Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien
Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien

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Thicket of Ideas
Thicket of Times

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Once a year, the lecture series Feminist Idols offers the pioneers of feminist ideas and/or artistic practice a stage and an opportunity to enter into discourse with the public: Thus, it provides space not only for theoretical ideas, practical proposals for action, and creative artistic practices but also for the formulation of utopias and dystopias.

In this sense, the title chosen, i.e. Feminist Idols, is deliberately ambivalent: On the one hand, the invitation extended by the Academy of Fine Arts aims to laud committed feminists and their work. In times referred to as post-feminist by many, the Academy wishes to signal clearly that there are still feminist ideas with the power to trigger processes of change. In order to generate feminist ideas for the future, it is inevitable that we deal in-depth with the very essence and origin of ideas – which is both foundational and contextual work in the truest sense of the word.

The series Feminist Idols aims to present an analytical perspective onto feminist research and art, to question and to discuss it. In this sense, the title can be interpreted verbatim: the idea providers invited are indeed pioneers of feminist art and theory. On the other hand, the following questions arise: what makes a feminist idol? How do we handle hierarchies and structures of power in feminist discourse? How does a collective cope with the exaltation of a single person? How does this affect the person herself and her work? What inconsistencies, what differences are revealed? By no means is the person on the pedestal to become a glorified, heroic creature impossible to criticize. Thus, the series is intended to prompt a well-founded investigation and placing of ideas – of both oneself, one’s own position, and the lecturers’ and their theories and (artistic)practices.

The logo of the series also sketches the twinkle, the tongue-in-cheek attitude of the title itself. It refers to a well-known American TV series that looks for new stars and starlets of highly doubtful performative success, a format which has been deliberately chosen to reflect and express the ambivalence of the concept of idolization. In a playful way, the logo intends to symbolize the ambiguity of the title: at first glance, the three red lines represent rays of light forming a halo; however, they can also be viewed as eye lashes ready to wink at us.

The series Feminist Idols was officially launched by the feminist film scholar Laura Mulvey in 2016. Her essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema ranks among the fundamental texts of feminist film theory. During the planning stage of the series, the Guerilla Girls, a group of feminist activist artists, and the feminist literary scholar Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak were also invited to present their ideas. The 2017 program of Feminist Idols saw the American film scholar Linda Williams explore the issue in what way the invention of pornography broke with earlier forms of erotic art and why pornographic pictures emerged in the very context of modernism.