Ever forget a gender exists? It seems a little hard to believe. Nonetheless, women often get overlooked. Theresa Anderson, a Denver-based art blogger and artist reminded us on Friday, via facebook message, that curators are unintentionally but unrepentantly excluding women from their digital art shows.
Iver Zeile, a Denver gallery-owner and curator, recently commissioned seven artists to create works for a show for the Denver Digerati motion-based art program, Mirage, and to be a part of the Digerati’s permanent collection. As it happened, all seven were male.
One of the commissioned men, Chris Coleman, “Saw the same issue and decided to rectify without marginalizing (aka declaring it).” Coleman curated a show through the same program, Denver Digerati, and included only female animation and motion-based artists without promoting the show as gendered—sort of a “tit for tat” approach.
Though we appreciate the effort, “rectify” might be a little strong for what’s been achieved. These artists did not receive the commission the male artists did. Also, we’re not sure that “separate but equal” (please excuse the loaded term) is the right approach. The solution isn’t to build a parallel female art world to compete with the male art world; calling attention to the gender divide doesn’t address the underlying issue:
Iver Ziele wrote on facebook, “Yes, women make motion based art, but there are lots of layers to curating this program and right now this is where we are at with it. I try not to necessarily look at gender when it comes to curating art.” The implication here is that it just so happened none of the women were as good as the men. Later, Ziele wrote, “Ask Chris [Coleman] about his choices for the Friday Flash program and how that came about, I’m sure it would be an interesting discussion but I think the group just formed organically.” Yes, the same Chris Coleman who explicitly said he tried to rectify the gender imbalance in his show.
Anderson avoided this bizarre claim in her response, saying, “I guess my issue is that all seven people who received commissions are men. It’s a bit flat. Obviously there are lots of good women making motion based art as Chris was able to pluck 7 women so easily.” Ziele interpreted these words as an attack rather than a critique, “Well gosh, Theresa, I’ll just let you take the reins on this program. It sounds like you are more up on how this should be done than I am.”
We saw many similar sentiments to Ziele’s expressed in the comments section of our post about the same issue in April 2012. One user wrote, “This is not a real argument; you are trying to evade the question that is actually at hand. Seriously, where is it explicitly observable that curators prefer men to women?” But since when does a 7:0 male:female ratio not show an explicit preference?
We doubt that the organizers of the shows we’ve highlighted are a reflection of overt sexism. That said, good curation reflects the variety of voices making art. Whenever we see an exhibition showcasing the work of only one gender we need to ask ourselves if that criteria has been met.