Waiter, There's a Woman in my Soup!

On Feminist Art and the History and Distribution of Art in Denmark

By Sanne Kofod Olsen

During the past 25 years, feminist art and art theory have become more and more widespread in the European and American art scene and in art-historical writing. Feminist art and art theory have been occupied with the position of the woman artist in male-dominated art institutions, whether that be the writing of art history or the curatorial practice of museums and private individuals.

Since the beginning of the 1970's, groups of women artists and art historians have expressed opposition on an international level to the institutional exclusion that has been practiced during the twentieth century, and that continues in the 1990's to be a problem one is confronted with when attending exhibitions, reading art-historical surveys and journals, and observing the general tendencies in art institutions when art is to be chosen, i.e. bought, exhibited and canonized.

Since the 1970's, a number of books and articles have been published and documentary material has been collected about women artists--partly because of an historical interest in the material, which for many years had been virgin soil, partly in order to create an awareness of women artists, who should not risk being written out of art history in the future. This has resulted in our gradually coming to have a good basis in what is now fertilized soil for integrating women artists into art history. One must unfortunately still recognize that, although the soil is fertilized, the growth is not necessarily good. There continue to be spreaders of poison who desire to fight against these female foreign bodies with the argument that everything is fine as it is.

But of course it is not. As long as one can establish that women artists are excluded from all kinds of institutional decision-making, even though it may not happen as a rule, there is still a struggle, and it must be fought in order to achieve equality in an art world that, in many areas suffers from a stiff-neckedness that is hardly appropriate to much of the art that is being produced and presented.

Despite this slightly misanthropic view, one can still see a positive development within the writing of feminist art history. After nearly 30 years of intense activism, one can see a new awareness appearing in areas of historical writing. The attempt to develop a new art history through a re-evaluation and deconstruction of the "old" has led to our no longer needing to live under the notion that there have been no women artists in the western world's (art) history, and to there being more and more women today who work under the same conditions as their male colleagues.

Still, feminist questioning of gender politics continues to be a hot potato that can get tempers boiling in the Danish art institutions. One might wonder why such commonplace demands for acceptance and equality can irritate both a male and female audience as much as they sometimes have done in the 1990's. For example resistance to, and ridicule of, the notion of "the politically correct," which any feminist-based opinion can be labeled, can be found in various newspapers, journals and exhibition catalogues, among other places. This resistance can only be compared to the McCarthy-era fear of communism in the 1950's.[1]

In the 1980's and 90's, many other problems relating to the exclusion and suppression of social groups have surfaced, some of them raised by people in third world countries,[2] and some surrounding minority groups in the western world who have drawn attention to the western world's suppression of people of other racial, gender and sexual backgrounds.

I will, however, only deal with the last of these, but it should be emphasized that I wish by no means to downplay the relevance of the other problems.

Part I

Feminist Art and Art History in the 1970's

Feminism's central question has always been: on what is the political, social and economic position of women in the western world founded? The feminist understanding is that our social structure has been built, and is dominated, by men. In earlier centuries, women struggled for political and economic equality. Today, it is gender equality on a social, as well as a psychological, level that is important.

Since the middle of the 1960's, people (women) have actively sought to do away with the assigned position as "other," a passive and secondary subject in patriarchal society. This is a problem that was raised already in the 40's by Simone de Beauvoir in her book "The Second Sex," in which she criticizes men's assumed position as the subject and women's assigned position as object in patriarchal society. Many people believe that this relationship cannot survive in post-industrial society, where the role of women has long ago been redefined following their integration into the job market. This is itself a break with the traditional gender pattern--meaning men at work and women at home--and it has meant individual liberation with consequences for women's existence and sense of identity.

The women's movement of the 1960's and 1970's did not limit itself to questions surrounding current social conditions in the economic and political system, but also spread to cultural areas, including art. Many feminist artists expressed the demand for the social and political equality of men and women in political artwork. From the beginning of the 1970's, the gendered position and gender identity have been pervasive themes internationally in women's political art.

