Feminism or Female – that’s NOT the question


Last April I attended Supermarkt’s Berlin’s Media Art Community: A Female Perspective. Like the short and snappy 7 minute speaker presentations, I will get straight to the point of my impressions of the evening…

When asked what it was that impacted the most on the careers of these outstanding women in Berlin’s media arts community, it seemed that for most, the main feature of all their practices was a willingness to jump in the deep end and take risks. To go with that gut feeling that tells you that despite venturing out onto unmarked territory, and despite a lack of leading female figure in the industry, that you should do it anyway. Also highlighted were the importance of friendships and networks that many of the speakers relied upon for the support that has led them this far.

All participants are based here in Berlin and what a wonderfully international group of people they were. They ranged in experience, age and worked across a variety of disciplines. Personally, I most enjoyed Tatiana Bazzichelli’s self-confessed ‘in-between-ness’. Working in both a practical and academic capacity she admitted she felt at times as though she wasn’t quite academic enough for the academics and not quite practical enough for the practical workers, sometimes placing her in a difficult situation. The upside however, meant that she is in regular contact with all kinds of people something she identifies as key to her success as a researcher, networker and curator in the field of hacktivism and net culture.

Kathy Rae Huffman’s career as a curator, networker and media arts collector is impressive. Befriending artists such as Bill Viola early on was definitely an advantage. It was thrilling to hear her talk about what it was like when the technology that we all use in our every-day lives now, such as the internet, were emerging technologies. And yet, her confession of an intense love of books gave me the much needed nudge to pry myself away from my computer and get back to some “old fashioned” research methods.

While Julia Kloiber’s presentation highlighted the issue of the lack of positions held by women behind the camera in film making. Her motto was: “If you don’t have a Plan B, Plan A will work”, Michelle Thorne’s uplifting presentation based on her work as a Creative Commons activist reminded us of the need for women to celebrate our successes together.

Andrea Goetzke presented an array of inspiring quotes that she found inspirational to her own work as a curator, cultural producer and organiser, particularly in African countries. The two phrases that seemed to stick in my head the most were “It’s about creating a space that wouldn’t really exist otherwise” (by a German person whose name I unfortunately didn’t manage to catch) and a quote by Ron Letts: “The amateur and the naïve, they inspire me. Because everybody else is holding the same book”.

What was most interesting though, was the post-presentation discussions, which although were at times a little heated, proved that there is still much discussion to be had in terms of women, the cultural sector, societal expectations and labour. There seemed to be a discord about whether or not feminism was still occurring, and still discussion worthy, and furthermore recurring questions about whether or not women lacked the self-confidence to become (or admit to being) leaders within their fields or within their work roles.

However, there did seem to be a consensus that there was a lack of awareness of women (not just leading women, but sometimes any!) within the cultural sector, particularly within the media community, and that efforts must be made to celebrate and showcase their work. I found the event at Supermarkt did just that, and perhaps also provided an impetus for discussions surrounding the barriers women face in terms of accessing and leading in the media arts community (and in my opinion, the cultural sector in general). I certainly hope that the reoccurring issues that I hear about time and time again from my female peers such as unequal pay, inflexible working arrangements, and outdated social perspectives on the role of women within society will continue to be discussed as a result of this event.

The blogpost was originally publish on Kate Martin’s Blog: www.contemporaryartexchange.org