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Feminist Art in Resistance: Aesthetics, Methods and Politics of Art in Turkey
 3031176375, 9783031176371

Table of contents :
Praise for Feminist Art in Resistance
List of Figures
About the Authors
1: Introduction: Feminism and Art in Political Space
A Brief Discussion of Feminist Art: Meanings, Tensions, and Complexities
Against the Canon: Feminist Aesthetics
Feminist Art Epistemology
Feminist Production and Critique of Public Sphere
A Guide to the Book
2: Her-Story of Turkish Art
A Struggle for Existence
Transformation of Art in Modern Turkey
Rethinking Canonical Art History
Transitioning from an Artistic Object to a Social Subject
What Has Changed in Modern Turkey?
The Rise of Feminism
3: Feminist Aesthetics in Contemporary Art
The Assertions of Feminist Aesthetics Theory
Feminine, Female, or Feminist?
The Avantgarde Roots
4: Style, Aesthetics, and Methods in Feminist Art
Periodic Differences
Two Main Aspects of Feminist Art
Many Contexts and Strategies of Feminist Art
Women’s Bodies
Ritualised Violence
Political and Social Identities
Sexuality and Abjection
Domestic and Family Life
Male Violence
Discussions on Feminist Art Strategies
5: Creating a Feminist Public Sphere: Three Modes of Feminist Resistance
A Site for Critical Publicity
A Site for Collective Practice and Production
Artivism and Mobilisation of Public for Dissent
6: Epistemologies of Feminist Art and Epistemic Injustices
Epistemic Misrecognition of Women Artists
Epistemic Resistances and Activism as Political Agents
Art, Political Subjectivities and Resistance
Art as an Epistemological Act
7: Conclusion: Going Forward with Feminist Art
Beyond the Rhetoric of Great Male Artists
Political Responsibility of Artists
The Future of Feminist Art

Citation preview


Feminist Art in Resistance Aesthetics, Methods and Politics of Art in Turkey Elif Dastarlı · F. Melis Cin

Sociology of the Arts

Series Editors Katherine Appleford Kingston University London, UK Anna Goulding University of Newcastle Newcastle, UK Dave O’Brien University of Edinburgh Edinburgh, UK Mark Taylor University of Sheffield Sheffield, UK

This series brings together academic work which considers the production and consumption of the arts, the social value of the arts, and analyses and critiques the impact and role of cultural policy and arts management. By exploring the ways in which the arts are produced and consumed, the series offers further understandings of social inequalities, power relationships and opportunities for social resistance and agency. It highlights the important relationship between individual, social and political attitudes, and offers significant insights into the ways in which the arts are developing and changing. Moreover, in a globalised society, the nature of arts production, consumption and policy making is increasingly cosmopolitan, and arts are an important means for building social networks, challenging political regimes, and reaffirming and subverting social values across the globe.

Elif Dastarlı • F. Melis Cin

Feminist Art in Resistance Aesthetics, Methods and Politics of Art in Turkey

Elif Dastarlı Sapanca-Sakarya, Turkey

F. Melis Cin Liverpool, UK

ISSN 2569-1414     ISSN 2569-1406 (electronic) Sociology of the Arts ISBN 978-3-031-17637-1    ISBN 978-3-031-17638-8 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-17638-8 © Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors, and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG. The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

Praise for Feminist Art in Resistance “By focusing on the contested terrains of feminist art in terms of production and circulation of meanings in the context of Turkey, the book enlarges how we conceive of feminist art practices beyond simplistic Western ontologies of ‘freedom’, ‘agency’ and ‘autonomy’. We are submerged in the debates on epistemological values and are asked to consider counter-hegemonic artists, arts spaces and works as producing conditions for—and of—resistance. Throughout, we are reminded of an expanded understanding of feminism, which is not seeking to unify but complexify the intersections between how subjectivities, sociopolitical, and geographical spheres are experienced and analysed. It thus forges a significant account of Turkish art and will contribute to the sociological significance of aesthetics with a sustained consideration of feminist theory.” —Dr Aylwyn Walsh, Associate Professor, Performance and Social Change, University of Leeds “The book gives a clear perspective of how a feminist voice can be traced in contemporary art practice in Turkey, and seeks to show the subtle ways in which art forms a critical outlet for women artists in a cultural field dominated by hegemonic masculinity. The authors trace the development of a feminist epistemology with the field of art history, using it as theoretical tool to delve into the complex history of modernity in Turkey, which includes the practice of fine arts in a process of nation-making and cultural modernization. The book hence provides a significant contribution to the limited literature on women’s histories in Turkey from within the field of art, and opens up an interesting perspective on how local contexts can contribute to global discussions.” —Ahu Antmen, Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art, Sabancı University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


This book tells a story of feminist art and how it is lived, conceived, consumed and becomes a source of inspiration for resistance in our lives. We narrate the stories of feminist art from sites of struggle and in conversation with those who have relentlessly dedicated their lives to the development of art and culture in Turkey. Elif, as an art critic and art historian, and Melis, as a staunch feminist researcher, have led lives with a passion for arts and a dedication to gender equality. This book reflects our understanding of the nexus between art and feminism and how we see and experience such art, and why art is the perfect ally for gender justice. We hope that this book could act as a source of inspiration for the coming generations of young artists and researchers. Needless to say, any limitations to or faults in this book are ours alone. There are so many colleagues and friends who have contributed to this book through their intellectual and emotional support. Elif is grateful to all her women friends, colleagues, professors, and especially Nuray and Suat Dastarlı, her parents, who made her as strong a woman as she is. She is also indebted to her husband, Besim F. Dellaloğlu, for always supporting her with encouragement and inspiration. Melis would like to extend her deep gratitude to her friends and family in Istanbul and the UK: huge thanks go to Ecem Karlıdağ-Dennis, Rahime Süleymanoğlu-Kürüm, Parvati Raghuram,  Melanie Walker, vii

viii Acknowledgments

Faith Mkwananzi, Carmen Martinez-Vargas, Özge Zihnioğlu, and Emel Akçalı for intellectually engaging conversations. She is particularly grateful to her family, Belgin, Mesut, and Melih Cin, and Dimitrios Anagnostakis for their endless support; she would not have been able to complete this book without their emotional, medical, and intellectual support during the writing process. Our sincere thanks to Özge Taşkın, Esra Uzunoğlu and Mark Watkins for their editorial support. We would also like to thank all women artists whose ideas and artworks we have included in the book and who have warmly shared their experiences and journey of being artists. They have hugely changed the space and world we live in through their artwork and vision; this book would not have been possible without them. Finally, this book is dedicated to women who have continuously worked for a more gender-equal Turkey. August 2022 Sapanca and Thessaloniki


1 Introduction: Feminism and Art in Political Space  1 2 Her-Story of Turkish Art 23 3 Feminist Aesthetics in Contemporary Art 43 4 Style, Aesthetics, and Methods in Feminist Art 61 5 C  reating a Feminist Public Sphere: Three Modes of Feminist Resistance105 6 Epistemologies of Feminist Art and Epistemic Injustices131 7 Conclusion: Going Forward with Feminist Art153 R  eferences163 I ndex173


List of Figures

Fig. 4.1 Fig. 4.2 Fig. 4.3 Fig. 4.4

Şükran Moral, Storia dell’occhio, 1996, performance/installation 74 Neriman Polat, Plastic Glove, 2013, photography 80 Gözde İlkin, ID Card, 2011, handmade embroidery on fabric 82 KRE Collective, Artist’s House (The Dragon of Us All), 2015, installation 88 Fig. 4.5 Eda Çekil, In Pursuit of My Mother, 2020, photo-collage, digital inkjet print, wooden frame 89 Fig. 4.6 Eda Çekil, Inside, 2018–2020, 100 glass bottle (each 6×3cm), black & white photographs 90 Fig. 4.7 Gülçin Aksoy, A Series, 2017, installation mixed media 91 Fig. 4.8 Gülçin Aksoy, Abla/AAbi, 2017, tapestry 92 Fig. 4.9 Gözde İlkin, Family: The environment where everything is known to everybody but not talked about, 2011, painting, patchwork and stitching on duve 93 Fig. 4.10 Canan, See No Evil Hear No Evil Speak No Evil, 2003, photograph97 Fig. 4.11 Canan, Pink Dreams, 2003, photography 98 Fig. 5.1 Şükran Moral, Bordello, 1997, performance 109 Fig. 5.2 Neriman Polat and Arzu Yayıntaş, Bitter Coffee, installation 111 Fig. 5.3 Nur Gürel, Homage to Slyvia, 2017, mixed technique on paper116 Fig. 5.4 Beyza Boynudelik, Inner Voice, 2015, 22’47 video 117 Fig. 5.5 Güneş Terkol, Against the Current, 2013, sewing on fabric 120



Fig. 5.6 Fig. 5.7 Fig. 5.8 Fig. 6.1 Fig. 6.2 Fig. 6.3

List of Figures

Canan, Neriman Polat and İnci Furni, Without Hat, performance123 Işıl Eğrikavuk, Time to Sing a New Song, 2016, video installation125 Güneş Terkol, Home is My Heart, 2017, embroidery on fabric 128 Şükran Moral, Marriage with Three Men, 2010, performance/ video142 Neriman Polat and Arzu Yayıntaş, Gülşah’s Letter, installation 146 Işıl Eğrikavuk, But You Don’t, 2018, photography 149

About the Authors

Elif Dastarlı  is an art historian and art critic specialised in the modern and contemporary Turkish art. She worked as an editor in chief at rh+ art magazine. Her art reviews have appeared in such publications as Gençsanat, Artist, Milliyet Sanat, Artam Global Art, etc. She translated several books on Western art from English to Turkish. Her recent published book is Yan Kapıdan Girenler. Modern Türk Resminin Analizi (Hayalperest, 2021); she authored following chapters  La Modernite Turc  – Adaptations et Constructions dans le Processus de Modernisation Ottoman et Turc (ISIS, 2021), Nevhiz, Drawing, Diary (Corpus, 2018); Monumental Characters in Turkish Architecture (İBB Kültür AŞ, 2015); and The Grand History of Istanbul from Ancient Ages to XXI Century (T.C. Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning Publishing, 2015). She worked as a lecturer in different universities. She is the member of l’Association Internationale des Critiques d’Art (AICA) Turkey. Dr Melis Cin is Senior Lecturer in International Development, Gender and Education at Lancaster University. She is a feminist researcher with a particular interest in exploring the relationship between education, peace, and international development. She also works with the participatory, post-conflict and feminist art methods in exploring the political and civic participation of indigenous communities and marginalised populations. She is the author of Gender Justice, Equality and Education: Creating xiii


About the Authors

Capabilities for Girls’ and Women’s Development (Palgrave, 2017) and the co-editors of the following books: Capabilities, Youth, Gender: Rethinking Opportunities and Agency from a Human Development Perspective (2018); Feminist Framing of Europeanisation: Gender Equality of Policies in Turkey and the EU (Palgrave, 2021) and Postconflict Participatory Arts: Socially Engaged Development (2022).

1 Introduction: Feminism and Art in Political Space

The dialogue between feminism and art resides at the heart of this book, offering critical entanglements of how they interact with one another to instigate resistance, solidarities, and epistemic responsibilities. In this book, we embark on a critical journey of exploring, discussing, and critiquing the potentials of feminist art in the political and public spheres, particularly in our everyday lives. We engage with ongoing and relentless conversations with feminist artists to unfold their deeply interwoven practices of art and explore the possibilities of whether they can drive political change by creating alternative public spaces to build solidarity and resistance and galvanise grass-root mobilisation against issues of oppression and gender equality. Unravelling artists’ embodied forms of creative engagement and relationship with the political and the personal shows how art is inherently political, ethical, and embraces feminist thought. We showcase how the global art and feminist movements (particularly in Europe) have manifested themselves in the art scene of Turkey, but also argue how feminist art has transformed into a form of political and protest art to deliver dissent and challenge the hegemonic masculinity that dominates the political sphere in Turkey. We raise questions relating to © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 E. Dastarlı, F. M. Cin, Feminist Art in Resistance, Sociology of the Arts, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-17638-8_1



E. Dastarlı and F. M. Cin

art, feminism, and politics: How can feminist art be produced and consumed in fragile contexts? How does feminist art respond to emerging dissent, protest, and resistance? To what extent can feminist art create alternative public and political spaces to subvert the masculinities that regulate gender order? Does it have the potential to create ‘safe’ spaces for resilience? How do women artists see feminist art and artmaking as a site of resistance and a way of interrupting the historical, cultural, and political fields that exclude them? We place these questions in conversation with each other, both conceptually and empirically, in the context of Turkey, which has a sui genesis character as a result of being influenced both by Western and non-Western art. We emphasise the unique position of Turkish art because, like every Westernisation process, Turkey’s contradictory situation of being located between traditional and modern paradigms has given it a typical character. We explain this through the metaphor of the act of entering the path of Westernisation through the side door (Dastarlı, 2021). This liminal identity of Turkey has the potential to offer a more subtle and nuanced account of the foundational premises of feminist art history and concepts rather than presenting a binary account that sits between the boundaries of Western and nonWestern art. We should also note, however, that there are further reasons why we have focused on Turkey in this book. First, the modernisation movement, which started in the nineteenth century during the Ottoman Empire and continued through the Republican era of the 1920s, had two foci: art and women (more specifically women’s rights). Turkish art has seemed to remain one step behind the West since it has not been a generator of modernism, unlike France or England, but has subsequently become a modernised form of art thereafter. The concept of “modernity” in Europe, which explains the philosophical, social, and political changes that ultimately created the modern world, corresponds to “modernisation” in Turkey. In art, this only changed after the 1970s—that is to say, while a woman artist could only be trained if she was from the Ottoman court prior to the fall of the Empire—which was replaced with social elite women with the establishment of Turkey as a republic in 1923. The female body was only

1  Introduction: Feminism and Art in Political Space 


represented on the canvas as an object of the male gaze during the modernisation period, and this only changed with the feminist consciousness in art in the 1970s. Considering Turkey’s modern, secular characteristics with home-grown Islamic practices, it is important to understand how such continental movements shape the unique, hybrid, and liminal nature of art scene and feminist struggles. Secondly, Turkey has been experiencing considerable political turmoil, which has resulted in a crackdown on civil society and also made public and political spaces less accessible to citizens to voice their concerns. As a response to this, feminist and participatory art has emerged as a form of political protest to open new avenues of resistance by taking women as ethical agents of the dissent (Cin & Dastarlı, 2020; Cin & Süleymanoğlu-Kürüm, 2020). We analyse this critical juncture in the art history of Turkey not only through reading the feminist artwork in Turkey but also by presenting the narratives of feminist artists of Turkey with regard to making their art more participatory and public-oriented. We again argue that such feminist politics in art have become much more visible and take the form of protest in political contexts that reflect a continuous history of hegemony vis-à-vis counter-­ hegemony. Having said this, it is important to remind the reader that the awareness of feminist art in Turkey did not take shape until after the left-­ socialist freedom movement of 1968, and we can only categorically define feminist art after the 1970s. This is the period during which feminist movements started to become more vocal, and the demand for social equality was expressed through art with the changing possibilities inherent to contemporary art materials and ideas. Therefore, taking the case of Turkey, the book uses the language of art history and feminist philosophy to examine how feminism and art have come together to form a continuous and unique engagement with dissent, resistance, and public solidarity, and made it more accessible to be a part of the everyday gender struggles of women. Our work ultimately reflects a robust intellectual, multidimensional, and interdisciplinary collaboration that moves across and beyond feminism, art, activism, and politics. We do not see art as independent of its political and ideological content and purpose. It is a product of how we, as the authors see,


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interpret, and envision feminist art in Turkey. We write from a feminist yet intersectional and critical place and occupy an epistemic, political, and ethical position that demonstrates pluriversality. We do not write a book as a history of feminist art, and we are not claiming to write a history of feminist art in Turkey, but rather writing about art and politics from a feminist standpoint. We were able to accommodate only a limited number and samples of feminist art in Turkey in this book; certainly, feminist artwork in Turkey goes well beyond the work covered in this book. The intellectual explorations in this study and the conceptual arc are informed by the feminist critique of the public sphere and political space (see Benhabib, 1992; Fraser, 1990; Young, 2002), epistemic injustice debates (Medina, 2012; Fricker, 2007), and feminist aesthetics (Felski, 1989). We draw on the work of the aforementioned key feminist philosophers to interpret the experiences of women as ethical moral agents who create feminist subjectivities and use art to initiate public deliberation. We question the limiting dimensions of the spaces of femininity as highlighted by Pollock (2015), argue that feminist art has the potential to provide democratic spaces for collective engagement, voice, and express concerns that are often internalised and take up the role of advocacy. Feminist art can offer a dialectal and dialogical process to explore and introduce the experiences of groups whose standpoints and epistemic contributions are seldom acknowledged, contribute to a counter-­ narrative, and confront a one-dimensional depiction of gender. We are also well aware of the question of what constitutes feminist art in the contemporary art scene, and we see the creation and curation of feminist art as a holistic process that starts with the composition of production and ends with how it is perceived and consumed by the public. What we refer to as feminist art may not always be seen as a feminist project by the artists, but the end work can create a resistance and political engagement among the public and the audience, and we point out the power of feminist art because of these features. This book will, indeed, navigate these spaces (which are not always crystal clear) between feminism and art, and ask the following questions: What is feminist art? How can we conceptualise it in relation to space, aesthetics, methods, and epistemology?

1  Introduction: Feminism and Art in Political Space 


 Brief Discussion of Feminist Art: Meanings, A Tensions, and Complexities The question of what feminist art is or what constitutes feminist art is quite a tricky one to address, and it is equally hard to define it according to a particular style or content. In this book, our understanding of feminist art is derived from feminist politics where art challenges the masculinist hegemonic space, values, and production. We see these two concepts as closely intertwined and dialogical allies. As much as we believe in transnational feminism and the awareness and political momentum feminist art created, the geographies of how feminist art comes into being is taken forward is unrecognised in some regions. It is not our intention to focus on feminist art in Turkey in this chapter as this is something we discuss at great length in Chap. 2, but our aim is to set the broader context of key debates on feminist art in a more global setting to make the divergences of the Turkish case clearer as we move on. The genealogy of art writing and practice of women has not been an easy journey due to the exclusionary mainstream institutional structure of the art academy. The art of education to any woman artist was very limited until the nineteenth century, generally in the form of taking private lessons from a master in his studio, besides which, those women who might benefit from such an education would typically be family members of wealthy families. The École des Beaux-Arts in France opened its doors to women students in 1897, although only a very restricted art education was available. Among the founding members of the London Royal Academy of Arts in 1768 were two women artists, Angelica Kaufmann and Mary Mooser, but the first woman student, Laura Herford’s admission to the school came about by accident in 1860, when her drawings, signed only by her initials, were thought to belong to a man. The Women’s Free School of Art and Design was opened in 1843 in Britain and initiatives to provide education in design and the applied arts continued throughout the century: however, it was seen as a feminine activity and therefore posed no threat to the artistic supremacy of men. Art education was also marked by the class division, and for those women from lower social class, artistic activity included facilities that would be


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complementary to their feminine roles. The UK would be considered one of the countries offering art education to women as early as in the 1830s and 1840s at Henry Sass School of Art in Bloomsbury and Matthew Leigh’s General Practical School of Art. The Society of Female Artists, established in 1857, started to offer classes to its members in 1863 with the aim of making women’s art visible (Yeldham, 1984). By 1897, the majority of students in the Slade School of Art were women (Taylor, 1986). Likewise, the earliest women artist biographies date back to the late nineteenth century; Women Artists in All Ages and Countries, by E.F. Ellet in 1859, and English Female Artists, by Ellen Clayton in 1876, are amongst the earliest works that acknowledge women’s presence in art. Yet, the issue was that the artistic production of women both in France and England also promoted a gender-traditional ethos of visual representation or painting of decorative subjects, and the cultural context under which women were studying art did not necessarily allow them to produce in the same way as their male peers. Given that women were only welcomed to the art scene in the nineteenth century, albeit from a restrictive boundary, it is no surprise that why the term “great artist”, which Linda Nochlin brought up and debated, excluded women (Nochlin, 1971). Despite the limits drawn on how women could engage with art practice, it is important to highlight there were always outliner women artists who managed to challenge these orthodoxies, such as Rosa Bonheur, who refused to accommodate codes of moral femininity in art. Bonheur, a French artist best known for her work Horse Fair which depicts untamed horses and that went against the artistic production that would come from a woman at the time, was one of the women artists whose work was exhibited at the Palace of Fine Arts and represented in French Galleries such as Gambet’s Gallery (Lewis, 2013). Also, the woman artists such as Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot in the impressionist movement developed outside the Academy. Thereby, it was within this limited space that women started to appear and challenge the misogynist history of art, leading to feminist historians’ critical engagement with art. The political position of feminism in exposing, questioning, and demanding change to the gendered hierarchies has been extended to arts space through the feminist movements, particularly second-wave

1  Introduction: Feminism and Art in Political Space 


feminism which disrupted the canonical contemporary art debates in Europe with its discussion of women’s lack of representation in contemporary arts, gender distortion in art, and monolithic understandings of gender (Tickner, 1988). When Nochlin posed the question of why there have been no great women artists, she did not only aim to question the institutional exclusion of women artists or why the term greatness is exclusive to men artists, she aimed to question the sexual politics and master/subject relation in which man dominates woman, and how this has been the norm in art production and aesthetics. A year later in 1972, Berger (2008) published his book Ways of Seeing, arguing that the male gaze in art had been central to the passive-object status of women in the traditional and most valued work of European Art, thus opening a debate on the need for changing the politics of seeing to not only disrupt the gendered power dynamic in artistic productions but also in everyday life. This critique of gender hierarchy in not only art but also that of class and race created a paradigm shift that has profoundly disrupted the entrenched relations between production, consumption, and value exchange of artwork (Pollock, 1988). Feminist art and art history were never meant to be about merely adding more women artists to art history or making their work more visible as this would only mean a descriptive representation rather than a substantive one. They are about envisioning a feminist paradigm in art history to challenge the cultural production and social order and to consider the interdependence of class, gender, and race in art and to call for a critical scrutiny of art practice that acknowledges the struggles between class, gender, and race and the meaning of the practice that responds to the questions of how and for whom (Pollock, 1988). The essence of this scrutiny is significant with regard to the need and quest to challenge the politics of knowledge in art and intact male boundaries of the knowledge of what counts as art and what does not—the need to redefine the “legitimate knowledge” in the realm of art. Kelly (1987) highlighted this knowledge, theoretical conundrum, and gap when she set on a series of discussions on feminist artistic practice. The starting point of these discussions was to place the social construction of gender and sexual differences at the centre of debates to deconstruct the legitimate knowledge surrounding artistic practice that is the outcome of a system that does not


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engage with the critiques of the interdependency of institutions, education, art studies, or galleries in producing a power hierarchy governed by gender, class, and racial dynamics (Pollock, 1988). The “woman question” Nochlin raised in art history started a critical reflection of why women were not recognised in art scene as producers and viewers in their own right. The artworks and collectivities produced in the early years of the women’s movements aimed to challenge the art associated with feminist politics and hierarchical distinctions between objects and the subjects producing them. Feminist art history set out to challenge the sexist culture of art history. The Womanhouse collective in Los Angeles (1972) initiated by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro is one of the early examples of collective feminist art installations that were also critiqued for replaying femininity and implying that domestic space provides the legitimate grounds for feminine tasks. This is followed by Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock’s Women’s Art History Collective in 1973 in London. This collective was a reaction to the underestimation of women artists and the desire to change the narrative of art-historical knowledge and canon from a feminist consciousness (Horne & Perry, 2017). Then, the Mary Kelly, Kay Hunt and Margaret Harrison collaboration of an installation in 1975 on Women and Work: A Document on the Division of Labour in Industry 1973–1975 offered an account of the working lives of women and division of labour in factories. Likewise, the Women artists: 1550–1950 exhibition by Linda Nochlin and Ann Sutherland Harris in 1976 can be considered to be among the early feminist art collectives. The 1980s were marked by anonymous women activist artist groups called the Guerrilla Girls who protested the systematic exclusion of women from museums and art institutions and critiqued how a particular image of women based on sexual politics was being promoted in the art sector. There have also been great exhibitions internationally producing feminist art and showcasing the work of feminist artists such as the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art (2007) at the Brooklyn Museum, The Feminist Future: Theory and Practice in the Visual Arts (2007) at the New York Museum of Modern Art or Women Artists at the Millennium (2001). The WACK! (Art and the Feminist Revolution) exhibition travelling the US and Canada between 2006 and 2008 was critical of 1970s feminist art on

1  Introduction: Feminism and Art in Political Space 


the grounds that first-generation feminist art practice was essentialist (the belief in an innate, fixed, and fundamental sexual identity) and universalist (an ahistorical categorisation of women) and presented an oversimplified history of art (see Hemmings, 2005). WACK! emerged as a more critical exhibition with the aim of becoming a global movement (Butler & Mark, 2007) to draw attention to the work influenced by feminism and produced between 1968 and 1980 featuring canonical feminist art objects along with less recognised work, offering a diverse collection of artworks with the aim of challenging the misconceptions grounded in early feminist art (Meagher, 2011). More recent collectives, such as the Writing Feminist Art Histories project formed in 2012, likewise aimed to change and revise the dominant and master narratives shaping feminist art history (Horne & Perry, 2017). These collectives formed the grounds for the feminist art histography which located itself within political struggle and imperatives. To name but a few, Parker and Pollock’s (2020) book Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology, first published in 1981, or Pollock’s (2015) Vision, Voice and Power: Feminist Art History and Marxism, published in 1982, were among the earliest work of feminist art history that questioned the masculine scholarship, subjects, and ideology in the production and writing of art. On the other hand, Nochlin’s question about greatness and women artists is not without criticism; Atallah (2021), in her work of “Feminist Art History of Modern Egypt”, argues that the term ‘greatness’ has a gendered articulation in the way that it refers to the exclusion of women mostly from Western art but does not necessarily consider the histories of non-­Western women. She narrates the story of two prominent women artists of the 1950s to showcase their recognition locally but also highlights that it was the project of nationalism of the time that provided legitimate grounds for women artists who work for the nation-building to be acknowledged. The feminist art has also allied itself with poststructuralist theories to address the issues around queer art and women of colour and started to recognise the multiple complexities of power relationships in the art sector, along with the experiences of women artists and the feminist art epistemology (Broude & Garrard, 2005). This literature has also been informed by post-structuralist writers of semiotic and psychoanalytic


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theory such as Foucault and Derrida and has been the focus of literary criticism, whereas in Britain the writings of Hélène Cixous, Julia Kristeva, and Luce Irigaray have been used in feminist art literary to connect the structuralist and poststructuralist thoughts of feminism. Not all work has necessarily been primarily driven by the French school of thought; for instance, Johnson (2013) and Deepwell (2014) examined the readings of artwork through contemporary practice to understand sexualised femininities or the portrayal and representation of women. Likewise, Caws (2018) focused on the embodiment of women in surrealist art. There has also been a body of work (Broude & Garrard, 2005, 2018) that explored women’s agency and feminist subjectivity and its repression to challenge the historical gender inequalities and the impact that feminism has on art history. Most recently, we have seen new narratives of feminist art history from non-Western art contexts—for example, the Middle East (Özpınar & Kelly, 2021)—that merge artistic practices with art histories to offer a non-Western manifestation of feminist art. These studies have enriched our understanding of the complex relationship between art and feminism by drawing from literary, post-structural art and feminist theories over the years. We have also seen the ramifications and awareness emerging from feminism in art scene in public discourse. For instance, in 2017, there was a huge reaction to the painting by Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski de Rola) in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which led to thousands of people signing a petition to ask for the painting to be removed. Thérèse Dreaming, dated 1938, depicts an eleven-year-old girl sitting in a way that reflects the erotic gaze of a male artist regarding the child’s sexuality. Yet, the painting was not removed from public display to remind us of the role of museums and arts in society, their potential and freedom to contain, disseminate, and share unpopular or controversial views, images, and work. Whilst feminism can change and influence the next generation of art productions by drawing on the critiques of misogynistic and sexualised imaginaries of women, we need to be attentive to the boundaries of artistic freedom and ask the question of whether an artistic work can be excluded from the public space and discourse, no matter how controversial it is or whether it incorporates conflicting values within it. This also

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goes against the underlying onto-epistemological rationality and space that any equality-seeking movement aims to draw on and create. The meanings of the artwork are fluid and fluctuate as we reinterpret and re-­ examine the world in which we live. This is what feminist and anti-racial movements have gained us: the ability to create different ways of seeing, interpreting, and living and questioning the norms that have, to date, been taken for granted. After years of feminist, postcolonial, and queer activism, where do feminist art stand and how did these debates shape the genealogies of art or intersectional feminist art practices? We recognise the dynamics of art practice and history, which are both feminist and queer (Jones & Silver, 2016); although we do not go into queer art in this book, we do see quite a few examples of queer art in Turkey, such as Taner Ceylan who made photorealistic paintings of the male body having sexual intercourse. We do write from a critical place and site of struggle where both being a woman and a feminist are represented as a boundary-basting struggle of existence, and use the space of art as a critical intervention of production of subjectivities. Whilst doing this, we also do acknowledge that feminism has not developed simultaneously across different times and places (Horne & Perry, 2017), and therefore its relationship with art has followed different tensions and complexities—the aim of this book is to narrate this particular relationship between art and feminism in Turkey. Decades of feminist activism and the work of feminist artists have criticised the idea that separates art from society, politics, and power relations, and forged different ways and mediums of doing art through video, performances, interventions in public spaces, digital media, installations, posters, or collages. In particular, its questioning of the hierarchies between the European cannon of what can be considered high art and ‘lowly craft’ has been central to feminist art in the sense of strengthening the social connections between art, communities, and public spaces (Millner et  al., 2015). Such thinking highlights the potential of re-­ envisioning public spaces as sites for political action, resistance, and forming counter-narratives. To clarify our position and the theoretical underpinning of our analysis, we present the intellectual arch of our book below.