Feminist activism in the art world arose around 1970 in the United States and Europe. Especially in the United States we saw several radical political groups consisting of women who criticized art institutions for being dominated by men and male values, which meant that women had been excluded. Groups such as Women Artists in Revolution (WAR) and Ad Hoc Committee of Women Artists protested against an almost total exclusion from galleries and museum exhibitions. The Black Women Artist organization was also formed with the double object of drawing attention to gender and racial discrimination. In 1973, the group Women in the Arts (WIA) organized a large exhibition entitled "Women Choose Women" at the New York Cultural Center in which 109 women artists participated. Several women's galleries were also opened in the early 1970's, and a number of women's art journals began to be published in England and the United States.[3]

In Europe one could see a number of feminist manifestations, but they were spread throughout Europe and are difficult to gather under a single rubric. The feminist art scene was more concentrated in the United States, with centers in Los Angeles and New York.

One of the pioneers of the feminist art scene was Judy Chicago, who in 1970 set forth the first women's program for women artists at Fresno State College. The following year, the idea was developed further in collaboration with Miriam Shapiro at the newly established California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) outside of Los Angeles.

In these places women worked with a concept they called "Consciousness Raising," which meant that women should become conscious of themselves as women and as artists. It was in many respects a psychological treatment of a lack of self-awareness among women, who had been raised fundamentally to stay at home in the kitchen. For that reason, one can see in the performances and installations that artists created a focus on, and thematization of, the woman's role, and a playing out of the identity crisis that, in many cases, resulted when women were supposed both to be professional artists and to carry out their norm-bound female roles.

During the course of a couple of intense years, feminist art that thematized the social, political and cultural roles women played in society was presented for both male and female audiences. Some of these activities took place at "Womanhouse." Womanhouse was a studio and exhibition room opened in January, 1972 by Chicago, Shapiro and their students. This meant that the women who had participated in "the feminist art program" at CalArts now had a place to work, exhibit work, and stage performances. Part of the concept behind Womanhouse was that installations would be set up in various rooms in the house. Artists exhibited, either individually or in groups, installations that all thematized various aspects of the roles society established for women--the bride in myths and a veil on the staircase by Kathy Huberland (Bridal Staircase), the kitchen with breasts on the walls by Susan Frazier, Vicki Hodgetts and Robin Weltsch (Nurturant Kitchen), used menstruation pads in the bathroom by Judy Chicago (Menstruation Bathroom), and so on.

The performances that were staged likewise played out conventional female roles and women's work. An example would be the performance "Scrubbing," in which a woman scrubs the floor, or the one in which another is ironing a very long piece of fabric. One of the most striking performances was Faith Wilding's "Waiting," staged in 1972, in which she plays out various positions of waiting that women live out from the cradle to the grave.[4][5]

The focus on women's socially, culturally and politically bound situations that was problematized by the artists of Womanhouse, characterizes much of the feminist art that was produced afterwards.

The thematization of the self is an autobiographical problem that arose in this connection and that can be found ever since in works by both men and women artists that take the social and psychological subject as their starting point.

A stronger and more conscious interest in a psychological angle on gender issues could be seen especially in the French and English scenes. France had the theorists Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva (who should not be compared otherwise), while England had artists such as Mary Kelly, who, taking her starting point in psychological problems, completed the work "Post-Partum-Document" during the years 1974-1979.

"Post-Partum-Document" is based on the first five years of Mary Kelly and her husband Ray Barrie's son Kelly Barrie's life. It analyzes and attempts to decode the Freudian and Lacanian notion of the Oedipal relationship between mother, father and child, and the construction of gender and sexuality in the small child. It is a documentary work consisting of written pages and single photographs that uncovers the daughter's first five years in dictionary fashion, and to a great degree leaves it to the viewer to draw conclusions.

What characterizes Mary Kelly's work in relation to feminist art in general is the starting point in her own experience and her focus on the self. The subject and subjectivity played a central role in the new feminist art in the 1970's and, with its focus on the autobiography, spawned a new genre in the visual arts.

