The urgency of the details | Babelia

The urgency of the details | Babelia

It is urgent to pay attention to the nuances. For example: the history of art is not the same as historiography. The first deals with the chronological narration of past events and the second refers to the way in which said history is studied. It's something like the history of art history. That historiography has been told badly we know it since voices like Linda Nochlin wondered why women artists had been silenced in the history of art that is told generation after generation. It was the year 1971 and with force a feminism in art that began to question everything. Nochlin pointed directly to patriarchy, questioning not only the inequalities of a system that slowed the development of artists, but also the social norms that for centuries had led to the exaltation of the mythical figure of the artist man, making his point of view the only viable point of view.

His reflection marked a before and after in the history of art. Since then, the concepts with which feminist art works have altered the assumptions on which the traditional cultural story is based. A new historiography that leads to social networks. The art critic Jennifer Higgie, co-editor of Frieze Magazine, publish on Instagram an extensive catalog reasoned of all those women artists relegated from memory. The account is open and has about 30,000 followers, a perfect example of how to use the walls of social networks to tear down other cultural networks.

It is not far the project that a little more than a year ago also launched in social networks the artist Diana Larrea. A lecture by María Gimeno at the Faculty of Fine Arts in the Complutense of Madrid opened her eyes while she was tearing the pages of The history of art de Gombrich, noting that there was not a single female name in this manual par excellence on the subject. At that moment, Larrea began to emulate Higgie's work: talk every day on Facebook of an artist woman, many barely known, and do it with a certain amount of celebration, not only for the discovery for those who follow their account (also on Instagram), but to rescue them on their anniversary, birth or death, just on the date when we most remember those who are not. Hence the name of the project: Such a day as today. In the project there is already a website that collects each of the 400 entries of this feminist art file, which includes a text with enough data to pull the thread and continue researching. Diana Larrea explains the details.

The urgency of the details

Are Facebook or Instagram the new public space?

I think so. In fact, when I thought about my project Such a day as today I decided to approach it in the same way as other previous works of mine in the urban public space. That is to say, as an artistic action that aims to interact and establish an empathic dialogue in a virtual public place, such as the social network. The downside of all this are the conservative rules that govern this medium, its double standards and its capacity for manipulation.

Social networks work like Boomerang. How to generate a social field of these contents without circulating only among some friends?

I am very optimistic about it, I think that these contents reach far beyond the small circle of friends, although there is no record. I have the impression that only by not being in evidence before a media of public opinion, the most "official" artistic system is forced to rethink errors, to update and reinvent itself. In this way, we have more power than it seems at first glance.

And the likesAre they the new way to validate?

I believe the art world goes free. You can have hundreds of likes, hundreds of followers but that does not necessarily change your situation. You can have a consolidated career and a certain artistic recognition in the specialized world and yet that does not place you in a privileged place within the system. That is to say, you are still situated in a marginal situation within the economic scope of the art market, as is my case.

What is the activism project?

I like to define the project as an "online artistic action" that explores, from a gender perspective, the historical symbolic conflict that exists around the work of the plastic creators. It is a hybrid work halfway between research and feminist activism. When we discover the valuable and relevant work of hundreds of women who have been ignored or relegated to a marginal position in the history of art, then the symbolic cultural violence socially constructed for centuries in our civilization is uncovered. My project has an activist sense because it aims to go beyond the artistic practice itself and directly engage in the dynamics of our current social context, focusing on opening fissures within the dominant monolithic discourse. The historiography that interprets art in study manuals and museums perpetuates a hegemonic discourse devoid of neutrality. It is a great androcentric story built from male perception, where the work of women artists has not been valued impartially.

How is your research process in the project? What sources do you use to collect data, dates and information?

'Self-portrait as' new woman', by Frances Benjamin Johnston (1896).
'Self-portrait as' new woman', by Frances Benjamin Johnston (1896).