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Against the Canon: Feminist Aesthetics The feminist problematic of art history relies on visual representation, particularly that of women who are often ‘masquerading as the feminine objects of masculine desire, fantasy and hatred.’ (Pollock, 1988: 20). For too long, the composite erotic, exotic, and despotic images of women as objects have marked the acceptable boundaries of femininity and promoted a monolithic positionality and discourse on how women can be imagined and conceived in cultural production. This cultural ramification of misogynism, the ‘male gaze’ and sexual objectification have been the central issues for feminists and women artists and have shaped one of the early concerns of the feminist art movement. The sexual politics of women that are based on the sexual attractiveness of the figures are indicative of the visual representation and feminist politics of femininity in art cannon having long created the impression that art is a product of masculinised pleasures (see Parker & Pollock, 1987) and formed an oppressive structure of representation that has undervalued women. The commodification of women’s bodies and creation of a market value for femininity in aesthetics and sexual economy has been the primary concern of feminist art (Johnson, 2013). This archetype that sexualises women and the historical images of women continues to shape our ideas of beauty, sexuality, and political authority with regard to human nature (McCormack, 2021). Feminist artists have challenged the misogynistic legacy for a long time in the attempt to re-establish the boundaries of the politics of sexuality and power, but at the same time bring women to the forefront of art scene debates. One of the earliest critiques came from Pollock (1988: 15), arguing that “representational practices which actively produce definitions of sexual difference and contribute to the present configuration of sexual politics and power relations,” thus echoing the discourse that “art history is not just indifferent to women; it is a masculinist discourse, party to the social construction of sexual difference.” Millner and Moore (2022: 39) take up the question of how art reflects the objectifying representation of women to explore to what extent feminist work, with its alternative images of femininity, highlights the shift from the politics of representation to the activism of claiming political

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spaces as women artists produce more political work. In this book, this is one of the themes we engage with in our conversations with women artists where we see a shift in how the younger generations of women artists challenge canonical art imagery and corporeal representation in order to create political spaces in which to resist, dissent, and act. We delve into feminist aesthetics, particularly gender and aesthetics, to dismantle the masculine norms and ways of seeing, and produce and appreciate artwork in cultural spaces. The aftermath of Nochlin’s famous essay has also sparked discussions on feminism and aesthetics (see Hein & Korsmeyer, 1990; Florence & Foster, 2000; Korsmeyer, 2004). The central argument concerning feminist aesthetics revolved around the criticism of depicting erotic women figures in art and the lack of response to such sexist manifestations of women in canonical art and writings, along with the hierarchical relational aesthetics established between masculine and feminine figures where the former has been given more legitimate grounds (see Korsmeyer, 2004; Brand, 2007). Feminist aesthetics has made an compelling argument that art needs to be liberated from its historically patriarchal context, practices, and institutions, but further emphasised the need to revisit the analysis of gender in art practices (Devereaux, 2003). Even within the feminist and art literature, the term feminist aesthetics is contested and open to critique. For instance, Felski (1998) expresses her concern that it may lead to distinctive categories such as woman’s aesthetics or an understanding of aesthetics taken by women artists only, and also raises the question of the intersectionality of race and ethnicity as a central caveat in thinking about aesthetics. On the other hand, Deveraux (2003) identifies three central concerns that feminist aesthetics aim to address, the first being the underrepresentation of women in art history, which has been on ongoing debate for many decades; the second is that women are perceived, positioned, and consumed in art work to serve to pleasures of men through the male gaze; the third aim is to speak to the values of aesthetics, where Deveraux criticises feminists for not exclusively engaging with the fundamental arguments or not offering a comprehensive critical account of historical aesthetics but rather being selective in the works they engage with, e.g., a preoccupation with the formalist theories of Clive Bell and Clement


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Greenberg, which does not take the political processes of how artwork has been produced and evaluated. This ongoing division between feminist aesthetics and the political critique of aesthetics ideology leads to debates around “new aestheticism” or “new formalisms”. (Ziarek, 2012: 19). Taking the critique offered by Deveraux further, Ziarek (2012: 24) draws on Adorno’s aesthetics theory and feminist philosophers such as Arendt and Kristeva, and looks into “the divergence and convergence of aesthetic and political forms, their gendered, racial configurations, and their respective relations to violence and materiality…..through the concept of revolt, melancholia, materiality, commodification, violence, and experimental forms that….are widely used in…. feminist theories of the political.” Other theoreticians (e.g., Battersby, 1990; Robinson, 2015) were much more critical of the traditional aesthetics theories for not including alternative aesthetics concepts or feminism. For instance, Kristeva (1982) argues that women express themselves quite experimentally and use alternative concepts of art that go unrecognised by the traditional canon. Indeed, feminist aesthetics has particularly critiqued the canon for not considering women to be great artists, seeing them as the objects of male gaze but for also creating a division between high art and artifacts. This division particularly considered the art produced by indigenous and local artists, such as quilts, pottery, or craft work, to not be art, but rather crafts (Eaton, 2005). Korsmeyer (2004), for instance, has been particularly critical of the gender norm and bias in art and aesthetics, and engages with how feminist artists challenged traditional aesthetics theories through deconstructing the idea of femininity by using their bodies in performance art to dismantle the tradition of women being cast as passive and sources of exotic passion—among which, for instance, Georgia O’Keeffe’s flower paintings could be considered a visual metaphor. Such a critique has also been seen in the work of contemporary Turkish women artists such as Gülsün Karamustafa, Double Action Series for Oriental Fantasies (2000), İnci Eviner, Harem (2009), and Canan, Turkish Delight Series (2011), who have deconstructed the gendered orientalist gaze towards Ottoman women of the nineteenth-century European orientalist paintings of J.L. Gérôme, The Slave Market (1866), Double Action Series for Oriental Fantasies (2000); A.I. Melling and Harem (1819). As

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feminists have portrayed bodies, emotions, and figures to disrupt and counter Western and canonical aesthetics standards of femininity, beauty and female nature in different ways, such as aggressively, humorously, or boldly, they have also reverberated with the epistemology and the paradigmatic canon of men as knowers (Korsmeyer, 2004). What we see from the politically and philosophically located debates of feminist aesthetics is that there is a need for a critical appraisal of gender and race politics in historical narratives of aesthetics theory and art canon, and we argue that the exploration of feminist art practices in this book to advance our understanding of how and to what extent feminist aesthetics can disrupt masculine subjectivity as feminist artists produce, share, redesign, and narrate new art epistemologies and spaces.

Feminist Art Epistemology Feminist art history cannot be reduced solely to the work of women artists or women’s representation in art production; it also questions the politics of knowledge production. The associated change and transformation can occur through the recreation of narratives and shifting the malestream position and masculinist art canon to make space for feminist interventions. Therefore, collective knowledge production, changing the story, and creating new episteme through art production are central to feminist art. Such feminist art epistemology engages with the content, meaning, and the intention of feminist works of art and how they are perceived, shared, and consumed by viewers and artists (Brand, 2006). It is driven by a political strategy of disrupting the status quo, male power, and raising awareness about women artists and production. Brand (2006) offers different ways of working with feminist art epistemology such as feminist parody or satire to critique prevailing male conceptions of knowledge, norms, and aesthetics. In this book, our understanding of feminist art epistemology departs from the epistemic justice (2007) of Miranda Fricker who focuses on testimonial and hermeneutical injustice, and Medina’s (2018) epistemic recognition which builds on Fricker’s work. The testimonial injustice stems from the lack of credibility to narratives of the marginalised groups


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due to race, class, and gender. The social and historical groups are seen as incompetent; their knowledge and voices are seen as second-class and less legitimate, and they are epistemically excluded from the social structures, decision-making, or processes of democratic participation. The hermeneutical injustice is about the intelligibility of one’s experiences of others and focuses on historically and socially excluded groups’ experiences, which are often not heard or, indeed, acknowledged. For instance, the sexual harassment experienced by women are often not understood and taken well by men, and women are denied their hermeneutical power to convey this experience. Both kinds of epistemic justice are highly gendered and have also directed feminist epistemological attention towards power relations as well as to eurocentrism, androcentrism, ableism, and race (Tuana, 2017). They essentially raise the questions of who knows and whose knowledge goes beyond a male-female dichotomy and division and engages with the concepts of voice, agency, and subjectivity (Rooney, 1991). It is the epistemic silencing and ignorance that we seek to address through concepts of epistemic injustice and explore epistemic resistance and disobedience against the structures of oppression, namely hegemonic models, through feminist art. We argue that there is a dialectical relationship between epistemic resistance and feminist art and see feminist art an epistemic resource that could challenge oppressive normative structures. Therefore, we focus on the concept of epistemic recognition to show the extent to which feminist artists’ work aims to challenge the epistemic inequalities that have been long embedded in the history of art by systematically excluding women, but also their understanding and conceptual making of art. Throughout the book, feminist art is uniquely positioned to contribute to epistemic debates around what knowledge women artists challenge in the field of art history, and what they produce to expand feminist and art knowledge in Turkey. We see collective knowledge production inherent to pluridiversity that could push at the boundaries of the discipline and create new forms of resistance for more political art herstories in the public sphere.

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F eminist Production and Critique of Public Sphere Reimagining public and political spaces through feminist art practices and exploring the potential of art to open safe, but at the same time contested spaces to interrogate embedded narratives of femininity defining woman as a monolithic disembodied agent has been one of our main concerns in this book. In an age where museums, galleries, and cultural spaces work as repositories of cultural hegemony and legacies of malestream politics, we argue that feminist artistic engagement can craft spatial interventions and unruly encounters for resistance, particularly at a time in which anti-gender politics have been on rise. In Chap. 5, we offer an analysis of art in Turkey to reconceive feminist conceptions of the public sphere. We engage with the theoretical relationships between feminism and the public sphere and problematise public space, drawing on the work of the feminist philosophers Nancy Fraser, Iris Marion Young, Chantel Mouffe, and Seyla Benhabib, who have brought the concept of the public sphere into a dialogical and relational conversation with feminist theories to analyse the extent to which the creation of emancipatory spaces is possible. Their work departs from the normative and political conceptualisation of space of Jürgen Habermas and seeks to respond to the theoretical discussions underpinning the public sphere. For instance, Mouffe (1999) has critiqued the work of Behnabib for proposing a deliberative conception of the public sphere, and also that of Iris Marion Young, for not elaborating further on her heterogonous public ideal. However, the reason we are driven by their theoretical thinking is that they have all engaged with the Harbemasian public sphere in different ways to develop a more pluralist and feminist conceptualisation of it. A significant problematisation juxtaposed in all their writing is the exclusionary nature of the public sphere and the normative assumptions of what the public sphere actually is, who can be part of it, and the extent to which and the role it should have in political participation. Young (1990: 120) bases her argument on the critique that the ideal of the civic public is exclusionary and male dominated, and makes no room


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for women, ethnic minorities, or distinct voices and bodies. She argues for a heterogeneous public based on two “political principles: (a) no persons, actions, or aspects of a person’s life should be forced into privacy; and (b) no social institutions or practices should be excluded a priori from being a proper subject for public discussion and expression.” For Young, the differences should be seen as an asset in creating inclusive public communication as an alternative to deliberative democracy, but the voices dominating the public sphere are often trained and have the skills and knowledge to conduct debates and embrace the androcentric rationality and modes of communication which do not often speak to less trained voices, women, or those who cannot be heard in such masculine deliberative spaces. Young’s (2002) development of the concept of communicative democracy as an alternative deliberative democracy is again an act of re-envisioning the role of the public sphere in being generative and inclusive of different forms of political expression. For instance, Young recognises a heterogonous public as a pluralist model, whereas Chantal Mouffe critiques her work for failing to articulate a more post structural embodiment of space. The idea of heterogeneous public is rather comprehensive and engages with questions of socio-economic inequalities, recognises multiple axes of oppression at its core, including cultural politics and therefore the communicative democracy which encompasses different modes of communication for different groups such as greetings and the narrative to create a heterogenous public who can discuss ‘public issues present their claims, arguments, appeals, stories, or demonstrations in ways that try to be accessible and accountable to anyone’ (Young, 2002: 169). It is this very ideal of pluralism and heterogeneity, both in the public sphere and communicative model, which can transform an institution, making them more effective. Young’s heterogonous public was developed to counter the civic public, whereas Fraser’s subaltern counterpublic is a response to Habermas’ exclusionary ‘bourgeois public sphere’ concept that does not extend its deliberative space and processes to subordinated groups such as women, people of colour, and LGBTs, where these groups are constantly in search of the constitution of alternative publics to get their needs and voices heard, seen, and to connect with another. These subaltern counterpublics highlight the need and urgency for parallel discursive areas where they

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can produce, form, and recreate their own spaces and public to counter discourses and narratives. Young exemplifies these spaces particularly for feminist subaltern counterpublic as bookstores, publishing companies, film and video networks, conventions, festivals, or forums which collectively form the feminist subaltern counterpublic in the twentieth century to discuss the social reality of feminism. She is also wary of how counterpublics can be perceived and used in different ways and could also be anti-democratic, anti-egalitarian, or unvirtuous, but they emerge as a response to the dominant publics and are a discursive contestation, particularly in stratified societies. Therefore, counterpublics in such societies are both spaces of ‘withdrawal and regroupment’ (Fraser, 1990: 68), namely they function as bases toward wider publics ana have an emancipatory role to circumscribe the unjust political participatory actions of the dominant groups. In either case, regardless of stratified, egalitarian societies, Fraser argues for the multiplicity of publics rather than single publics that could combine social equality, cultural diversity, participatory ethos, but it is in the stratified communities that the subaltern counterpublic concept has a lot to offer to challenge oppression and dominance. Both Fraser and Young, through their uniquely developed concepts, criticise the deliberative models of democracy and its associated public sphere for being the playground of male hegemony, and come up with the idea of a plurality of public spheres that should make room for the epistemically silenced voices of political life. Benhabib (1996) agrees with the feminist critique of deliberative democracy and highlights that the public sphere was historically, socially, and politically crafted as a space for hegemonic masculinity. As Joan Landes (1988) argues, these were spaces that were not only available to male citizens but men were the only bodies of political authority favouring their mode and rationality of representation with an essentialist and ontologically masculine existence favouring anyone but themselves. In her critique of Iris Marion Young, Benhabib (1996) argues that the conceptual objection of the civil public in Young’s writings should be more elaborate in terms of how the public sphere could be transformed and move beyond replacing the civil public with her concept of heterogenous public but at the same times highlights her conceptual dilemma that one cannot retain the ideal public sphere whilst trying to bring a radical


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critique. Benhabib (1996: 83) further critiques the modalities of the communicative democracy model, such as greetings and storytelling: ….these modes may have their place within the informally structured process of everyday communication among individuals who are a cultural and historical life world…it is neither necessary for the democratic theorist to try to formalise and institutionalise these aspects of communicative everyday competence, nor is it plausible…greeting, storytelling and rhetoric…may be aspects of information communication in our everyday life, cannot become the public language instructions and legislatures in a democracy…to attain legitimacy.

Benhabib (1992), in general, brings an overall critique to the public sphere and engages in a dialectical critical self-reflection, saying feminists have not developed a critical model of the public space and discourse that could navigate across the boundaries of collective women’s movement, legislation, and transformation. Therefore, she remains committed to Habermas’ public sphere, but instead argues that his model should complement a feminist reading of a critical theory of the public sphere to create more inclusive understanding for women, particularly non-­Western women. Yet, she has also been criticised for using Western feminism as a benchmark for such a cause and the need for a more decolonial feminist framing (Mahadevan, 2017). Finally, Rita Felski’s “feminist counterpublic sphere” is a critique of the male-dominated culture industry and aesthetics theories, particularly in terms of engagement with the feminist aesthetics in feminist cultural politics because it rests on false assumptions between literary theory and social change, and binds feminism to an aesthetics understanding of post-­structuralism and post-structural feminists (e.g., Julia Kristeva and Helene Cioxus) who overestimate what literary text can do politically for the cause of feminism. The feminist counterpublic space concept provides “a model for the analysis of diverse forms of recent artistic and cultural activity by women” to unpack issues of gender inequality (Felski, 1998: 164), and draws on the bourgeois public sphere of Habermas in Structural changes in the Public Sphere and signifies a discursive space based on collective identity, shared experience of gender inequality, and

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serves to enact the repoliticisation of culture through literature and art. It does not claim to be representative but rather embraces the diverse needs of women, and offers a critique of cultural values. In doing so, it functions at two levels: first, it aims to strengthen the collectives and consciousness among women; and secondly, it uses this collective identity in society to make a strong case for feminist claims and to challenge the existing hegemonic structures of masculine authority through political activity, art, and literature. Felski (1989: 174) critiques the commercialisation of modern art and highlights the value of experimental art in raising critical feminist consciousness, particularly to avantgarde art and aesthetics, though with the caveat of also paying attention to other forms of mass media such as TV, music, and popular novels. She sees a dialectical relationship between feminism and aesthetics and refers to Burger’s theory of avantgarde to challenge the following dichotomy, “between an autonomous art which protests against society but remains elitist and ineffective, and the products of the mass media, which encourage identification and blur the distinction between art and life but with the loss of any critical dimension” (Felski, 1989: 181). Thus, the counterfeminist public sphere provides ‘a theoretical justification for feminist interest in both popular and more esoteric forms’ in creating, forming, and strengthening a feminist public, but which at the same highlights the caveats of prioritising feminist aesthetics in such endeavours. As feminist philosophers developed their dialogues with feminist politics of the public sphere, they were concerned with the possibilities of countering public spaces that were mainly occupied by men and androcentric power, which plays a central role in exploring the boundaries of public spaces and spheres through relations, networks and exchanges, and a multiplicity of experiences, all of which are analysed as processes of art-making and production.

A Guide to the Book This overview of our theoretical approach, which integrates feminist aesthetics, epistemology, and the public sphere forms the intellectual architecture on which our book is built, endowing us with conceptual tools to


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engage with different aspects of feminist art. The following chapter presents an overview of feminism and art in the history of Turkey and canvasses the key milestones in the art world, its development and encounter with feminism, and provides herstories of feminist art. Chapter 3 engages with theoretical debates of feminist aesthetics and femininity to set the context and ground for the discussion and analysis of different feminist artworks in terms of methods. Chapter 4 discusses whether there is a specific style of feminist art, contrasts examples of Western and Turkish feminist art, and explores the methods and strategies of feminist art in the context. Chapter 5 focuses on the three-tier conceptualisation of the feminist public sphere and narrates the transformation of public spaces through feminist artwork and modes of resistance. Chapter 6 provides the narratives, art practices, and experiences of women artists in order to offer an associated insight based on the analysis of epistemologies of artwork along with the epistemic injustices and epistemic struggles marking women’s lives as artists. The conclusion sets out a reflective account of, and approach to what feminist art has achieved thus far, what can become of feminist art in the future, and how it can ultimately change contemporary art. Feminist Art in Resistance offers a theoretically informed analysis of the feminist art scene in Turkey and provides a new and critical interpretation of the feminist artworks produced thus far in Turkey. It moves beyond the debates of the visibility and recognition of women artists or critiquing the male canon of art, but actually tells different stories of how women artists have changed the public sphere, challenged the politics of recognition, and created unique forms of resistance. We offer a fresh and innovative intervention to the feminist art literature and contribute to new understandings of feminism, art, and politics through an engaging and philosophical account of feminist herstories.

2 Her-Story of Turkish Art

A Struggle for Existence The Italian writer Edmondo de Amicis came to Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, in 1874, stayed for a short time, and wrote his observations about women along with the many things he encountered in the city’s everyday life in his diary, which was published three years later under the name Constantinople. This was a period when European writers and artists had the opportunity to get to know the “East”, which they had been curious about for hundreds of years. While de Amicis recorded what he saw with some amusement, he depicted the shadows of the women behind the latticed bay windows in the houses, which he likened to birdcages (De Amicis, 2016: 81). Those were the times when women had just become visible in everyday public life, where the vast majority were still living in their private spaces and rarely appearing in public. The term “harem” was used for women isolated in their homes. Harem means the women for husbands-­fathers and indicates the place where women are staying. Thus, harem is not just a palace section through which European nineteenth-century orientalist painters made their exotic

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 E. Dastarlı, F. M. Cin, Feminist Art in Resistance, Sociology of the Arts, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-17638-8_2



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desires apparent; indeed, the women in question experienced a different, more stark reality than the half-naked figures in such paintings. The Ottoman society was shaped and ruled by Islamic traditions for hundreds of years, and women’s lives were essentially aligned with sharia rules. When Amicis visited Istanbul, the lives of women, who had no right to speak, who could not go out alone, and who wore clothes that covered the entirety of their bodies, were undergoing a transition for the better. He likened them to captive swallows who were gradually gaining their freedom. In 1839, when the Edict of Gülhane (called Tanzimat) was proclaimed, it represented a true milestone on the road to change. The most important part of the document prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs included several reforms such as taxation or military areas and recognised everyone, regardless of their religion, as being equal before the law. This process of Westernisation was the first historical threshold that women crossed in becoming publicly visible in the Ottoman Empire, where the distinction between public and private was clearly drawn, especially for women. Westernisation started with military, economic, legal, and administrative reforms, which spread to all spheres of public life over time. These reforms eventually turned into a total political system called “modernisation” after the declaration of the Republic in 1923. Thus, in about a century, education for women, going out in public, dancing, and having their pictures taken were allowed. The fact that all these things, which were “normal” for men, could happen in women’s lives led the living spaces previously defined as harem to gradually gain sociality and visibility for women. Women’s dressing habits changed. Life preferences of the elite—which consisted of pashas who took part in the administration of the state and bureaucratic affairs, and their families—in Istanbul evolved slightly as the people embraced Westernisation and houses started to be decorated with furniture brought from Europe, and dresses were sewn in the trends of Parisian fashion. As women’s veiling obligations were relaxed, women started to dress like Westerners, which placed them in the centre of display windows of the Westernisation project. Looking like a European became indicative of civilisation, and ‘art’ became one of the most crucial tools for “displaying” women as the pawns of this cause.

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Transformation of Art in Modern Turkey At the beginning of the twentieth century, in 1908, Sultan Abdülhamid II, who had been in power for nearly 32 years, was overthrown by the Committee of Union and Progress, and the transition to a constitutional order took place. With the declaration of the Second Constitutional Revolution, the constitutional monarchy was adopted as the governing form of the country. This was a period when the liberation of society was felt compared to the central administration of the sultan, and the idea of being a nation based on ethnic Turkish identity was on the rise. Later on, the period in which Ottoman lands were occupied by European states with the First World War, represented a controversial process in terms of Westernisation. However, as a result of the War of Independence, the Republic of Turkey, with a democracy-based system established in 1923, saw the modernisation of social life gain momentum. This historically turbulent period was also the time when women could begin to go to university and participate in economic life. The Committee of Union and Progress allowed women’s associations to be established and organised conferences for women. Educational opportunities were also enriched for women. In addition, the rights of women to divorce were expanded with regulations in law. However, the fact that all these attempts were made by a modernist government in a top-down way was quite controversial. On the other hand, feminist voices could be heard again as of 1908, with magazines such as Sukûfezar and Hanımlar, which appeared in the second half of the nineteenth century. The magazine Kadınlar Dünyası, published by Ulviye Mevlan, a journalist and one of Turkey’s first women’s rights defenders, in 1913–1914, criticised the male-dominated circumstances of the Second Constitutional Period. Yet, the changes experienced in the context of modernisation after the Tanzimat led to the steps towards the equality of women, and the framework of this equality was drawn up by the government, enabling the emergence of a new “master” (efendi) over women (Berktay, 2021: 12). Prince Abdülmecid was one of the leading painters of the period, but as a member of the Ottoman dynasty, he was rather an eccentric name.


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Among Prince Abdülmecid’s many compositions, the paintings Goethe in the Harem/Pondering (c. 1910/17) and Beethoven in the Harem (c. 1910/17) are considered the two most important. In one of his paintings, we see women of the palace playing Western classical musical instruments, and in the other we see a woman half-lying down and reading a work by Goethe. So, in both paintings, powerful, strong, intellectualthinking, talented women were depicted in Western clothes. Obviously, he wanted to break down the perception of orientalist harem scenes full of naked women and destroy the passive representation of women, the objects of desire in odalisque paintings. Abdülmecid exhibited these two paintings at the Vienna exhibition in 1918, the first international exhibition of Ottoman painters, and wanted to give the message “we too have become Westernised” to Europe. Also, an interview in the ninth issue of İnci, one of the women’s magazines of the Second Constitutional Era, dated 1919, clearly showed, from his point of view, what the society’s notables of the period thought about women. In the interview, Abdülmecid stated that women were highly valued and prioritised in society, but on the other hand, he emphasised that women’s first duty was to be a mother, wife, and the pillar of the family (Küçükkılınç & Öklü, 2010: 190–192). In an effort to adopt an egalitarian attitude towards women to comply with the requirements of Westernisation, he expressed what he felt in his entire speech; on the other side, his words revealed his subconscious, showing he was still unable to get rid of traditional gender roles and religious stereotypes. Abdülmecid was both an artist supporting Westernisation and a conservative statesman who did not want the traditional structure of society to change. This contradiction shows us the hypocritical attitude of the notable men in society then. The patriarchal mindset, which wanted the country to develop in a similar way to Western countries, opposed many things he categorised such as “the immorality of the West”, and for instance, “women having equal rights with them in every sense and being in every part of social life.” The phenomenon of using the femininity metaphor as a symbolic element, both for the purpose of modernisation and for the provision of national unity and order, continued after the establishment of the Republic of Turkey with the conception of the nation-state (Berktay, 2021: 28). Therefore, Turkey’s modernisation was projected as if it was

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the story of the modernisation of women; but, despite significant progress in women’s rights, there was always an attempt to keep women passive in socio-political life. Women’s conscious aim for social equality aimed at getting rid of their given identity as shaped by the state, such as “the person who establishes the family which is the founding structure of society”, “holy mother”, “good wife” or “holy teacher”, but which would only begin with the emergence of feminism, and the feminist art would be at the forefront of the areas where such a demand was most visible. On the other hand, women’s struggle in the herstory of Turkey to carve out a space for themselves in the public sphere should be read as a form of feminist resistance; even if these women did not have the critical feminist awareness that many Turkish women have today or even if they did not produce feminist art, we can nevertheless call it “her-story”, not “history”.

Rethinking Canonical Art History Women’s herstory in Turkey makes up an important part of Turkey’s modernisation project, which started in the nineteenth century with the systematic reforms in the Ottoman Empire. These reforms were experienced mostly by women. The patriarchal traditional structure of Islamic society has kept women on the backburner in all areas of life, though this began to evolve towards equalisation from the nineteenth century onwards. However, it is still not possible to speak of full equality between genders, neither during that period, nor even today. Turkish art history is also one of the areas where this inequality is most visible. As the Ottoman Empire aimed to modernise and “be like Western countries” in the nineteenth century, its political, social, and artistic system went through a transformation process of imitating the legislations of European countries under the change called “Westernisation”. Before this period, traditional arts such as calligraphy and miniatures were produced with religious references and strict rules, having a practical character similar to the European Medieval art, and dominated the art scene and, of course, this production was led by men. The art styles that we simply classify as “art” today, like paintings and sculptures were included in Turkish art history in the nineteenth century, especially with


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perspective paintings made with oil paints on canvas. As a result, not only the materials with which art was made but also the ways of producing and seeing it changed. As women participated in social life and became more visible in the art scene, more women artists emerged. Nevertheless, the history of Turkish art, which began to change with Westernisation in the Ottoman era and was institutionalised with the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, represents herstory where women are still invisible. There are various reasons for this: firstly, the history of art was written by male artists. For example, painter Nurullah Berk, whose paintings were in the style of Late Cubism in the 1930s, took the first steps in the construction of canonical art history with his writings and books. In his book Modern Art, written in 1934, Berk defines the aesthetics modernist style approaching abstract art as an intellectual activity and tries to make it the mainstream (Berk, 1934). Thus, an understanding of modern Turkish art emerges similar to the diagram1 on the cover of the catalogue prepared by Alfred H. Barr for the Cubism and Abstract Art exhibition held in New York MoMA in 1936. In Barr’s diagrams, all those who are made initiators of the art canon are men (Pollock, 1988: 50). The “Development of 19th and 20th Century Turkish Painting Art” scheme, prepared by another painter, Adnan Çoker, at a much later date in 1996, was also intended to create a modern art canon with a similar understanding. The common feature of these schemes was to establish the basis of modern art on modernist aesthetics; however, they excluded the productions of women along with the works of artists of many other styles. In the approach that reduces art to the inviolable bohemian attitude of aesthetics modernism, there is no place for women’s productions, regardless of whether they are painters or from other fields of art. The art historian Sezer Tansuğ, who follows the path opened by Berk, is one of the first important figures of the art history discipline in Turkey, yet women artists are only mentioned in passing in his books. As we will explain later, although women artists became increasingly powerful and visible, especially from the beginning of the twentieth century, they remained at the margins of the art scene because they did not produce in modernist aesthetics but rather in classical fine arts. Therefore women were not featured in art history books as their artworks were not found to be sufficiently “modern”. It was always men who recorded both Westernised

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Turkish art and women artists in art history, and thus dominated the art scene—almost up until now. Given that feminist awareness only became widespread around the 70s–80s, it was not a surprise that women were invisible in Turkish art history. For example, instead of pursuing a lifelong career as a professional painter, Harika Lifij (1896–1991) and Güzin Duran (1898–1981) chose voluntarily to remain the wives of well-known painters, Avni and Feyhaman. Even though they painted just as well as their husbands, Lifij and Duran continued to pursue art only as a hobby. So, was the idea of not pursuing a professional career a choice taken of their own free wills? We believe they would want to get their names in the Turkish art scene as much as their husbands did, but this would probably require resistance against the hegemonic masculinity dominating the history of art in the country. The starting point of feminist art in Turkey was to disrupt this toxic masculinity preventing women from claiming a space in the art scene. There were also other factors of long-standing discrimination in the field of art. The distinction between art and craft, which was clearly separated after the eighteenth century, firstly set academic art up as “high art” and then revealed the modern art style that ascended to its throne, although it rose against it, and has easily become imprinted in our minds as “art” in its most general definition. When Paul Gauguin, a nineteenthcentury bohemian artist, escaped from modern society as a reflection of modernity and pursued pure art in Tahiti rather than being a husband and father of children, he also became one of the most important modern artists because modern art ironically involves an escape from modernity; however, this is an escape from the reality of life, from responsibility, and only a man could do it. Ursula Le Guin used the term “Gauguin Pose” to critique this masculine luxury attitude. According to her, the perception of the sublimity of art production is based on the false “heroism” rule in the world where men make the rules and exist that way, and accordingly “Hero-Artists” (with capital letters) were created (Le Guin, 1988). Moreover, the men left the daily burden of life, especially children and household responsibilities, to women, started to produce by retreating into their rooms-ateliers, and greatly hindered women from producing. Women in the modern art system were dominated by Hero-Artists and therefore struggled to exist, and indeed, continue to struggle. This has


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been the case in the modernisation of Turkey, as well as in Europe. For example, Mihri (Müşfik) Hanim, one of the first and most important women painters of Turkish art at the beginning of the twentieth century, frequently went to Europe and stayed there for long periods. She was a pioneering figure of her time. She moved to America in 1927 and lived there for many years, passing away in 1954. Since there was not enough documentation to do so, her biography was not recorded. One of the few sources that mention her also provides a very unflattering account of her (Toros, 1988: 9–18), along with false information about her life, arguing that she died in poverty, which was not the case. In fact, it is rather ironic that this claim was made in 1988 by a man at a time when feminist art was emerging in Turkey and women’s voices were strengthened in the art scene. Therefore, this claim, which was made up for Mihri Hanim (who we know today did not have a tragic life at all) has the deliberate intention of degrading women artists (see Dağoğlu, 2017). Yet, Mihri Hanim was the most productive portrait painter of her time; she even had a portrait made of the Pope upon order while in the Vatican, opened an exhibition in America, and was accepted into high society. In the modernisation of Turkey, women were seen as pawns of modernity, even though they were excluded from public life. This led them to pursue their careers in the form of hobbies and to remain mostly “flower painters”, even if they received art education. In fact, the number of women painters in the early period of Turkish art is not small, but their dramatic invisibility in the history of art makes it difficult for us to know the names of many of them today. Therefore, talking about the struggle of women artists, whose numbers were in the hundreds between 1900 and 2000, to remain in the field of art would not be to “swallow the bait”, as noted by Linda Nochlin (1971). This would mean a much more complicated effort than simply recording the women whose names have been forgotten in history because feminist art herstory basically has two aims: to reveal historical data about women artists, and to deconstruct the discourses and practices of art history (Parker & Pollock, 2013).

