Feminist art show tackles identity

Feminist art exhibition follows tradition of paying tribute to those slain in Montreal Massacre 


Kelly Zwicker curated this year’s showcase. In her curatorial statement she writes: We acknowledge this tragic historic event and we seek to draw on the conversation about sexualized violence in a local way in light of this year’s SMU rape chants and Rehtaeh Parsons’ rape, harassment and subsequent suicide.” (Photo: Kelsey Power)

A wedding veil is pinned to the wall, but in this case this piece is not a mere accessory – instead it is a message. The words “I think it’s ok to be alone,” are “scribbled” into the tufts of tulle with needle and thread, showcasing the artists’ opinion that being alone is overlooked and undervalued by society.

This was just one piece in a new show from NSCAD’s Feminist Collective. My Feminism aims to showcase the many different ways people experience feminism and the problem of applying labels to identity.

Kelly Zwicker, a fourth- year student at NSCAD, and the main curator and organizer of the My Feminism event says she wanted to show “how feminism isn’t just one thing.”

It is a continuation of the conversation started with last year’s showcase Why Feminism, which focused on the relevance of feminism in today’s society.

“For people who are questioning whether they want to label themselves as a feminist we want to make them more comfortable identifying as such,” she said.

The annual, juried group show by the university’s Feminist Collective is held at the Anna Leonowens Gallery on Granville Street the week of Dec. 6 each year to commemorate the 14 women who were murdered in the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre in Montreal on that date, as well as the annual National Day of Remembrance & Action on Violence Against Women.

“It’s kind of hard to totally break down what my feminism is but I really like listening as an activist practice,” Zwicker said, explaining why she liked a piece by Emily Chudnovsky.

Chudnovsky’s piece *Toward Me [or] Beyond I* is a sound installation consisting of a series of interviews with various unidentified individuals asked to answer the question: how does one experience themselves as a self.

The seven-minute reel of responses consisted of statements such as:

  • ‘I was just figuring out where I was going and how to reclaim myself,”
  • “Being in my own world is, in a certain way, trying to reach out,”
  • “Maybe I would define myself less as a woman, but when I’m on the outside that’s how other people see me,” and
  • “I just feel like maybe as I become more of an adult I find myself less specifically woman.”

Chudnovsky had the idea for her installation this summer. Finally finding the courage and time to submit it, the fourth-year University of King’s College student chose this subject matter because, “a lot of women-identified folks don’t get a chance to speak about themselves as a self separate from perceptions placed on to them in the outside world.”

“I felt like it would be really interesting and important to sit and understand and be immersed in that in that experience of listening.”

Her own feminism has become so much a part of who she it’s difficult to describe. “It’s become a part of my eyes so now I think what I should do is step back and listen,” she said.

Zwicker liked the piece saying, “It’s really important to listen to someone instead of trying to do things for them or listening to what people need and meeting them where they are.”

Sarah Trower acting as co-curator for the event along with Genevieve Flavelle and Merray Gerges, also presented her own piece: “We’re Fabulous, Don’t Fuck With Us.”

Meant to lend confidence to people, her piece is a series of posters, flyers and buttons with the slogans, “I Do What I Want,” “I Say What I Want,” and “I Wear What I Want.”

A tongue-in-cheek representation of her own feminism she says the piece addresses the continued oppression of women in society and “being able to speak your truth, and do what you want to do, and wear what you want to wear without getting crap for it.”

Beck Gilmer-Osborne submitted a piece for the show upon hearing that there were no other trans/queer-identified artists submitting work.

The fourth-year NSCAD student had already been working on TUCK – a performance piece in the form of a video installation, which happened to suit the show.

Wearing a plastic chest binder filled with milk while nude, Gilmer-Osborne is seen to fill the chest binder, puncture it with a straw and consume its contents.

Filling the binder with milk makes it difficult to breathe and so drinking the milk both takes the pressure off by taking the milk out but also increases the tightness of the binder.

“I focus a lot on like breasts as subject matter as it’s a really quick indication of gender more than anything else so just it’s just something that’s easy to work with that people understand.”

My Feminism will run until Dec.7, Tues. – Fri.  from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., and Sat. 12 a.m. -4 p.m.

A Feminist Collective meeting will take place this evening from 6-7: 30 p.m. and a roundtable discussion and artist talk will happen Thurs. at the same time. Both will be held in the same space as the show.

Originally published on UNews.ca.

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