Let’s say I know a curator who, when preparing to give a talk about feminist performance art, was discouraged by her museum from circulating the images associated with it—images of nude female bodies, the bread and butter of male-dominated art history and still equally fetishized as the taboo of a post-Puritan society. Let’s say I also know a female curator who was invited to pose nude in an artwork, and who was told that doing so would be “professional suicide” because it would be seen as little more than a nudie pic by enough people to make it harmful. Fuck the idea that feminist art has run its course: Everybody who intends to give even the tiniest shit about art from here to eternity should be strapped into Northwest Film Forum this weekend and forced to watch !Women Art Revolution, Lynn Hershman Leeson’s new film on the past and future of the feminist art movement.
Recall Leeson from her exhibition at the Henry Art Gallery a few years ago. She’s the woman who invented an alternative persona named Roberta, and lived a double life as Roberta for quite some time, making art by documenting the life of an invented woman. In !Women Art Revolution, Leeson shows a little bit of her own work but mostly spotlights—it’s so great to see it—the work of artists and art-world thinkers and organizers like Martha Rosler, Judy Baca, Carolee Schneeman, Lowery Stokes Sims, Eleanor Antin, Janine Antoni, Faith Ringgold, Nancy Spero, Judy Chicago, Guerrilla Girls, Amelia Jones, Miranda July, Harmony Hammond… the list goes on, despite the fact that, as the movie demonstrates, people on the streets of New York can’t name three female artists to save their lives. Some of these artists are dead, but Leeson has been gathering string for decades, and the movie has all the warmth of a labor of love without leaving out the conflicts within the movement. Oh, just stop reading this and see it already.