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 ransitioning from an Artistic Object T to a Social Subject Since there was a prejudice against images in Islamic belief for centuries, the paintings produced by the Muslim-Turks in the nineteenth century did not, for the most part, include any figures, and indeed artists avoided portraying people. Osman Hamdi, educated in Paris, was a prominent nineteenth-century artist and was among the first to use figures in his paintings. During this period, narrative painting for artists became easier by studying at Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi, the Fine Arts Academy that opened in 1883. Turkish art aimed to create fine arts drawing on an academic Western tradition and started to include women as figures in the paintings because it was considered a beautifying element of the composition. With the establishment of a more formal academic painting education, we see “women” as models, the object in the paintings of male artists in Turkish art history, rather than an artist. The fact that women were seen as a symbol of civilisation both in the second constitutional period of the Ottoman Empire in the twentieth century and in the early Republican periods rendered them objects in the service of the political discourse used by, and for, men. The motivation of male artists to paint female images—albeit in goddess form—in European art history started to appear in modernised Turkish paintings, especially during the early twentieth century. With the Westernisation of art, the representation of the female figure began to reflect a new type of woman, not only with their way of dressing but also with their behaviours, acts, and even their glances after the end of the nineteenth century (İnankur, 2014: 203–206). Thus, when we look at a woman as a figure depicted by men in Turkish art, we encounter the story of the men as the producers of that image, not the story of women. A woman is not a subject but an object of beauty to be admired and desired in these paintings. This male gaze towards women has particular importance in Turkey’s modernisation story. The process of political modernisation through the renewal of the social position of women also led to a change in how artists engaged with Western art (Antmen, 2014a: 41). With the introduction of female figures into paintings, the figure was positioned as a tool to


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imitate European countries. Thus, while women gradually became fixed as a symbol of modernisation in paintings, at the same time, the image of the “modern woman” was based on “men’s observations rather than women’s experiences” since they were mostly being painted by male artists (Antmen, 2014b: 34). The female figures in the paintings of male painters in the Ottoman Empire were still all depicted indoors, reflecting the everyday experience of a woman in real life; they were rarely painted as objects in public life. Even though the artists, especially those with impressionist styles, known as the Generation 14, who left their education in Paris due to the outbreak of World War I and returned to Istanbul in 1914, increasingly focused on painting women outdoors, where the women in these paintings were usually alone, immersed in thought, and also the outdoor space was not a street but usually a semi-public space such as a garden or a balcony. Pollock (1988: 66) defines such places as “space of femininity” and argues that, in these spaces, femininity is being lived as a positionality in discourse and social practice. These spaces are the product of a lived sense of social locatedness, mobility, and visibility, in the social relations of seeing and being seen. In the paintings of early male painters—for example, in paintings of Halil Pasha and Namık İsmail, who are among the Generation 14 artists, and in the artwork of İbrahim Çallı and Şeref Akdik women are portrayed lying down, reading books, sewing or embroidering, looking in the mirror, watching the sea in the narrow perspective areas of the paintings. They look passive, calm, docile, and alternatives to “docile woman” paintings are more dependent on the “woman symbol of modernity” phenomenon, as seen in paintings such as Goethe in the Harem, in which Prince Abdülmecid propagandised that “we are now Westerners too.” Likewise, Melek Celal Sofu’s Woman in The Turkish National Assembly (1936) depicts the right to be elected to the parliament—a right given to women by Kemalism. Taksim Square (1935), a part of Nazmi Ziya’s triptyque, displays women as dressed elegantly and strolling outside on a sunny day and he compares the old Ottoman and the new Turkey through value judgments of progressivism. On the Road to Revolution (1933), in which Zeki Faik İzer took Eugène Delacroix’s painting, Liberty Leading the People (1830), as an example, is almost like the Turkish version of that painting. However, some of the paintings in

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which we rarely see women on the streets and squares—such as on many of the canvases of Osman Hamdi—emphasise the life of women outside the home, who are acting comfortably in public, strolling, picnicking, shopping, etc. Thus, these paintings offer emancipation that should be owned by women, whose lives were set and governed by strict rules at the time they were produced, as a metaphor by the painters. The paintings in which women appeared in the public sphere were mostly painted by men and sometimes by woman painters such as Müfide Kadri (the only woman artist to become a member of the Ottoman Painters Society). These could be linked to Turkey’s modernisation project, where Europe with a public tradition was identified as an ideal (see Dastarlı, 2021). In Müfide Kadri’s paintings, women appear to have fun in public areas, or a picnic on a boat. This raises the question of whether the female figures portrayed by women artists in early Turkish painting were an alternative to those represented by men. Needless to say, the visibility of women in public sphere in such paintings normalised the public visibility of women in real life to some extent (Dastarlı, 2019). Unfortunately, early women painters did not portray women very differently from the male colleagues we criticise. Griselda Pollock also questioned whether the paradigm of modernity also applies to women who depict male bodies. This is something we cannot see in Turkish paintings; women who painted men were not placed in the canon of modern art. Just like in nineteenth-century Paris, there was a historical asymmetry, a socially, economically, and subjectively hierarchal difference between being a woman and being a man in Turkish art that lasted almost until the 1970s. As Pollock (1988: 55) notes, this “difference – the product of the social structuration of sexual difference and not any imaginary biological distinction  – determined both what and how men and women painted.” Undoubtedly, the naked female body is the primary image that men desire to look at; nude painting started with the anatomical pattern, one of the most important first steps of the academic study discipline in the history of art that turned into a context in which that desire was reconstructed over time. Erotic images of women, produced by men and for their gaze, have constituted one of the most important genres in art history since the Renaissance. As John Berger said, “In the average European


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oil painting of the nude the principal protagonist is never painted. He is the spectator in front of the picture, and he is presumed to be a man. Everything is addressed to him.” (Berger, 2008: 54). The representation of the nude body in painting, apart from being an artistic choice, had another meaning explained by the paradigm of modernity. Pollock (1988: 54) dwells on why artists like Manet so often dealt with masculine sexuality and its signs, the bodies of women, and the nude, the brothel, the bar, drawings attention to the fact that male artists saw their paintings of women’s bodies as a territory where they could compete for the claim of modernity, even for the leadership of the avantgarde. This statement also applies to Turkish paintings. Yet, in Turkey, painting, exhibiting, buying nude paintings, and so on were encoded as a symbol of civilisation. Nudity was a major taboo in a predominantly Muslim country, but the mentality that forbids nakedness and considers it a sin collided with the idealised values of art and was a manifestation of ‘being civilised.’ Thus, nude painting in art was seen and supported as a necessity of a modern country’s art, rather than fictionalising the female body as an object of desire. Therefore, the patriarchal argument pointed out by Berger had not been a concern in Turkish art history for many years, and artists, whether male or female, maintained a stance against the prohibitive morality of the society—which still exists in Turkey—and produced female nude paintings.

What Has Changed in Modern Turkey? We can name very few women Turkish artists of the pre-1970s. Those who were born before the 1930s include Naile Akıncı, Eren Eyüboglu, Maide Arel, Bediha Güleryüz, Semiha Berksoy, Şükriye Dikmen, Tiraje Dikmen, Leyla Gamsız, Füreya Koral, Aliye Berger, and Fahrelnissa Zeid. Women did not go down in herstory; rather, they were excluded and considered invisible, but this does not mean that they did not participate in herstory through their actions and personalities or they were not the subjects who made history. For example, in 1954, during the annual congress of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA) Turkey, the competition on Work and Production was organised by Yapı Kredi Bank,

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in which the world-renowned art critic members of the Association formed the jury. The first prize of the competition was awarded to an oversized oil painting, Sunrise (1954), by Aliye Berger, mostly known for her engravings. At the time, this selection of the jury irritated the male artists holding power in the Academy. Berger’s non-figurative composition expressing an intense dynamism was perceived by male artists as a great threat to destroy the throne of the stylistic hegemony in the modernist aesthetics, in particular the cubist style, produced by male painters. Yet, this competition was the exception, and in the following years, woman artists were ignored in the art scene. After the early periods of the Republic, when there was positive discrimination towards women, the political dissent in the 1950s gradually pushed modernisation out of focus and parked the gender policies aside. Then, an ideology based on Turkish-Islamic synthesis, which has survived to the present day, considered men as the sole subject of the concept of power throughout this period. Therefore, neither in the books dealing with the modern history of Turkey nor in the art books we can find any women’s name that stands out amongst the men. In Turkish art, the concept of gender was not perceived as a phenomenon that constitutes society, but purely as a concept in the context of sexuality (Antmen, 2014b: 87). In modern Turkey, art has remained under the auspices of the state for many years. Given that Turkey, as a newly founded republic in the 1930s, was not economically strong and the Ottoman court aristocracy was quickly eliminated, a new bourgeoisie interested in art and eager to collect could not be created for many years. On the other hand, the ruling class of the country who set modernisation as a goal, especially Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was aware that art was a fundamental dynamic to the aims of Enlightenment. Therefore, despite economic hardships, a state policy of supporting art with a particular focus on European art was introduced. In this early Republican period, women’s education in art was supported however art education was seen as something that nourishes the domestic role of women. Until the emergence of contemporary art in the 1970s, the main idea of the entire society about art was that painting was widely a field of fine arts where pretty landscapes, flowers in a vase, or portraits of people were painted with formal materials. Art was not seen


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as a creative ethos but as a production zone of decorative aesthetics. Thus, art education in modern Turkey developed gradually and laboringly over the years with the participation of women. On the other hand, women who received a good education, especially those from the upper-middle class who believed in the Enlightenment ideal, also encouraged their daughters to further their education. Being able to receive art education, on the other hand, included other advantages for women over men. For example, İnci Eviner (born in 1956), an important artist in today’s Turkey, states that since painting was considered a bourgeois activity, women in this circle did not face many challenges (Eviner, 2009: 67). The expectations of society regarding art and women were very limited; thus, women turned their situation to an advantage and did not encounter any obstacles in getting any art education as it was seen as a “feminine activity”. Women artists, particularly those who were educated at the Academy in the 1970s, started to make a name for themselves, and this was seen as an appropriate career by their families who thought that the man needed to have a career to “make money” and women could engage in art “to potter around”. But then, women no longer wanted to “potter around”, but to become great artists of their time. After the 1950s, an increasing number of women were able to receive art education in art academies in Turkey, but unfortunately, for a long time, this was not sufficient to disrupt the gender inequalities prevalent in academia. Many women artists talk about the unequal attitude they encountered during their training, including mobbing, sexism, and humiliation. Art education based on the studio system has allowed male professors to become the heads of the studios to establish power over women students. Women who could draw well were told that they had a twist of the wrist like a man and, being able to draw like a man became an idiom for a criterion of success. However, the successful women students were also told that they would eventually get married and have children and give up their careers. All these prejudices were brought to a point where it was unnecessary for women to achieve. Moreover, if women had married and had children after graduation, they were no longer given the opportunity of pursuing an academic career. Therefore, for a long while, there was a negligible number of women academics in art schools. For example, from Hale Asaf to Neşe Erdok, no women

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academics was appointed to the painting department of the State Academy of Fine Arts in fifty years. The Academy continued to hold the sole power in Turkey’s art scene until the emergence of private galleries and collectors in the 1980s. For many years, from the art competitions to juries, men in the Academy dominated the art sector and women could not receive awards or take part in the art collections. As a result, the bureaucracy of a patriarchal character did not support women to the same extent as their male counterparts. Thus, although women studied art, they found it difficult to remain artists professionally; many of them were only able to pursue art as a hobby. Even though there were only a few, the women artists who were mainly prominent in the field of modern art from the 1970s started to break hegemonic patterns; but the problem was that they did not yet know feminism. Turkish women artists are aware of patterns determined by the official ideology called “state feminism.” Şirin Tekeli uses this definition to signify the limited rights granted to women by the state from the Second Constitutional Era to the modern times (Tekeli, 1993: 33). It has not encouraged feminism in the country; on the contrary, it has narrowed the field of an autonomous women’s movement. The legal rights granted to women by the Kemalist Republic led women to accept the conditions without questioning them until the 1980s, and most women artists actually criticise themselves in this regard even today. The second self-criticism of women artists is their denial of being named feminists, even though they fought for social equality and produced art that would promote the ideals of equity in the 1970s. We also consider this another reason why feminist art remained without identity when the awareness of social struggle started to develop in Turkey, although the productions we can claim to represent feminist art are being created. Women artists had not yet reached feminist awareness. That is to say, while the opposition group, of which artists are also a part, is expanding, it seems that nothing has yet been solved in terms of male hegemony. Some artists who started their artistic careers at that time stated that their generation advocated Marxism for social liberation, suspended all kinds of problems regarding their individual existence within the political


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movement, and also believed in identifying themselves with the “humanfirst” at that time. For sure, that “human” was a man. Active socialist men of the period in Turkey considered any demand for women’s rights to be “bourgeois deviation” that threatened “class solidarity”, which they considered the more important issue of the movement. What they formulated as “gender equality” was actually that women should be like men. In other words, the concept of equality was largely confused with similarity. Therefore, when equality was advocated in the discourse, women were encouraged to look masculine and act like men (Kadıoğlu, 1998: 98). In such an atmosphere, women artists did not like to be described as “doing women’s art” and to be seen as “women artists”, and they perceived this as a form of discrimination. In fact, conditioning to “painting like a man” in the Academy also prevented these artists from reaching a feminist consciousness. As Ursula Le Guin says, “that, of course, is the power of the script: you play the part without knowing it.”

The Rise of Feminism The 1980s was the era when Turkish women artists realised feminism and we see independent feminist organisations thereafter. The coup d’etat on 12 September 1980, an incident leading to quite dramatic results, determined the general tone of this era. The socialist struggle, which gained strength during the 1960s and 1970s, suffered a significant loss because large numbers of people were imprisoned. Interestingly enough, this social disaster resulted in an autonomous feminist setting where the demand for gender equality was uttered in a stronger way. As explained above, feminist issues had been incorporated into and subjected to the greater and “more serious” problems of socialist struggle, but then, following coup d’etat of 1980, feminist discourse was increasingly separated from socialist discourse (Kadıoğlu, 1998: 97). On 17 May 1987, the march and remonstration, held as part of the Solidarity Campaign Against Beating, was the first legal public remonstration since the 1980 coup d’etat. This remonstration turned into a campaign against domestic violence towards women after only a short time. Feminist magazines were

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published, meetings were held by various collectives, festivals were organised, and protests increased in number. Thus, as we can understand, feminism in Turkey did not develop in concurrence with the demands of equality and freedom of the 1968 era, like in Europe, but it did after the 1980 coup d’etat, causing a categorical feminist art to emerge. However, it is not so often to come across conscious and organised activism in art. The feminist movement accelerated towards the end of 1980s, incorporated increasingly more women and thus the artists began producing works pushing the limits of femininitymasculinity while the traditional gender role models were being questioned. Yet, what we need to emphasise is that the overlap between the ideological approaches and social agenda of the feminist movement and the issues handled by women artists is not an indicator of rapport or a direct relation between these two. Women artists are still far from feminist organisations and collective production processes of activists (Antmen, 2014b: 92). Feminism in Turkish art did not start not through collective production but was completely dependent on individual interests and efforts. Gülsün Karamustafa appears as an exceptional artist who supported feminist actions by designing the poster for the Women Festival held within the concept of the 1987 campaign. Today, when we analyse the feminist art productions of the 1980s, we can conclude that there is a unity of purpose in feminist art, even if it is individual rather than collective production. The outstanding examples among these early feminist works by women artists are role models for future generations, and function as a strong basis for feminist art in Turkey. Some examples include the Fetish Objects/Object Women series by Nur Koçak, who tried to resolve gender of gaze with irony by portraying certain objects such as perfume bottles, lipstick, and nail varnish that are typically identified with women in a photo-realist style and in large format; Gülsün Karamustafa’s paintings, which were created towards the end of the 1970s and beginning of the 1980s revealed subaltern women; the works of Füsun Onur, who bravely defended a fragile style by focusing on ordinary and naive objects from her personal life; İpek Duben’s Şerife series, which consists of paintings depicting dresses of conservative lower-class women, who migrated to the big city, made a living by cleaning houses, and did not allow their faces to be portrayed; and, in 1974,


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was one of the earliest performance-video works of Turkish art—Nil Yalter’s iconic The Headless Woman or the Belly, on which Yalter wrote on her belly an excerpt from Erotique et Civilizations by René Nelli, accompanied by belly-dancing music in an attempt to draw together the Oriental fantasies of men and the demand for bodily freedom of women.2 The 1980s was the era when private galleries started to gain a say in the art scene. Previously, while artists alone had the chance to exhibit their works in the saloons allocated by the state, local, and certain other institutions, from the 1980s this dependence relationship started to change, and resulted in the art scene gaining independence and autonomy. On the other hand, it was of great importance to create art spaces independent from the gallery system that determines the art market for feminist artists in Turkey to make themselves heard. A series of exhibitions organised by both women and men artists with very low budgets, some of them with a clarion call and jury, became a significant alternative to the mainstream art scene determined by market conditions. New Trends in Art (1977–1987), Contemporary Artist (1980-), A Cross Section of Avantgarde Turkish Art (1984–1988) and A, B, C, D Exhibitions (1989–1993), primarily arranged as a part of the Istanbul Art Festival, became the places of contemporary art practices and the most important channels where feminist art could be followed. The Istanbul Festival eventually became the International Istanbul Biennial in the late 1980s and thus took its place among other global biennials across the world. All these exhibitions carried art into public spaces and had a temporality parallel with the developments in the Western world of art. The emergence of subjectivity as a fundamental category of feminist discourse must be understood in relation to the development of the women’s movement (Felski, 1989: 71–72). However, the Westernisation story of Turkish art, is somewhat problematic in terms of subjectivity. The contemporary art brought a new breath to the character of Turkish art, as it is a field of ideas in synchrony with the West. Women artists and feminists have a leading position in these contemporary art movements which tore out the art from the category of “fine arts” and paid attention to the social problems of the era. Both the ontological transformation in the arts with contemporary movements and artists’ discussions about social inequality, identity problems, the patriarchal structure of public

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space, and the necessity for free expression gained a brand-new look on Turkish art. The masculine nature of canonical art that idealises “modern” is increasingly being disrupted by contemporary Turkish art led by women. We will elaborate on this argument in the following chapter as we discuss feminist aesthetics.

Notes 1. For the catalog with Alfred H. Barr’s diagram, see. https://assets.moma. org/documents/moma_catalogue_2748_300086869.pdf?_ga=2.229792 479.2131642915.1645607829-­268123429.1634665197. 2. The excerpt is “A veritable woman is ‘convex’ and ‘concave’ at the same time. But she needs not to be deprived mentally or physically from the central part of her convexity: the clitoris (…). This aversion about clitoris corresponds to man’s ancestral horror from this virile and natural part of woman, this part which is capable of absolute orgasm.” see https://www. istanbulmodern.org/en/collection/collection/5?t=3&id=1186.

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Discovering gender in aesthetics requires one to traverse a long road, beginning with the investigation of the conceptual frameworks that excluded women from the central aesthetics concepts of art, creativity, and artist (Korsmeyer, 2004: 152). There are two ways to do this: in theory, and in practice. The first way means historically discussing philosophy through a critical theory, and the other is analysing the art production itself. Here, we will consider different approaches to feminist aesthetics theory, and in the next chapter we will also go beyond that and focus on feminist art itself and conduct an aesthetics discussion on the artworks from Turkey. We delve into feminist aesthetics, particularly gender and aesthetics, to dismantle masculine norms and ways of seeing, producing, and appreciating artwork in cultural spaces. Feminist aesthetics can be discussed at different levels such as art, artist, aesthetics, taste, beauty, and sublimity, and we argue whether we can propose new categories to analyse aesthetics criteria. In this chapter, we will explore the roots of feminist aesthetics and its boundaries, then employ the key concepts discussed here as we analyse the contemporary feminist artworks in Chap. 4.

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 E. Dastarlı, F. M. Cin, Feminist Art in Resistance, Sociology of the Arts, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-17638-8_3



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The Assertions of Feminist Aesthetics Theory In the free art market environment where the supply-demand balance has been established since the eighteenth century, the rise in the meta-­ exchange value of art led to the high art-low art distinction. Thus, positioning itself directly opposite to the craft (“low art”), the “art” institution gained autonomy, and the “artist” gained the social status s/he had been fighting for since the Renaissance. In this process, the discipline of traditional aesthetics, a field of philosophy, was accepted as a modern theory that deals with the form and defines style in art, not the content. Subsequently, in the nineteenth century, aesthetics became identified with the philosophy of art and with the development of art theories, changing the position of art and bringing the definition of “fine arts” to art. The “beauty” discussions over pleasure have become the main focus of the aesthetics context. A theoretical framework from Plato to Schopenhauer, from Baumgarten to Kant, drew relatively abstract discourses of aesthetics as a field of philosophy and, accordingly, conceptual networks that determine how a woman should act, think, and feel, as well as how art receives and should receive it was established. Historically, the only subject of beauty, sublimity, pleasure, and aesthetics in art was men. For example, Romanticism, one of the founding schools of modern aesthetics, turned the artist into a demi-god: the genius. Women, by contrast, became simply “other” (Battersby, 1990). Since the twentieth century, in particular, Marxist aesthetics and feminist aesthetics—with certain intersections—brought fundamental criticisms to the theory of aesthetics, and they formed the basis of alternative aesthetics theories. Well then, what is the feminist aesthetics and what is its scope? The answer to this question has been discussed extensively in the literature and frequently brought forward in art. The aftermath of Nochlin’s famous essay in 1971 (Why have there been no great female artists?) has also sparked discussions on feminism and aesthetics. And we often come across the following question: “Is There a Feminist Aesthetics?” (French, 1993). The main frame of the discussion primarily consists of a theoretical position that argues whether there is a compulsory or privileged relationship between a particular style, method, or form of artistic production

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and the woman. A critical approach that does not see art as “fine arts” does not associate the concept of aesthetics with pure beauty. Feminist aesthetics analyse why women are left behind when “masculine” features are compared to “feminine” features, which problematises whether they exist in art and aesthetics. At the same time, it is an approach that exposes the prejudices and stereotypes that represent females as lacking. Feminist aesthetics problematises the situation of women artists in the category of fine arts through art historical analysis and traces matrilineal traditions of cultural achievement. The feminist aesthetics interests itself in a “female” concept, not “feminine, genius” under the category of greatness in Nochlin’s question (Battersby, 1990: 10). Among a few fundamental issues addressed by feminist aesthetics studies, there is also a discussion on the definition and basic qualities of art. These discussions highlight that feminist aesthetics is a method of understanding and interpreting feminist art; however, feminist aesthetics cannot be seen merely as a supporting tool or a technique because it reaches a point beyond that and supports new productions in art, literature, etc., by pointing out new concepts, new ways of understanding. Forming and consuming women as a figure by male artists in their artworks and forming them to serve the pleasures of men constitutes one of the essential pillars of feminist aesthetics discussions. As discussed in Chap. 2, over-identifying anatomic etudes, one of the requirements of academic art education, into woman’s body and the depiction of a woman as an object of desire through nude painting, which has been one of the main themes of art history, are discussed in feminist aesthetics theory. Feminist aesthetics has made a compelling argument that art needs to be liberated from historically patriarchal context, practice, and institutions, but further emphasised the need to revisit the analysis of gender in art practices (Devereaux, 2003). It is questionable whether the terms and issues of traditional aesthetics are applicable to feminist art (French, 1993: 68). It has been the discourse of some art critics from time to time that feminist art does not conform to traditional aesthetics patterns and, therefore, its character in terms of being art is controversial, which is caused by underlying political purposes—another way to abnegate woman! The feminist aesthetics


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theory came into play and challenged the traditional aesthetics theory, and a feminist aesthetics theory was developed. For example, the male artist’s portrayal of female figures (Pollock, 2015), regardless of the biological differences between woman-man in their art, or thematically feminine and masculine art style (Bovenschen & Beth, 1977; Gørrill, 2020), dignified male “taste” (Korsmeyer, 2004). However, we must acknowledge that all these problems are relatively art-historical, and the main arguments are based on formal art methods such as painting. The claim that traditional aesthetics principles are universal, and art is a creation hierarchically above gender, etc., belongs to a world definition where the male is the norm. “An aesthetics like Susanne Langer’s, which defines what art creates and is indeed universal, fits feminist art as well as any other,” says Marilyn French, and adds, “but most aesthetics are more prescriptive, and therefore more political: feminism has taught us that all critical approaches imply political standards, however tacitly.” French’s words (1993: 68) prove that the feminist aesthetics approach emerged as a need. When feminists found that the way people think about art and aesthetics was very much influenced by social gender roles, feminist aesthetics became a vital necessity. Since gender awareness directs one’s attention not only to the act of perception but also to the perceiver within a social and political context, feminism characterises aesthetics appreciation and appropriate apprehension of art. Therefore, one of the points where feminist aesthetics differs is where it challenges the traditional art viewer, that is, the generic perceiver concept (Korsmeyer, 1993: viii). This is one of the sources of criticism by feminist art theory, especially about art history and aesthetics readings in relation to it. Feminist artists became the creators of the world itself instead of representing it by making a representation of the world we live in and, indeed, included the art viewer in that world. Women were at the forefront of artists pushing the boundaries of art. Therefore, we can now consider a complex reader and viewer model who does not perceive and appreciate but interprets other “differences” such as gender, and racial and cultural statuses and who also determines the definition of the value.

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Feminine, Female, or Feminist? The main challenge faced by the feminist aesthetics theory lies in the problem of whether there is a distinction between men’s and women’s art in terms of their production. There are even some researchers who see the inability to define a specific distinction between genders as an important obstacle. Although, as mentioned above, the feminist aesthetics’ approach to this issue focuses specifically on women in the history of art, we believe that it is necessary to expand on this issue before discussing post-1970s feminist art. Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock discussed the issue of emphasising, or indeed not emphasising, the gender distinction between woman-­ man artists depending on their productions. They state that to avoid that particular “distinction trap”, some feminists were tempted to discount the possibility of any distinctive feature resulting from their gender in women’s art, and they emphasise that any argument proposing ‘art has no sex’ ignored the differences in men’s and women’s experiences of the social structures of class, the sexual divisions within our society, and its historically varied effects on the art men and women produce (Parker & Pollock, 2013: 48). In many of her works, Pollock insisted that the works of women artists should be reviewed as separate and distinct from those of men because, according to her, the art canon is based on dignifying the male artist and explores the disparate aspects of a kind of “women’s canon”, as there is no way or sense in which to include women in the canon. However, this approach could easily be “misinterpreted” by men, from educators to gallerists, for the continuation of the paradigms in art that practically makes the male artist and his production the “norm”. Therefore, claiming that there is a gender difference in art production, or vice versa, is problematic. As Nochlin (1971) also pointed out, asking whether there is a biological difference between men and women and if there is a different form of expression that distinguishes women’s art from men’s art would be precisely how the masculine system would like us to behave while confining women to the category of “women”. Although they argue that gender difference is more socially constructed than biological, what Pollock and Nochlin, who have become


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a school with their art history texts, are saying is actually confusing in terms of feminist aesthetics, because while Pollock notes that women and their works should be evaluated differently from men’s, Nochlin insists that there is no difference. Thus, the development of feminist aesthetics seemed to depend upon the impossible task of locating the “difference”, with the unproductive result of creating a ghetto for women (Lauter, 1993: 27). Considering the distinction between a woman and a male artist, essentialism is a dangerous mistake that can be made at any time; however, there is such a distinction as art constructed the norm of being an artist as male as it considered women to be an alternative while it was being institutionalised. There is a distinction between “artist” and “woman artist” even in language, where this inequality manifests itself in every stage and field of art from theory to practice. Large exhibitions in museums or galleries always host artworks by male artists; “women’s art” that is put in corner or a hall behind them is based on the logic of complete isolation. If the artist is a man, the work is spoken-written about by considering the work, but if the artist is a woman, confusion begins, as shaped by prejudices regarding the sex of the artist (or the sex she doesn’t have) and her life before analysing the work. Therefore, although some interpretations of feminist aesthetics do not make the distinction between male and woman artists and indeed claim that it should not be made, they have to see and dwell on the distinction currently being made in every aspect of art institutions. Gørrill’s recent work (2020), which is about the occasions on which the gender of the artist has a significant impact on the values of various kinds of art, is quite interesting. Gørrill’s work is based on the comparison method with numbers and analyses the creative patterns of women’s and men’s works side by side with a seemingly simple methodology. The research includes a complete sample of paintings (1200 contemporary paintings) produced by artists in the UK that was in major auctions in London between 1992–1994 and between 2012–2014, and was nominated and awarded a major art award. Gørrill (2020: 35–41) conducted this study claiming that evaluating women and their art as different makes them worthless, and analysed the paintings according to specific criteria. As a result, she identified several interests that differed between

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men and women artists and, according to years, based on comparisons such as the use of small-large canvas, watercolour-oil, etc., the shape of the canvas (square-rectangle), the light of the painting, use of wood, paper, canvas concluded that the production of paintings with contents such as symbols, places, people, objects, nature, abstract, etc., are not fixed but vary according to year and gender. In other words, no element of the painting art like the material, technique, subject, etc., provides any evidence that the painting was made by a man or a woman artist. Gørrill (2020: 32–33) concluded that “…many attempts to understand the feminine and masculine in contemporary art were speculative.” Felski (1998) discusses feminist aesthetics through literary theory and claims that literature raises questions about feminism that cannot be answered in purely-gender based analysis. She seeks to demonstrate that there are no legitimate grounds for classifying any particular style of writing as uniquely or specifically feminine, and that it is therefore not possible to justify the classification of literary forms along gender lines. She is concerned that a possible definition of feminist aesthetics may lead to distinctive categories in literature, like in art, such as woman’s aesthetics or aesthetics understanding taken by women artists only. Although the works such as 100 Women Artists and Women Poets Anthology seem to make positive discrimination, these books, which actually ‘break off’ women intellectuals from the mainstream, are still printed  worldwide. On the other hand, the point on which some writers are criticised by various feminist theorists working on aesthetics is that they clearly do not draw the boundaries between the concepts of female/woman, feminine-­ femininity, and feminism in their attempt to identify the difference between the genders, and it is even claimed that these concepts are sometimes used interchangeably. For example, Christine Battersby, criticising Parker and Pollock in particular, discusses their insistence, like some other feminists, on the issue that there is no possibility of a positive female aesthetics which results from the contradiction in the terms of “feminine” and “female” because Battersby thinks that they confuse the female and feminine categories (Battersby, 1990: 9). The research insistently shows that an aesthetics approach that distinguishes women artists by coding them as feminine is wrong. However,


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generalising these characteristics will create new stereotypes, and this is, ultimately, the real trap. For example, Bovenschen and Beth (1977: 136) answer the question “Is there a feminine aesthetic?” and respond: “Definitely there is, if one is talking about aesthetics awareness and modes of sensory perception. Certainly not, if one is talking about an unusual variant of artistic production or about a painstakingly constructed theory of art.” What is most important for feminist aesthetics is not similarity or difference, as by problematising the gendered discourse of art, one nullifies the feminine criterion of the theory of art criticism and makes it dysfunctional. The “melancholic” expression on the face of that “sensitive” female figure painted “with tenderness” by the woman artist is not because of her femininity! As Hein (1993: 7) says, “Genderized thinking is not confined, … to thinking about gender. Woman-ly (man-ly) thinking is not thinking about women (men); it is simply thinking as a woman (man).” The reason for defining the difference between men and women with “gender” rather than “sex” is already hidden here. The feminist movement rejected “female” as it has passive references and used the strong word “woman” instead, creating a difference that seemed minor in language but actually led to great awareness. “Feminine” is a stereotype created by a mentality that creates prejudices about women, such as those identifying men with intellect, power, and strength and women with fragility, sensitivity, and sensuality. In the nineteenth century, it was accepted in the German Romanticism movement, which was itself accepted as one of the bases of modern thinking, that the creative side of man was “feminine”, but that space for creation was not easily opened to women. Indeed, it would not surprise us today that the common issue in the arts, literature, and music in nineteenth-­century Europe, where modern art flourished, was the popularisation of rhetoric that kept women away from the culture. This is the main reason feminist aesthetics has drawn attention in art history, where one of the most important points that emerged in the associated studies is that the terms aesthetics praise and gender apartheid are intertwined. The historical roots of telling women students who draw well in art academies that they have “a twist of the wrist like a man” are still today hidden in this desperate situation; the stereotype is a product of a patriarchal culture which constructs male dominance through the significance it

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attaches to sexual difference. Further, the “feminine” stereotype persists. Thus, women artists could simply be called “natural painters, not intellectual ones” (Parker & Pollock, 2013: 8, 146) and stereotypes would often target the woman artist, not the man. We can claim that the praise of “feminine” used for male artists is one of the rare examples that repeats this rule backwards by moving femininity up in a hierarchical sense in this instance. While searching for the difference between men’s and women’s art and the possibility of finding such a difference contains certain pitfalls, feminist aesthetics theory exactly problematises all of these. We can fully transfer what Felski (1989: 78) said about feminist literature to feminist art: the feminist aesthetics does not reveal an already given female identity but is itself involved in the construction of this self as a cultural reality. Feminist aesthetics, along with feminist art, in the 1970s, referred to perspectives that questioned social gender role stereotypes in art and aesthetics or assumptions about social gender, not a specific aesthetics or style. As Parker and Pollock (2013: 157–158) asserted, feminist artists have explored the definitions of art, artist, and woman that sustain these power systems, questioning the dismissal of women’s art as merely dextrous and decorative and the representations in art of women as nature, identified exclusively with femininity and domesticity. For example, Womanhouse (1972), the project that grew out of  Judy Chicago’s and Miriam Schapiro’s Feminist Art Programme at the California Institute of the Arts, was one of the first manifestations of the feminist aesthetics. In this project, women restored a house themselves and called this work a “boot camp of feminism”. Chicago’s purpose to instil a work ethic within young artists was to distract them from the idea of creating masterpieces by entering the studio and waiting for a muse. In reference to that project, Schapiro remarks of West Coast women introducing a new subject, which was the content of their own life experiences to their art, that: “What formerly was considered trivial was heightened to the level of serious art-making” (Gouma-Peterson & Mathews, 1987: 334). Chicago’s and Schapiro’s project is one of the earliest and foremost examples of collective movement and production in feminist art; they have become a source of inspiration for feminist artists following them. As will be discussed more extensively in Chap. 5, feminist art aims to


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create a cultural public sphere to take into account social facts concerning collective production. Women’s collective action has been necessary to create a ground where they can discuss social pressures and demand equality. Battersby emphasises that it should be possible, through aesthetics value-judgements, that an individual can register the existence of group values and give her assent to (or otherwise) those values. She also adds “… it is through such value-judgements that individuals group themselves into alternative collectives that (together) reshape the past and the future of the society in which they live” (Battersby, 1990: 125). The fact that feminist aesthetics investigate “feminine aesthetics” means that the former includes the latter. On the other hand, studies claim that the intuition of the existence of feminine aesthetics can be verified from a certain point (Barwell, 1993). It has been argued that there is a need for an identifiable “feminine aesthetics” because it should enable women to enter the male-dominated representation systems prevailing in Western culture. It is clear that there is a need for a feminine entity that stands against masculine toxicity in the art scene, and it seems quite appropriate for the art produced by this entity to have specific characteristics as well as subjects; however, these features may not be specific to women or men, but may be specific to the artist themselves. Yet, generalising these characteristics will merely create new stereotypes, which thus represent a real trap. One of the biggest reasons for the rapid increase in the number of women artists who declare themselves to be feminists and make feminist art in the fine arts academies in Turkey, especially since the 2000s, is that they have encountered women who were role models for them and actually seen these artists. Of course, this is not only because the presence of the woman artist has given them the courage to do so, but also allowed them to explore the possibilities of feminist art with their own eyes. In other words, a “feminine” existence and the feminist art created by that existence—the stylistic approach-technique, etc., as well as the content of the art—have also been influential. We can argue that the “feminine” criterion, which normative art criticism derives as a stereotype, now has a completely different meaning than when used in a production by a gender-­conscious woman, or even in a text by a woman art critic. The artist, who carries the feminine elements to her art as a projection of the

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artist’s identity and character, can be considered to have already entered into the perspective of feminist aesthetics.  Therefore, it is necessary to think about a priori roots that may have been in art history while establishing its unique language of feminist aesthetics.

