Feminist Art Museum
Location: Toronto, Canada
Contact: Xenia Benivolski
How is the project operated?
This is an artist-run, not-for-profit project run by two independent curators: Su-Ying Lee and Xenia Benivolski, both living and working in Toronto, Canada in collaboration with 29 partner organizations in Canada.
How long has it been in existence?
The project was conceptualized a year ago as a multi-site national project connecting feminist art institutions in North America
What was your motivation?
As a framework mandate, FAM secures positions for women in institutions and organizations by encouraging feminist mandates and standards of gender equality for all people identifying as women in some capacity. FAM looks towards cultural organizations to close the representational gap between these groups and others. FAM also seeks to allow organizations to share resources to expand on their platforms and audiences. By bringing together collaborators from radically different places, the initiative seeks to investigate notions of space, land and presence. Through circulation of content, FAM does not directly contribute to the gentrification of existing communities, in fact, FAM’s land art projects are potential points of negotiation in landscapes threatened by colonial industry. This aspect of FAM’s trajectory will be grounds for discursive programming around Art and Land. As collaborations are expected to take place across provinces, much of this program will be taking place online. The FAM trajectory will be thoroughly documented and disseminated through web-based content and publications, which will also serve as a platform for peripheral programming and dialogue.
Number of organizers/responsible persons of the project.
There are two main organizers in the project currently: Su-Ying Lee and Xenia Benivolski, and 29 national partner organizations in Canada. Xenia Benivolski is the founder of several collective art spaces and an international artist-in-residency program, and sits on the curatorial committee for the 2017 Beijing Biennal. Su-Ying Lee is an independent curator. She has worked in a curatorial capacity in Canadian institutions and curated exhibitions across Canada and in Hong Kong.
How are programs funded?
Currently through public funding available through council and institutional support, and through fund-matching commitments made by our partner organizations.
Who is responsible for the programming?
Organizers working in collaboration with artists, activists and community members.
Number and average duration of exhibitions/events per year.
So far, the Feminist Art Museum has only completed three discursive programs as part of its starting ethos.
What kind of events are usually organized?
Exhibition related activities and performances, workshops and talks, conferences, practices that transgress all of these formats and beyond.
How is your programming determined?
The program flows discursively from one activity to another, building on an existing mandate and shifting gears when necessary. An exhibition might tour partially or alter its course, a performance might become and installation or a score, and projects might take place at several locations at once or during different time frames.
Do you accept proposals/submissions?
We are always interested in looking at something that might be relevant to what we do however we don’t program out of open calls.
What is your artistic/curatorial approach?
We look to work with a growing collective of artists who challenge notions of site and space use by continually expanding on our existing programs while shifting locations, specific art pieces, contexts and conversations, with a focus on the discourse around land-art practice, architecture, site and histories with a special consideration towards art made by women and space occupied by any people who identify as women. Our program will continue to move and grow within the institutions we partner with, serving as a living platform. The FAM structure employs a two-tier organizational framework bringing together hosting and commissioning participants as pavilions and as allies. FAM Pavilions are organizations that might be able to provide significant financial and logistical support and resources to major commissioned art projects. Allied partners will be able to contribute creative ideas, programming, resources, production fees and project space if and when they are able to.
What’s working? What’s not working?
A long look into the trajectory of public art and land art practices in Canada and the US is long overdue in the settler colonial reality we live in, however, extensive research and continuously evolving notions of land stewardship and consideration of existing practices is needed before proceeding to mark history further. Feminist Art Museum is an organization that is concerned with asking this questions and taking a very long time to answer that. What works is that these questions are necessary, important and challenging. What’s hard to accept is that reaching a state of commission on a physical project could and should take a long time.
What kind of role do you hope to play in your local art scene or community?
With our partner organizations, we look to facilitate a strong woman-run network of inquiry towards progressive and flexible modes of exhibition making. For the artists we work with we hope to provide ongoing, living context and conversation that develops in tandem with their individual and collaborative practices. For our audiences and ourselves we want to provide a way to think differently about art forms and forms of presentation that are rarely challenged institutionally.
What idea are you most excited about for the future?
We are excited to disrupt the current methodology of curatorial practice by shifting modes of operations, timeframes, references and other emblems of colonialism and euro-centric exhibition practice. We are looking forward to reconsidering methods of site-making and meaning-making that have been overlooked or discarded, and giving space to new relevance for our times. We look to engage the notion of time itself and the role it plays in setting the course of contemporary art through the discourse of feminist thinking.
Images courtesy of Feminist Art Museum.
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