A New Women's Art History

I want to return a final time to Womanhouse and one of the activities that took place there promoted by, among other, Judy Chicago. The collection of material about women artists from pre-history to the present, and the establishment of a now partly lost archive, took place there in the beginning of the 1970's and perhaps marked the beginning of the interest in previously unknown women artists, whose existence had been covered up in the writing of history. For Chicago herself, the collection activities found a concrete result in "The Dinner Party," exhibited in 1979. "The Dinner Party" was a "discovery" of 39 women whom Chicago considered to have had great significance in world history (cultural or political). These were women who, according to Chicago, had not been attributed by male dominated society with the significance they deserved simply because they were women. Over and above the 39 women, 999 women "of achievement" were named, who likewise ought to have been accorded a place in world history.[6]

Chicago's focus on women who had been more or less overlooked in historical writing can be seen as paralleling the effort within art history to draw attention to women artists.

In the beginning of the 1970's, several works of art history that attempted to offer a "women's art history" were published. In connection with an exhibition of the same name, Linda Nochlin and Anne Sutherland Harris published "Women Artists 1550-1950."[7] The book introduced women artists who had not been accorded a visible place in art history. The authors found that these were artists who were certainly good artists, and who in some cases even measured up to their male colleagues, but who were nevertheless inferior in their practice, because they had not had the same educational background.

The basis for Nochlin and Sutherland Harris' evaluation of these women's greatness or lack of such were aesthetic criteria. There was a widespread notion in the beginning of the 1970's that one could speak of a decidedly feminine aesthetic that transcended time and place--a fundamental notion also represented in the Los Angeles scene and in Europe.

The English feminist art historian Griselda Pollock has defined feminist art history as a double project. One aim was empirically to gather information on overlooked women artists. The other aim was to deconstruct the theory and practice of art history accordingly.[8] Her conclusion is that feminist art history must reject evaluative criticism and cease to appreciate art on the basis of purely aesthetic criteria, as Nochlin and Sutherland Harris do, because the production of a work of art's uniqueness and historical specificity is backgrounded by aesthetic values. Instead, the aim should be to concentrate more on illuminating women's artistic production historically. If aesthetic values are emphasized, both the object's historical specificity and the historically determined ideology of the critic/art historian are lost. With this, also the visibility of the "gendered position" as a factor that plays into the production and reception of art is lost.[9] What is meant by "gendered position," is the way in which women are conceived and placed in roles as women in the larger social order. The placement of women implicated by the gender category "feminine," means that a number of concepts, dogmas and prejudices tied to the female gender's conduct are affixed to the definition of the "feminine." It often happens in art history and theory that these characteristics are tied to women's creative production. In this way, one comes to speak of a particularly feminine aesthetic, which is considered by some to apply to any work of art produced by a woman.

The notion of a historically transcendent feminine aesthetic was widespread among feminist artists and critics in the 1970's. These notions of the specifically feminine in artistic expression led many women artists to work with materials connected with activities such as embroidery, patchwork, knitting and sewing that were traditionally carried out by women in the home. Viewed from a materialist feminist perspective, however, one cannot speak of a specifically feminine aesthetic until after 1970, when individual women artists ]consciously chose to work with a (historically based) feminine form of expression. The idea of a feminine aesthetic is tied to the conventional notion of form bound up with biological sex rather than an understanding of gendered form as socially and culturally constructed.

There is no need decidedly to reject the qualitative aesthetic evaluation that Nochlin and Sutherland Harris undertake in order to integrate women into art history. There is, however, reason to oppose the notion that art history's lack of acceptance of woman is due to a particular female aesthetic that is unacceptable from a male perspective. In past centuries, women have sought to live up to male standards in order to be accepted by their contemporaries as artists. Painters such as Artemisia Gentileschi and Judith Leyster cannot be said to display a particularly feminine aesthetic, and yet one may point out elements of content that are based on the individual's experience as a woman. Neither can one claim that women impressionist painters display any feminine aesthetic, yet one can see that they chose their genre based on their (social) position as women.[10]