The Avantgarde Roots The relevance of normative aesthetics is conceived as pure; it is considered incompatible with neither moral and social values, nor cognitive concerns for truth and falsity. This leads us to think about the point where the life proposed by feminist aesthetics intersects with art. Aestheticism, whose basis lies in the potential rebellion approach of Romanticism, defended the art as in the form of an individually occurring pure expression of human nature. This art, which was created and should be evaluated in isolation from ethical, social, or political considerations, took a modern nature in parallel with autonomy. Over time, it became identified with modernism and created the “art for art’s sake” paradigm. On the other hand, the twentieth century also witnessed the emergence of an expression that stands against the understanding of aesthetics idealisation and is dominated by life. This kind of artistic expression was called “avantgarde”, which means “advance guard” in French. To sum up shortly, from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries, the main outlook of Eurocentric art was as follows: modern art eliminated the academic art conception, and while art evolved towards a modernist formalism on the one hand, “avantgarde”, that is to say, pioneering movements, problematised the disconnection of modernist aesthetics from life and its professional institutionalism. Even though the avantgarde movement— especially a specific abstract style which was produced in the USA—created a self-contradictory “high art” category over time and became a part of the modernist aesthetics, it is necessary to appreciate its primary purpose, which existed before a certain historical threshold. In this way, the art market, the method, material, and claim of art also changed, criticising art with art became a principle, and “high art” experienced an ontological transformation. From Russian Constructivism to Dada, avantgarde movements supplied an important context for understanding feminist art


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because many feminists shared this agenda of anti-art in as much as they diagnosed elements of cultural practice that require critique or rejection (Korsmeyer, 2004: 114). On the other hand, rebellion movements expanding in Europe after 1968 caused the revival of the avantgarde spirit, and this spirit was carried over to art. Thus, with new techniques and materials, a new art worked in line with the “take over life” strategy of the early twentieth-century avantgarde. Therefore, whether many of the qualities of feminist art, which began to increase in power in the 1970s and could be found in early twentieth-century avantgarde roots, became an important issue on which feminist aesthetics also dwelled. Furthermore, one of the objections of the feminist approach is the normative aesthetics, focusing on the analysis of beauty and pleasure,  is disconnected from the real world. Feminist aesthetics also examine the tight bond that feminist art establishes with life, a non-hierarchical bond that does not place art above social circumstances. In his fundamental study on the avantgarde idea, Peter Burger explains avantgarde from a historical perspective with the following words: “In bourgeois society, it is only with aestheticism that the full unfolding of the phenomenon of art became a fact, and it is to aestheticism that the historical avantgarde movements respond” (Burger, 1984: 17). Avantgarde’s aggressive attitude towards bourgeois society has evolved into an attitude towards androcentric society when it comes to feminist art. Therefore, we should draw attention to Marxist feminism, which deals primarily with the question of women’s liberation based on capitalism by constructing Marxist theory with a perspective that includes and extends it and focuses on the question of how gender inequalities are reproduced. This kind of feminist theory, feminist art criticism, and feminist art production have severely criticised the existing bourgeois lifestyle, just like the avantgarde movement. However, the function of feminist art in general, not just the Marxist version, is “perceived as primarily negative and subversive, a critical dismantling of existing ideological and discursive positions” (Felski, 1989: 157). Burger also explained that the intention of the avantgarde may be defined as the attempt to direct the aesthetics experience (which rebels against the praxis of life) that aestheticism developed toward the practical

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(Burger, 1984: 34). Feminist art has claims that quite overlap with the claim of “reintegrating art into the praxis of life” (Burger, 1984: 22, 34, 49, 54 ff.), which is one of Burger’s emphases on the purpose of the avantgarde protest. Feminist art has an activist aspect, the reason for which we can find based on avantgarde foundations and which is increased from time to time, and for this reason, feminist art is included in the category of “not art but [a] political one”. However, to say so would be a great injustice to feminist art and artists. Art is not only a space for chanting slogans or giving lectures, nor just an element of aesthetics pleasure. “Women’s actions or demonstrations are not artistic events” says Bovenschen and Beth (1977: 137) and argues against the claims regarding the similarity of feminist art and the way of action, or even the promotion of action as art. She says the issue is neither one of creating a “beautiful illusion” nor overextending the concept of aesthetics. According to her, the important thing is that women artists should not allow themselves to be kept back anymore. Of course, the crucial one is the struggle of women, but feminist art has been able to claim that actions become artistic, and the reason for this is hidden in defence of the life-art unity of the avantgarde understanding of art. Feminist art claims art, which emerged with the distinction between art and craft and later gained high art status with the modern art category, is actually not that far above life practice. Art always has an effect that can make the masses question social and political phenomena; feminist artists have also aimed to bring societies closer to social equality worldwide by questioning and have chosen to use every medium they can be productive with for this purpose, without any limits. We would not expect a traditional aesthetics theory to understand them, but feminist aesthetics can do this. It does not seem meaningful for feminist aesthetics to analyse only an abstract “subversive” aesthetics choice; what is important is to reveal the vitality and visibility of women’s current artistic and critical practice in a range of forms and genres. Both the aesthetics language chosen by feminist artists and the feminist aesthetics theory and feminist criticism that examine it did the same, and defended the existence of feminist art that opposes the claims of patriarchal decision-makers, and the place and the discourse of women in the art scene in the twentieth century, as it did before. We should also see that what is missing in the current discussions about feminist


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aesthetics is usually the social dimension of feminist literature and art (Felski, 1989: 164). This is exactly what we are trying to draw attention to here by emphasising the avantgarde roots of feminist art—the social and vital dimension of feminist art. One of the characteristic features that distinguish avantgarde movements is that it opposes the criteria of traditional aesthetics such as “good”, “accurate”, “beautiful”, etc., which it uses as a negative stereotype, especially for women artists, and it no longer cares about them; on the contrary, it builds an “anti-aesthetics” by caring about “bad”, “false”, and “ugly”. As will be explained later, feminist art does the same too; from time to time, it ignores the aesthetics value or places its own aesthetics values there. Although feminist aesthetics preferences may vary according to geography, period and artist, even the artist’s periodic understanding-­ preference, especially the feminist activist attitude, has an original antiaesthetics claim with permanent and certain immutable criteria. Peter Burger says that a distinguishing feature of historical avantgarde movements is that they eliminate the possibility of a period style. In other words, Dada, Surrealism, or the Russian avantgardes did not develop a style; “What did happen is that these movements liquidated the possibility of a period style when they raised to a principle the availability of the artistic means of past periods.” (Burger, 1984: 18). In this respect, feminist art is also not a categorically distinguishable artistic style, and feminists have therefore been criticised many times for not finding something “new” or not making “good art”, or not being an “accomplished artist”. We see that feminist art remains on target in terms of opinions on whether productions using methods such as ready-made, performance, body, or digital mediums or rock-soil-land are art, especially on the axis of discussions of what is art or what is not according to Arthur Danto’s theses. The art for which Danto has declared its “end” is a particular mode of narrative. According to this, it is not just about using unusual materials and methods; the main point is the end of the thesis, which suggests  that being an inventor of materials and methods would be enough to be an artist and make art. Therefore, for example, feminist art’s extensive use of performance, which was one of the least tried methods of contemporary art in the 1970s, means not just embracing a method or aesthetics form, but resurrecting a new artistic approach that was the ideal of the early

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twentieth-century avantgarde, and for this very reason it has been widely criticised. Although Burger claims otherwise, the Dada movement abolished itself because artists realised that the movement was beginning to evolve into a style in itself, precisely what it objected to. However, feminist art had a rather big issue that focused on being against injustice, beyond playing with the limits of artistic capacity, such as making a mark in art history by doing something that had not been done before. Thus, feminist art did not turn into a periodic art movement or an artistic representation of a discourse that may be outdated. By expanding its method, discourse, and sphere of influence and activity, feminist art has broken away from being a periodical movement and has survived to the present day. The feminist art that has a significant share in the process of breaking the androcentric modernist aesthetics had emerged by the 1970s, when a postmodernist perception was dominant, as part of a free expression movement unprecedented in art history that was using all kinds of materials and methods on the grounds of defending rights, and reinforced the power of that movement. However, feminism is not just any “post” in an age where many things became “post”; moreover “feminism is new only in the sense that it isn’t post-anything” (Lippard, 1980: 363). Nothing surprising in this because the main problems that bring forth feminist art, which is closely connected with the fate of the women’s movement, still exist all over the world. The most important criticism about the avantgarde movement is that it gradually turned into an “avantgardism” after the 1970s with each passing year, which means it is not a stylistic approach anymore. For example, Parker and Pollock (2013: 151) claim that avantgardism has become an institution in modern art. Thus, each successive stylistic change is overtaken by public acceptance at shorter and shorter intervals. New tendencies and movements occur in an accelerated sequence and can even overlap in time. Felski (1989: 159) also says that “this protest was, however, ultimately unsuccessful; rather than dismantling the category of the aesthetics, the works of the avantgarde, in turn, became venerated exhibits in the museum and were assimilated into the infinitely flexible institution of art”. These feminist theorists are quite right in a way that we cannot deny. The artists, productions, and ideas that followed in the


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footsteps of the early avantgarde movement created a mainstream under the name of “contemporary art” (or even “current art”) which will be a new art tradition by ignoring its main (avantgarde) aims in the shape of a radical break from tradition—though whether this was needed historically in the 1960s is a separate topic of discussion. This mainstream art, on the other hand, was an art tightly bound to the conditions of the capitalist art market, but was bound to it by its own rules, different from those of formal art. The more contradictory the art was, the more such art produced “non-art”, and the more it was accepted by the art scene. Thus, sensational art balloons were pumped up in our recent past, which even continues today. In addition to seeing this fact, we should also see that many artists who want to keep avantgarde’s potential opposition spirit alive in the mainstream still achieve their goal in this regard by managing to create an autonomous field of criticism arising from this spirit. Of course, we include many feminist artists in this second category. Besides, feminist art has become one of the most important movements to have created such a critical public, which we will elaborate upon in the following chapter. The point where feminist aesthetics differs is that it does not have a primary aim of playing with the limits of artistic capacity to mark its name in art history; as mentioned above, it does not try to make strategic “big breaks” in a tactical sense, nor does it aim to surprise or shock the audience by playing on their perceptions. Feminist art, which is, after all, a struggle for rights, has much to say. Other feminist theorists and critics, such as those mentioned above, also brought various criticisms, especially from the fields of art and literature, both to the historical avantgarde and to the avantgardists who followed their path. At the beginning of these criticisms, there are problems such as the masculine attitudes of artists and the art market that prioritises the male artist because there is an expectation that art and artists that set their ground in avantgarde political opposition should also consider social equality. However, it is obvious that this is not the main rule. For example, Hannah Höch, one of the important figures of the Dada movement, painted a portrait of the “ideal male painter” in her article, “The Painter”. Höch (1920) wrote:

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Once upon a time there was a painter. … It was around 1920—the painter was a modern painter—so his name was Heavenlykingdom. Unlike the real painters of earlier times, he was not asked to work only with brush anti palette. This was his wife’s fault: she thwarted the boundless flight of his genius. At least four times in four years, he was forced to wash dishes—the kitchen dishes. The other three times had not seemed absolutely necessary to Heavenlykingdom, Sr. But he wanted to keep the peace—because after all God had created the male to do just that…

We cannot know whether Höch drew this male artist type she fictionalised by considering an artist of Dada or some other avantgarde movement. However, as feminist art historians have made clear, male-dominant conditions have prevailed not only in classical art history, but also in all periods and even avantgarde movements, and Höch expresses this with irony as an artist of the movement. This chapter has focused on the definitions of feminist aesthetics, tried to reveal its difference from traditional aesthetics, and further explained why feminist aesthetics is necessary. We argued that feminist aesthetics does not mean “feminine aesthetics”. We cannot mention “an unusual variant of artistic production” specific to women and indeed we are not looking for a feminine set of qualities either. However, it is controversial as to whether there are one/several feminist—not feminine—art styles that fall within the scope of feminist aesthetics. Just as feminine aesthetics are not “unified” and “coherent” and do not need to constitute a “tradition” (Barwell, 1993: 94), there are claims that feminist aesthetics does not have a specific, defined style, discourse, or method. However, when looking at art on small geographic scales—worldwide, not in the mainstream—some common themes and similarities will become obvious, and artistic production will appear to have certain variants, perhaps unusual, perhaps not. In our view, the similarities in feminist art can be explained not only by the gender of women artists but by a fundamental kind of oppression and injustice, albeit at different levels. Being oppressed includes economic and political weakness, marginalisation, and being open to violence. All of these are common to the position of women, but this position also differs with class, race, and culture. This is why we need to study each artist and each of their productions individually by determining their specific conditions, as will be discussed in the next chapter.

4 Style, Aesthetics, and Methods in Feminist Art

A major departure from the idea that the essence of art is mimesis was made possible by formalism. The centrality of form has been an important feature of aesthetics since the early eighteenth century and has played a major role in the development of the very concept of the aesthetics, but “form” did not constitute the core of the philosophy of art until the rise of modernist art (Korsmeyer, 2004: 110). Another prominent theory evaluating art and separating it from mimesis is expressive theory, which is based on the artists’ feelings and the artwork’s power that arouses feelings in the audience. Does evaluating feminist art in terms of expressive theory and formalism—two main orientations that include definitions of art in modern aesthetics—allow an understanding of feminist aesthetics? The feminist aesthetics theory is broad enough to include all these aspects of feminist art, which is based on the importance of content, discourse, and concept as much as form, and even conveys the arguments of feminism. Feminist aesthetics examines the stylistic orientations of a certain period, culture, and conditions not only in terms of forms or feelings but also in content; therefore, the answer is expression theory and formalism are not sufficient in themselves to understand feminist aesthetics.

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 E. Dastarlı, F. M. Cin, Feminist Art in Resistance, Sociology of the Arts, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-17638-8_4



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In this chapter, we aim to expand the grounds of feminist aesthetics theory through artworks. Although feminist aesthetics is not a specific style but sort of an area of research on gender role stereotypes, we will problematise whether there are some style attempts through the examples we have chosen. Thus, we will detail the production of Turkish feminist art through feminist aesthetics theory and continue to discuss the theory itself through the  foremost examples.1 By doing this, we aim to reveal how critical thinking has risen at the social level in Turkey and to show the transformation of art within itself, for example, how and why the art viewer became a perceiver and then a participant and how they moved from a passive position to be a decisive factor. Here, we focus on the method of thinking about the aesthetics preferences of artists in their post-1970s feminist artworks. The reason why we chose this period is the great leap that occurred after this date in feminist art, which was produced using different mediums, and its conceptual background. For example, discussing feminist aesthetics in the context of the paintings of feminist painters such as Georgia O’Keeffe or Käthe Kollwitz, in our opinion, is challenging, as painting art has formal methods and is a male-dominated field of production in art history, and they should be evaluated categorically with the arguments of modern art; therefore, we are leaving this painting issue aside. When thinking about the forms of feminist aesthetics, we should discuss the misconception that feminist art is “less art”. “Feminist criticism does not look for artistic ‘quality’, it looks for feminist meanings, that is, it constructs feminist readings, and in doing so radically re-locates the sources of aesthetics pleasure” is an unforgivably tendentious approach (Partington, 1986: 3). Therefore, we examine whether feminist aesthetics proposes new aesthetics criteria with a revolutionary approach and point out feminist art is at least as much art as other art movements, other “-isms”.

Periodic Differences Feminist art does not have a categorically distinguishable artistic style because it is not a stylistic trend, and indeed feminist aesthetics should not be perceived according to such a misconception either (Bovenschen

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& Beth, 1977: 137). However, we still claim that we can analyse a large number of works of feminist artists from the 1970s to the present in line with specific styles and methods and can further make certain generalisations. It seems methodologically necessary to investigate this. On the other hand, making categorisations about feminist art will enable new areas of interpretation for feminist art philosophy, art history, or feminist aesthetics theory. To avoid a traditionalist position, by distancing ourselves from formalism we can set various categories with more than one criterion and offer different reading suggestions. The general character of feminist art made its breakthrough in Europe and the US and can be read through an art historical approach by taking into account the periodical differences. Therefore, it is possible to identify the following three feminist art approaches by firstly taking the chance of pursuing some prominent characteristics of feminist art − and excluding many contexts and recognising the generalisation mistake in advance − and with an approximate date, although historical periods may differ regionally. I. The  1970s: Before the 1970s, and indeed throughout the entire ­ istory of art, women  artists mostly hid their femininity rather than h emphasising it with the demand for equality-sameness, ultimately produced in accordance with the norms set by men, and began to emphasise their gender after this historical threshold. Thus, a periodical separatist feminist art strategy emerged. The artists made this separation by highlighting their biological bodies and, especially, by making the vagina a symbol. Artists also questioned the social position (being a mother, wife, free sexuality) of women. Also, feminist artists—along with feminist critics such as Nochlin—showed the direct links between social conditions and women’s art production and further revealed the “non” place of women in history. References to art history were also seen abundantly in the works produced. Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party (1974–1979) is a key example of feminist ideas that held sway in the 1970s. II. After 1980: The emphasis on equality, not the similarity-difference between men and women, came to the fore. During this period, when Poststructuralist and Postcolonialist theories played a central role in art,


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artists paid particular attention to addressing the identity phenomenon. Artists such as Cindy Sherman, Sherrie Levine, Nan Goldin, and Barbara Kruger tended towards cultural analyses with a deconstructivist approach rather than focusing on the biological characteristics of the body. Body diversity-based studies were conducted to discuss ethnic identity, rather than biological gender. This awareness and emphasis on gender already moved artists to a much broader area of gender-related questioning of feminist art. I II. After 2000: During this period, the demand for gender equality was increasingly defended, especially in Western societies, where the theory of sexual fluidity also became widespread in art, especially based on Judith Butler’s theses. During this period, artists such as Tee Corinne, Tanja Ostojić, Cassils, Valérie Belin, and Tamy Ben-Tor worked with the awareness that the difference or hierarchy—which we think exists— between art mediums compared to the past would also become insignificant. Artists were inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s Rose Sélavy, the dramatic works of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and names dealing with gender identities such as Eleanor Antin, Cindy Sherman. Although this art is categorically called “queer art”,  many artists are generally inspired by the feminist movement, and their approach is overlapped with the purposes of feminist art; we also feel that it is necessary to deal with definitions with a unifying approach rather than separating one, in line with their claim. We should emphasise that we are not particularly interested in naming feminism and feminist art as first and second generations. Because identifying specific generations in art, unlike the “feminist waves” categories, means falling into the linear-progression error by grouping artists by their date of birth, which has become typical of art history. In addition, these categorical definitions, which have become patterns of interpretation and giving meaning, may even go so far as a hostile emphasis on the intergenerational differences identified and reach the point of seeing one generation as more important or valuable than another. One reason why we do not prefer to make a generational distinction in feminist art is that it would be wrong to group artists of the same age and confine their work

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to a certain decade as the artists would fall victim to a kind of ageism, and this method would make it impossible to see the development-­ differentiation of the artists in their own art line. In Turkey, in brief, we can attempt to divide feminist art into periods as follows: I.  The  1970s:  This was a period in which artists produced art with social sensitivity without having a feminist consciousness; they made feminist art even though they did not define themselves as “feminist artists”. These artists brought different conceptual understandings to the agenda in art by using non-art materials and became the pioneers of contemporary art in Turkey. Some of these are Füsun Onur, Tomur Atagök, Canan Beykal, Nil Yalter, and İpek Duben. II. The  1980s:  While the coup d’état of September 12, 1980, suppressed the voice of the leftist-dissidents in Turkey, feminism formed the most important opposition. However, the perception of feminism in the form of a theory rather than an ideological approach caused artists to distance themselves from feminist activism and they chose to take an individual stand. The art scene has revived and diversified with the opening of new art galleries. Thus, artists such as İnci Eviner, Gülsün Karamustafa, Ayşe Erkmen, Handan Börüteçene are among those who led the breakthrough in the 1970s, and they became the role models of the feminist generation after them. III. The 1990s: In this period, when Turkey’s biggest sociological phenomenon, “modernisation” was widely discussed for the first time, the male-dominated modern art hegemony was broken by contemporary art, the materials and techniques of art diversified, and the sociological field it covered expanded; feminist artists contributed greatly to this transformation. With the influence of active politics, feminist consciousness began to spread, and artists also worked with this awareness; the issues of identity and gender were core to art discussions. Alternative, innovative art initiatives based on collective production, not capital, began to


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emerge; the number of women artists, curators, and gallerists increased, and their voices in the contemporary art scene became more apparent. IV. From the 2000s to the present: The power that contemporary art gained in the 1990s determined the 2000s. Turkish contemporary art gained a more international character. Almost all women artists in their 20s at this time were feminists, and male artists also embraced a pro-­ feminist identity—more than ever before—and made this naturally visible in their art. Although it was still a taboo for society, the efforts of LGBTI+ people led the challenge to the prohibitions against them, and queer artists were allowed greater self-expression. As Barry and Flitterman-Lewis (2003: 54) argued, “a radical feminist art would include an understanding of how women are constituted through social practices in culture; once this is understood it would be possible to create an aesthetics designed to subvert the production of “woman” as commodity.” So, what we need to do is to expose this construct. In the next sections, we focus on feminist artworks, which examine how women are constructed in culture, in terms of both the methods and materials used and the content of the art. We will analyse post-1990 Turkish feminist art and examine it by comparing its relationship with Western feminist art.

Two Main Aspects of Feminist Art Feminist art is a field of creative production that differs from feminist theory and can also be analysed in terms of material or medium. Of course, there are still many feminist artists who chose the traditional drawingpainting technique today as in the 1970s. Still, most artists have generally worked with methods that had not yet been dominated by men, such as performance art, body art, which is often intertwined with performance, installation in which non-art materials are included, craft with different knitting and weaving materials, video art and other digital mediums that develop over time. There are reasons specific to the period for the diversification of art mediums on such a scale. The growing anti-­militarist and libertarian movements of the second half of the 1960s laid the groundwork for protest art and its potential to completely change American and

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Western European culture. American-based consumption culture spread worldwide, and traditional institutions like family and social roles, militarism, racial discrimination, sexual taboos, and many other established orders were scrutinised. In the mental environment of the period, while the extreme theorising approaches of the formalist critics were disturbing artists, pluralist thought came to the fore. While the situation Lucy Lippard calls “dematerialization of the art object” was taking place, artists, inspired by the revolutionary attitude of the avantgarde movements at the turn of the century, discussed the institutionalism of art, mostly through art itself, but also through writing, talking—that is, by doing the work of art criticism. Artists, who objected to the various unjust events and situations in the world and the institutional and economic hegemony of art, used all kinds of techniques in art as a field of free expression, and the art mediums became more diverse than ever before. In the rising struggle for social equality of the 1970s, women discovered art forms that were not considered “art” by saying, “I don’t want to act within the existing art language”; more precisely, they turned those forms into art. While artists like Bea Nettles (Suzanna… Surprised, 1970), Martha Rosler (Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful (Baloons), 1967–1972) preferred photography, others such as Joan Jonas (Vertical Roll, 1972) and Natalia LL (Consumer Art, 1972–1975) used video art.2 Likewise, it is no coincidence that the earliest works of video art in Turkey were created by Nil Yalter as a woman artist (The Headless Woman or The Belly Dance, 1974). There were two mediums in particular that feminist artists chose: performance and craft. 1. Performing the Life: Performance Art The early experimentation of performance art was practiced by Italian Futurists or Dadaists and has original ties to ancient rituals and theatre, simply as a technique, method, or art form; performance art is almost a manifesto that has the power to determine the discourse and claim of art. Act and happening-oriented performance art—whose early examples were also called happening—emerged as a major challenge to the meta-centred art market by eliminating the object of art. Eliminating the commodity value of art does not only mean preventing the specifically produced works from being tradable; art has the


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potential to change the museum-gallery system determined in the context of the art-money relationship, understanding of auction and collecting, and even the relationship with the art viewer, where this change was already clearly evident since the 1960s. In an art world, where traditional aesthetics norms still exist, artists were torn between feminist demands such as exhibiting women’s activities, documenting their demonstrations, and the needs of artistic production. Performance art gave a strict answer to this need and expanded the field of art with an avantgarde attitude. Thus, a language in motion, action, and activism was brought together with political-­ aesthetics and creative language. As the discussion of the concept of critical publicity in the next chapter shows, feminist artists chose performance art to make art accessible in public areas and sideline conventional art spaces such as galleries or museums to reach a wider audience. With all these characteristics, performance art has served as a building block in the development of feminist aesthetics by disrupting the rules of traditional aesthetics. We can argue that performance art is the method in which content and form determine each other the most in art production. Performance art is intertwined with “body art”, as its main instrument is the body. However, there is a form of body art that is not produced through performance, and performance also has other forms that go beyond the body. Performance works emphasised the distinctiveness of the woman’s body and were performed individually by artists, and were further replaced by group performances and in different contexts, not just the body, after the 1970s. The viewer is also very important in performance art as a participant. While the artist demands action and posture from the viewer in some performances, the viewer also does not necessarily have to do anything to become a participant because s/he is more of an experiencer rather than a viewer and is “there and at that moment”. Artists, knowing this, involve the viewers more and aim to stimulate the senses by including music-sound, smell, taste in their performances from time to time. The purpose of this attitude of performance art is not only to destroy a priori the artist-viewer relationship of art but also to enable them to

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empathically connect with whatever the main issue, discourse, or message of the performance artwork is by aiming for them to experience it. 2. Fragile Materials but Infrangible Women The utilitarian arts  based on hand skills became a production left mostly to women in the modern era. The art-crafts difference sharpened, and a hierarchy of aesthetics was created in the form of a high-­ low artistic distinction. Most of the traditional creative works containing the woman’s experience were not considered works of art, and women were pushed out of newly defined “Art” (with capital letter). Since the 1970s, feminist artists have opposed this epistemic injustice by questioning both the male-dominated rules of art and the duality of life and art, and have again consciously embraced crafts in order to the “high art” category that denies women. In January 1975, Miriam Schapiro and Robert Zakanitch established Pattern and Decorative Artists, thus triggering the “pattern and decoration movement” as an important example of feminist art that pointed to an alternative art through criticism and concrete production. Women revived a production in which the male producers almost no longer existed, and this also meant expanding the space where women could make art and express themselves freely. Feminist art has also enriched the linguistic diversity of contemporary art with materials and techniques such as sewing-embroidery, needlework, knitting. Nonetheless, being able to work with crafts materials such as fabric and fibre also opened the route for production for women who spent a significant part of their time at home because they had to undertake all kinds of domestic responsibilities such as housekeeping, cooking-kitchen chores, and child-elder care. Miriam Schapiro used the term femmage in the 1970s to describe her work combining fabric, dye, and other materials with traditional techniques such as sewing, punching, tacking, cutting, and appliqué. In the 1970s, along with the works of many other artists like Faith Wilding and Harmony Hammond, the embroidery and sewing works produced by Tracey Emin that were exhibited in the form of gallery works in the later period attracted considerable attention. With this form of artistic expression, feminist art also deliberately blocked the pleasures offered by aesthetics distances, the basic cate-


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gory of high art. A patchwork fabric, a picture produced by knitting, can easily resemble a blanket in our grandmother’s house and revive the sweet memory of childhood. Feminist art did not only propose a method of art created with craft techniques and materials, it also attempted to bring art production to a point that everyone could reach in a utopian way. Thus, it developed a very strong artistic attitude to question normative aesthetics, the male-genius artist narrative, and the exclusive commodity value of the  artwork. However, we should emphasise that the feature that makes working with fabric-­ woven-­handcraft materials a feminist art is not only about being easily accessible and workable or its traditional emphasis on woman’s identity, and so on; feminist artists who choose this method have also produced, and indeed continue to produce, a wide variety of creative discourses in terms of content. The reason why fabrics and weavings attract the attention of artists today is not that these materials are seen as “female-specific” or that feminist art suggests this method; textiles works, for example, can be preferred by artists to encourage the viewer to touch the work in the art venue, where the material and method have the potential to change the viewer’s relationship with the artwork. These materials are historical and vital. The interests of Turkish artists who use weaving and textile, such as the feminist artist Gözde İlkin, also highlight that materials point to the existence of women in different ways, both in Turkey and in the traditions of other countries. Firstly, İlkin is inspired by the weavings she calls “fabrics of resistance”. One of these fabrics is arpillera, also called burlap in Spain. Women embroidered their stories, their pain, and their relatives who disappeared during the dictatorship and oppression of the government, that is to say, what they could not verbalise on these burlaps, and therefore such fabrics contain the memory of the period. Another is the wall protective fabrics called falvédők in Hungary, similar to what exists in different countries, a tradition that women have embroidered for generations and passed to other women generations in the family, and is also inspirational. Resistance fabrics show how the artists opened up a collective, collaborative space based on personal stories.

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Many Contexts and Strategies of Feminist Art In a world where the canon of modern art has been destroyed, a typical formative aesthetics style that belongs to the concept of “beauty” no longer exists and the avantgarde attitude of feminist art to move away from these typical norms is important. The possibility of normative aesthetics was not then adopted by feminist art and, indeed, has completely disappeared since the 1980s. Therefore, in feminist art criticism, the need for analysis of form and content specific to art productions has set a new agenda. Artworks are not considered documents in any period of art history; art does not have to document its own period, but among its features, there is nevertheless a quality of documentation. Accordingly, the context is as important as the form, or possibly more than the form, for feminist art. When we examine feminist art contextually, we can ask the following question in terms of feminist aesthetics: Can we identify some specific aesthetics approaches in feminist art, for example, such as violent aesthetics or irritating aesthetics, or that update the traditional aesthetics of form? Evaluating feminist art contextually requires its analysis from a sociological perspective, and to do this the most viable method we can suggest is to analyse each artist and artwork within their own unique social conditions by taking into account their own subjectivity. As Pollock (1988: 55) argues “to avoid the embrace of femininity stereotype which homogenises women’s work as determined by natural gender, we must stress the heterogeneity of women’s artwork, the specificity of individual producers and products.” Fortunately, such works are available, particularly through the artist catalogues/books that eventually accompany retrospective exhibitions organised by major art institutions for women artists. In the following sections, we analyse the selected artworks of women artists in Turkey produced since the 1990s. We have limited the starting point to the 1990s because feminist art in Turkey has had a more identifiable artistic approach since that period, and it can be argued that there are almost no women artists working without emphasising their woman identity anymore (Antmen, 2014b: 127).


