A year ago, I wrote a post calling out the problem of unequal gender representation in the net art world. The piece quickly became our most commented-upon post in the blog’s history, and became the site of what was a rather heated debate.
For reasons I can’t explain, the post has recently become the subject of renewed interest. Two weeks ago, I revisited that post with AFC’s Corinna Kirsch and Whitney Kimball at The Bruce High Quality Foundation University. At the same time, artist Charlie Sofo declined to participate in a BYOB show at RMIT Design Hub, Australia due to a lack of gender diversity, and cited the post in his response on Facebook.
Sofo’s response, and the large number of positive comments that spun from it, make me extremely happy because it points to an increasing awareness and willingness to respond to the problem. This is the road to positive change. His post below:
I’m writing to withdraw my participation in BYOB 2013. It’s taken a bit of thought to come to this conclusion. I’ll briefly outline my reasoning:
Firstly, I feel like the show includes significantly more male than female artists. When you exclude the collaborative groups, there are only four individual female artists in comparison to more than 20 individual male artists.
Part of my argument has come from the article “Enough With Dude-Centric Net Art Shows” by Paddy Johnson (where she even sites BYOB Milan). In particular, I find this section relevant:
“As artist and curator Sally McKay explains: As a curator in the 21st century, if I put together a show with all one gender (especially a large group show) I have to know that the show is therefore going to be about gender, whether I like it or not. If I do it by accident, then I am missing a big piece of what it is to be a curator. If I do it on purpose, then I have to own it in the curatorial premise of the exhibition.”
As far as I can see there has been no curatorial explanation for the inclusion of significantly more males in both the BYOB 2013 and 2011 shows in Melbourne.
If BYOB is about reflecting, charting or representing a certain community (or sensibility?) then I clearly can’t identify with it. If I’m involved in a project that overwhelming represents one gender, then I at least want some reasoning or discussion about that.
Lastly, I would like to post this email on the BYOB facebook page, so there is some visibility – as this is an artistic decision, there should be at least some public acknowledgement. If you’re unhappy with that, perhaps there might some other avenue to make this public?
I have much respect for both of you and for the artists involved in the show. I hope this email is received in the spirit of opening up the subject.