Art+Feminism Event Spotlight
Location: Rio, Brazil
Despite the current global pandemic, our Art+Feminism organizers continue to nurture community and help put more marginalized artists on Wikipedia. We hope to highlight some events that happened before COVID-19 stopped in-person events, as well as events that have pivoted to meet online in the coming weeks.
We are NaPupila, a curatorial collective based in Rio (Brazil), but working through the internet. NaPupila was co-founded by three emergent curators and community organizers – Ana Lobo, Julia Baker, and Michaela Blanc. We develop research material for exhibition projects as well as programming related to the field of visual arts. As a group of women, we always experienced and discussed gender issues, while we had them pulsating in our veins. Although we had considerations on how and why women are still a minority as chief curators, museum directors, not to mention art books, and so on, we felt the necessity to make this more visible to our peers, in our home country, by highlighting women’s and gender topics in our curatorial practice.
The process of acknowledgement of women artist’s production, and their lack of representation – in particular among the Latin American community, led us to Art+Feminism and the Wikipedia Edit-a-thons. Our first encounter was in 2019, when we held an edit marathon in Rio de Janeiro, at the Centro Municipal de Artes Hélio Oiticica. We invited Ingrid Bittar, a collage artist, to present a piece of work that could illustrate A+F’s essence. We had only a few participants. However, the exchange between us was so powerful that we decided to study harder and invite other colleagues to join the movement.
[IMAGE 2: A poster created by Ingrid BittarIn Natura, 2015Série XXTAColagem with the details of the event and a colorful illustration with people and flora. Image courtesy of NaPupila.]
Understanding the importance in maintaining this type of social engagement, we reach out to A+F to produce a marathon once again. In 2020, Juliana Monteiro (A+F Portuguese ambassador) helped us out with logistics and deadlines. NaPupila were able to run for a micro funding to put the event together, and so we did – and we won!
In order to move forward with this network of (badass) women, we made contact with Tanja Baudoin, curator in the Library | Center of Documentation and Research at the School of Visual Arts of Parque Lage (EAV), Rio (school where we three met back in 2011 – time flies, right?) Tanja accepted to receive the project and to provide the library archives for the attendees to use. We organized and advertised a two-days event: March 10th would be a two hour workshop and demonstration on how to edit, and on the 31st we would have a five hours marathon. In addition, Aline Besouro was the artist selected for this year’s public invitation. Yet, we managed to print postcards of her work using the financial aid.
The initial plan went halfway through, our first meeting was held in Parque Lage’s Library physical space on March 10th, we had eight editors coming in, and it was great despite the rising number of confirmed cases of covid-19 in Brazil at the time. We remember even, writing feminist songs for the “wash your hands” funny signs for the school restrooms, following the CDC guidelines.
In a few days later, as we all now know, a fast and dramatic change of scenario made Rio start to fight against the spread of the new coronavirus. As happened in many cities around the world, schools, libraries and cultural institutions closed until further notice; canceling or postponing an entire program. It was not different with the School of Visual Arts of Parque Lage, and our Arte+Feminismo was included on this loop.
After one of us attended a lecture via Zoom, we realized that it would be possible to shift our event to the virtual world. Ana made a list of prospect editors and research collaborators, Julia contacted Tanja and the school, Michaela sent a message to Kira Wisniewski (A+F executive director) asking if we could use the micro funding to pay for a Zoom package. Our goal through this project was, and still is, practicing social distancing but never being lonely. We felt that this was the right call thing to do for our artistic community.
Tanja invited our colleagues at the Moreira Salles Institute (IMS), which had planned an A+F session, but due to covid-19’s progress it was canceled. IMS was organizing their event with the Wiki Brazil Movement (WMB). We jump from the event cut off to the lucky partnership with fantastic organizations, alongside brilliant art workers.
In face of the school closure, it was decided that we had to approach the School of Visual Arts, and it is relevant to say that EAV was founded in 1975 and has an important role in the education and establishment of many Brazilian artists – specially the well known 1980’s Generation group, in Rio. In the early stages of this research we realized that some female important artists such as Beatriz Milhazes, Lygia Pape and Celeida Tostes were students, teachers and directors in EAV during some point of their careers. However information about these women was not easily found in the Wiki – either their articles had incomplete information or they did not had a wiki page at all. Thinking about the lack of information regarding the female artists that were a part of the construction of the school, we decide to focus in the female – cis or trans – artists of EAV.
In addition, NaPupila with a huge help from Juliana Machado and Rubia Luiza da Silva, librarian assistants, to put together an excel sheet where EAV women professors were listed. What we found was that extraordinary artists did not had pages and we had a lot of work to be done. Meantime, we also created a Whatsapp group to work on as a discussion forum. We invited friends who are curators, art historians, art professors, museum workers, artists, filmmakers, activists, journalists, producers, art educators to contribute from home with EAV’s excel sheet.
After we were able to join forces with other institutions, we could have more participants and resources for the marathon day. Moreira Salles Institute – through the figure of Bruno Buccalon – provided an impressive research material about the female figures in their archive collection. Érica Azzellini and Giovanna Fontenelle, from the Wiki Brazil Movement – were also amazing partners before and during the event. They have a great knowledge about the Wiki platform and offered to help the participants throughout the marathon day and afterwards. The situation forced us to change the event’s format thus, we must say, it worked perfectly.
On March, 31st the marathon was held via Zoom platform. From 2 pm until 10 pm we stayed logged in teaching workshops, resonating the value of this action as well as how to edit Wikipedia. We and all of our partners were online during the entire time (eight hours) so it was possible to help new editors by tutoring them. In only one day, our collaborators made more than 100 editings, 05 new articles were created, 21 had new information added, and 373 articles were viewed. Major newspapers and magazines such as Folha de São de Paulo e Marie Claire Brazil publicized our event. Feminism, gender, Brazilian art, activism and feminism were the main subjects of the articles we worked on.
More than 50 researchers, art workers, professors, and students participated in our marathon, joining our Zoom room and working really hard in the articles and in understanding how to use the Wiki tools. They were people living in different states and even countries, who understood the consequences this project is capable of articulating on people’s educational lives and how it could reverberate in other campaigns within the art world. Helping women to achieve the central role we deserve in books, research processes, exhibition making, the historiography of arts, through the internet became our duty.
[IMAGE 4: Screenshot of Zoom grid from virtual event on March 31, 2020. Image courtesy of NaPupila.]
Moreover, major libraries and cultural institutions in Brazil are located in the downtowns of big cities, which can indicate not only a geographic barrier, but also barriers to knowledge for many women living in the outskirts. That said, the internet and platforms like Wikipedia ended up being a democratic method to access education.
Another outcome of this edit-a-thon is a new group of collaborators interested in creating interviews with some of the female artists included on the Parque Lage excel sheet. They are willing to add and alter infos on Wikipedia on an ongoing basis, which is super exciting if you look from a community perspective.
We face new times and become urgent to create new ways to connect and to relate to people. Fortunately, our event was able to create a warm online environment for a group committed to challenge the underrepresentation of female agents in the art world. The significance of maintaining the event and our community together nurtured impressive results and new alliances. We will keep our efforts in representing A+F in Rio and we hope to increase the numbers much more next year!
Ana Lobo, Julia Baker and Michaela Blanc