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Women’s Bodies In the 1970s, many artists brought gender and biological issues into art by producing body art or performance art using their own bodies. Body art is an art form developed against the subject-object duality; body-self is intertwined, subjectivity is mediated between artist and audience, and body art emerges as an intersubjective process. Body art also includes the objection to defining women’s bodies as “nature” and thus to the role of giving birth-nurturing assigned to women as a “natural duty”. Feminist artists problematising the body have expressed their demands to end sexism and oppression by making productions that oppose the traditional idea that women need to be beautiful objects that give visual pleasure. These works force the viewer to question the social and political norms of society. The most iconic work among the many feminist artists who highlighted the “female body” with an emphasis on femininity was Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party (1979); but  through this work, Chicago’s claim for biological and universal interpretation and its separatism demand was repeatedly criticised.3 Also, Judy Chicago’s Red Flag (1971), Shigeko Kubota’s Vagina Painting (1965), Valie Export’s Actionpant: Genital Panic (1969), Hannah Wilke’s S.O.S. Starification Object Series (1974–1975), Carolee Schneemann’s Interior Scroll (1970) represent works that were produced with similar strategic intentions and revolting effects. Although these and many more works, accompanied by tampons, menstrual blood, and vagina images are criticised today, at the time they were produced, they were influential for the first time, women brought up the moral taboos imposed on women’s bodies through their own bodies and, even by bringing their methods to disturbing levels to the viewer, they almost biologically blessed the woman’s body. These artworks emphasise the temporariness of the physical body with an unsettling and even revolting effect, the transfiguration of terror into the sublime, and suggest a new aesthetics category. On the other hand, the appearance of the revolting effect of the 1970s has gradually decreased in the productions of artists. The body addressed in feminist art, especially through performance art, is much more than a tool emphasising femininity. As Lippard (1976:

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79) states “when women use their own bodies in their artwork, they are using their selves; a significant psychological factor converts these bodies or faces from object to subject.” Artists defined the body not only as a social but also as a political position and put the issue of gender on the agenda of art. When we look at the feminist art of Turkey, we rarely see aggressive performances produced by vagina-focused or revolting-effect strategies among the productions of the 1990s. In addition, while genres such as photography, video, and installation gained popularity, performance still remained a field with great reservations, especially displaying the naked woman’s body to give critical messages, and it was not a preferred form of expression (Antmen, 2014b: 133). Yet, women were the pioneers and practitioners of performance art in Turkey. The only work performed using a vagina and menstrual blood, just like in Europe, was the performance of an artist named Jujin in the fourth Youth Event exhibition in 1998; she performed naked in a closed cabin by pouring her menstrual blood onto the floor. This performance was extremely unusual even at a time when the artistic scene of Turkey was relatively free in a cultural context compared to today. The interesting point is that it is not known exactly who Jujin was, or whether she ever made art again (Antmen, 2015: 108). Yet, it seems quite reasonable that this feminist artist could only create such a performance with this confidentiality. Şükran Moral’s performances, such as Bordello (1997) and Hammam (Turkish Bath, 1997), critiqued in the next chapter, attracted attention as pioneering examples of feminist art in Turkey. Moral’s other work in this context is Storia dell’occhio (History of the Eye, 1996) (Fig. 4.1). In this performance, the artist lies on a gynaecological examination table with a monitor between her legs. In the video played on this monitor, the idealised representation of mostly naked women in art history is trampled under Moral’s feet. In Turkey, where the representation of the vagina is almost impossible with its conservative mentality, Moral actually covers and hides her vagina while presenting a show through the monitor. Nezaket Ekici’s Emotion in Motion (2000–2002)4 is an important example of performance art. In her work, the artist problematises themes such as the limits of the body, tensions arising from intercultural


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Fig. 4.1  Şükran Moral, Storia dell’occhio, 1996, performance/installation

conflicts, and themes such as being a woman through performance art. She transformed the art space into a living room with all the necessary items and kissed every part of the room, including the walls, clothes, and furniture, for three days, consuming more than 15 lipsticks. The work was a live performance where the viewer visited the room for three days and observed the process. Ekici opened the issues of private-public space, the limits of the body, the state of femininity, the state of being an artist as a woman, and even femininity for discussion. We see that feminist artists use the phallus, the male genital organ, as a discussion image as much as they use the vagina to question gender. Of course, Judith Bernstein’s Horizontal (1973), for example, is a prominent piece of art, and other artists like Sarah Lucas also created large and deformed phalluses. In Turkey, Hale Tenger is one of the artists visualising male sexuality; Mirror on the Wall/Who is the Fairest of Them All (1992)5 is one of her works probing masculine hegemony, and here the artist thought of car gearshifts as dangling penises in space (Antmen, 2015: 107). Tenger also used a figurine of the fertility god, Priapos

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(portrayed with a giant phallus), from ancient Anatolia in various forms. In her installation I Know People Like This II (1992),6 she designed a Turkish flag on the wall consisting of Priapos and three monkeys closing their eyes, ears, and mouths, and boldly pointed out the connection between nationalism and hegemonic masculinity. With body art, artists emphasise that identities are the main conflict-­ creating element of any cultural practice by problematising gender, biological sex, race, and class. In Turkey, body art integrates the content-form duality of art and emerges more frequently with methods other than performance. For example, Gülsün Karamustafa focused on gender identity and stereotypical social role distributions in Culture/A Gender Project From Istanbul (1996) based on newspaper clippings, and also in her video-installation, Unconsolidated Visions (1998).7 İpek Duben’s Şerife series—see Chap. 2—canvasses the theme of non-existent bodies in the stylised and repetitive body details produced with ceramics by Candeğer Furtun. Azade Köker’s Wedding Dress (2009) also shows a hollow deformed wedding dress made of raw cotton and its accessories. The woman artist group named for the work of Ursula Le Guin, Women, Dreams, Dragons (KRE), produced a form that was a dragon or a vulva or both, using the tarlatan women wore under their wedding dresses. Pieces of clothing that accentuate the absence of a woman’s body bring into question the theme of marriage as a social event that has the function of oppressing women today as it did throughout history in all parts of the world, but especially in traditional societies with religious rules, and the family as an institution that sees women as nonpersons. Necla Rüzgar works with many different mediums, including painting; she wanders around the figures and psychoanalytic themes that remind of desire, prohibitions, sanctity, eroticism, violence, and social culture codes. She shows her interest in the human body as well as different animals’ bodies by evoking the connotation that they are “meat”, matching animal and women’s bodies and thus targeting the gender hierarchy of the patriarchal system. For example, Other Forms of Perception II (2013) shows a pair of women’s shoes made of human skin, moreover injured skin, while she paints rock pieces in the form of cut meat in her work Jewelleries (2013).8 Almost all these artists’ works follow a strategy


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that makes viewers think of their own “safe” space and position and aims to destroy viewers’ prejudices by mirroring their own fears against them. Kezban Arca Batıbeki cut women’s images and matched them with surreal architectural elements. Her painting Tie Me Up… Tie Me Down (2007) shows the language of control and domination through the figure of a woman with tied hands-feet-mouth.9 We see a similar strategically shocking effect in Selma Gürbüz’s work Cybele, the “Great Mother” (2008). The artist represents Cybele, the ancient goddess of Anatolia, in a giant sphere formed by dozens of breast motifs with iron material or two hemispheres exhibited on the ground. In the work, thousands of years-old figurines in which the ancient goddess is represented by large hip-breasts or multiple breasts identified with fertility centre on the gender discussions in the contemporary world through the woman’s body. The presence and influence of feminist artists have increased rapidly in Turkey since the 2000s as they continued to work on the body theme with very different strategies and materials. For instance, the works of Özlem Şimşek approach the subject in a different context. In her series of Self Portrait As Modern Turkish Art (2014)10 the artist reanimates the “ideal female figures” depicted by men in the history of modern Turkish painting, thereby appropriating them for herself. She discusses the position and unequal conditions of the woman artist and deconstructs the narrative of the “female figure in painting” in addition to the representations and “male’s gaze” in the works produced in Turkish art history, as analysed in Chap. 2. The artist thus removes the woman in the painting, who is completely reduced to an object within patriarchal representation traditions, from being a mere appearance and transforms her into a real woman who experiences (Antmen, 2014b: 50).

Ritualised Violence Amelia Jones says that body art breaks down the normative values of modern art, and when an artist uses their body-self as a form and content of art, the artist also turns it into a non-universal, non-transcendent subject. Therefore, body art has serious potential for radical practices (Jones, 1998). So, one of the strategies chosen by artists who focused on the body through performance art was to advocate the expression of anger on the

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axis of body politics, and as in Jones’ emphasis on radicalism, artists made ritualised performances with the content of violence. Their main objection had the characteristic of rebellion against taboos expected from women for thousands of years and accepted as “natural”. These artists refer to the ideas of theorists such as Merleau-Ponty, Judith Butler, Luce Irigaray, and Iris Marion Young about the body. We can exemplify Gina Pane’s work Psyche (1974) in which she cuts her body off; Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece (1965) likewise asked the audience/participants to cut their clothes with scissors, and Marina Abramović, during Rhythm 0 (1974), bravely sat in front of the audience/participants and gave them the right to intervene with her body through tools such as sharp objects. The common aspect of these works with the possibility of causing bodily pain is to increase emotional identification depending on some set of rules, thereby promising an experience to its viewer. These performances have the feature of almost ancient rituals, and this is not simply because the performance embraced the method of creating a movement sequence in a respectful atmosphere; we can also count the resurrection of certain Pagan beliefs, including the cult of the mother goddess, as among the associated reasons due to the ecological interest that has arisen for reasons such as turning to nature since the 1960s and backsliding from monotheistic religions that place prohibitions on one’s relationship with both the person’s own and the other’s body. Indeed, the influence of the teachings of Joseph Beuys, one of the pioneers of performance art, has also been important. For example, Valie Export, who wanted to draw attention to the injustice suffered by women killed on the accusation of “witchery”, called her performances “the act of witchery” in which she exhibited her body in an almost open access form, and consciously embraced witchery. Export’s performances also question the objectification of woman’s sexuality and the body. Mary Beth Edelson aimed to revive the goddess cult through the Woman Rising (Earth Rites, Sea, Sky) series in 1973 and portrays the Great/Mother Goddess on her own body with a feminist understanding. There are few studies on the violence strategy in Turkey, but we can count performances that resemble Pagan rituals in content by fictionalising the performances with naturalistic interest. For example, Nil Yalter’s


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Shaman in 1979 was a ritualistic performance art during which she danced while wearing a mask to evoke an uncanny feeling in the audience.11 The common aspect of such feminist works is to remind, even update, the matriarchal traditions adopted before the monotheistic religions that placed women in the background because performance art is drawn to a point where the relations between art and rituals become ambiguous and, from time to time, it is set up as a religious ceremony with increasing doses. Artists like Yalter also point out body-mind unity by resurrecting the primitive and bringing the body into focus. This strategic approach is similar to that of artists who oppose the body policies of the government by physically harming their bodies; but here, it discusses the body fiction of the superstructure by combining it with other vital elements. We see this strategy in particular in the works of the artist Ana Mendieta, who works on the themes of violence, life, death, identity, place, and belonging (and who died suspiciously) and is well known for her Silueta Series (1973–1980). Mendieta has also inspired the younger generation of artists in Turkey. For example, Ayça Ceylan creates an intertemporal narrative through the theme of “thinking like dancing” and by referring to the concepts of animal symbolism, comparative mythology, the synchronisation of the body with nature, and multispecies through the great “egret” in her site-specific performance entitled The key that opens the gate of the invisible library (egret) (2021).12 While Ceylan does solo performances, Nazlı Gürlek, works with professional dancers-actors, and both artists ensure that their performances are live with video recordings. Gürlek’s The Sand Dance (2017),13 for example, is a cyclic performance presenting an interpretation of five ancient ritual paintings (Çatalhöyük, 7500 BC—5700 BC, Turkey) in dance. The performance uses the ritual power of these paintings based on complex abstract patterns created by a basic geometric form repeated several times and transforms pictorial patterns into movement patterns. It raises questions about forms of social organisation as well as acting as a tribute to collectivity and a way of seeing the world as a complex web of interconnected patterns and relationships. In both of these performances, a connection is established with the phenomena of nature-mother, the matriarchal period, and the Great Goddess through the bodies of the women performing the performances.

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Political and Social Identities We see that works based on the distinctness of the body have often been produced by African-American or Indian-American artists with a postcolonial interest since the 1980s. This awareness and emphasis on gender have already moved artists to a much broader field of the questioning of feminist art. For example, Self-Portrait Exaggerating My Negroid Features (1981) by the American artist Adrian Piper responds to the ugly mentality of racism and sexism with its self-irony. In Turkey, on the other hand, we have seen feminist works emphasising ethnic identity since the 1990s. The 1990s was when contemporary art in Turkey became stronger and more diverse than ever, and this empowerment was accompanied by feminist art. The formal change in art started in the 1980s with materials and mediums such as installation, video, and performance, but in the 1990s, we see an enhanced and enriched conceptual and theoretical background of this formal change. Kurdish artists in Turkey began to take part in the Istanbul contemporary art scene during these years  with especially in their works based on their own ethnic identity. The international communication network established through the Istanbul Biennial, the closer connections of artists with Europe and the US, and the development of private gallery-collecting concepts have undoubtedly played an important role in enabling this political turn in art. Thus, works of feminist art that take Turkey’s current politics into consideration and address injustices did not only focus on gender but also on the axes of other identities intersecting different social segments, embracing “intersectional feminism”. Feminist art in Turkey has increasingly adopted an “inter-identity” approach, and many feminist artists have developed not only their gender identities but also begun to explore their identity traits based on their race, sexual orientation, religious belief. The artist Neriman Polat focuses on the relationship of art with social reality and looks at social and political issues from gentrification to femicide through the lens of feminism and underlines the importance of women artists’ take on not only the body but also on every subject.14 Polat’s work Plastic Glove (2013) (Fig.  4.2) is a photograph of a pink


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Fig. 4.2  Neriman Polat, Plastic Glove, 2013, photography

plastic dishwashing glove standing on the ground by the roadside. The glove, quite worn out, perhaps even has holes and may even be household waste, is covered by the fallen leaves of trees. This work is open to many associations and meanings and grounded on the artist’s sensitivities toward social injustice, human rights, and inequality. Considering that it is used by women for cleaning also draws attention to the burden of invisible domestic labour and the political fragility of women in Turkey, the victory sign, however, should be read as a symbol that women are still resisting and therefore call for feminist resistance; the image is depicted on the cover of this book. Neriman Polat’s other artwork, Women with Blonde Hair (2001), shows secretly taken photographs of blonde women, and I am Blonde I am Happy (2001),15 depicts a woman wearing a yellow wig and looking at mannequin heads wearing black wigs. These artworks question the cultural structures internalised by women, the “images” they wear, and the boundaries between appearance and existence (Antmen, 2014b: 134);  they also refer to the perception of seeing blonde as a beauty

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criterion  and critique the social norms and constructions of beauty. Beyond that, Polat points to one of the most important problems that Turkey is experiencing, namely ideological and cultural polarisation. This polarisation dates back to Ottoman modernisation and has been formed in the axis of two competing political segments, secular versus conservative ideology, since the early periods of the Republic. The conservative party has been ruling the country for the last 20 years, making this polarisation even more acute. Just as women were seen as mannequins in the showcase for the modernisation project in the early Republican periods when the country stood on a secular and modernising line, the veiling of women was enforced and is being made a political material in contemporary Turkey under conservative governance; in other words, political fictions are being produced over women’s bodies again. The artist deals with the reality—and to some extent, the prejudices—that women dying their hair blonde are from the secular-modernist section, while those covering it are from the conservative section, and the tension of the relationship between these two sections is well depicted in the Without Hat work discussed in the following chapter. Other feminist artists have also worked on the theme of women’s veiling-­covering up; for example, in Nilbar Güreş’s video work Undressing (2006),16 a woman wearing headscarves on top of each other takes them off one by one when an outside voice says various Turkish women’s names. Güreş wants to draw attention to the discrimination and Islamophobia suffered by Muslim women living in Austria in public sphere. The video work Metamorphosis Chat (2009) by Ferhat Özgür, a pro-feminist artist, also focuses on the conversation of two old women from two different segments of a polarised society, one “modern” and the other “conservative” with a headscarf.17 As the conversation between them progresses, the women decide to swap roles and start swapping their clothes. At the beginning of the video, the women, whom we easily come to judge about their characters because of their clothes, eventually switch roles and change their identities. Religious symbols, associations, and value judgments change with the clothes, making us think about the extent to which our prejudices are absurd. Gözde İlkin paints and stitches working with themes such as borders, identity, belonging, and family on fabric, and tackles the people’s bonds


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of belonging, especially gender identity, through her work ID Card (2011) (Fig. 4.3). The identity cards used in Turkey after 1976 were pink for women and blue for men; this gender apartheid implementation was abolished in 2017. In this work, İlkin criticised the sexist approach of reducing the biological sexes to male-female duality and visualising them with the colours pink or blue, revealing the masculine power that set these rules. The artist painted the identity cards in both colours and depicted the photograph as two genders, two divided selves. The

Fig. 4.3  Gözde İlkin, ID Card, 2011, handmade embroidery on fabric

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“religion” and “marital status” sections on the identity card also divide people into sociological groups and brand them accordingly. The artist left all these “information sections” blank in her work but particularly emphasised the government agency seal under the photograph. Yasemin Özcan Kaya’s threehundredone (2009) focuses on Article 301 of the Penal Code of Turkey. This  penal code stands for the crime of “insulting the Turkish nation, the State of the Republic of Turkey, the institutions and organs of the state.” The artist’s critique points out the absence of freedom of thought and expression by which intellectuals such as the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk were judged, especially in the 2000s. The work is an installation accompanied by a gold necklace consisting of the number “301” and a two-channel video consisting of images of it being processed in the Grand Bazaar, the historical bazaar of Istanbul. The artist produced her work specifically for the Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, sentenced because of this code, and was subsequently murdered as part of a conspiracy in 2007. Until recently, the social structure of Turkey consisted of Armenians and Greeks as well as Muslims, but while these nations were forced to migrate in the process of becoming nation states, conservatism and hostility were fostered in the Turkish-Muslim segment through political manipulation, especially against Armenians, Greeks, and Kurds. When Dink’s murderer was caught and brought before the courts, the artist was deeply impressed by the fact that the killer received the support of an ethnic-nationalist section; a woman even wore a necklace bearing his name. On the other hand, the fact that Özcan Kaya presents a gold necklace in her work and shows the production of the necklace in the historical Grandbazaar reminds us that these products were traditionally produced by Armenian gold craftsmen for hundreds of years. This work of the artist builds a memory with a feminine object that points to the traditional craft. The Social Fabric (2019–2021) series by artist Nevin Aladağ, born in Turkey and living in Germany, consists of carpet pieces framed on wood and is associated with cultural, not ideological, codes. The collage of the pieces is in line with Bauhaus/de Stijl’s rational and strict forms. By combining the rich motifs and colours of different cultures, the artist exhibits them as though they are framed on a wall and creates a screen with them.


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She deals with the subject of borders and challenges them not only in terms of content but also in form. She handles the various connotations of the social fabric; some of them are the demographic, historical, and cultural segments that constitute the structure of a society. “This form of social fabric manifests itself simultaneously in Aladağ’s objects in the very concrete fabric, the individual fibers from which the narratives are spun in every single carpet.”18 The Kurdish artist Fatoş İrwen produced some of her work while she was in Diyarbakır Prison where she stayed for three years as a political criminal, suffering a great injustice. Her works show another striking dimension of the artist’s relationship with the material; yet, in her case, the material is not the artist’s choice as she was pushed to use whatever was available in her prison setting. İrwen was able to creatively use everyday materials such as a spoon, a strand of hair, paper, and dried flowers, during her three-year prison term as a political prisoner, and thus she brought a different perspective to the use of the “found object” in art history. The artist’s works critique the years-long military climate in southeast Turkey and inspire hope despite the rather pessimistic state of the prison. For example, Humanity (2017),19 is an embroidery painting intertwining plant-animal and human motifs embroidered with stitches on a sheet that relate to its original flower prints. In another work, the artist made a point lace on the edge of a scarf with a rope formed by combining strands of her hair, where this scarf is the yemeni (kerchief ) made of white and muslin material, a traditional headscarf most commonly used by women in Anatolia. İrwen continues to address gender politics while looking at the geography of her origins as a Kurdish woman artist.

Sexuality and Abjection The strategy of feminist art to disturb the viewer, to disgust them, to make them feel uncanny, and while doing this, to question the fact that art is an elite-sterile institution is based on the term “abjection” put forward by Julia Kristeva in her works in the 1980s. Kristeva discusses, for example, body fluids and the reactions they evoke in Western society. She

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says “it is thus not lack of cleanliness or health that causes abjection but what disturbs identity, system, order. What does not respect borders, positions, rules. The in-between, the ambiguous, the composite…” and asks, “the border has become an object. How can I be with border?” (Kristeva, 1982: 4) Tracey Emin’s iconic work My Bed (1998) is one of the best examples that reflects the state of being on Kristeva’s border. Her unmade bed reflects the sexuality experienced by the artist, alcohol consumed, unhygienic rubbish, and the body wastes-residues produced in four days in her own life. The Turkish artist Canan strategically used abjection in her video work Fountain (2000). The video depicts a woman’s breasts on a black background, only dangling downwards and dripping milk. The woman’s breast is objectified when it comes to sexuality but is sanctified when it comes to motherhood, and breastfeeding is still seen as an act that should not be done publicly in many countries, and, undoubtedly, a male-­ oriented “disgust” feeling is also a factor in this. Using a gender perspective and challenging the grand narrative of Western contemporary art, Canan references Marcel Duchamp’s famous work and Bruce Nauman’s Self-Portrait as a Fountain. Another of her works, Labor Pain (2000),20 stands out as a bold piece disrupting nudity as a material taboo. In this video, she is pregnant, crouching naked in a completely white place and screaming. The fact that the artist is “pregnant and naked” is more striking than being “naked”, and we can argue that her screams are not just about the pain of childbirth, but they are the screams against the social pressures that a woman faces both during pregnancy and motherhood. Working with the theme of sexuality and even pornography is one of the artistic strategies that feminist artists prefer to use to attack taboos. Although there are many examples in the world, we rarely see this theme in Turkey. One of the most striking works is the performance by Şükran Moral, Amemus (2010). In a solo exhibition in Istanbul, the artist performed 15–20 minutes of lesbian sex. The audience only knew that there would be a performance by the artist at the opening of the exhibition and were thus unaware of the content, subsequently finding themselves watching this sex. The artist “forces” the performance viewers, who had no idea what they would see, to confront their taboos, prohibitions, beliefs in a geography where lesbian sexual relations are never accepted.


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In the words of an art professional who watched the performance, “I was torn between leaving the gallery and not leaving”, and his confession that if he left the gallery, he would see himself as a prohibitionist-moralist, and if he did not, he would feel embarrassed as an audience to this very special intercourse since the frequently consumed relationship in the pornography industry is that of lesbian sexuality. Moral urges the audience of the performance to question their own ethical concerns and attacks the patterns of social morality, showing an example of epistemic resistance. This is already one of the main arguments made by artists who work in the form of pornography or censorship of sexuality.

Domestic and Family Life Feminist artists focus on gender both through a home, that is, space, by focusing on domestic life and in line with the cleaning-care responsibilities imposed by gender roles. In addition, many productions discussing the concept of a family were created and indeed are still produced with a focus on the traditional rules, prohibitions, psychological burdens, and traumas that limit women. A home has meanings for women far beyond being a living space because, historically, housework and caring responsibilities were determined as women’s duties and were the elements that created social inequality. Behind this judgment, there are the stereotypes such as the prejudice that women are weak and men are strong and women have the responsibilities of giving birth and taking care of children due to their fertility features, and therefore they should be attached to the house. Therefore, while the feminist theory was struggling with all these intertwined stereotypes, feminist art questioned this problem. We can list Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro’s Womanhouse projects, Faith Wilding’s Waiting (1971),  Sandra Orgel’s Ironing from Womanhouse (1972), Martha Rosler’s Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975) and Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ Four Actions of Maintenance (1973) as a few early examples of this type of artwork.

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The common point of many works that problematise domestic life is to oppose all norms that confine women to the  home and household chores, for example, cookbooks or TV programmes written for women, household goods-electrical appliances, advertisements, and visual and print media produced in an openly sexist language for decades. Artists produce these works using household items—sometimes ironically—or exaggerate certain works and situations. Durable Consumer Goods (1983–1985) by the male artist Erdağ Aksel is one of the earliest such works. These paintings consist of a series of canvases showcasing consumer goods such as televisions, mixers, and irons in a style reminiscent of Pop Art and are displayed in an attractive manner, as per an advertising image, whilst they are actually site-specific installations. The artist also added warranty documents and user manuals to these images to draw attention to the fact that the canvases are durable consumer goods in an art world where paintings are bought and sold, but he  also places an emphasis on domestic life. Another artist, Nazan Azeri’s Meobjects (2008) is a series of photographs reflecting the face of a woman on objects such as knives, ovens, irons, pot lids, to make the woman’s invisible and unpaid labour at home visible. The exhibition by the KRE artist collective (2015) designs a woman artist’s house room by room, from the kitchen to the toilet, from the bedroom to the living room, with the objects and works they produce, and which problematises the concepts of home and domestic labour.21 Iris Marion Young brings a different perspective to the complex relationship women have with home; according to her, there are two levels in the process of realising the identity of the home. The level that emphasises the physical presence of things is the level that reminds one of bodily habits and routines, while the second level is about memory, with the items being the guardians of personal narratives (Young, 2005: 139). Young argues that the connection of the home with identity and subjectivity is a vague, complex ideal and believes that despite the dangers of romanticising the home, there are also dangers associated with turning our backs on home because this is where one rebuilds oneself again and again. Going against the arguments of some critics who deny home and home life, Young advocates preserving memory specific to home in order to find one’s own identity. The items that the KRE Collective produced


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Fig. 4.4  KRE Collective, Artist’s House (The Dragon of Us All), 2015, installation

in the woman artist’s house recall the memory-collecting function that Young attributed to things and home. On a scale ranging from the gynaecological examination table to the father’s chair at home, the artists also explore the coding of things with sexist ideologies (Fig. 4.4). The intention of many feminist artists to address social stereotypes in their work is combined with a strategy of artists’ remembering, questioning, and reckoning of their own family and the family institution. In some works, artists visualise this questioning by focusing on the body  again. For example, one of Turkey’s leading artists, İnci Eviner’s work, Skinless (1996) “consists of clothing loosely covering the body that recalls distinct individuals, tables made of copper, and plates in the form of bodies, reminding one of a living room. These objects simultaneously symbolize an organization, a family, or authority, and limitations imposed on individuals. The artist visualizes this vernacular approach through a depiction of earth, mountain, and moorland.”22 She bravely expresses the

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lingering inequality between men and women in Turkey and the art scene, squaring accounts with her own family and her past in this work. Skinless is accompanied by the artist’s text that begins with the words, “I have no skin, my skin has abandoned me. I am now vulnerable, defenceless and fragile…”23 Eviner’s video works place human, mostly women’s, bodies in small sizes on a large background in a way that evokes striking imagery of insects or creatures, in repetitive and weird movements. For example Fluxes of Girls on Europe (2010) displays women motifs looping strange movements on a map of Europe.24 The artist explores how space shapes our lives through its memory and structure. She deals with space as an extension of the body and tries to discover how power works on bodies and how it changes them to look for new opportunities for resistance. Those artists frequently use documents such as old photos and letters, to re-establish their relations with their foremothers—whether they are still alive or not. For example, in her work In Pursuit of My Mother (2020) (Fig. 4.5), artist Eda Çekil filled the space by exquisitely creating cut-out images of her mother using photographs after her death with

Fig. 4.5  Eda Çekil, In Pursuit of My Mother, 2020, photo-collage, digital inkjet print, wooden frame


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Fig. 4.6  Eda Çekil, Inside, 2018–2020, 100 glass bottle (each 6×3cm), black & white photographs

the notes she kept for the feminist conferences she gave in the 1970s. The artist’s work Inside (2018–2020) (Fig.  4.6) is a wall installation exhibiting portraits of women delicately cut from both her own family and other family photos and meticulously placed in bottle bottoms. These portraits, taken as part of family photos that can only be seen when the audience takes a look into the bottles, create a feeling of “peeking” at other lives, thus, the viewer suddenly finds himself/herself in the

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position of “male gaze’s owner”. Çekil’s works, in general, range from the tension created by the relationship with the mother and all kinds of distances to the critique of sexist images, and with a discourse that draws its strength from the image. Gülçin Aksoy’s 2017 installation A aims to reveal traditional codes by focusing on the words “abi”, used for elder brother, and “abla”, used for elder sister in the Turkish family structure. Although the patriarchal and traditional family structure is gradually weakening, the Turkish family still carries a conventional sense of a strong institution compared to the West (Figs. 4.7 and 4.8). The hierarchical order of this institution, on the other hand, has a structure that favours both the man and the elder. The artist questions this through the women in Turkey. At the same time, by increasing the number of A’s in the words, that is, by imagining them in the form of “aabi” and “aabla”, she deepens her questioning by emphasising the A image through different materials, including woven and fabric. When Aksoy exhibited this work in a gallery space, she also included her own workshop in a different neighbourhood and drew a route between

Fig. 4.7  Gülçin Aksoy, A Series, 2017, installation mixed media


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Fig. 4.8  Gülçin Aksoy, Abla/AAbi, 2017, tapestry

the two spaces. The work, entitled “The Family Cemetery I Love” in her workshop is a life-death space that she created with trees and carried metaphorically to the walls; the old armchair, the only object in the space, is an item on which the word Family was engraved. The artist’s understanding of production is very much aligned with the choice of woven materials, embracing the sense of touch. Gözde İlkin’ pays tribute to the institution of the family with all its binding relationships in her artwork Family: The environment where everything is known to everybody but not talked about (2011) (Fig. 4.9). As the title of the work clearly indicates, İlkin imagines the family formed by marriage and blood ties on what is said and unsaid, demonstrating both a global and but also a traditional Turkish family structure embedded in tensions and conflicts. The heads of the mother-father figures formed by the weaving method on the floral bed sheet fabric are covered with fluffy material used like thought bubbles in cartoons; this form extends towards the children, transforming into a tree trunk on which three children climb.

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Fig. 4.9  Gözde İlkin, Family: The environment where everything is known to everybody but not talked about, 2011, painting, patchwork and stitching on duve

Artist Aydan Mürtezaoğlu’s work Family Room Upstairs (1998) looks at the family institution from another perspective, treating it as a cultural phenomenon. The work focuses on an interesting practice in restaurants-­ cafes in Turkey where single men or groups of more than one man eat in the restaurant, usually near the entrance, and families with women and children eat in the upstairs spaces reserved for them. In the work, we look at families sitting on plastic tables-chairs floating in the sky from below.25 The artist expresses how men who are not accompanied by women and are usually single are kept away from the socially exalted “family”; thus the social structures embedded within masculinity are left to ferment within themselves.


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Becoming a mother-parenting, especially for women artists, is still more anxiety-inducing than pleasing, because it is seen as a career challenge. As in almost every business sector, there is an unfair system that tries to exclude the woman who wants to be a mother in the professional art world. This poses a serious problem in precarious work such as art, and it can only be struggled with on certain individual and collective initiatives. Feminist art has been discussing the choice of becoming a mother for a long time, along with its physical, material, and all accompanying sociological burdens. For example, Gül Ilgaz’s artwork, Born/ Bearing into Death (2001),26 is a photograph in which we see the artist lying on the floor, with her legs open, in a room of a house. There is a portrait of a baby standing directly in front of her legs. The most remarkable aspect of the work is that the photograph was taken from the artist’s point of view. Ilgaz uses a perspective reminiscent of the works of the American feminist artist Joan Semmel, especially in Me Without Mirror (1974). In this way, the viewers are drawn into that space with perspective fiction and put themselves in the artist’s place. The work makes one think about childbirth and the mother-child relationship on many different levels, emphasising that every birth is finite by death. In the photo, rather than the physical representation of giving birth, the separation of the mother from her child after the moment of birth and the disappearance of their oneness are depicted. The main theme of Leyla Emadi’s installation Women in Wonderland (2011) is “being a woman”. The artist points out what “femininity” represents and the challenges it brings through creating a house construction knitted with colourful wool. While this structure looks colourful and soft from the outside, it evokes a prison effect for the person who enters. Whilst one side of the work represents softness, warmth, strength, colour, productivity, devotion, and abundance, the other side indicates oppression, pain, exploitation, harassment, and violence. The artist usually combines soft materials such as rope, which can take any form, with writing forms, usually using grey concrete or metallic for writing, and red colour for threads; hence, her work Like a Girl Like a Woman (Kız Gibi Karı Gibi, 2015) consists of writing with red threads.27 This expression refers to sexist, judgmental, masculine word patterns such as “doing something like a girl (kız gibi iş yapmak)” and “looking like a girl/woman (karı gibi görünmek)”, which have become idioms in Turkish.