I work only through the Internet. After searching the information online and studying it carefully, I dedicate myself to contrast the data to make a synopsis of the professional career of each artist. Also, in the selection of images of the works I choose those that I consider most innovative, according to my artistic criteria, in addition to all those that are preserved in prestigious international museums. In this way, I try to present a vision of each artist very polished and erudite, academic type. Another detail that I like to contribute, when it is possible, is a photograph of the artist working in her studio or a self-portrait. This graphic reference to her face seems to me very significant, since I believe that it helps the public to establish an empathic link of identification with the individuality and singularity of the creator, allowing a closer connection with her artistic discourse.

The historical rescue work of the art critic Jennifer Higgie is well known. What is the difference between them?

His publications were a very clear reference for me before starting the project. It covers mainly the Anglo-Saxon context and I thought that my personal contribution could be the Spanish-American context, which is much more difficult to investigate due to the lack of online information that exists. In my project Spanish and Latin American artists are a priority, because they represent a minority that is part of a circle that suffers more discrimination, such as Asian or African.

What possibilities do you see for criticism in social networks?

I think it gives critics greater freedom of opinion, by responding only to themselves. But their work situation can be more precarious, considering the others who do their work for free. It is a double-edged sword, on the one hand its work has greater diffusion, but on the other no one values ​​it as to pay for it.

And this project, how is it financed?

I started this project without premeditation and by a personal need to reinforce my own self-esteem as an artist. Like many other artistic projects, I started like this and without funding of any kind. I raised it as a kind of self-imposed resistance test with which I intended to complete a whole year. There are proposals that you know that if you do not execute them at the moment with your personal commitment they will not get ahead. Thanks to a help from the Community of Madrid, once the 365 publications have been completed, I have been able to continue and will soon launch a website with all the material organized by disciplines, by artistic movements, chronologically and geographically. Faced with the demand of Facebook followers, many of them teachers, and thanks to the help of the Community of Madrid, I will be able to launch this website in the coming months so that it is available to anyone.

Some, so enthusiastic, pay to work. The phrase is not mine, it's Remedios Zafra. Do we fail to work for the love of art?

Some of the women artists collected by Diana Larrea in 'Tal día como hoy'.
Some of the women artists collected by Diana Larrea in 'Tal día como hoy'.

It is a very complicated issue. We live in a country where everything related to culture is devalued. It is very difficult to make a living in this sector, because in addition to the crisis, the situation worsened even more, considering the cultural as something secondary. Creators do not conceive life without our work because it is vocational and forms part of our identity. The vast majority need other food work in order to pay the bills and they do so when they are employed. So, for us it is a matter of vital necessity, it is not a simple work. I suppose that the neoliberal capitalist system takes advantage of that personal commitment we feel to continue developing our work under any circumstance.

Can you live from art?

Not in most cases and especially in the Spanish context, flooded with precariousness, inferiority complex, lack of market, lack of professionalism …

Take stock in terms of cultural policy thinking about the women artists that we see in art centers and museums in Spain.

The annual reports carried out by MAV, the Association of Women in the Visual Arts, make clear and exposed some embarrassing data regarding the participation of artists in institutional exhibitions and art fairs. This participation is around 10% and in the last ten years it has not changed. It would be as simple as demanding that the Equality Act of 2007 be complied with, which requires public institutions to adopt positive action measures for the equality of men and women. My personal opinion is that museums in this country urgently need an area of ​​equality, as many universities have, so that the problem is addressed specifically by specialized professionals.

In addition to this path as a researcher, she is an artist. His work has always been to create certain short circuits in the form of interventions and public actions linked to history and memory. In what grade Such a day as today Is it another action within your artistic production?

Indeed, I consider this project as one more in my career. I am a multidisciplinary artist with 20 years of professional experience in which I have used all kinds of disciplines such as installation, video, photography, public interventions or drawing. My proposals are very versatile and I have always tried to maintain a dialogue with social tensions, both contemporary and historical past. In this sense, Such a day as today The same dynamic continues, raising a symbolic conflict that arose from a personal need to verify that it was also a collective need. In the long term, I would like to undertake a creative project based on each of these women who two years ago were completely unknown to me and from whom I have learned so much. I feel attached to them in a strange and permanent way.


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