January 27, 2016

Fun fact: The image Art+Feminism uses to publicize its edit-a-thons is a take on Russian constructivist artist Aleksandr Rodchenko’s Books poster, created as an advertisement for the publishing house Gosizdat. In the poster, artist Lilya Brik is depicted joyfully crying out Books!

Lilya Brik was born November 11, 1891 in Moscow. She grew up in a wealthy Jewish family and graduated from the Moscow Institute of Architecture. In addition to collaborating with artists such as Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall and Aleksandr Rodchenko, she also directored two films: Jews on the Land and The Glass Eye.


From 1922 to 1928 Brik was a collaborator on LEF, the journal of the Left Front of Arts. LEF, emphasizing the ties between politics and art, was built around the idea that artistic forms were themselves vehicles of ideas, and so the creation of a new society required the creation of new forms. Under the communism regime, women artists were considered equals of their male colleagues. Working together, Constructivist artists created a unique, shared visual vocabulary for a new era.


Constructivism emphasized the active participation of the viewer. Similarly, open source projects, such as Wikipedia, encourage a collaborative, communal approach to information. This horizontal approach to knowledge results in a digital commons, that is,

               information and knowledge resources that are collectively creates and                owned or shared between or among a community and that tend to be                non-exclusivedible, that is, be (generally freely) available to third                          parties. This, they are oriented to favor use and reuse, rather than to                   exchange as a commodity. 

Rodchenko’s poster symbolizes a summoning of public knowledge. A central technique of Constructivism was photomontage: the process of creating a composite photo by rearranging multiple photos into a single image. Collage and photomontage are historically political art forms. They have been associated with movements such as Dada, Constructivism, and second wave feminism. They bring together disparate materials in order to create brand new works. Wikipedia operates in a similar manner, employing the collaborative collaging of a variety of sources to create a cohesive body of information.


The high ideals of artistic movements don’t necessarily manifest themselves like we might wish. Often in seemingly progressively groups, hypocrisy runs rampant. For example, German Dadaist Hans Richter who described Hannah Hoch’s contribution to the movement as the “sandwiches, beer and coffee she managed somehow to conjure up despite the shortage of money.“      

“Wikipedia’s openness hardly makes it perfect,” Andrew Leonard wrote in his article for Salon about the trend of “revenge editing” on Wikipedia. Lilya Brik’s Wikipedia entry spends little time on her artistic endeavors and instead positions her only as muse and lover to well known male artists. The open source movement is beset with gender inequality. Less than 10% of Wikipedia’s contributors identify as female. With its emphasis on female editorship, Art+Feminism works to achieve equality not just on the screen but in the production of our public knowledge.  

-Emily Gaynor, Art+Feminism editorial fellow

Read more about open source gender trouble here:

Open Source on Wikipedia

List of women in FLOSS on Geek Feminism Wiki

This Is What Tech’s Ugly Gender Problem Really Looks Like by Issie Lapowsky 

Out in the Open: The Crusade to Bring More Women to Open Source by Klint Finley

The Internet’s destructive gender gap: Why the Web can’t abandon its misogyny by Astra Taylor

Gender, Representation and Online Participation by Bogdan Vasilescu, Andrea Capiluppi, Alexander Serebrenik