Mlle Bourgeoise Noire and Feminism #2, 2007

Mlle Bourgeoise Noire and Feminism 2 (notes for MOCA gallery talk)*

© Lorraine O’Grady, 2007

As part of her gallery talk for WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution at MOCA, LA, O’Grady read this statement inspired by Marsha Meskimmon’s important catalogue essay, in which the theoretical underpinning for the show’s historic statement of including 50% non- U.S. artists had been laid out.

Now that I have a captive audience. . . .

First, I want to thank Connie Butler, for her ability to SEE, to see that there was, and has always been more to art and to the feminist revolution than could be contained in the now canonical but limited Anglo-American-centric version of feminist history.

I also want to thank Marsha Meskimmon for her WACK! catalogue article, “Chronology through Cartography: Mapping 1970s Feminist Art Globally,” which opens the article section and provides the subsequent theoretical spine of the show. Personally, I think everyone should memorize this article so we can just move on. It’s a brilliant piece, and one from which I’ve gained many fresh insights into the historic fate of Mlle Bourgeoise Noire.

In my Walkthrough comments I’d complained that work like mine and Senga Nengudi’s had suffered from being misperceived through the imposition of a white feminist vocabulary that did not know it’s own name, a feminism which considered itself normative . . . equally valid for all women . . .

and which did not recognize that it was in fact “white middle-class feminism” and that that was its name. A feminism that privileged gender over class and race and for which “revolution” often seemed to mean primarily “sexual liberation.”

But Marsha Meskimmon’s article has helped me understand more deeply what was really going on. Meskimmon quotes Doreen Massey as arguing:

“Most evidently, the standard version of the story of modernity—as a narrative of progress emanating from Europe—represents a discursive victory of time over space. That is to say that differences which are truly spatial are interpreted as being differences in temporal development—differences in the stage of progress reached. Spatial differences are reconvened as temporal sequence.”

Meskimmon adds: “The histories of feminist art practice are dogged by a similar, if more subtly tuned, dependency on temporal models masquerading as spatial awareness.”. ( … )

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