Invisible Women: How can Curators Address the Issue of Gendered Gaps in the Archive through Exhibition and Practice?
by Camilla Baier & Rachel Pronger
Abstract: Invisible Women is a collaborative project that examines how curators can address gendered absence in the archive through public exhibition. This case study centres on a pilot screening of work by ‘forgotten’ female filmmakers (1930s-1970s) that took place in Edinburgh in July 2017. Combining analysis of the socio-political implications of archival gender inequality with practitioner interviews and research into archives in Scotland, England and Canada, this project takes us on a journey of loss, discovery and frustration.
Whilst developing this exhibition, we sought to find new ways of presenting absence to an audience and embraced activism, drawing up an Invisible Women manifesto to inform future practice. An exploration of the complex relationships between the archivist and the curator exposed the unique role exhibition can play in highlighting the relevance of our cultural history to contemporary gender politics, that stretches as far as #MeToo. Ultimately, we argue that the curator has a duty to address archival gender inequality. To do so they must embrace the live political nature of the archive and apply a creative, collaborative approach to practice.
Camilla Baier and Rachel Pronger work in contemporary art and film exhibition and are based in Edinburgh. Invisible Women is their joint Master’s thesis, completed at the University of Edinburgh in August 2017.