Media @ McGill

Abi Shapiro | Home Making and Making Homes: Intersections of Feminist Art and Architecture in the 1970s

Submitted by Media@McGill on
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This award supports the research and writing of a chapter of my doctoral dissertation that investigates the interactions between feminist art and avant-garde architecture in the United States and Canada in the 1970s. This chapter will present the research I have collected at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montréal and at the Archives of American Art in Washington D.C. that shows the activities of women artists making large-scale, immersive sculptural artworks that represent and critique domestic spaces. I argue these artworks were co-informed by the artists’ collaborative interactions with avant-garde architects and the contemporaneous emergence of feminist art and gender politics in the early 1970s. Thus, I argue these artworks resulted in some of the earliest—but widely unknown—examples of installation art that combined feminist critiques of the home in dialogue with architectural theory and practice. Including these works is historical narratives is key, as the history of installation art and its relationship with architecture in North America has been largely understood via male artists such as Gordon Matta Clark. I argue that these narratives now need to incorporate the work of women artists and feminist politics.

There are two main objectives in this chapter. The first aim is to present my research on Ree Morton’s activities with the Anarchitecture group in 1974, and referencing artists such as Alice Aycock and Mary Miss within the orbit of the architect Gordon Matta Clark and his corollary avant-garde architectural collaborations in New York City. The second purpose of this chapter is to consider the different ways Morton, Aycock and Miss engaged (or disengaged) with feminist art and its politics, considering how this affected their historical position in feminist art history and installation art where they have been marginalized. To counter this, I draw on the feminist theories of space in relation to gender, the body and domesticity, to question whether it is useful to frame certain artworks under the auspices of “feminist installation art”.