto pieces of cloth which are suspended from the ceiling. The effect is one of softness, a softness that is as intriguing and confusing as it is comforting. Tremor cannot be said to ‘be about something’ per se, whether that something is a feminist topic or not. Rather, the work enacts a certain atmosphere for the viewer to tune into. This is akin to contemporary feminism’s attempt to create a space that allows for the acknowledgement of the lived experiences of as many different groups as possible.

Feminism is concerned with more things than what it means to be female, and this is reflected in the exhibition as well. Nana Adusei-Poku gave a talk about the practices of the black feminist artist collective HOWDOYOUSAYYAMINAFRICAN she is part of. Dressed in drag, Adam Christensen performed the reading of a personal story which, in a poetic manner, retraced the steps of a sexual encounter between him and a stranger, starting on the streets of London and ending with the stranger cutting Christensen’s “newly purchased black nylon tights”. Kapwani Kiwanga’s performance used the format of a conference presentation in order to present a future scenario for the development of Afro-futurism.

It is this intersection of identities together with the research-based approach, that makes Does Not Equal such an interesting endeavour. The purpose of this show goes beyond showcasing art. Its main goal is to facilitate discussion, and it uses artistic practice as a way to address political and social issues. Although the works deserve attention in their own right, the true value of Does Not Equal is in the space it opens up for reflection, discussion and even disagreement.

Adam Christensen performing on The Feminist Rock Salt – a contribution by Diana Policarpo and Deniz Unal

Does not Equal
W139, Amsterdam
13.3 t/m 12.4.2015

Contributions by: Nana Adusei-Poku (DE) ? Anne-Marie St-Jean Aubre (CA) ? Eva Barto (FR) ? Gabrielle Le Bayon (FR) ? Lindsay Beebe (USA) ? Urs Bechdel (CH) ? Hannah Black (UK) ? Jenna Bliss (USA) ? Basje Boer (NL) ? Ninna Bohn Pedersen (DK) ? Adam Christensen (DK / UK) ? Susan Conte (USA) ? E.C. Feiss (USA) ? Rachel B. Glaser (USA) ? Rose-Anne Gush (UK) ? Morag Keil (UK) ? Kapwani Kiwanga (CA) ? Fanny Kuitenbrouwer (NL) ? Anne-Marie van Meel (NL) ? Dorine van Meel (NL) ? Sands Murray-Wassink (USA / NL) ? Naomi Pearce (UK) ? Diana Policarpo (PT) ? Claire Potter (UK) ? Bunny Rogers (USA) ? Derica Shields (UK) ? Elina Suoyrjö (FI) ? Karoline Swiezynski (DE) ? Lena Tutunjian (QA) ? Amalia Ullman (AR) ? Deniz ‘muscles’ Unal (TR/ UK) ? Shen Xin (CN) ? Gender Changer Academy ? The Side Room ? DJ Workshop for Women ? Policy People ? Red Light Radio ? The Feminist Rock Salt ? San Serriffe

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