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Male Violence The family is a safe haven for many people, but it is also the space where violence is widely produced all over the world. Family violence can occur at any age and educational level, and in any society and socioeconomic group, and the first victims of this violence are women, followed by children. In Turkey, the first issue on which feminist activism raised its voice in an organised manner in the 1980s was domestic violence because these problems are very common. For example, in a domestic violence study conducted with two thousand people in 2020, 76% of the women who participated in the survey indicated domestic violence to be the biggest problem experienced in society, with 42% of the participants stating that they or someone around them had been exposed to violence.28 Along with violence, femicides have also been on the rise in Turkey. Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention29 in 2021 has been a factor in increased male violence and femicides. According to the report by the We Will Stop Femicide Platform, 280 women were murdered, and 217 women died suspiciously in 2021.30 Feminist artists’ productions have long centred on femicides to raise the voices of women in this regard, as will be discussed in the next chapter. The most notable artwork is The Monument Counter (2013-)31 by Zeren Göktan, an online monument to commemorate women who lost their lives due to domestic violence. It is also a counter that is updated every day. The artist created her project with the support of the We Will Stop Femicide Platform to protest that women’s deaths are featured in the press as ordinary judicial cases in Turkey. The work refuses the system that keeps women as statistics and records their names and stories one by one and thus reducing the significance of the total number of deaths; it encourages visitors to read these stories so that everyone can face this social mourning. On the home page of the website, the names of the murdered women are visualised as individual bricks of a wall; this preference leads to the envisaging of the image of the wall as a strict, divisive, boundary-defining, negative image that has to be destroyed. Although Göktan’s The Monument Counter is a project that can always be viewed online, it was also shown as a screen in artist İpek Duben’s retrospective exhibition entitled The Skin, Body and I, held at Salt in


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Istanbul between December 2021 and May 2022. This work initiated a dialogue with Duben’s LoveBook (1998–2000) and LoveGame (1998–2000)32 in the exhibition. LoveBook consists of 34 hand-printed steel plaques documenting 120 domestic violence crimes and news of this violence from the US and Turkish presses. While plates with news are located on the wall, on each of them there is an illuminated light bulb that figuratively emphasises violent events; they also refer to the act of confession in the interrogation room. Hence, the plaques exhibited in the space, which almost resemble to a cold interrogation room, are actually thought of as the pages of a book. The other of the two complementary works LoveGame is an abandoned casino-like venue installation with glittering disco balls, love songs in the background, and mini-roulettes in vibrant colours. The eyes of the perpetrators—men—from the news of violence appear on the roulette table, whilst the faces of the victims appear on the roulette wheel. The wheel turns to stop at the face of one of the victims, and bets are placed on the faces of the killers. LoveGame is a dangerous game, and the viewers, as participants, are also part of society and are forced to question the extent to which they are a part of the game metaphorically while being the ones who play it in its real form. In Zeyno Pekünlü’s video When a Man Loves a Woman,33 love and violence intertwine in the relationship of the couple. The sentences in the dialogue between the couple utter the untouched texts of news on violence against women gathered from national newspapers between 2009 and 2010. The violent incidents we hear while watching the couple’s happiness lead us to think about the two emotions together; the most common excuse used by men who kill women in Turkey is “I loved, I was jealous, that’s why I beat her/killed her.” Pink Dreams, See No Evil Hear No Evil Speak No Evil, and Fables for Adults by Canan were installed in 2003 and consist of photographs of Barbie dolls in a dollhouse with different setups showing incest, domestic violence, and exploitation. In producing these works, the artist was influenced by the stories of the victims she listened to and the cases she heard around her. These colourful children’s toys, which have no genital organs,

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experience uncensored sexuality and very strikingly visualise stories of child abuse that are disguised for different moral reasons or social pressure. Thus, the artist makes the viewer of the work uneasy and makes them think by intertwining exactly the innocent-dirty, unconcealed-­ hidden, and tempting-repellent. Canan produced these works at an art residency program she went to in a small city in Germany. She painted the windows of a gallery, which is covered with glass on all sides, visible from the outside, with a pink colour and tiny peepholes drilled in them. But, while the See No Evil Hear No Evil Speak No Evil (Fig. 4.10) work was exhibited, the artist was subjected to social pressure, was reported to the police, and the barbies without genitals were censored for being pornographic. Moreover, the other two works in the same exhibition, Pink Dreams (Fig. 4.11) and Fables for Adults show domestic violence and did not attract much attention and did not receive many reactions.34 On the other hand, this case of censorship indicates exactly what the works want to convey, how political private life is, how the state, politics, religion, that is, power, manipulate society and dominate private life.

Fig. 4.10  Canan, See No Evil Hear No Evil Speak No Evil, 2003, photograph


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Fig. 4.11  Canan, Pink Dreams, 2003, photography

Discussions on Feminist Art Strategies At the beginning of this chapter, we asked if evaluating feminist art solely in terms of expressive theory and formalism would allow us to understand feminist aesthetics. In response, we emphasised that this is unlikely because feminist aesthetics examines the stylistic orientations that emerged according to period, culture, and conditions, though feminist aesthetics also considers art in terms of content. We have pointed out the issues that many artists have addressed in their works because the content of feminist art does not just mean subject-theme, whilst feminist art has a problem-oriented discourse. Feminist art has moved the concept of “I” outside traditional representation structures. Feminist artists aimed to reverse patriarchal power setups, in which they transformed women’s bodies from being represented as artistic objects into the subject itself, deconstructing the male-­ dominated view. While men’s sexuality and genitals are never taboo but women’s sexuality is seen as worthless; even a regular physiological event

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such as menstruation is found “disgusting” and condemned, therefore feminist artists used menstrual blood and tampons as a symbol. Angela Partington draws attention to the “heroinization” and “celebratory” strategies put forward in many articles regarding the eccentricity of the woman’s body and the studies on “women’s experience.” She expresses her criticism regarding the creation of a “vaginal iconography” (1986: 5 ff.) and states that the theorists who make these determinations accuse women of being “essentialists”. Likewise, Judith Barry and Sandy Flitterman-Lewis point out four specific strategies in feminist art by asking the question of “Action, by whom, and for what purpose?” They argue that “women’s art can be seen as the glorification of an essential female” and consider it an essentialist approach because it is based on the belief that there is an essence of femininity somewhere in a woman’s body (54). No doubt, to make what was produced since then in the history of feminist art possible, these artists’ use of their bodies such provocatively offends even both men and women, seems today to be indispensable. Indeed, focusing on the woman’s body moves from the physical to dealing with an uncanny and mysterious category of “feminine”. In our opinion, whether they are essentialists or otherwise is open to debate because strategies such as celebrating the fact of being a woman, showing the woman’s body by the woman herself, perhaps even exhibiting it, putting a woman in the place of a hero or goddess were made not only formal but also with the aim of emphasising the power of women in the face of their victimisations in many ways; in our opinion, the essentialist approach in feminist art does not think of form and content together, but rather it prioritises the form! As mentioned, form and content are so embedded in feminist art that we cannot make essentialist criticism easily. We can conclude that they do not create a “feminine” but a “feminist aesthetics” criterion for such works. As can be seen, the feminist artworks of the 1970s which aimed at femininity are productions that focus on women’s bodies—that is, those who are not in a male body—naturally have a commonality in which feminist aesthetics can suggest certain stylistic criteria.


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Barry and Flitterman-Lewis note that the type of art that prioritises the body can be seen in reversing the traditional Western hierarchy of mind over matter, and to criticise this art, they define it as “an aesthetics of simple inversion” (54). Although their criticism is debatable, the “aesthetics of inversion” they have identified is an important aesthetics category that feminist art has reached by reversing traditional patterns and norms. The writers also criticise the attitude in the art that chooses the craft technique (56) because, according to them, this method emerged as a resistance to the understanding that sees women’s production as “a form of sub-cultural resistance” is an essentialist position insofar as it views women as having an inherent creativity that simply goes unrecognised by mainstream culture. However, many artists also state that they use materials and methods carefully by avoiding gendering; no material or method or style is “feminine”, but as we emphasised, performance or craft has been recruited by feminist art for such valid reasons that defining the many works created with these mediums as “feminist art styles” does not look wrong enough to detect that there is essentialism in it. Some feminist art strategies that we mentioned focused on aesthetics norms. This was a choice of struggle; for example, artists deliberately and willingly went against the “criterion of beauty” and tried to create its antithesis. However, neither this choice nor the fact that feminist art is always based on a problem can mean that feminist art is actually “less art” or “not art, but a slogan”. The criticism that feminist art is “less art” stems from the fact that it has problem-oriented discourse and is not concerned with normative art criteria based on form and expression. In our opinion, it is evident that expression has two different preferences in the art examples we focus on in this section: I. Expression with harsh and direct images: Artists who prefer this language openly accept the relationship between politics and art and openly critique political realities, making it clear that they are a party to the issue they are dealing with. II. Deep and layered expression: Artists focus on the issue indirectly through images and metaphors. The visuality concerns of these artists seem more visible. Although they are driven by political problems like the artists in the first group, they prefer a more allusive expression.

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Neither of these two types of expression is superior to the other; what matters is the free choice of the artists and, especially, the former can be evaluated as “politics, not art” or can even be considered under the terrain of art and activism, that is, actually “artivism”, as we will explain in the next section. Feminism creates a potential force for social change, whilst art creates new perceptions and conscious-raising practices; that is, feminist art is not just the result of a claim of right, it can create new demands on behalf of the women’s movement by expressing them through powerful methods of visual creation. It is inspirational, and the diversity of the production channels of feminist art, and literature, which is the cultural equivalent of feminism, has as much of a liberating potential as the feminist movements in the political field. Thus, activist aesthetics, which disturbs receptive people, evokes them, and reveals potential for transformation in them, has become one of the expression strategies of feminist art. In her article on women artists in the US in the 1970s–1980s, artist and writer Jacqueline Skiles highlights there are two groups, such as women artists, who want to join the existing world and those who choose to be included in that world by restructuring and changing it, and there is a tension between them.35 In our opinion, this is the distinction between “women’s art” and “feminist art”. Feminist art has placed women in a critical position in the patriarchal system where they can benefit from its contradictions; women have neither adapted to the existing art system nor rejected it completely, and they have opened a separate and unique creative space for themselves. We argue that what feminist art does with its form, strategies, content, context, and all preferences is to join art and change it ontologically and epistemologically; all the artists in this section should be considered actors of this claim.

Notes 1. The examples we gave are based only on our subjective preferences, but we tried to provide a selection to create a view of Turkish feminist art both in terms of material and method and content. We tried to include links that can be accessed via the internet as much as possible for the artworks that we described in the book as we were able to accommodate only some of them.


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2. At this point, it is necessary to remember the sexist advertisement of the portapak camera, which was introduced by Sony to the market in 1967. In the advertisement, four women cleaning workers are seen using the camera, with the slogan: “Maybe we made the new Sony videocorder too easy to operate.” See: https://www.smecc.org/sony_cv_series_video.htm 3. See Gouma-Peterson & Mathews, p. 330, footnote 28. 4. See https://artbasel.com/catalog/artwork/16176/Nezaket-­Ekici-­Emotion­in-­Motion-­Milan 5. See https://www.galerinevistanbul.com/tr/artists/39-­hale-­tenger/works/ 9449-­hale-­tenger-­ayna-­ayna-­soyle-­bana-­var-­mi-­daha-­1992/ 6. See https://archives.saltresearch.org/handle/123456789/8905 7. For these artworks, see https://saltonline.org/tr/2064/gulsun­karamustafa-­a-­vagabond-­from-­personal-­to-­social-­from-­local-­to-­global 8. See http://www.neclaruzgar.art/ipad/selected.html 9. See http://www.artnet.com/artists/kezban-­arca-­batibeki/tie-­me-­up-­tie-­ me-­down-­r_X6KQSl5i_9qM22rEr0Tw2 10. See https://ozlemsimsek.com/selfportrait-­as-­modern-­turkish-­art 11. See https://vimeo.com/337788522 12. See https://artdogistanbul.com/ayca-­ceylandan-­japonyada-­sergi/ 13. See http://www.nazligurlek.com/sand-­dance.html 14. Because, until ten years ago, the artist had the opinion that the body issue was seen as the main subject of feminist art and that this was a narrow perspective. Neriman Polat, online interview by E.  Dastarlı  – M. Cin, November 5, 2021. 15. http://www.nerimanpolat.com/works/2001/2001_01.htm and http:// www.nerimanpolat.com/works/2001/2001_02.htm 16. See https://www.nilbargures.org/undressing 17. See https://ferhatozgur.com/filter/videos/Metamorfoz-­Muhabbet-­ Metamorphosis-­Chat-­2009-­9-­50-­dk-­mins 18. https://nevinaladag.com/works/social-­fabric 19. You can reach Irwens’ some work at https://argonotlar.com/olagan-­ zamanin-­disinda-­hakikat/ 20. For all artworks by Canan, see http://www.cananxcanan.com/ 21. We will talk about the work in more detail in the next section. 22. https://www.istanbulmodern.org/dosya/2467/inci-­e viner_2467_ 8080962.pdf 23. See https://www.incieviner.net/en/text-­skinless.html

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24. See https://www.galerinevistanbul.com/tr/exhibitions/282/works/ artworks-­10223-­inci-­eviner-­kzlar-­avrupa-­da-­2010/ 25. See https://saltonline.org/tr/1826/devamlilik-­hatasi-­temsil-­sekteye­ugrayinca 26. See http://www.gulilgaz.com/fotograf/o%CC%88lu%CC%88me-­dog% CC%86mak/ 27. The Turkish equivalent of the word girl is “kız” and this emphasises the “kızlık zarı”, that is, hymen. The word “karı” in “karı gibi” is a derogatory slang word that cannot be explained as wife or woman in English. 28. https://www.twentify.com/tr/blog/kadina-­siddet-­arastirmasi-­2020 29. It is the international human rights convention that was prepared by the Council of Europe, signed by 45 countries and the European Union, and determines the basic standards and obligations of states in preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. 30. https://kadincinayetlerinidurduracagiz.net/veriler/3005/2021-­annual­report-­of-­we-­will-­stop-­femicides-­platform 31. See http://anitsayac.com/ 32. See https://www.ipekduben.net/copy-­of-­works 33. http://www.kameraarkasi.org/yonetmenler/kisafilmler/erkekseverse.html 34. Canan, online interview by E. Dastarli-M. Cin, November 19, 2021. 35. Cited from Jacquline Skiles by Thalia Gouma-Peterson and Patricia Mathews, The Feminist Critique of Art History, The Art Bulletin, 69/ vol.3, September 1987, p. 346.

5 Creating a Feminist Public Sphere: Three Modes of Feminist Resistance

Introduction With feminist and political upheaval on the one hand and the rising anti-­ gender politics in Europe on the other, in this chapter we ask the question of how feminist art interacts with the public realm. The proliferation of feminist artistic practices beyond museums and galleries, and their extension to public spaces, forms different shapes of engagement with the public sphere and generates broader political and social transformations linked to activism. Many feminist protests such as the Feminist Anti-War Resistance in Russia, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) Coalition in the US, fighting to elevate feminist voices, the feminist theatre group, Lastesis, in Chile, and the Istanbul Feminist Collective have used art, illustrations, dance, graphic designs, at protests to create a feminist public for the disenfranchised, marginalised, and oppressed. Different from simply being an audience, the feminist public they create engages in political discussion on patriarchy and gender equality. Building on this social function of the art, we focus on the relationship between feminist art and the public sphere beyond the physical and spatial understanding of the

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 E. Dastarlı, F. M. Cin, Feminist Art in Resistance, Sociology of the Arts, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-17638-8_5



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public realm and explore how it contributes to the public good through the transformation of the public sphere and aligns itself with political and social movements. Our interest lies in showcasing how feminist art has come to interact with the public and audiences, emphasising the socio-politics of feminist art and the critical and political imperative this creative effort aims to create in conjunction with the feminist movements in Turkey. As we analyse the social and political effects of different artworks, we also aim to disentangle the complex links between what artists intend to do and how their intentions and artwork are received by the political sphere. Whilst our understanding of the public sphere is the performative social and cultural arrangement and the act of going public (Habermas, 1989), we simultaneously draw on the feminist critiques of Habermas’ public sphere to show that feminist art creates different conversations in the public realm and contributes to the formation of different political sites. The feminist art practices we discuss here by no means reflect a Habermasian public sphere of deliberation and rational consensus, but align more Mouffe’s (2021) agonist space, where conflicting and antihegemonic ideas are taken into and seeded in the public sphere with the desire to create an alternative public without any intention or concern for the possibility of reconciliation; nor, indeed, was the artists’ aim to create consensus in the production of their artwork, but were rather more concerned with raising a feminist voice within the framework of the patriarchal hegemony. The artworks we analyse in this chapter are open access and performed or exhibited in the public realm; they also go beyond being an art in public space, “but an art that institutes a public space, a space of common action among people.” (Mouffe, 2005: 152). They use space in sui-genesis forms to reimagine and forge an alternative feminist counter-public sphere through creating three modes of feminist resistance: (i) critical publicity, (ii) collective space and production, and (iii) artivism and political dissent. Collectively, these three forms of resistance push for the possibilities of “equitable” space in which violence of patriarchy and normative ideas around gender are delegitimised. Simultaneously, they embrace multiple forms of interventions, “taking place in a variety of public spaces, that critical artistic practices can contribute to the constitution of a variety of agonistic spaces where a radical and plural

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conception of democracy could be fostered.” (Mouffe, 2005: 162). They seek to restore a public voice to the women making their experiences a historical-artistic act of reconnecting with society for critical scrutiny in search of a possibility of change. This particular role of arts in public space and the artists’ intention of claiming the public sphere as a site for mobilisation, repoliticisation and unsilencing the public becomes more salient in Turkey as the political pressures on public spaces increase, civic society shrinks, and social polarisation creates a landscape of power struggles.

A Site for Critical Publicity Critical publicity is an authentic public sphere truly reflecting genuine public opinion free from the influence of the media, state, and economy and is based on the critical function of publicity (Habermas, 1989). Within the context of our work, it highlights the importance of being critical about issues such as gender, where the state, government, and the patriarchal order regulate the lives and the possibilities of what women could do or be. For Habermas, the loss of critical publicity as the function leads it to be substituted with manufactured publicity of non-public opinion—a manipulation of commercialised media, press over public debates reflecting the interests of political elites, whereas the critical publicity is the crux of the political public sphere where people get together to deliberate. Yet, Habermas sees critical publicity as a political sphere to be revived and argues much of the critical publicity has been replaced by manufactured publicity in contemporary societies, and the  press and media no longer create critical publicity. Our understanding of critical publicity in relation to feminist art practices slightly diverges from that of Habermas. We see critical publicity as a site seeding dissent in a way that the subject is involved in a self-­reflective dialogic discussion and develops critical consciousness, whereas Habermas calls for a rational-critical discussion of a kind where different publics gather. This difference in our take mainly stems from the feminist critiques of the bourgeois public sphere, claiming that his conception is exclusive, not representative. For us, critical publicity represents the


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possibility of opening a discursive space in a context like Turkey where discussions on feminism, gender, and women are subject to the manipulative rationalisation of the political, economic, and media elites managing public opinion and social control. As Felski (1989) argues, the use of art and literature could repoliticise the male-dominated culture resting on an aesthetics understanding of objectifying women and lead to the formation of a feminist counter-public sphere. We argue that some artists’ ways of performing were to challenge cultural production and to use the arts as an intervention to initiate a critical exchange and embody a form of publicity that could challenge the representational values of patriarchy. Here, feminist art practices emerge as site-specific for regenerating critical publicity in an attempt to raise questions about gender equality, feminism, and the body within a prescribed and compromised cultural space. The artists are mostly engaged with the critical function of artworks to raise questions about feminism and women and disclose gender inequalities such as femicides, political and social inclusion in a more dialectical procedure, and therefore assign art a critical autonomy and expect it to create a public sphere of dialogue (Mitchell, 1992). Such a dialogue can only emerge as a consequence of critical consciousness and sensitising perpetrators of hegemonic masculinity. The potential of artwork to create change or transform a society depends on the extent to which it first creates critical publicity where political matters and the existing social order are scrutinised, and this is also the foremost step of creating sites of resistance. The most well-known and early examples of feminist art creating critical publicity in Turkey are the Bordello (1997) (Fig. 5.1) and Hammam (Turkish Bath, 1997) performances of Şükran Moral. The former takes place in a brothel in Istanbul where Moral wears a transparent nightgown posing with a cigarette quite alluringly, immodestly, half-naked, holding a sign saying, “For Sale”, and standing at the entrance of the brothel. The photo1 vividly shows male desire, accompanied by the bewildering gaze of the men gathered around her as she positions herself as an object of sexual desire at the disposal of men and as an object of visual consumption to highlight the hierarchies of patriarchal power. The latter, Turkish Bath, takes place in a men’s bathhouse in Istanbul where the artist visits an exclusively masculine space and territory. The artist sits and poses

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Fig. 5.1  Şükran Moral, Bordello, 1997, performance

half-naked among a group of men surrounding her. In the actual performance, she washes herself in a bath that is supposed to be attended only by men and lets a man scrub her face as she enjoys the steam and water flooding over her body whilst wearing only a piece of towel covering her hips and letting her breasts free. In the photo, she comfortably poses and sits closely with men in a way that she occupies and simultaneously challenges what is called the legitimate male public space and therefore disrupts the dichotomies of gendered spaces defined as masculine and


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feminine, the culture of harem (where women and men consume separate public spheres). In this work, Moral also reverses bath scenes that the Western male painters illustrate with orientalist consciousness. The photo shows a possible alternative future as the men seem to enjoy her company, some rather peacefully but whereas others are sitting ignorantly and normalising her existence. Both Moral’s works could be classified as the high-stakes performance arts of the time (or even today) in Turkey. In both performances, she occupies a public space where the boundaries of who can attend are clearly defined and the gendered performances in each space are culturally scripted. Her work presents a unique narrative of how men exercise power over women and emerge as an attribute to Pateman’s theory of sexual contract. Pateman (1988) argues that political rights are patriarchal rights assigned to us at birth depending on our sex and that civil society is created through different forms of contract subordinating women in the patriarchal social order. The sexual contract is a story of oppression and subjection in which men dominate women’s bodies and labour through employment, marriage, and prostitution contracts. Each of these are products of modern fraternal patriarchy shaped by the public and capitalist market and upholding men’s rights over women’s. Her performance, particularly in Bordello iterates that the sexual contract extends to the public sphere, selling women’s bodies as a commodity in the market. It is a critique of the sexual contract that sees women as a commodity and in which women are a party to this contract with no rights and power of negotiation, whereas the masculine sexuality is an acceptable social norm and is a man’s patriarchal birthright, and it can be freely expressed through the male gaze or access to and use of a woman’s body in the public space. Bordello and Hammam are two significant avantgarde artworks contributing to the development of feminist art in Turkey; they also offer a compelling approach to confronting hegemonic masculinity in a dialectical manner by engaging in a passive dialogue with men, the subjects of absolute political power in society. Moral argues that she uses a “hit and run” strategy in her artwork by creating a dissonant space, reinhabiting the place to interrogate embedded narratives.2 Her use of art as a critical social practice to unmask the conservative politics is intended to

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construct an oppositional politics and “a space of agonistic confrontation” (Mouffe, 2007). Keeping up with socially desirable self-­ representation of femininity in Bordello and challenging the masculine spaces in Hamam creates a critical and activist spatial intervention that is not necessarily driven by creating feminist public spaces but that instead constitutes a passive dissent. Another important work that effectively uses the public sphere as a site for critical publicity with authentic passive involvement with men as actors and perpetrators of violence is Bitter Coffee (2013) (Fig. 5.2), the site-specific work by Neriman Polat and Arzu Yayıntaş. In 2013, two artists wrote the names of women who had been femicide victims of male violence of the previous year on the windows of a male-only kahvehane (a traditional coffee house) in Tophane, Istanbul. This particular coffee house is again a gender-segregated public space dominated by conservative men who spend hours playing card games and drinking tea and coffee. As they sat in the coffee house chatting, killing time, and sipping their coffees, they faced and read the names of women depicted on the

Fig. 5.2  Neriman Polat and Arzu Yayıntaş, Bitter Coffee, installation


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window, reminding them of femicide and the violence they are part of, whether intentionally or unintentionally. At night, when the lights of coffee house turned on, the names on windows became much more visible with the reflection of light, and therefore making even an impressive statement. The artists also placed a plaque in front of the coffee house explaining what their artwork was intended to do. This work soon caught both the public’s and media’s attention, resulting in a number of interviews with the regular customers of the shop, during which many men showed solidarity with women, condemning femicides and noting that they would never ever be violent against women. The work engrossed the windows of the coffee house for a long while and, at some point, the artists also made an open call to women, inviting them to the coffee house to occupy the space and to drink a bitter black coffee to commemorate the slain women. Many women responded to this call and walked into this male-occupied space to have coffee and chat under the curious and bewildering looks of men. For Polat, this work would not have made a difference or created a meaningful interaction if those names were occupying the windows of an art gallery.3 It was an act of reconciling the past, possible, and perhaps future perpetrators of violence with the victims of femicides, and opened a conundrum for ordinary men killing time in the coffee house for a potential transformative, self-reflective encounter with the atrocities that their same kind could do. This was a feminist practice amplifying previously silenced voices. The work, at the same time, intended to push men into a passive selfquestioning and place them in a guilt-ridden position, thus raising critical publicity. Here, the artwork aimed to build a dialogical relationship with passive onlookers and emerged as a political representation of femicides. Polat and Yayıntaş used the most powerful methods and mediums of feminist art to transform the most conservative, masculine space in the city under male hegemony to a site of confrontation, shame, and guilt for men. In this particular space, without inviting people to cross the threshold of white cube, the artwork itself turns into a gallery-like space attracting numerous visitors and activating and imagining a public of consciousness. These artworks directly or  indirectly raised the questions about the strong relationship between the public sphere and cultural hegemony

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dominating these spaces, and challenged some of the cultural codes representing the public in an attempt to create a different public through critical feminist art to awaken a public sphere of dialogue and a site to negotiate the border between dialogue and struggle (Mitchell, 1990). Particularly, Moral’s embodied art practice provoked a democratic discourse to bring repressed gender issues into the open and remind us of the deliberative role of public space in which contested issues are communicated in, and through, art. Moral’s work achieves this by eloquently using masculine-normative discourses and reflectively engaging with power politics to place women’s stories in a performative public dialogue. Through this aesthetics tactic, it becomes the ethical responsibility of the men and the audience/the public to familiarise themselves with the notion of critical public culture in order to think about the aggressive sexualised masculinities hijacking women’s everyday experiences. Polat and Yayıntaş complements this established critical narrative through public engagement and transversal dialogues, bringing men as the silent perpetrators of violence, the women, the media, and the public in general.

A Site for Collective Practice and Production Building on the public spaces loosened and expanded by the critical publicity, the second form of resistance enabling the creation of another form of feminist public space through collectivising. Feminist art practices connect and build communities, trust and care, create safe spaces to express what is often not repressed in public, and form new narratives and truths. Particularly after the 2000s in Turkey, the rise of feminist consciousness and activism has strengthened solidarity, and deepened the questioning of what public is to give voice to different stories, which also led to feminist art collectives whose aim is to create art interventions in relation to the public sphere and develop a collective imagination within which we can try to understand what a new public could be like. The collective productions below are all representative samples of how art and collectivity create a mutual unfamiliarity of leading new experiences by gathering people who are producing from the sites of struggle. For many


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women artists, they are, at the same time, a form of occupying public space ideologically and disruption that is out of place in public spaces. One such contemporary feminist art collective is KRE (Kadınlar Rüyalar Ejderhalar-Women Dream Dragons), taking the name of Ursula K. Le Guin’s book formed through the initiatives of six women artists— Beyza Boynudelik, Nur Gürel, Ayşecan Kurtay, Didem Ünlü, Ayşegül Sağbaş and Füruzan Şimşek—who have highlighted that the feeling of collectivity and growing feminist solidarity encouraged them as women artists to engage with a horizontal organisation and create a flat hierarchy constituting sites of equitable space where everyone is heard. This was also a confrontation with the hierarchical and caste system in the art scene that places men at the top and women at the bottom. The KRE is driven by the desire to explore what they could produce collectively, but also have more political concerns, such as creating an alternative space for the art market that gives less visibility to women artists. Their initiative is based on a dialectical capacity to perceive, produce, critique and develop more space-based projects outside the gallery to go out of the white cube and experience how they could transform such spaces into playgrounds for more experimental forms of art. Collective production also means a more collaborative space that goes against the patriarchal values of competition and individualisation and promotes a feminist ethos of care. In particular, the idea of going beyond the white cube is important to the KRE to disrupt the power and political relationships that define what art is in canonic terms and to question the public sphere in which the art was trapped. Situating themselves beyond the gallery space, they have reimagined an assemblage of political, spatial, and temporal production sites they could co-inhabit. The collective has successfully opened the room to manoeuvre their interests and discover free, alternative, and avantgarde art through different mediums of art. One of the early productions of the KRE was a huge installation representing a woman artist’s home in Women Dream Dragons—an indoor but publicly accessible collective show displayed in the TUYAP Art Fair in Istanbul in 2015. The exhibition’s idea was inspired by the Lars von Trier’s Dogville movie, set on an extremely minimal set to tell the story of a woman. The artists were influenced by the scenario and narrative of the movie, although they were later on criticised for being inspired by von

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Trier,  who is openly a misogynist. They have transformed a large indoor space into a house with a room, lounge, children’s room, kitchen space, and a storage room using cloaks and portable boards to separate the rooms. The house had one large entrance to let the audience in, and each artist contributed to the decoration of the house, producing different artistic objects such as children’s books on the wall, toys, paintings from the cubes. Moreover, instead of an oven in the kitchen, there was even a painting representing the moment of Sylvia Plath sticking her head in an oven to commit suicide (Homage to Slyvia by Nur Gürel, 2017) (Fig. 5.3). Once the installation was set, cameras to monitor the inside of the house were emplaced and the screens were mounted outside installation boards so that anyone visiting the art fair, but not necessarily entering, could see and peek through the woman artist’s house. The six women artists carried out part of their mundane everyday activities inside the stage-like set on the first day of the installation, as cameras recorded them and the visitors visited and walked into the different rooms of the home, talked to the artists, and asked questions about the home installation. The installation was an ongoing improvisation around portraying an artist house, telling a narrative relying on interactions and interventions of the spectators as trespassers coming into their space. “If art (in the most general sense) is precisely that which is produced beyond the coercions of the wage, as Kantian purposelessness or Bataillean luxurious expenditure, then its telos is antagonistic to that of commodity production.” (Cottingham, 2021: 50). The women artists’ house is a testament to this statement, as the installation had two important critiques, one regarding the art scene and market, and another about the social control of women’s bodies. The KRE’s work attempts to present the domesticity, the imperfect life, and everyday activities of women artists to activate a shift from the narrative and assumption that engaging with household chores, marriage, and care responsibilities de-skill women artists or make them less of an artist. Their installation shows a participatory framework engaging in a form of ritual making, facilitating non-­ hierarchical engagement and communicating responsively and dialogically with the audience to disrupt authoritative narratives about women artists. It allowed visitors to experience and interpret the everyday mundane but creative activities taking place in an artist’s house to reflect on


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Fig. 5.3  Nur Gürel, Homage to Slyvia, 2017, mixed technique on paper

the interconnectedness of art as a professional practice, and artists as women with responsibilities of care and house chores. The second aim of the artists was to critique social monitoring by placing cameras outside

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the installation. The constant and social monitoring of women’s bodies, acts, and behaviours by the neighbourhood is a restrictive practice of objectifying women and disciplining women to accept to obey the hegemonic norms of appropriateness. Having experienced such monitoring, both in their personal and professional lives through male interventions, the artists artistically opened this platform of monitoring and disciplining in its full sense to the public to open such control mechanisms to scrutiny. During the exhibition, anyone in the fair space was able to spy on them through the cameras, and this was an imitation of neighbourhood pressure that women’s lives can be scrutinised and judged. If you are a single woman, the community has the right to monitor what you do, when you leave, and who visits and leaves your house. There was a creation of a ritual allowing participants to experience and interpret the act of “intervening” in women artists’ lives with openness. Simultaneously, women artists tried to cope with the daily responsibilities and contemplate how these practices, from house chores to carework, are themselves part of everyday art. For instance, the installation includes a video monologue performance, Inner Voice, (Fig.  5.4) by one of the artists, Beyza Boynudelik, during which the audience sees only her hands as she prepares green beans for cooking, but at the same time contemplates and

Fig. 5.4  Beyza Boynudelik, Inner Voice, 2015, 22’47 video


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loudly discusses her life as a woman artist. Reactivating space with such an experimental artistic intervention, the artists collectively made the best use of feminist methods of negotiation and dialogue by allowing localised scales of engagement with the audience. The KRE later installed this house in a different city in Turkey in a non-profit exhibition space of the municipality, and the work itself continued to emerge as a collective feminist public art that enables the appropriation of publicly accessible spaces for feminist causes and equips their work with a critical and political perspective. Collective action in the artistic production of the KRE plays a crucial role in terms of inspiring one another, building on each other’s work, contesting ‘the single authorship’ of an artwork (Becker, 1974), and representing the ethos of participatory art during which they inquired the authority, the greatness of artists derived from a masculine space, and introduced a democratic model through collaboration (Bishop, 2006). The collaborative exhibition-making process was a critique of white cube as a highly ideological space (O’Doherty, 1986), and was about creating spaces of insurgency for artistic production. In addition to the individual and sole pieces of production, the installation also had a piece of work collaboratively built and designed: a seven-layer long white tarlatan in the shape of a vulva, The Dragon of Us All (Fig. 4.4). The KRE artists considered this artwork to be a product of genuine collective production where they intervened in one another’s work whilst being cognisant of each other’s personal spaces as artists, so this act of intervening and building each other was not in the form of correcting one another but improving the work itself, adding further layers of meaning to an artwork in progress. When the final product of tarlatan emerged, the entire work represented the symbol of power that rests in women. For the KRE, it was a dragon symbolising the inner power of women in the form of a vulva, although many people in the exhibition thought it was a critique of child marriages and they were asked if this was what they intended whilst producing it. In the spirit of collectivity, they did not put any artists’ names on the tag, leaving its ownership as that of a cooperative artistic practice. The KRE represents a micro-collective art, and their engagement with each other and the public promotes an understanding of art that it is a “process of communicative exchange rather than a physical object” (Kester, 2004: 90).