It is not because of aesthetics, but because of socially constructed gender, that women have not been accepted. When Pollock discovers the basis for exclusion[11] in the gender-determined position that women occupy, she seeks the cause of this outside of aesthetic demands. In order to understand the exclusion of women artists one must look away from aesthetics and observe the mechanisms that have caused the exclusion. Partly, one needs to observe the work's historical character, and then the historically determined ideology of the art critic. In the final analysis, it is the ruling ideologies of the twentieth century that have caused the exclusion of women artists. The modernist conception of the world (a belief in positive and progressive development) and the ruling view of women (a woman's place is in the home) have attempted to keep women in their traditional roles as mothers, sisters, daughters and lovers. It is, as Pollock indicates, the cultural myths and ideologies that define the gender difference in art. These are embedded in art history's system of representation, which contributes to the social definitions of masculinity and femininity. Art history thus participates on an ideological level in the reproduction of the hierarchy of the sexes.[12]

The Critique of Representation

"Difference," writes Pollock, "is not essential, but understood as a social structure which positions male and female persons differently in relation to language, to social and economic power and to meaning."[13]

These asymmetrical relationships, which establish differences, are reproduced by representation. Representation means in this context not only the visual, but also history writing, literature, and science--manifestations that contribute to defining or maintaining a set of values that have been used and are dominant in the western world. When the French theorist Michélè Montrelay refers to feminism as the ruin of representation, she does so in order to point out the upheaval of values that could take place in society or in western culture if feminism were to be fully realized. This notion recalls a number of different remarks on feminism's revolutionary potential. Herbert Marcuse has referred to feminism as a "potentially radical and revolutionary force" able to change capitalist society. Also Julia Kristeva, in one of her earlier texts, has written about feminism as an overrunning force in society in her essay "Women's Time," in which she envisions a new society built on feminine values.[14]

Feminism has been defined as a political and epistemological event--political, in that it offers a critique of patriarchal society; epistemological, in that it calls into question the structure of representation, which is considered to reproduce the values of patriarchal society.[15]

Feminism's critique of representation can be construed in Althusserian terms. The upheaval of ideological manifestations that are a part of the ideological state apparatus and the ideological exercise of power that takes place both directly and indirectly.

To this we may tie, from another angle, the Foucauldian notion of the practice of power that operates in various aspects of our existence--not least in our sexuality, where power is polarized as masculine, which is stressed also in psychoanalysis, which defines power relations by attributing to the phallus the role of primary signifier. This has occasioned a comprehensive critique of psychoanalysis, both from feminist theorists and of course Michele Foucault himself, along with Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari.

The critique of psychoanalysis goes hand in hand with the critique of representation. In the final analysis, one can view psychoanalysis, as it is presented by Freud and Lacan, as a representation, since it seeks its conclusions empirically in "case-stories," and its fundamental stimulus builds upon norms that reproduce notions of right and wrong based on a conventional understanding of normality. The focus on the problematic relationship, which lies in representation's affirmative function as a reproducer of existing conventions, is naturally of central importance for feminism when it concerns gender roles and competence connected with gender. When feminism criticizes representation, it does so because it implies the cultural values of the western world combined with Christian patterns of norms and morality in a culturally reproductive system that aims to preserve and strengthen standards in the existing social structure. This is particularly so with respect to sexuality, gender roles and both male and female virtues.

Visual and textual representation in art and products of popular culture are particularly well suited to the reproduction of traditional sexual values because of their public nature. Myths that are reproduced in visual culture can be understood in relation to Roland Barthes' definition of a secondary meaning construction, where mythical values are repeated and reconstrued. When these myths are communicated to the public, one can observe representation's role as a force that intervenes, regulates and to a certain extent defines the subjects it addresses, in that it positions them according to class and gender.

The cultural reproduction that can be seen in cultural production thus reproduces conventions that the reader/spectator--who lives in a society that does not call existing values into question, and where there is no need for renewal--accepts.

All forms of representation are a phallogocentric construction, in which the position of women is always defined as "Other." Both as producer and as one who is produced, a woman's position will always be secondary according to these norms.

The deconstruction of this positioning has to be feminism's most essential task, since women today, active on all fronts in late capitalist society, no longer play passive roles and no longer ought to allow themselves to be placed in such passivity.


