Saturday, August 30, 2008

Gender Representation at the 2008 Biennale of Sydney

In the previous post, I discussed the gender (in)equality in Hobart art galleries. In this post, I want to draw attention to the quite incredible differences in gender representation at this year’s Biennale. I counted just 38 female artists to the 116 male artists in the Artist Index of the 2008 Biennale of Sydney guide. In fact, as Bec Dean points out in her Column 2 article, 22 per cent of the artists are also dead male artists – a similar number to the number of women, dead or alive.

The director of this year’s Biennale – Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev addresses the issue of gender quotas in her catalogue essay, but argues that it isn’t relevant anymore:

“I have no quota for gender participation; however, being one of the last of the generation of people who emerged when feminism was crossing structuralism and psychoanalysis to produce the body of thought around post-feminism, I am naturally interested in these sorts of questions. I believe that these days, sometimes male artists are post-feminists in their practice… and sometimes female artists are extremely patriarchal in the authoritative way in which they might create a frontal, detached object of contemplation, which is not a feminist endeavour. So I would say that we have gone beyond gender quotas and it more about whether the work is post-feminist or not.”
Christov-Bakargiev, pp.31 2008 Biennale of Sydney Catalogue

I’d like to think we’re beyond gender quotas too, but when there are such discrepancies in the number of female versus male artists, it highlights the fact that perhaps they are necessary. I can’t even begin to imagine the furore that would’ve erupted had a male director curated such as small percentage of women into the biennale – does the fact that a woman has chosen the artists have an effect on the (seemingly) quite acceptance of such inequality? I certainly haven’t read anything other than a paragraph of Bec Dean’s article on the subject.

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