Visitor at Judy Chicago's Dinner Party
Once the American artist Judy Chicago was engaged in excavations in second-hand shops. By chance, she found a book telling about the events of a hundred years ago - about the Chicago World Exhibition in 1893 and the Women's House, which was then erected. The colossal building was filled with literary, artistic and industrial works of women, demonstrating the latest achievements of social thought. Congresses, concerts, classes, meetings were held for six months and attracted participants from all over the world.
Judy was amazed that this fact of history was completely forgotten (just like we are now struck by the absence of Judy herself in our picture of the world), and in the early 70s she started the Los Angeles megaproject “Women's House”, something like a permanent place for the laboratory of the feminist revolution, a refuge for finding a place in art, the embodiment of Gerda Lerner's ideas and Judy's own discoveries.
Almost a decade was taken by the creation of Chicago's "Dinner Party", which is now in the Brooklyn Museum. The documentary The Dinner Party helps us return to the seventies and see some members of the “non-hierarchical collective” immediately at the time the memorial was created for women of all time.
Judy began work on the Dinner Party alone, but later her workshop turned into a real science center and attracted hundreds of research practitioners. What they did was a collective discovery of the past, an awareness of the role of women in world history, the self-presentation of a group of artists, direct political action, mockery of the waste of useless dissertations. The participation of hundreds of like-minded people also meant the transfer of skills, the exchange of thoughts, a unique atmosphere, and creative brainstorming.
What was a dinner party? A huge triangular table, covered with a white tablecloth, on which there were 39 cutlery. He called for a mystical meal for everyone who was eternally engaged in cooking. The length of the face was 14.63 m, the triangular shape referred to the image of the Great Goddess, equal sides - to the idea of universal equality. Each cutlery consisted of a special plate, a special napkin, the same spoon-fork-knife-grail for creative blood. The napkin was decorated with the name and symbols of the life path of each heroine. The white tiles on which the triangle was installed were called Heritage Floor and carried 999 female names - forgotten lives and achievements of thousands of women.
A fragment of the exposition "Dinner Party" by Judy Chicago
The names of Heritage Floor correlated with the names near the cutlery, so that each of the 39 participants of the triple supper was a symbol of a long historical tradition. From the first plate, embodying the creative principle, the great goddess, the butterfly doll, one should walk along the entire perimeter of the triangle, repeating the passage of time - just like gradually from the cult of the great goddess, society passed to the patriarchy and demonization of women. As a result, one could find oneself about the latest compositions talking about the time when women got their literary (Virginia Woolf) and artistic (Georgia O'Keeffe) languages. The cutlery's artistic solution reflected the image of time and culture. This also allowed us to systematize and preserve various techniques for working with threads and fabric.
The "Dinner Party" consistently revealed new levels of disempowerment - lack of access to education, voting rights, removal from power, slavery, the seizure of profitable professions by men, violence, and forced pregnancy. The boundaries of vagina-like plates showed the degree of repressive society, the person’s ability to fight and its realization. Height, unevenness, volume and asymmetry were directly proportional to the achieved independence.
White triangles on the corners of the table reminded that embroidery is a secret rebellious language, showed a change in the visibility of women over time. Many parts of the composition were difficult to see. The ceilings of the temples are covered with invisible frescoes and mosaics in the hope that they will be visible to otherworldly forces. But Judy pursued another idea, reminiscent of the fact that the general history of women was fragmented, poorly known or invisible at all.
Chicago decided to use a mountain of religious symbols for feminist purposes: since they worked well for the patriarchy, they could work during the transitional period. She turned out to be right, the updated artistic language was understandable to everyone: The Last Supper, Trinity (three sides of the table), the Holy Grail, church embroidery (the techniques that women used to work to maintain the male hierarchy), the game with numbers - 13, 999 .. .
The Dinner Party, or Feast, which was created in 1974-1979, became the foundation for the activities of women historians. No, I do not mean the authors of capital works, although this cream also got it. I am talking about female practitioners, those who armed themselves with Judy's idea and began to act immediately to change the real circumstances of the lives of living women. Those who managed to notice the power contained in the words "women's history".