Part II

Feminist Art and Art History in Denmark

The spread of feminism and its integration into various systems of representation is a fact in large parts of the academic world and in daily life in Denmark in the 1990's--not explicitly stated but as something that, despite everything, has influenced our daily life and our consciousness and has caused small changes in the direction of greater equality between the sexes. Feminist questioning of men's and women's existence is nevertheless not something that is welcomed in many academic circles. Branded as out-of-date, feminism's questions have for many years been hushed up. In many places we have seen a strong resistance to feminism's further propagation and even its existence, mostly among people who have felt their positions threatened.

Danish art history is one of the places where feminism has never really made an inroad. Unlike in the United States and some European countries, we have not seen any serious attempts here to re-write art history in order to integrate women artists.

There is nevertheless a noteworthy exception to this from as long ago as 1942. The art historian and professor Else Kai Sass published in 1942 an article entitled "Woman as Creative Artist," in an offprint of the journal Women in Denmark. Here Sass reviews a number of women artists beginning with medieval nuns who, true to tradition, completed miniature paintings and manuscript illustrations. She goes on to describe the artistic production Leonora Christine, whose significance to painting is of course hardly great compared to other women artists throughout history.

Some of the most notable women artists from previous centuries presented here are Marie Fosie (1726-1764) and Magdalene Margrethe Bärens (1737-1808). Marie Fosie was a painter and copper engraver. Engraving was at that time what women artists worked with most, however Marie Fosie painted as well. A few historical paintings by her exist, which is unusual, since historical painting was a genre that was not only reserved for men, but also was viewed as the most noble discipline within painting, and therefore something that women did not attempt. Magdalene Margrethe Bärens was a painter and one of the few women (the only in her time) who succeeded in becoming a member of the Art Academy in 1780.

Both women were a part of the better off Copenhagen bourgeoisie, which was the case for a number of the women who were taught at the Academy during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the nineteenth century, a number of women studied drawing and painting at The Royal Danish Academy of Art, though without enjoying the same official admittance that male students did. Although they studied drawing and painting at the Professor Schools, they were not officially admitted to the programs. Thus they could not participate, for example, in the gold medal competitions, which made study trips possible, but could also function as cause for recognition as artists in the Danish art institutions.

Most women of the Golden Age were taught flower painting by flower painter and Professor I.L. Jensen, a few with Eckersberg and Lund, where one must assume that they primarily studied landscape painting. They did not study human anatomy--the Academy's charter did not permit women to participate in model drawing or painting, regardless of whether the models were male or female.

Not until 1888 did the Academy establish a special school for women artists, however partly because of the free painting schools that opened as alternative to the Academy in the following years, this separate structure was broken down, since at the new painting schools men and women were taught together.

Starting at the end of the nineteenth century, several women artists worked actively in the art scene. From the realists Bertha Wegmann, Emilie Mundt, Johanne Krebs, Marie Krøyer, Anna Syberg and Anna Ancher to the constructivist Franciska Clausen and the surrealist Rita Kærn-Larsen and up to this day, numerous women artists have been sent out into the Danish art scene. Yet one cannot exactly speak of any over-representation of women in the history of Danish art.

It is fairly typical that in Hans Edvard Nørregård-Nielsen's survey Dansk Kunsthistorie, only four women are represented in 1000 years of art history. In the fourth volume of Ny Dansk Kunsthistorie, which covers realism, its author Peter Michael Hornung shows he is willing to represent some women artists. Of the four women named, one is Anna Ancher, who is written about as she deserves to be in the chapter on the "Skagen painters." The three other artists, Bertha Wegmann, Johanne Krebs and Marie Krøyer are presented rather humorously in the chapter entitled "Rebels and Outsiders" along with, among others, Zahrtmann (who is known to have been a homosexual). Although the women painters were undoubtedly taken to be rebellious and emancipated, this rebelliousness cannot be seen in their paintings, which show scenes from every-day life in full agreement with the choice of subjects in realistic painting.

One might certainly reproach P.M. Hornung for positioning these artists as "Other," but even more so for the number of women who figure in his book. The same goes for Nørregaard-Nielsen, who in his survey reflects an art-historical situation in Denmark where no attempts from any quarter are made to integrate women artists into art history.

One can only conclude that feminist art history writing is lacking, and wonder why no one wants to dig through the archives in the hopes of unearthing exciting new material.

Will There Be Women Artists in the Art History of the Future?