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As Lucy Lippard tries to define the feminist contribution to art, she identifies the models she thinks feminism proposes to art and suggests three models of interactions: “… (I) group and/or public ritual; (2) public consciousness-raising and interaction through visual images, environments, and performances; and (3) cooperative/collaborative/collective or anonymous artmaking.” (Lippard, 1980: 364). These principles have defined the ways in which the KRE has operated, collaborated, and emerged as an independent art collective. Collective production allows for experimental ways of doing feminist art and creative feminist artist engagements that defy conventional art canon and value. This collectivity leads to a multiplicity of publics in a stratified society like Turkey where there is a single dominant male public sphere. Therefore, the co-­ production raises public-spirited collectivity among women and the accountability of acting together in the common interest, which encourages women artists to come together to create spaces of collectivisation in public through appropriation and collective production in an attempt to forge alternative spaces of social relations. Such initiatives aim to spatialise and materialise their claims towards raising their voices, empowering each other and supporting the feminist spirit. Thus, the feminist art collectivities of artists expand beyond being only sites of artistic production but function as conundrums of intellectual exchange, dialogue, support, and inspiration for each other. Kırmızı Kart (Red Cart), an  independent art initiative established by women artists was such a platform of both solidarity and co-production. Güneş Terkol, a founder member of the initiative, explains they have held several events with feminist authors, had reading groups and discussions, but have also been involved in the protests against femicides, organising their own events.4 She argues that these encounters in public spaces strengthened the collective identifications with one another and the new feminist collectives on shared activities and practices and created a critical mass of participants. The most prominent act/work of Kırmızı Kart is the Nevin Yıldırım case protest fabric banner, which they carry in Galatasaray Square, Beyoğlu. Nevin Yıldırım was sentenced to life in prison for killing her rapist—who repeatedly raped her—in self-defence, and was six months pregnant when she killed him. When the baby was DNA tested, it was confirmed that the rapist was the father. This case was long discussed in the media as


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it showed the visibility of ongoing but ignored male violence in Turkey. Kırmızı Kart’s fabric banner was part of this anti-rape and violence performative protest reclaiming the public. This banner, as a feminist public art, constituted a public when the artists took it to Beyoğlu district to protest and engage in democratic and political contestation. The collectivity also expands beyond national boundaries; Terkol is one of the feminist artists of Turkey who have been actively engaging with transnational feminist collectivities from China to Berlin. For Terkol, relative and collective social experiences and interactions play an important role in her art production, and therefore she co-produces with other artists or local women to transform everyday stories into an artistic narrative and uses fabric in what she calls “fabrics of resistance”. Against the Current (2013) (Fig.  5.5) is an example of the fabrics of resistance Terkol codesigned with locals and artists women in Vienna, and it is also a feminist

Fig. 5.5  Güneş Terkol, Against the Current, 2013, sewing on fabric

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collective artwork co-produced at a workshop in this city. Terkol came together with women who responded to her call to produce a collective work on 8 March, International Women’s Day, and then exhibited it during the Signs Taken in Wonder exhibition at MAK, Vienna, in 2013. During the workshops, Terkol and the  participants discussed the most pressing issues affecting women’s everyday lives, including equal pay, abortion, and the right to retain their surname after marriage. She has choreographed the everyday gender issues and micro-aggressions of different women into a complex and well-narrated collective scenario. The fabric banner has the City Vienna in the background while depicting a group of women in calligraphic silhouettes of black cloth protesting in the foreground and standing against the current running across the city, where the current signifies the struggles of women committed to defending their rights despite the unfreedoms imposed on them. It is again a collage of different garments sewed onto a banner and embroidered on a fabric measuring 2 × 3 metres. The banner shows how Terkol’s artistic production is inspired by everyday stories, relationships, and interactions with people, and how she sees art as life itself, art as an everyday interaction she has with her immediate surroundings. Terkol’s work is important in terms of highlighting the key role of critical arts as its power to co-­work and coproduce with different agents, actors, citizens, or residents to develop their capacity to speak back, but also creating the conditions in which these actors can be heard (Wodiczko, 2021). Her work also signifies the possibilities of transnational feminist solidarities through art by redefining the boundaries of the public sphere and reopening more inclusive spaces. Through this collectivity, she positions herself at the intersection of plural, epistemic, and political positions facilitating coalition-­building with and through transnational feminist networks. The art narrative consolidates these feminist solidarities through intersectional, multidimensional, and horizontal histories that open a culture of sharedness (Meskimmon, 2020). The micro-collectives that have been influential in contemporary art in Turkey go beyond the initiatives mentioned above. Established in 1999 by Selda Asal in a 23 square metre space in Beyoğlu, Istanbul, Apartment Project has the potential to change the definition of exhibition. Many exhibitions such as Shoe Shop, Cleaning Materials Shop, Love Potion Shop, and Dream Purchasing Shop were held, and a communication was


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established between the place and the neighbourhood through contemporary art. Particularly in the space where experimental works of women artists are featured, collaborative workshops have been emphasised over time. Another initiative, the Oda Project, was created in 2000 by Özge Açıkkol, Güneş Savaş, and Seçil Yersel when they decided to carry out their work together. The group opened one room of a forty-five square metre house in Istanbul’s Galata District to the public; this room has become a space used by both the locals, the artists, and the owners of the place, and has resulted in projects that bring the neighbours and artists together. Likewise, we should count Pist, BAS, and K2 among other space-based collective formations that expand the boundaries of the art space, generally led by women or established collectively by men and women. These collectives did not necessarily start with the aim of producing feminist art, they actually aimed to expand the boundaries of traditional art, take more experimental art-oriented activities, and were concerned with social justice issues. The collective artworks and art initiatives we have discussed to this point have used the public space in different ways and show that the artists undertook and valued civic care through co-producing and solidarity. The feminist ethos of care and the solidarity through which the artists challenge the white cube culture to emerge as a political act to disrupt the hierarchies of the art sector and male agendas and perspectives. The collectivity, for many women artists and those involved in the production, meant claiming and reconstituting the spaces from which they have long been excluded. However, Puwar (2004: 141) highlights the performativity of this process and raises the question of “What happens when those embodied differently come to occupy spaces rarely occupied by them?” This question ultimately seeks to respond to the extent to which women as bodies of out of places enter, claim, and consume the traditionally male public spheres and are allowed to exist; Puwar interprets occupying such male spaces as an effort by those excluded bodies to expand the existing norms to carve out spaces for themselves, rather than being the ultimate gamechanger of such spaces. Therefore, in the following section we further explore how spatial practices and spaces of representations are reconfigured through evolving the relationships between feminist art and activism to understand reappropriation of the space as a site of dissent for traditionally marginalised counter-publics.

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Artivism and Mobilisation of Public for Dissent Artivisim, merging the art and activism, is the last pillar and phase complementing the critical publicity and collective spirit created by artwork. Art turns into a tool of protest, mobilising people for dissent as it creates visibility of voices, ongoing issues reproducing inequalities, creates spaces for dissensus and connects people (Pei-Yi, 2020). Artwork did not always intend to launch protest by mobilising the masses but rather included an intentional political message of creating dissent and activism in the public sphere and transforming the public space into a site of contestation where different types of publics and counter-publics meet and challenge one another, developing solidarity despite their differences (Kneirbein & Hau, 2017). An important artivism work that raised a political voice was the Without Hat (Fig. 5.6) performance by Canan, Neriman Polat and İnci

Fig. 5.6  Canan, Neriman Polat and İnci Furni, Without Hat, performance


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Furni, in 2009. These three artists have been involved in feminist activism for many years and worked with different fractions of feminists to create an associated political platform in Turkey. This was rather a performance to react to the political climate of the time when the headscarf ban was still in place, and women were being denied the right to work, study, or even visit public institutions because of their headscarves. In the midst of this chaotic debate over the headscarf and women’s religious freedoms, the artists received an exhibition opening invitation from a male artist asking the visitors, particularly women visitors, to wear a hat, which was one of the symbols of Early republican era and secularisation process of Turkey, the women wanted to critique the political norms instrumentalising women’s bodies—body politics at all. By asserting his preference for women with hats at a time when secular and conservative groups were having extensive arguments about the headscarf issue, the artist was indeed imposing his political ideology through using women’s bodies as pawns. To counter this, three women  artists visited the opening night wearing headscarves and took pictures of themselves in front of the paintings to disrupt the polarisation between secular and religious women but also to voice the epistemic oppression women with headscarves have long been exposed to. As they entered the gallery, the audience felt uncomfortable, shocked, and nervous as they were not used to seeing women wearing headscarves in galleries. Although no one asked them to leave, they were closely monitored by everyone and, at some point, were even warned not to touch the paintings by the gallery assistant, who attempted to discipline them on how they should be acting. As much as this was a performative feminist artivism through which the artists aligned themselves with the women wearing headscarves to highlight the nonsense of the epistemological division between secular and religious women, it is important to emphasise that this performance is also classified as a tactical feminist performance aiming to subvert the matrixes of power between women (see Yetişkin, 2019). The artists later exhibited this performance photo in the Unjust Provocation (2009) feminist art exhibition that announced itself as a manifesto rather than an exhibition in Hafriyat, Karaköy. Işıl Eğrikavuk’s censored public video installation of Time to Sing a New Song (2016) (Fig. 5.7) on top of Istanbul’s centrally located Marmara

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Fig. 5.7  Işıl Eğrikavuk, Time to Sing a New Song, 2016, video installation

Pera Hotel’s video screen, YAMA in Taksim Square represents one of Turkey’s contemporary artivist works. The work presents rather a humorous scrutiny of the story of Adam and Eve to critique the patriarchal forms of oppression. As opposed to the seductiveness and the evil identity imposed on Eve, the artist creates an alternative ending to the story in which an animation shows a motto saying, “Eat up your apple, Eve”, followed by a red apple slowly turning into a woman’s face, and winking at the audience. The artist was commissioned to do this work at a time when anti-gender movements in Turkey were gaining momentum, but when femicides were increasing, and even feminist events such as 8th March International Women’s Day Night March were banned. On a more personal level, Eğrikavuk mentioned that even walking on the street was a struggle of existence as a woman at the time, and reflected on the feelings of despair and disappointment as she read about numerous cases of acts of violence against women every other day in newspapers and social media.5 So, the slogan “Eat up your apple, Eve” was her way of saying no to what was happening. It was a call to women to start saying a big “NO” to the relationships that exploit them or the norms setting barriers for them. Using humour and art, she considers this work to be a feminist protest art whose aim was to critique the patriarchal order. The use of Eve/Havva was to make this message very clear as she represents the archetypal woman in Turkish culture and Islam, but at the same time


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symbolises the evil role attached to women in society, the social representation of women as someone cunning, and can seduce and deceive men. Eğrikavuk further elaborates how the idea of a  woman being evil and deceitful is also being used in courts in favour of men under the provision6 of ‘unjust provocation’ to reduce the jail terms of perpetrators on the grounds that it was the woman who provoked men to do the crime, and it was not indeed premeditated or done out of pure malice. The use of Eve was also a metaphoric critique of women being depicted as the provocateurs, as the person inciting the man in order to make the crime seem somehow less morally culpable. Therefore, she symbolically used Eve to empower all the Eves—the women of Turkey—through the motto of ‘Eat up your apple, Eve’, which she considers the advice she would give to her fellow women, particularly the younger generation. Indeed, three days after the video installation, the municipality officers came to the hotel to shut down the video, saying that they had received anonymous complaints that the video allegedly caused “visual pollution”, insulted religious sensibilities, and was in violation of a local Urban Design Regulation. Eğrikavuk could not get an official response with regard to why her work was censored. Her aim in creating this video installation was to empower women and challenge the patriarchal norms regulating women’s bodies, actions, and desires. Her work was a successful attempt at producing a new discourse in the public space because the censorship of artwork increased its visibility, carrying it to another level, and pushing the work beyond the creation of critical publicity to initiate a political and resistance culture of satire. The work that started as a form of passive political art resistance through a video installation reached out to the millions of people who would, under normal circumstances, pass through Taksim but would not necessarily recognise or see it. The artist has also received a lot of supportive emails, and her video installation has since gone viral on social media. The women have also become part of this work in solidarity to protest the censor by taking selfies of themselves eating an apple and sharing such images on social media and on screens in public spaces. The power of critique in this work emerges from the artist’s intention to create a feminist protest art and public act of claiming the artwork to represent a response to the censor, but what made the artwork an even

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more political protest serving the feminist cause was its ability to antagonise the structures, policies, and norms policing women’s bodies, hence producing its own public. Cottingham (2021: 56) argues that it is “a mistake to think of the public realm as an a priori concept; instead, we must conceive of the public in terms of what is held in common.” Only then we can change the public sphere and push its boundaries, because acting within the public sphere and compliance with the spaces so offered to the artist are unlikely to create change in themselves. When the censorship of the artwork took an unforeseen turn that exceeded its original intention, the outgrowing support for the artist and artwork created another situation and opportunity for performative public art, as reclaimed by the public, to unfreeze the capacity to speak and encouraging women to share their experiences into public discourse. A final contemporary but also transnational work that sits at the intersection of artivism and collective production, and therefore portrays the fluidity between activism and collectivity, is Home is My Heart (Fig. 5.8). This is a joint banner project between the artist and the community of Middlesex Estate prepared for Art Night London 2017, an annual contemporary art festival, following a one-month residency in a southern suburb of London. Terkol worked for a month with local residents in a London housing estate, Middlesex Street Estate, consisting of two 23-­storey tower blocks built between 1965 and 1970 by the Corporation of London Architect’s Department and is home to many minorities and immigrants who have made London their home. It was not an easy process for the artist to create this art community; she knocked on the doors of residents introducing herself, the project, organising a meeting to discuss what she intended to do and spending time with them, running sewing workshops, taking part in their community activities, to build trust. The banner was co-designed following a series of sewing workshops and discussions about the things that residents, the majority of whom were women, wanted to change in the city. The patterns on the banner included stories, fears, aspirations, hopes, everyday relationships with their intimate environment, and the lives of women, all of which are embroidered onto a backdrop through a poetic narrative. It was a product of participatory and socially engaged art practice with immigrant women living in the suburbs of London that portrays their alienation and


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Fig. 5.8  Güneş Terkol, Home is My Heart, 2017, embroidery on fabric

struggles of belonging, built on the economic, social, and political dispossession associated with discrimination, lack of political power, and gender discrimination. It was a community art, connecting art, immigrant women, and youth in generative ways, creating grass-roots artmaking. The final product was a large-scale banner (1.4 m × 3 m) which is a patchwork of different fabrics sewed together, making the seams entirely apparent. The patchiness of the banner reflects the soul of Middlesex Estate, which is home to different immigrants who came together sharing a common space, simultaneously forming a messy yet harmonious unity. Each fabric reflects a different narrative depicting the issues around integration, homelessness, belonging, and domestic work, thus highlighting the embeddedness of the lives of women and youth inside and outside the home, showing the connectedness of the two poetically. The work has been turned into a permanent mural on the wall of the estate for the women to celebrate their labour, which is also accompanied by an

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audio-visual performance. The residents, later on, took the banner to the other parts of the city, walking, chanting, making bird whistles, and singing. This work shows a process of how a collective production of a feminist artwork (feminist in the sense that it represents the voices of a disenfranchised community of London) turned into public art by acquitting a critical and political perspective, enabling communication, negotiation, and forms of solidary among the residents who came together to discuss the urban issues that concerned them, in particular allowing the more marginalised segments of the residents to enter the public space as communicative agents. Terkol mentions the importance of such collectivity in enabling the participants as artistic creators in their own right in terms of reflecting their personal experiences and stories to the public whilst at the same time highlighting how art can use public space as a site of mobilisation, particularly by those who have never before been active in the streets or claimed public spaces. What these feminist artworks show us is that they became instruments with which to engage people in a political discussion and struggle, just like public art (Deutsche, 2021), but also emerged as critical public feminist art, producing spaces for resistance to challenge the reproduction of oppression by hegemonic systems and contributing to the formation of agonist spaces for ongoing dissensus (Mouffe, 2007). They all had the aim of giving a voice to the silenced within the current hegemony, and the political nature of the artistic activism is indeed counter-hegemonic interventions occupying public space to subvert the dominant hegemony and create new subjectivities (ibid.). Most importantly, all these works, in their different ways, opened the possibilities for alternative feminist counter-public spaces (Fraser, 1990), where silenced and ignored spaces can be heard, recognised, and acknowledged. Such political acts, even though they do not permanently disrupt the masculine nature of the public sphere, create spaces and room for dissenting voices to emerge and to present counter-narratives, as opposed to mainstream voices and narratives dominating the public sphere. It expands the public space, increasing the visibility of marginalised voices but, most importantly, all these works, as public feminist art practices, indeed create safe spaces for expressing oppressed narratives and for telling new stories (Millner & Moore, 2021).


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Conclusion This chapter offered a feminist analysis of how diverse sets of contemporary feminist artworks have been conceived in public spaces and sought to explore how feminist art reshapes new conceptions of the public space through three forms of resistance, presenting a close reading of different works that engage with public spaces to create more inclusive and translocal public spheres that are crosscutting and transformative. The artworks we analysed constantly strive to make public spaces feminist through different forms of resistance. The feminist artistic practices in Turkey have shown that they have the potential to offer spaces for resistance as agonistic interventions within the context of counter-hegemonic struggles and unsettle the dominant hegemony through taking places in a multiplicity of social spaces outside galleries and traditional institutions (Mouffe, 2021). The art, in different forms and ways, encourages counter-publics to develop strategies of resistance to disrupt the highly formalised public space through continued presence and contestation. Without the resistance, mobilisation, and social movements triggered through arts, we can only live in stagnant democracies of absolute hopelessness.

Notes 1. Subsequent displays of the performance were made with recorded photographs and video (8:24). 2. Şükran Moral, online interview by E.Dastarlı-M.Cin, February 4, 2022. 3. Neriman Polat, online interview by E.Dastarlı-M.Cin, November 5, 2021. 4. Güneş Terkol, online interview by E.Dastarlı-M.Cin, February 10, 2022. 5. Işıl Eğrikavuk, online interview by E.Dastarlı-M.Cin, October 8, 2021. 6. The much-debated Article 5237 of the Turkish Criminal Code is often being used in femicide cases to reduce the sentences of men on the grounds that the crime was not preplanned but was incited.

6 Epistemologies of Feminist Art and Epistemic Injustices

In her book of art strike, Yate McKee (2017: 25) sketches out the relationship between activism/occupying and contemporary art as a dual dynamic in which artists both take the art system as a target of action and build on it, but at the same time challenge the art system to create a public cultural sphere—one that leverages on equality, imagination, dissent, and collectivity. This pretty much reflects the soul of feminist art in Turkey, but also in Europe, where there is a tight nexus between feminist art and resistance  and where the art offers powerful articulations for claims of justice as well as meaning-making and knowledge-producing practices. What we have articulated thus far in this book—and indeed continue to unpack in this chapter—is how women artists use and change the way art is being produced and received as they challenge hegemonic norms to create not only a more equitable society but also cultural spaces, art institutions, museums, and galleries. We are by no means suggesting that art is an instrumental channel for claims of justice. As discussed in previous chapters, art has its own methods, contexts, and aesthetics dimensions as an activity of dissensus, creating social advocacy focused on breaking silences and power dynamics within and beyond the art system. Code (2014), as a feminist epistemologist, argues © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 E. Dastarlı, F. M. Cin, Feminist Art in Resistance, Sociology of the Arts, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-17638-8_6



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incommensurability of such an advocacy to face our complicity with ongoing injustices and to mobilise  the publics against the oppressive contexts and climates designed to silence women. In this chapter, we approach the lives and works of artists as political agents and bodies in their own right, contributing to the subversion of epistemic inequalities and feminism and continuing the discussion we started in the previous chapter, capturing the upsurge in art in interrogating the politics of recognition, gender equality, and identity politics. We first focus on the visibility of women in the art scene, building on the theoretical insights of Miranda Fricker’s epistemic injustice (2007) and Jose Medina’s epistemic misrecognition (2018a), and then move onto an understanding of how they displayed epistemic resistance and constituted a political agency through their artwork, which is informed with an empathy with regard to the depiction of women’s lived experiences.

Epistemic Misrecognition of Women Artists In her theory of epistemic injustice, Miranda Fricker engages with the idea of whose voices are heard and enabled and who gets to be recognised as a legitimate knower in public, and who tells their stories. Through these questions, she problematises how minority or marginalised groups are disadvantaged in terms of contributing to the public discourse epistemically (Fricker, 2007). She defines two forms of injustice: testimonial and hermeneutical. Testimonial injustice occurs when someone is underestimated in their capacity of being a knower or silenced because their low social status (arising from the inequality of  race, gender, class, or disability) in society grants them less credibility, or positions them as second-class actors whose knowledge and testimony should be questioned. Testimonial injustice can take place in individual form or can be systematically embedded in social structures forming everyday exclusionary practices. Fricker (2017) argues that testimonial injustice deepens hermeneutical marginalisation and injustice, making it both structural and transactional. Hermeneutical injustice takes place when the experiences and inequalities of marginalised groups are unintelligible to the privileged group, either because their experiences do not align with

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societal norms, such as the everyday sexism faced by women, or due to the scarcity of resources that allow the understanding of one’s experiences. In her most recent work, Fricker (2017) revises this categorisation, moving testimonial and hermeneutical injustice to discriminatory epistemic injustice (being wronged as an epistemic subject due to identity prejudice), and indeed brings in another dimension, distributive epistemic injustice, which occurs when people receive “less than their fair share of an epistemic good, such as education, or access to expert advice or information” (Fricker, 2017: 53). Building on these debates, Medina (2018a: 2) opens a dialogue between epistemic injustice and recognition theories (particularly that of Axel Honneth) and conceptualises epistemic injustice as “social pathologies of recognition” to develop “diagnostic and corrective treatments.” These pathologies are a consequence of “dysfunctional and morally deficient patterns of recognition” (Giladi, 2018: 141) that erode the intelligibility and credibility of the subjects and deprive them of epistemic respect, which deepens hermeneutical and testimonial injustices. The dysfunctional patterns of recognition take place in different ways in public discourse, where Medina’s conceptualisation of mis/recognition offers a way of rethinking the recognition deficiencies for a corrective treatment. He distinguished two kinds of recognition deficiency: quantitative recognition deficits and misrecognition. Quantitative recognition deficit is “a sheer lack of recognition of not being seen and heard” and “not being recognised sufficiently” (Medina, 2018a: 2–3). When the Guerrilla Girls designed their well-known poster asking, “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?” and depicting a naked woman who wears a gorilla mask (a parody appropriation of the La Grande Odalisque 1814 (Musée du Louvre, Paris by Jean-­ Auguste-­Dominique Ingres), they were indeed raising an epistemological concern regarding both lack of quantitative representation and misrecognition of women artists by highlighting that only less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art Sections were women, but 85% of the nudes were female. Thirty years after the production of the poster, we are still discussing the lack of women representation in galleries, biennales, and the recognition deficiency and misrecognition they experience. The Guerrilla Girls produced a similar project in Turkey in 2006; according


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to their research, they determined that more than 40% of the artists whose works were exhibited at the art venues in Istanbul that year were women, and they imaged this finding as a Turkish coffee fortune telling, which predicts the future of women artists in Turkey.1 Although this is a very good ratio compared to Europe and America, when we look at the details, we see that this result is not particularly optimistic. As explained in Chap. 2, women in Turkey are encouraged to be more interested in art as a hobby rather than as a professional career, and to produce decorative paintings; indeed, there are many amateur and semi-amateur venues in Istanbul that display such works and call themselves “art galleries”, and such venues are also included in the Guerrilla Girls’ research. However, in the permanent collection of thousands of pieces, the Istanbul Museum of Painting and Sculpture (IRHM), Turkey’s oldest art museum, contains the work of only 17 women artists. As another example, we can look at the Istanbul Biennial, the most important event that enables contemporary art in Turkey to gain an international character. While 13 male and eight women artists from Turkey took part in the first Istanbul Biennial in 1987, three male and five women artists took part in the 16th Istanbul Biennial in 2019. This increase is not stable; in only a few biennials, the number of Turkish women artists exceeded that of men; in most biennials, the number of men has been higher. Another point that should be emphasised is that while IRHM is a national museum of modern art, the Istanbul Biennial is a contemporary art space, and the selectors of the latter are composed of curators from Turkey and other countries. The quantitative representation explains the core experiences of women artists in this book in terms of being less visible and utterly heard in the public domain compared to their male peers. These invisibilities were mostly in the form of either finding difficulty in getting their work into art galleries during the earlier stages of their careers, or being less visible and not recognised as “great and genius” artists. The older generations talked about the recognition that came at a later stage as they progressed in their art careers, produced ground-breaking and boundary-busting works that unmasked the norms of the society, but still received less respect (as well as income) than male artists would. To encounter quantitative recognition deficits of women artists, Istanbul Modern, the first

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private modern museum in Turkey, launched the Woman Artist Fund in 2016 to support the production of women artists, increase the visibility of their work, give them more recognition, and also diversify and increase the representation of women artists in contemporary art exhibitions. The second form of recognition deficiency Medina talks about, and that we can track in artists’ lives, is the nature of the recognition accorded: misrecognition. Unlike quantitative recognition, this is not about whether one is visible or otherwise, but more about how one is recognised and if one is recognised appropriately. While quantitative recognition requires more visibility of the agent, misrecognition, on the other hand, requires a shift and transformation in recognition modes and dynamics. A common narrative emerging among the artists is that the latter is prevalent in the form of being placed in the limbo of being a woman artist and a feminist artist. This again stems from being seen as less of an artist but more of a feminist when one defines oneself as a feminist artist. Some of the key epistemic injustices experienced by women artists are institutionalised malestream knowledge and ignorance towards feminist art. In particular, the galleries in Turkey, and indeed elsewhere, do not necessarily consider feminist art to be a “highly recognised” form of artistic production, leading many feminist artists to be seen as secondary citizens in the art world. Some of the artists we interviewed also highlight the conceptual loophole that comes with what constitutes being defined as a feminist artist and raise the question of whether “one [can] be defined as a feminist artist regardless of their production.” The confusion around feminist artists emerges from the widespread assumption that “feminist artist” is a label you receive if you are only producing feminist art; and this assumption is very much shaped by the economic disadvantage feminist artists face in the art sector. The art system, dominated by market-­ driven values, reproduces another form of epistemic inequality, appearing in the form of the artwork of women artists gaining less recognition: the gender pay gap. In creative industries, women underpricing their work is a common practice (Adams et al., 2017; Throsby et al., 2020; Gørrill, 2020; Hearn & McCutcheon, 2020) despite years of political mobilisation for gender equality. For instance, of $196.6 billion spent on art at auction between 2008 and 2019, women were only able to make $4 billion, representing


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only 2% of the art market (Halperin & Burns, 2019). This gap is an outcome of historic gender barriers in the art sector and the culture shaping economic outcomes for women. The role of art galleries and the biases of art collectors also promote a culture and understanding that artistic genius is associated with men. The art galleries, auction companies and museums in the world’s mainstream art area have long since neutralised any dissent and criticism, replicated power structures and biases around gender, race, and classes, and act as places of profound alienation towards social movements and struggles (Raicovich, 2021). Many women artists have highlighted that there is an ongoing change in art institutions’ efforts to represent women in their programmes. Yet they also note that although the galleries have started to accommodate feminist artwork to comply with the demands of rising gender equality in the art sector in the face of public critiques directed at them for failing to create polyphonic spaces for critical publicity, there still exist certain norms of what an acceptable feminist art is and to what extent feminist art could be critical, and ultimately the concerns around the aesthetics and economic value of art pieces remain untouched. How they reflect—or fail to reflect—the diversity of identities and art forms is still contested. This kind of recognition is highly rhetorical and is not intended to rectify epistemic injustices as it offers a mere increase in recognition by offering a legitimate space of representation with no transformative shifts or critical interventions in art discourse about women artists or feminist art. Such initiatives are important to, but ultimately insufficient in overturning the gender bias and prejudices and disrupting the narrative that women continue to be the gendered precarious creative economy artists in market transactions. The research of Adams et al. (2017) evidence gendered precarity and economical inequity under-recognising the market value for work by women, and further document that auction prices by women artists are much lower by analysing auction transactions between 1970 to 2013 in 45 countries for 62,442 artists. Their work also shows that male art collectors have lower appreciation of the works of women artists, and they regard the art by women as having lesser value. Women artists’ narratives in Turkey likewise echo this global discourse that continuously and persistently devalues women artists in the creative economy market and considers their work less profitable art market commodities.

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With the acknowledgement of cultural and historical underrepresentation of women in the art market and gallery system, a further reason stipulated for the lesser economic value attributed to their work is that they are less likely to commodify their art than men2 (Halperin & Burns, 2019). The divergence between high art and popular culture and the emergence of the art market creates tensions as to what might be considered art and what artistic value is and defines the boundaries of aesthetics  distinctions, but the nature of feminist art considers a different possibility and positions itself as a combination of commitment and knowledge. Our conversations with women artists point out that their production, particularly, of feminist art, is very much driven by a feminist passion for creating awareness, carrying very pressing gender issues to the public and making a bold political statement, and taking the lead in being a political agent rather than merely creating a commodity. This is not to say that they are not producing with the intention of making a living, but their creative impulse is not necessarily governed by financial concerns of what may sell but rather a passion for a political agenda, the common good, and initiating change. As they challenge the contemporary art system, they also engage with art as a force for alternative imaginaries. The misrecognition discussed above is also deeply embedded in the art academy, as populated by male academics who also dominate the creative realm in training space and set the discourse about art. Women’s testimonies highlighted the ongoing patriarchal mechanisms that are currently at play and drew attention to the structural sexism and the vertical hierarchies in academia placing men at the top. Unfortunately, art schools do not necessarily equip women to be artists and claim art sceneries that women dominate because the pedagogies of art academy are very much dependent on praising the greatness of men as genuine artists, influencing the next generation through aesthetics teaching privileged male creativity, reasoning originality, and serving the interests of the status quo of patriarchy (Brand, 2006). The hegemonic masculinity in these institutions not only shapes art production, ways of knowing in art, and underestimates the knowledge practice of women other to the epistemological practices of malestream culture (Gray et al., 2018). Women’s narratives also show that men control the physical and discursive spaces of art


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academy by framing women as fragile, seeing them as unfit to be artists upon getting married and having children, and using sexist comments to praise women, such as “drawing/painting like a man” or “having the wrist of a male artist”. These unsettling power inequities set the parameters not only of the malestream culture of art academy, but push many talented young women artists to leave academia as they develop feelings of unbelonging, and expand well beyond academia to the contemporary art world. This is probably one of the many reasons why art institutions appear to be targets of intervention as well as spaces of indifference. To create a “level playing field” for women (Gray et al., 2018), Gülçin Aksoy came up with a collective, arts-based intervention which included textile arts, talks, visual arts practice, and introduced a carpet atelier open to the public. The carpet atelier emerged as a collective at a public university with an activist approach of being inclusive and advocating different methods as part of the arts, as opposed to the “painting” imposed as the European, white, and male canon of art. The collective artistic practices in this atelier were intended to mobilise women artists to come together, to co-produce, to provide support for one another, and operate as a hub for alternative art imaginaries and practices and solidarity whilst establishing their presence and voice as women artists with the intention of connecting art academies and the contemporary art community. Pushing the rules of the atelier system at art school (the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University), Aksoy created a place for artists, art students, and even the public in which to incorporate civic engagements of the arts and artistic aesthetics excellence to form an artistic community. She thus engaged in a dialect with the public as an alternative and complementary space to the orthodox and normative teaching of art school with regard to what art is, how it should be, and what counts as art. Most recently, in 2021, a new exhibition called I-You-They: A century of Artist Women was launched to feature a collection of artworks by Turkish women artists between the 1850s and 1950s. Hosting 232 works by 117 artists, the aim of the exhibition was to open a space to express the herstory of women artists whose names were scraped from history rather than rewriting herstories. However, the exhibition effectively repeated a big mistake through its depiction of recurring themes of motherhood, family, and compassion, and also the flower themes dominating the exhibition without addressing the core principles of feminist art in distorting

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the high art-craft dichotomy (Dastarlı, 2021). The mistake was to recreate a category that confined women artists to “being feminine” by maledominant art history. Whilst the exhibition was driven by the admirable aim of highlighting the exclusionary biases of historical narratives in art history, it did not tell a different story or disrupt the associated canonical scripts, and thus ultimately just contributed to the rooted perception that embroidery and decoration are feminine arts that are representative of women. Whilst we do not underestimate such efforts to create alternative spaces for recognition and empowering voices, our critique lies in the limited ability of such efforts to bring out the herstories of obscured and discredited women artists of the past when they are not driven by a transformative feminist agenda to replace malestream canon and narrative. The epistemic injustices arising from misrecognition of the subject are hard to mitigate and address, and indeed may require more than increasing the visibility and recognising the patterns of gender inequality in personal, social, and institutional lives, and disrupting the collective and structural issues reproducing such inequalities. Neither would it be helpful to adopt an incremental approach to raise visibility about the gender inequalities that women artists face. Such a strategy has the risk of creating a visual spectacle—another form of hypervisibility—that, far from sensitising the publics to the problem in the right way, actually sensationalises the problem and numbs publics to its persistence, to which they attend as mere spectators (Medina, 2018a: 9). This will only create a distorted visibility, whereas what is needed is the resistance to dismantle the status quo and the veil concealing power relations and its workings.

 pistemic Resistances and Activism E as Political Agents The failure to protect and exercise political agency is an epistemic injustice because such an agency is key to pursuing a conversational negotiation and narrative representability (Simpson, 2017). Medina (2018a) argues that reclaiming cultural spaces and displacing misrecognition requires radical transformations that rely upon the collective action and political agency of those who are misrecognised to unmask the narrative


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frame to rectify the epistemic injustice. Epistemic resistance (Medina, 2012: 3) offers an alternative way out of such injustices through the use of “epistemic resources and abilities to undermine and change oppressive normative structures and the complacent cognitive-affective functioning that sustains those structures.” Epistemic resistance can, therefore, be the panacea of epistemic injustices, seek to create a political mechanism for democratic interaction, and has the potential to transform into an epistemic activism when alternative knowledge and “sensibilities are cultivated in a sustained way in activist practices”, leading to concerted efforts of epistemic contestation (Medina, 2018b: 60) and creating epistemic frictions that disrupt the insensitivities to critically engage with the voices in the margin. What distinguishes epistemic resistance from the activism is the continuous interventions to denounce ignorance and change contextual and political dynamics. Activism in this context calls for “transgressive forms of epistemic interaction that call attention to, and potentially disrupt, contexts, intercontextual relations, and patterns of interaction that contribute to epistemic injustice” (Medina & Whitt, 2021: 309). Such an activism augments political agency. Epistemic friction plays a central role in epistemic activism and resistance because it can either challenge dominant stories for learning, understanding and enrichment, which Medina (2012) refers to as beneficial epistemic friction, but it can also further silence dissonant voices, increase conflict, and shut down the resistance leading to detrimental epistemic friction. We analyse the epistemic resistances at two levels: first, through the political subjectivities that artists construct through their artwork and, secondly, at a more transnational level where orientalist stereotypes are attributed to Turkish women artists. The first level implicates the process of building up artistic citizenship, although artists are not necessarily motivated by such a citizenship but by a moral responsibility to react, resist, and change. As political agents, they engage in epistemic resistance through their artwork by creating alternative public spaces and creating new forms of communicative democracy as discussed in Chap. 5. What we unpack here looks beyond the space and public sphere and the exploration and analysis of the partnership between artists and the public, understanding the social, cultural and political contexts that encourage women to be epistemic agents and perform different forms of epistemic

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resistance. We respond to the question of how, as political agents, they challenge the stable and homogeneous cultural citizenship by taking art controversies to the public (Campbell & Martin, 2006). We see the concept of artistic citizenship to be highly aligned with the epistemic resistance depicted through the ontological manifestations of their artwork. The second level of epistemic resistance takes place to shatter the orientalist gaze attached to “non-Western” women artists in the European art community and the Eurocentric stereotypes and racist and patriarchal narrative. The nineteenth century Orientalist art movement of propagating images of women from beyond the borders of Europe, that is, particularly Muslim women as subordinated identities, still carry out its traces today. The epistemic resistance of women artists intended to challenge these masculinist assumptions towards them to open up new possibilities to change the insidious portrayal of women artists from Turkey and articulate alternative representations, rejecting the perception of gendered, classed, and racialised bodies.