Laila Arqueros Claramunt's work at the exhibition “Women talk about women”, 2018
In March 1978, the first Women's History Week was held in Sonoma, California. The following year they spoke about this at the American Conference on Women's History. Conference participants immediately recommended the format of the week to all their communities, organizations and school districts, supported the appeal to the US government. In 1980, Women's Historical Week acquired national status.
In 1987, the nonprofit organization National Project for Women's History (Santa Rosa, Sonoma, California) won March Government recognition for Women's History Month. The month of women's history is officially celebrated in March also in Australia and the UK. Activists in France and Catalonia celebrate Women's History Month with the help of their communities. In Canada, the Month of Women's History is held in October, in memory of a 1929 political decision on political equality.
In the United States, women's history is included in educational programs. A month of women's history is held in schools and colleges. Universities award doctorates in women's history.
In all these countries, revolutionary social transformations were initiated by independent grassroots groups, rather than being planted from above. The fourth month of women's history will be held in Russia in 2020, it is made by the Moscow Women's Museum.
In Seneca Falls, New York, the National Historic Women's Rights Park has been open since 1980. The Washington National Museum of Women in the Arts exhibits only female works. The USA constantly initiates the Months of Women's History outside the country, attracts American guests and the local women's community. So, in Minsk, Ambassador Karen Stewart (2007) participated in the events, Professor Birgitta Ingemanson (2011) in Vladivostok, and Dr. Geraldine Forbes (2012) in Ashgabat. In 2013, during the Month of Women's History, a photo exhibition was held at the American Embassy in Tashkent “as a recognition of the outstanding achievements of women in Uzbekistan.” Since 2014, the Bishkek feminist initiative, Sew (Kyrgyzstan), together with the National COMMUNITY campaign and UN Women, began to hold the National Month of Women's History and Activism for Equal Rights and Opportunities.
In 1993, the Tver Club “Female Light” organized a Week of Women's History, which began to be held annually. The fifth week of women's history was dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the granting of Russian women electoral rights.
Inspired by American feminists, the Norwegians began to hold Women's Historical Night every year on May 8 in 2006, in 2012, the JIN began in Russia, now it has spread to eight countries and hundreds of cities.
In March 2015, Wikimedia, a non-profit organization combining wiki projects, released a series of publications about women in the wiki movement and the “gender gap” among its members. In August 2015, only 16% of English-language biography wikis were female. In 2016, Wikimedia, together with UN Women, hosted the #HERstory women's wiki marathon to increase the number of articles on women and the number of women Wikipedia editors.
In 2016, the map “Open art spaces: workshops of artists” appeared in Minsk. During the excursions, the artists participating in the project show their workshops and talk about themselves and their experience. American artist Rory made the # 100Days100Women, an election project. Every day she painted one female portrait.
Nowadays in the world there are more than 100 women's museums and initiatives united in the IAWM network . There is a feminization of "ordinary" museums. And the number of art citations of The Dinner Party is so great that it is impossible to count them.
Exhibit FemArt “L'Apat Transgressor”
An amazing historical dinner was at the “ People and Things ” exhibition in the Norwegian KODE Museum in 2014 - cutlery told the stories of prominent humanist Bergens - both women and men.
The Barcelona-based FemArt project L'Apat Transgressor runs in Barcelona. In 2016, 30 artists at Pompeu Fabre University created tables dedicated to unpaid women's work. I visited one of the L'Apat Transgressor shows in March 2018. Then, in the kitchen of the El Sortidor Community Center (that is, in the space traditionally reserved for women), three objects of the 2016 exhibition were recreated - the works of Peliagudes, Sabina Vilagut and Anna Fando. During the presentation of the photo exhibition there was a buffet table and a concert. Out of respect for unpaid domestic work for women, the musical and poetry duo Micono used a drum kit from basins, bowls and pans, that is, from items for cooking and cleaning.
The meaning of the Judy Chicago triangle is so great that, putting it in your head, agreeing with its reality, you are forced to seriously push out all our past ideological finds and reconsider them from a new perspective. The past has to be crowded in corners, the meanings and derivatives of the "Dinner Party" are just beginning to be revealed to us, and who knows what this will lead to.
Do you know what thought seems especially surprising to me? Judy Chicago knew almost all the creative Americans of the 60-80s that we heard about, on the works and ideals of which we grew up. Our ideas about human rights are at the foundation of the Dinner Party.