When feminist art histories were written in Germany, France, England and the United States in the wake of the feminist artist movements and the women's movement in general in the 1970's, no similar effort was made in Denmark.

In Denmark in the 70's, however, there were many women artists exhibiting work, various feminist manifestations, and talk of decidedly feminist artists.

In 1976, one could see at Charlottenborg a large exhibition of women artists who, despite the lack of documentation, must be taken as a feminist event, which does not appear to have made great waves in Danish art life. A book was also written about women artists in Denmark, which perhaps shares something of the fate of some of what is recorded in other countries in the 1970's--it was forgotten.

Perhaps one has to view the feminist art scene in Denmark in the context of the art scene in the rest of Europe. One of the European feminist artists who in the 1990's has become of interest again is the Austrian Valie Export. Valie Export is (might be) known in Denmark for her collaboration with the Danish artist Kirsten Justesen on the exhibition "The Body as Membrane" at Brandts Klædefabrik in 1995.

One of the few places one can read about Kirsten Justesen in the context of art history is in Export's article on European feminist action artists in the 1970's. Here Justesen, who was perhaps one of Denmark's most important feminist artists in the 1970's, is mentioned along with European artists such as Niki de Saint Phalle, Maria Lassnig, Gina Pane, the Japanese Yoyoi Kusama and Export herself.[16]

As is the case for many of her European colleagues, an increasing amount of attention has been paid to Justesen's works from the 70's in recent years. She officially (first) became a part of Danish art history with her "involvement" in volume 9 of Ny dansk Kunsthistorie, published in 1995.[17]

We cannot read much in the art-historical literature about other women artists active in the 70's, such as Ursula Reuter Christiansen, Jytte Rex, and Lene Adler Petersen.

As happened with much other art from the 1970's that took its starting point in activism (performance groups, the politically oriented "Trykkerbande," etc.) the interest in feminist art and the possibility for a feminist art history was brushed aside when more traditional (and in terms of content, non-ideological) forms of expression began to be celebrated in the beginning of the 1980's with the return of painting and sculpture. Every form of politically stimulating art disappeared like dew under the sun, while painters and sculptors hammered away in a hectic attempt to renounce the contextual art that in the 70's had postulated that art could both be socially oriented and political.

The 1980's were, also in Denmark, that kind of cultural "backlash," as the American cultural critic Susan Faludi has called it. Nevertheless the 1980's were a decade that fostered a considerable number of women artists: Dorthe Dahlin, Elisabeth Toubro, Inge Ellegaard, Elle Klarskov Jensen, Nina Steen-Knudsen, Lone Høyer Hansen, Margrethe Sørensen, Anita Jørgensen, Kirsten Ortwed and many others.

Although they would hardly wish to be called feminists, I would nevertheless permit myself to integrate them into a feminist art history and insist that it is necessary, since they too are in danger of being written out of art history. It is a fact that while their male colleagues are getting solo museum exhibitions, being sent to international exhibitions to represent Denmark, and becoming professors at the Royal Danish Academy of Arts, they are getting decoration jobs and less prestigious work. Seen from the outside, it is a disparity that is not based on their being worse than their male colleagues, but rather is caused by power structures that, simply put, are established and practiced in the social stratum's conventions that are often defined by and for men.

In order for there to be women artists in the Danish art history of the future, and as long as the integration of women artists does not happen automatically as a natural mechanism, we must maintain the necessity of the gender-political considerations that a feminist art history has to offer.

Renewed Interest in Feminism in the 1990's

In the 1990's, we have seen a renewed interest in feminist art or women's art, as some would call it, marked by, among other things, the exhibition "Dialogue with the Other" at Brandts Klædefabrik in 1994 and the previously mentioned exhibition "The Body as Membrane."

In the Danish art scene in the beginning of the 90's we saw a number of groups that focused on the role/position of a woman artist in an indisputably male-dominated system. One thinks for instance about "Room Service," a group consisting of Tine Borg, Anja Francke and Helene Illeris, and the "Bob Smith" project involving the artists Susan Hinnum, Ann Kristin Lislegaard, Christine Melchiors and Eva Larsson.

