In 2014, artist Anicka Yi facilitated and recorded a the panel discussion "Where Are the
Female Networks in the Art World?". This heated and poignant discussion incited me to engage my peers in a parallel conversation, and to photograph those involved; to shed light on the brilliance and genius around me and to help me answer my own questions about WORK and female networks in various Toronto arts communities. In December 2014 the Toronto Arts Council funded what is now (tentatively titled) WomenWork: A Feminist Archive (WW:FA).


The goal of WW:FA is threefold: to depict women as historical agents who shape and enrich arts & culture; to fracture myths and illusions about the monolithic category of “female artist”, and to create a subjective, dynamic index of artists-as-role-models for future generations of women. Though WW:FA is not yet complete (and should encourage us to consider how and when an archive is every really complete)  project aims to destabilize traditional means and rules of archiving, a process that historically devalues and obscures women while maintaining the oppressive rigidity of gender. It posits the archive as a non-objective document rooted in and destined for both present and future, prone to error and affect, and as Boris Groys noted, "a process of documenting {which} opens up a disparity between the document itself and the documented... a divergence that can neither be bridged or erased." (1) The artist as archivist is no longer a singular authority or institutional entity


Ultimately I hope to create a more democratic way to mine affective economies within local female arts communities, or networks as some would say.  The research informing WW:FA reflects my preoccupations with productivity, the perpetual and systemic erasure of female artists' lives/ accomplishments, how we care for ourselves, and the subjective differentiation of work from labour. I am especially interested in the ways we re­assign value to our lives and our work, as well as how we navigate tenuous circumstances where these are invisible or contested. 


WW:FA responds to the gross statistical underrepresentation of women within local and global art institutions. Through these collaborative portraits and free-form interviews, participants actively re-shape a more intimate and relevant definition of their lives and art practices as multi-faceted forms of labour. Ultimately WW:FA will be a mutable compilation of images and experiences which testify to the strength we draw from each other and from women* artists before us. 


NB: these portraits are not publicly accessible and if you've found yourself here I humbly request you ask permission to share.

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Jessica Vallentin
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Using Format