I recently stumbled across this clip of visual artist Kiki Smith speaking about her work. In the clip, she states that she’s “not using the images of women in an exclusionary way.” Her statement seems an answer to a question, a question which I’m going to guess was, “Do you consider your work to be feminist?”
Is “female” necessarily “feminist?” Over the years, I’ve attended numerous post-performance discussions with female artists (notably often moderated by men) where the conversation was steered almost entirely to investigate the “feminist” nature of the work. Sure, sometimes, this was appropriate, but often — too often — the “feminist” label was applied simply because the work was made by a woman and performed by women.
My own work has been viewed frequently through this politicized lens, though I’ve not made a piece yet with an intentional political statement. Since women outnumber men in the world at large (and certainly in the performance world, especially the dance field), why is it de facto “feminist” simply to make work with women about women? Why is the work inherently politicized? Are men truly more “generic humans” than women are?
Positive connotations or negative, the term “feminist” certainly refers to one who is working in a political arena. It seems odd that simply to be female and an artist is to make a political statement, even if I am just talking about what I had for breakfast.