Here at the end of the 1990's, we see a new interest in feminist questions at the art academies in Denmark among the young students, who--unlike many of their teachers--do not think that one can speak of equality in the Danish art world.

On the level of art history, it is also necessary to advocate a more or less feminist awareness that takes into account problems that continue to surround gender and sexuality in relation to (in this case) artistic production.

While people out in the world have come to take the intentions of feminist historical writing seriously, in Denmark we lag suspiciously behind.

How can it be that people in a country that--perhaps to an even greater extent in the art world--praises itself for its broad-mindedness are so narrow-minded when it comes to an equality problem that clearly is extremely relevant?

The deconstruction of male-dominant art history and its ideological implications for which Griselda Pollock has made herself spokeswoman is not merely a historical problem. Viewed in relation to contemporary art, it is, from a feminist perspective, a problem that the criteria for good and bad art are based on values, defined using a modernist conception of artwork that draws to a great extent on masculine conventions.

In the first decade of feminist art (the 1970's), a new genre of art was defined: the autobiographical. This marked a renaissance for narrative artwork. Besides this, feminist art, together with concept art, belonged to the field that defined a work of art with political and social implications A form of political artwork that today has modulated into a contextual one has its roots here.

From this starting point, one can very simply oppose two sides under the rubrics "the modern" and "the postmodern." On the side you have the high- and late-modernist work: the abstract, "pure" work (the sublime). Opposed to this, you have the postmodern work, of which feminist art is considered part: the narrative work defiled by every-day social and political realities.

When one looks today at the choices made when art history is written or practiced, for example in purchases for museums and such, or the canonization of artists that is always taking place in art institutions, one sees clearly the masculine traces of modernism as a motivating force. One can therefore say that the choices that are made, the indirect labeling of good and bad art are based on a modernist concept of the work, which is motivated by a masculine fundamental attitude.

In the Danish art institutions, this is not only a problem for feminists; it is a general problem for art, which is defined using a postmodern concept of the work.

Exclusion or secondarization of women, people of color and homosexuals continues to be practiced when it is decided what "good" art is--a practice of power that is carried out in all art institutions, including art museums, galleries, publishers, journals, and critics.

The most essential task facing the feminist art critic today is to point out and criticize the values that are dominant in art institutions, and fight the keeping of women, and ethnic groups, etc. as "the others"--attitudes that maintain dogmas in the production of culture in the late twentieth century.

A New Art History

Feminist art history and criticism deconstructs modernist values. As a critique of modernism, feminism should be seen as agreeing with postmodern critical discourse, which rejects modernism's aesthetic, formal values in favor of an emphasis on content and context. Feminist criticism, with its basis in pluralistic understanding, should be seen as similar to postmodern discourse.

Feminist art history understood as feminist criticism of modernist conventions unavoidably implies a rewriting of art history in which the traditional modernist principles are broken down, restructured and rebuilt according to new values. The pattern in which modernist art history lies is not usable for a new art history, as feminism demands. Women should not fit into the existing system, but rather a new system should accommodate a broader group of artists--not only women, but also artists of other cultures, whose influence in Western art should not be overlooked. The new art that is being created cannot be inscribed in modernism's linear narrative. Its history is a pluralistic flow, a visual and information bombardment, that does not have the clarity of modernist narrative, but has rather the character of chaos.

It is the values established by patriarchal society that feminist art criticism attacks for being institutionalized conventions that present masculine subjectivity as the only useful position. Feminist art practice has since the 1970's criticized and questioned representation and its ideological basis (in patriarchal society). It has thereby been institutionally critical as a part of postmodern discourse. The categories "masculine" and "feminine" should not exist in postmodern consciousness as a dichotomy, but as relatives involved in various structures, and are not tied to one definitive biological definition of sex.

When one chooses, as in this book, exclusively to present women, it should not be seen as an expression of a notion that women ought to create their own isolated history; neither do we claim that the artists presented have something in common, merely because they are women. It is rather a matter of a political manifestation that contradicts the dominant state of affairs in Danish art institutions, which do not appear to take the problem very seriously.

We do not wish to place ourselves in a position as "other," but to protest against being placed in a position as "other."