Art, Political Subjectivities and Resistance Artists’ works bring to light instances of epistemic resistance as they make women’s voices audible and resist male supremacy, gendered power bias, male gaze, and hierarchies of sexual dominations, which have been the driving force behind their artistic manifestations. Art-making is an intricate journey bringing public and private passions, experiences, and commitments of the artists into the art world. Particularly, the art forms that are shared with and conceived in public serve a social good and have a civic function although artists may not necessarily aim this—but the form and content of feminist art suggest that art “is not simply aesthetically enlivening of everyday surroundings but that it is civically ennobling” (Campbell & Martin, 2006: 3). It is the idea of commitment, compassion, and the freedom to unground oneself from the formative and normative demands of the art economy that raise the question of citizenship (ibid.). In their edited collection, Campbell and Martin (2006) engage with the artistic citizenships across different art practices and geographies, unpack the complexity and paradox of such a concept,


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and highlight the difficulty of tasks for artists in less democratic countries when they question the rules of perception or have to negotiate authority through different systems of governance. The work of such citizenship is hard to define and operates differently in different histories, contexts, and geographies, yet it aims to bring the unspeakable to the public not with the intention of creating divides, but through beneficial epistemic frictions for all. Şükran Moral has engaged in critical interventions in public discourse through her ground-breaking and boundary-stretching artwork that evolves around feminist activism as a form of epistemic resistance to gender roles, power structures, and the politics of representation. As early as the 1980s, she emerged as a political agent in the art world to undo structural bias against women both at the national and international levels against the oriental perception towards artists from less European contexts. Her collections, Bordello (1997), Hammam (Turkish Bath, 1997), as discussed in Chap. 5, and her later work in a village square (Marriage with Three Men, 2010) (Fig. 6.1), a video during which she married three

Fig. 6.1  Şükran Moral, Marriage with Three Men, 2010, performance/video

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virgin men (because they wear a red ribbon at their waist, traditionally a symbol of the virginity of the bride) in a village ceremony in Southeastern Anatolia. The work ends with a scene when she invites three men into a room, removes their pants, and the screen goes black with a noise of gunshots. Her work criticises the act of polygamy in certain districts among men despite the law prohibiting it, and reminds us of gender inequalities. Most recently, her performance of having sex with a woman (Amemus, 2017), as described in Chap. 4, was to highlight the ongoing repressions and oppressions of the LGBT community. The performance, built on lesbian sexuality, was unpredicted, where neither the audience nor the organiser knew what the content would be, but it received a considerable reaction from the art communities, and she received no support even from the lesbian communities and left Turkey upon receiving death threats. The performance itself was an epistemic upheaval to the authority of the conservative politics entrapping society. She confronted people’s insensitivity about gender and sexual politics with the aim of creating a “beneficial epistemic friction” through inviting the audience to being self-critical, opening up critical publicity, but ending up with the “detrimental epistemic friction” of her being censored and silenced (Medina, 2012: 50). Her resistance through performance created a censorship promoting despotism and aggression against her and a partially failed attempt to direct the critical gaze of the audience towards those living in the margins. Her performance was a challenge to power—the power that the state and society wield to constitute the mainstream. Wa Thiong’o (1997: 12) puts it very clearly when he argues the performance can be a battle zone between the artist and the state (or those holding power) when they both want to set and unset a political agenda. “The main ingredients of performance are place, content, audience, time, and the goal-the end, so to speak-which could be instruction or pleasure, or a combination of both-in short, some sort of reformative effect on the audience. The state has its areas of performance; so has the artist. While the state performs power, the power of the artist is solely in the performance. Both the state and the artist may have a different conception of time, place, content, goals, either of their own performance or of the other, but they have the audience as their common target. Again, the struggle may take the form of the state’s intervention in the content


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of the artist’s work-what goes by the name of censorship-but the main arena of struggle is the performance space: its definition, delimitation, and regulation.” A significant example of resistance through feminist art in Turkey is the Unjust Provocation exhibition (2009) curated by Canan, one of the leading names amongst feminist art in Turkey. The exhibition was an open and bold resistance to the political, social, and cultural discrimination prevalent against women and the malestream norms setting their boundaries. It was also a collective initiative to curate a feminist exhibition, bringing together activists and artists to create critical publicity on issues that sideline, silence, and undermine women with the aim of offering a counter-testimony of women to the malestream public. The exhibition was the first of its kind driven by a political agenda, as opposed to all-women exhibitions performed to open a space for women artists or to increase their visibility. Unlike other all-women exhibitions both in Turkey and Europe where women artists gather and exhibit without engaging with the politics of gender (Jakubowska, 2021), Unjust Provocation aimed to show how feminist politics meets art and underpins the very political problem of (mis)recognition. The exhibition complied, in a sense, with the artistic call of the famous feminist performance artist Martha Rosler, and aimed to be a feminist exhibition rather than simply providing an exhibition space for art produced by women (Sönmez, 2009: 155). Therefore, Canan considers it a rebellion and resistance against the patriarchal order of both society and the art world. The exhibition became a home for a diverse audience, from feminist organisations/activists to art teachers producing their first activist artwork, and created a hub for those who share a compassion for feminism and art. The name of the exhibition derived from the Unjust Provocation—a law in the Turkish penal code that reduces the sentence of an individual who commits an offence in a state of anger or distress caused by an unjust act. This law has often been used in femicides to reduce the sentence of the perpetrator, and accordingly is very much critiqued for being used arbitrarily and in a way that shows men to be less culpable for their offences. The exhibition critiqued this law and hosted a number of artworks addressing the most pressing gender issues, such as honour killings, violence against women, and femicides. In doing so, it positioned women as the object of

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provocation to invite the audience into a participatory process in which they could be part of the mechanisms of a solution to challenge such discrimination. Also, the exhibition book, prepared by art critic Ayşegül Sönmez, was not a typical catalogue describing the works in the exhibition; going beyond this, it included a wide range of interviews with artists ranging from the difficulties they struggled with to the conditions of being a woman in Turkey. Neriman Polat likewise defines herself as a political artist and a feminist who is involved in activism and has also been involved in several exhibitions that emerged as forms of resistance to the male domination of the art world. One of many such exhibitions is the Incorrigible (2016), hosting only the work of women artists who deconstruct femininity, reclaiming their bodies and embodied experiences from the repression of androcentric power relations, and who refuse to accept leading a life defined by the boundaries of masculinity. Bringing together a number of feminist artists, this exhibition is one of many of its kind that strengthens epistemic resistance and makes political statements to discuss possible futures. Her most notable work depicting epistemic resistance is Gülşah’s Letter (2013) (Fig.  6.2), which is a collective production with Arzu Yayıntaş to create advocacy for women. They printed the letter of Gülşah, a teacher who was killed by her boyfriend. She wrote this letter to the court demanding protection against the death threats made by her boyfriend, highlighting his ongoing assaults and stalking, listing the names of officials who have not helped her despite her official complaints, and stating that those individuals should be charged with misconduct and negligence if she were killed, and asking for a replacement in her hometown to be safe and close to her parents. Polat and Yayıntaş turned this letter into a large poster and hung it on the wall of Depo İstanbul, a non-­ profit organisation working in the field of culture in Istanbul city centre. The letter actually remained there for a while until the residents of the neighbourhood asked for it to be removed because they were disturbed by it, particularly the men. So many women were killed even after this letter, but it was a public piece of art expressing an epistemic resistance and voicing one of the many women killed in Turkey despite seeking help on countless occasions.


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Fig. 6.2  Neriman Polat and Arzu Yayıntaş, Gülşah’s Letter, installation

The examples above show that epistemic resistance is cultivated both in artistic practices and everyday life, where the artists create an epistemic friction in public by seeding dissent into the uncritical attitudes and insensitivities of the public and forming perfect examples of epistemic

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intervention that disrupt tacitly operating sexist assumptions. It is also important to note their feminist artistic productions represent their political stance as staunch feminists and also promote critical engagement. Their identities are deeply embedded in their artwork, shaping their compassion for feminist production, everyday struggles, and their fight against the inequalities and sexist structures that make up the core ideas in their work. Feminist art emerges from the lives they lead as feminists. Working either individually or collectively, they have managed to occupy both public spaces and even institutions and get their critical discourses into these spaces to oppose the dominant culture, regardless of any associated censorship. What their resistance tells us are the stories of feminist art in Turkey—the past, present, and future of feminist art stories. These stories should be perceived within the context and history in which they are produced, where these histories are never neutral and part of large “struggles on the battlefield of representation for power” (Pollock, 1996: 12). Therefore, the wider social contexts in which epistemic contestations are fought and how confrontations are shaped by power and agency affect the effectiveness of an episteme move across and beyond the contexts in which they are being produced (Medina & Whitt, 2021). As discussed in Chap. 2, this resistance reflects a particular opposition to the cultural conservatism that has always questioned women’s visibility in the public sphere, but most recently, these are diverted to the increasingly organised anti-gender movement. During the last decade, Europe has seen growing contestation of gender equality, LGBTQ rights, access to abortion, contraception, and sex education (Kuhar & Paternotte, 2017), leading to a backlash against women’s rights in a number of European countries such as Austria, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia (European Parliament, 2018); it has also spread across Turkey, as orchestrated by the conservative section of society and religious fundamentalism. Sharing the discourses and strategies transnational with those across the borders, anti-gender activists have also challenged the hard-won rights of women and resulting in the deterioration of women’s quality of life by appealing the laws protecting women’s rights and cracking down on the visibility and presence of LGBTQ communities (e.g., Pride parades in Istanbul have been denied permission since 2015). Therefore, the artwork of the last 15 years in


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particular has been produced under such a climate discussed above, but also some of the work we unpacked in Chap. 6 is clearly an epistemic activism against gender inequality to disrupt uncritical attitudes.

Art as an Epistemological Act As much as social and political context, artists’ productions are also shaped by their personal associations, value systems, and interpersonal interactions, where these experiences are also an epistemological act that shapes their political subjectivity (Harding, 1995). The Eurocentric norms of the mainstream art world are based on Western representations of oriental women and therefore create misconceptions and biased representations of women from different geographies. The second form of epistemic resistance in artists’ work and professional lives was at a more transnational level of deconstructing the narrative of Muslim women portrayed as having a monolithic and undifferentiated character and the orientalist discourse shaping the Eastern and Western dichotomy that sees women from Eastern geographies as subjects of subordination. Their experiences, as well as productions, were sometimes driven, shaped, or influenced by responding to such narratives and oppressive practices that underestimated the women of the Muslim world or the East, and were concerned with educating the Western public and audience about their ignorance. In doing so, two strategies emerge in their resistance: creating an epistemic friction with uncritical attitudes of viewership for more critical modes of viewing and disrupting passive reception. Medina (2018b: 74) argues that such strategies open up “possibilities for critique that are foreclosed or obscure (….) by a narrative frame situating the image for the viewer in a biased and distorting way.” A stark example of this is the work of Işıl Eğrikavuk who has lived in Germany for the last five years. Upon moving to Germany, one frequent question she often received was that she did not look like a Turkish person.3 This comment implies the expectation of the other side wishing to frame her within the stereotype of a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf, being more timid in her interactions, and maybe even less intellectual,

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and this was sometimes raised by the commentator’s inability to accommodate where she came from. There is a tendency to depict Turkish women with a particular identity—an identity shaped by Eurocentric canons and patriarchy, ways of dressing and acting, and homogenising them. Her But You Don’t (Fig. 6.3) photography work (2018)4 illustrates her struggle with the identity imposed on her that she never embraced or was part of. In this photo, she stands in a lake wearing swimwear, posing with a serious statement on her face and wet hair and holding a poster saying, “But you don’t look Turkish”. The photograph evokes a resistant standing that reflects the statement back to the commentator and disrupts the essentialist conception of gender and sexuality. Eğrikavuk presents this work with a quote from Sara Ahmed’s book (2017) to show the exclusionary nature of identity discourses: “To be asked “Where are you from?” is a way of telling you are not from here. The questioning, the interrogation can stop only when you have explained yourself.” Her work makes an implicit and silent invitation to the speaker to revisit the construction of race and otherness. It at the same distorts the norms,

Fig. 6.3  Işıl Eğrikavuk, But You Don’t, 2018, photography


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expectations, and visibility produced through discursive orientalism, and articulates an alternative kind of visibility through her photo in the lake. Acting as a political agent, she presents the potential of the counter-image in a critical way, creating an epistemic friction to counter the entrenched, homogenous, and singular visibility of women from predominantly Muslim countries as being perceived to and neutralising such a derogative frame. This is an act of epistemic resistance in the form of a visual artistic intervention that unmasks the unwarranted framing. Eğrikavuk highlights that the problem of depiction in the Western media is also something that not only women from other geographies but also minorities suffer from, namely a discourse built on victimisation and being in need of saving (particularly for women), and the narrative that citizens of allegedly less-developed nations migrate to Europe to gain certain freedoms creates a misrecognition of their identities. This artwork is a refusal to be and become a racialised subject. The perception of the “other” or the tendency to frame women artists from other contexts as exotic and oriental is something some artists experienced who have lived, worked, produced abroad, and have worked to produce alternative forms of visibility. Sometimes this kind of framing appears in such a way that artists are challenged by the norms and authorities of the communities in which they produce. As explained in the previous chapter, See No Evil Hear No Evil Speak No Evil (2003) (Fig. 4.10) by Canan, an artwork drawing attention to incestuous relationships using barbie dolls was targeted by public pressure in Germany. Using naked Barbie and Ken dolls to depict and critique incestuous ties within the family, Canan crafted an impressive narrative that asked the audience to interrogate their family dynamics and face the fragility of kinship relationships. Yet, the work received a lot of reactions from the public, leading to complaints to public authorities and its ultimate censorship by the police over one night on the grounds that it was pornographic. The censorship was unlawful, and upon her appeal, the artwork was evaluated not to be considered pornographic, and therefore the exhibition was relaunched a week later. Meanwhile, her work received a lot of backlash from the community as it became a contested piece of work. Once she relaunched the exhibition, the neighbourhood pressure increased even

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further, with her receiving hostile responses, mistreatment from her community, neighbours, and people visiting the exhibitions left derogatory remarks about it in the comment notebook. Canan considers this “the perfect allyship” of the community and police in creating a dominant social order, regulating “foreign” bodies, values, and publicity, and highlights that this work was a perfect example of a personal politics slogan.5 As a foreigner in Germany, it was hard for her to fight this cynical approach, but she was also well cognisant that her work emotionally disturbed people, and that disturbance was also created by a woman artist who did not belong to their communities or geographies. Thus, she also could not help asking herself whether she would have received such unpleasant reactions if she were a German woman artist. Concerns similar to those of Eğrikavuk and Canan were a common narrative and experience among artists, and several of them found themselves in contexts of expressing resistances on different occasions to disrupt normative attitudes and relations by trying to frame them “other” than in the European art canon or world. They talked back through their artwork to dominant and hegemonic discourses and artistic representations like many other women artists of “exotic and Muslim geographies” (Oumlil, 2022). The globalisation of art economies and institutions through the proliferation of biennials, art fairs, and festivals brought into the visibility of artists outside the US and European space and intellectual discourse (McKee, 2017). This does not change the colonial and/or oriental imaginaries about other geographies, and the need for epistemic subversions and transformation and the intersectional politics of race and gender that create unbelonging and otherness is more urgent than ever. Women’s experiences, their artistic productions, and how they engage with the art world show a complex power structure around gender, identity, and race, and form a battleground for epistemic recognition; the art proliferates as a force of imagination and resistance, forging a never-­ ending iteration and dissensus. We—regardless of who you are; the artists, art critics, art writers, or audience—live through and for the love of art and form a collective political struggle around it.


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Notes 1. See https://www.istanbulmodern.org/en/collection/collection/5?t=3&id= 2488. 2. Also see the research of British Council (2019) on women in creative industries in Turkey. 3. Işıl Eğrikavuk, online interview by E. Dastarlı-M. Cin, October 8, 2021. 4. See https://www.isilegrikavuk.work/butyoudont. 5. Canan, online interview by E. Dastarlı-M. Cin, November 19, 2021.

7 Conclusion: Going Forward with Feminist Art

Feminist Art in Resistance has tracked the progress and development of feminist art in Turkey and within the contemporary art system, explored how it created different sites of resistance, protest, and dissent, and became part of collective political struggle. Locating this book at the intersection of art and feminist philosophy, we unpacked the relationship between contemporary art and feminist theory and sought a response to how art and feminist theory can conceptually co-exist. Asking this question has enabled us to accentuate local stories against global narratives, analyse the production of women artists, conceptualise feminist art both as a product and as a political project in a liminal context, and provide a historical, conceptual, and empirical analysis and reading of the feminist artwork produced in Turkey. As we traced the feminist productions of contemporary art, including the work of artists using new media, performance, and different communication tools in the production process that puts women in the centre, we questioned the possibility and limits of feminist aesthetics in a traditionalist social structure, discussed whether the artistic attitudes that surface from the adoption of a feminist perspective can create a political subject. We pondered whether art can create social resistance, and asked whether there is an identifiable art citizenship identity through a historical analytical method that analyses the changing

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 E. Dastarlı, F. M. Cin, Feminist Art in Resistance, Sociology of the Arts, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-17638-8_7



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position of women in Turkish modernisation, and displays the multiple ways in which they engage with feminist art creating dissent for their aesthetical concerns. Feminism takes its basis directly from political activity, shaping the character of feminist art accordingly. Feminist art has brought a bold new approach to the much-discussed art-politics relationship. Feminist activism is shaped by feminist  knowledge and its institutional relationship with masculinity and fratriarchy in contemporary societies. The tension between a social organisation with a dissident, protest tradition, and the male privilige system has created a field of struggle for feminist activism. Expressing the demands of feminism beyond the context of activism and social movements, is important for radical social change. Therefore, feminist artists have proven with their productions that the struggle for equality is possible in art and that art can even be a field of political struggle. Feminist art clearly demonstrated the importance of knowledge production in power networks, and its methods and content proposed a new style, showing the possibility of an alternative to formalist art styles. It is not a coincidence that feminist art has produced a lot on memory, identity, racism, discrimination, and inequality, and these issues have been recently studied more across different disciplines of contemporary art scene to drive a social change (see Walsh, 2019) and produce its own intellectual arch. Unlike activists, feminist artists did not speak on behalf of a social group; they took creative action, combined theory and practice, and produced a unique form of resistance. They became one of the most critical and creative expression movements, bringing a new model of meaning to contemporary art. Feminist art historians and critics of the 1970s did not just criticise it as a field of production and tried to change art history. While both feminist theorists and artists were making institutional analyses of art, they also produced “art of another kind”. Therefore, the most significant contribution of feminist art to the global perception of art has been to disrupt the conventional understanding of art, determine the future direction of art, and show that what they do is possible. For instance, recently, the use of art in international development, particularly participatory art methodologies and socially engaged art interventions, enabled civic engagement and contributed to epistemic justice by raising critical consciousness,

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introducing political issues to the public sphere, and stimulating a social movement at large (see Mkwananzi and Cin, 2022; Cooke and Soria-Donlan, 2019). Over the last three decades, feminist art (history) has shown considerable transformation to reveal gender distortion in the canonical record and to change the monolithic standpoint in art through situating experiences of women within a framework considering gender as an essential factor in constantly evolving and shifting power relations (Broude & Garrard, 2005). In this book, we talked about the “modern art canon” that denies women in art and discussed the autonomy of art in its historical context and how the autonomy of art is conceived as the independence of art from any other purpose, including its political role. Until modernity, the relationship between art and politics was generally considered by philosophers within the field of politics, but with this historical threshold, the relationship of politics with art was associated with “intervention in art” and was not welcomed. However, art has always been political in changing contexts, even in the modern era of nation-states. This form of relationship settled on a different ground in the postmodern period, and the “contemporary art” established a very close relationship between politics and art in different contexts and at varying levels. We see that feminist art reinforces the role of art as a direct political tool and its legacy of bringing art to life, which is taken from avantgarde roots to this political attitude. So far, the works of feminist artists from Anglo-Saxon countries have dominated feminist art history with their theoretical uptakes on feminist art and productions that are shaping the debate on feminist art. However, this book presents a new set of debates and development of feminist art, aesthetics performances in art, and public action within the context of Turkey in a relational approach to divergences and overlaps with the artistic positions and conundrums in the UK, US, and Australia. Particularly, the art scene in Turkey and the production of women artists have offered unique insights encompassing an elaborate nexus of power, patriarchy, and geopolitical positions influencing artmaking. We argue that art has been a refuge for voicing the epistemically marginalised voices, carving out alternative counter-hegemonic spaces, and


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challenging traditional aesthetics understanding and experience. Art, particularly in times of political upheaval, opens a conundrum for imagining alternative futures and encouraging collective action but also transforming the art institutions such as museums, galleries, academia, and non-­ profit  organisations, and contemporary art scene and bringing the imagination, action, solidarity, and resistance to its structures and liberating the art from its malestream canon to a more avantgarde form. We expect that this book will start more extensive conversations and dialogues between feminist movements, contemporary art, and the public sphere, encourage dynamic solidarities for feminist praxis and also inspire next-generation artists about the productive synergies of feminist art and the change it can forge.

Beyond the Rhetoric of Great Male Artists The field of art practices is embedded in the politics of power and formations of knowledge leading to the assumption that great artists are men and positioning women as objects of less credible knowledge, silencing them or miscategorising them or categorising them in relation to men taking gender and body politics as the norm (Grierson, 2019). The emergence of feminist art aimed to challenge this dominant conundrum and political othering of women both in Turkey and elsewhere and to rewrite the narratives of women in the art scene. Pollock (1988: 91) illustrates the ideological formations of art history as the positioning of women “as the passive, beautiful or erotic object of a creativity exclusively tied to the masculine” and therefore calling for ‘feminist deconstruction of art historical texts and their highly political effects (…) a fundamental necessity (…) for developing appropriate strategies for analyzing women as cultural producers.” Responding to Pollock’s call, feminist artists deconstructed the great-­ male-­genius-artist rhetoric and the art history canon that formed it. Although they reject normative art, they also demonstrate that feminist art can respond to both the sensory satisfaction required by the category

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of “fine arts”, the intellectual claims of the theory, and the demands of political activism. Feminist artists, who historically targeted the category of “great art”, broke away from the language, method, material, and customs of formal art. Feminist art did not propose a particular artistic style; however, this does not change the fact that feminist artists are mobilised around certain common principles by problematising gender. Feminist art developed as an art production aiming at the social deconstruction of the injustices women suffered. The common denominator that brought feminist artists together was the struggle for gender equality, not “femininity”. The fact that feminist art produced with this awareness also eliminated the perception that identifies both women artists and feminist art with “femininity” and creates stereotypes. Women scholars and artists have long fought to shift the patriarchal power and knowledge in art, but as we have argued, the academy has been one of the sites reproducing male hegemony in art production, and such struggles are not always taken up in art education. Kraehe and Acuff (2013) draw attention to whiteness and other forms of privilege, such as gender, in art education and critique it for failing to recognise power relations and collective art education knowledge and for basing its conceptual constructs on the experiences and norms of privileged people. Instead, art education should sensitise the new generation of artists to the issues of feminism, injustice, and alternative art-making practices. What we see is that the women’s movement has been quite influential in changing art productions, building on women’s perspectives and art-making, and using art to bring political agendas to the public debates, if not the art education itself. Moving beyond the debates of women’s representation in art, women artists have reclaimed both the art and public sphere by re-imagining the art in a non-hierarchical way to place gender issues in relation to the actions and ideologies of political, social, and economic spaces. They have developed different forms of resistance, producing feminist art knowledge and epistemologies that are critical about the constructs and performances of masculinity and femininity and masculine value systems of art, which continues as an ongoing struggle in all art systems.


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Political Responsibility of Artists We argue that the artistic perspectives and production through feminism contribute to a new understanding of perceiving, experiencing, and living with art, and the political alliance and responsibility of artists in terms of listening to other voices, opening up spaces of cultural agency, and cultivating accessible and democratic political culture plays an important role. The task of political art should be not only to resist the actions of the political power but also to expose them and make them public through the radical provocations of art (Foster, 1985: 153). Feminist artists resorted to these radical provocations with various strategies; for example, by revealing their bodies endlessly, constructing the relationship of art with the audience as the moment to shock it, and reversing the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. What we see is that artists engage with different feminist social practices and strategies for inclusive political action and building peaceful coalitions. Some of them form and mobilise feminist community-based arts, whereas others generate creative visual strategies or develop interventionist approaches using public spaces and streets. These productions are underpinned by political gestures, creative and activist politics, and acts of responsibility for raising consciousness about feminist struggle and are embedded in critically entangled liberatory politics. The knowledge and epistemologies manifested in their artworks transcend the boundaries of Turkey, enabling transnational alliances and reflecting how feminist politics is shared across borders using arts as the medium of resistance. The artists’ engagements show a commitment to artistic excellence and ethical responsibility of displaying concern for civic and political issues and being conscientious citizens committed to speaking the unspeakable and creating dissensus. Needless to say that such political engagement and responsibility builds feminist networks and alliances, as in the case of huge upheaval against the abolition of İstanbul Convention in Turkey when artists and art organisations collectively raised their concerns, mainly through online platforms sharing their bodies as sites of performance or preparing visually capturing banners1 adapting the widely known movements to increasing femicides and campaigning with the slogan of “Women’s Lives

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Matter” to give a courageous and prescient account of gender conflict. Such political alliances across different groups strengthen the feminist movement and also enriches the epistemologies of feminist art. The political responsibility of artists to share their art with the wider public to raise critical consciousness also defies the formation of an ideologically one-dimensional public sphere where art and activism take place and seek artistic autonomy. As the methods and forms of feminist art allowed the possibility of abandoning the galleries and museums and emancipating art from art history, the artists developed a vested interest in political discourse without necessarily parking their aesthetics concerns aside and transformed the canonised forms of the public sphere by opening a platform for new forms of collective expression. This kind of artistic freedom of claiming the streets, and public space, emancipating the art from the conventional spaces of art, and carrying it to a platform that is accessible and participatory was an ambivalent task, leading the artists to be seen as less of an artist from time to time or to face state control and censorship. Therefore, the tension, complexities, and relationships between feminist art and the public sphere cannot be analysed independently from the political context and intentions of the artists. Particularly after 2010, feminist activism and feminist art aligned more closely with one another in Turkey. Women took a very active role in the Gezi Park Protests of 2013 upon the government’s decision to demolish a park in İstanbul-Taksim, and protests turned into a major occupation movement. The Gezi Protests, the largest civil grassroots mobilisation in the history of the Republic of Turkey, was also a resistance where people expressed themselves using creativity. This was not a feminist act, but there was some undoubtedly a feminist intervention, thanks to the active role of women demanding equality; for example, feminists produced the slogan “Resist stubbornly and do not swear” against sexist profanity, or they carried banners “Sexist jokes are not funny”. Upon the call of the İstanbul Feminist Collective to “grab the paint and come,” women gathered in Taksim Square and covered the sexist and homophobic writings on the walls with spray paints and campaigned that “free expression” should not be informed by the toxic masculinity and the need to get rid of such a male-dominated language is indeed part of a fundamental


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feminist struggle. Where the boundaries between art and life have been lifted in this historical resistance? Can we say that the political actions of feminists do not represent performance art at the same time? The political responsibility of artists also bears many risks, the courage to face unpleasantness, attacks, or surveillance. The hitchhike of feminist performance artists Pippa Bacca and Sylvia Moro wearing white wedding dresses and traveling from Italy to the Middle East in 2008 to send a message of peace was a performance called “Brides on Tour”. Their trek started from Milan and was expected to end in Tel Aviv with their performances, visual documents of the journey, and the display of the wedding dresses they wore along the way. However, Bacca was kidnapped, raped, and killed by a truck driver in Turkey and her brutal murder received a strong and outrageous public reaction condemning the killing of a woman. Feminist artists brought up all kinds of attacks on women’s bodies with actual interventions they applied to their own bodies to raise awareness; undoubtedly, the most striking aspect of such performances was their “reality”. These performances were produced in public spaces as well as in art venues. Bacca’s journey that resulted in her death showed male violence in its most striking form, at a point where the boundaries between art and life were erased. Her work and the tragic death exemplify how much work there is still to do to restore peace and the risk many feminist artists are taking at the expense of their lives to practice art for a greater good, humanity, and a better world.

The Future of Feminist Art Nancy Spero, in her Feminist Manifesto (1970–1971), argued that woman’s biological subordination is so deep-rooted in the so-called rhythms of nature, and breaking away from it almost means creating a new order of creatures co-equal to man: “Then art will change. This is the future.” (Spero, 2014: 50) It has been 50 years since Spero said these words, and today we live in a “future”. However, there is still a great need for feminism and feminist art today, where inequalities against women continue. The artist, as a political thinker and dreamer, actually works toward the

7  Conclusion: Going Forward with Feminist Art 


future and creates alternative imaginaries and realities. Feminist art has given very important lessons to feminist art historians to reconsider the positions of women artists and different forms of art production. The patriarchal ideology in the visual representation of women always  has restricted women and emerged as a site to be taken down to create more inclusive spaces, methods, forms, and expressions of art. The sheer number of women who participate in the arts today is considerably greater compared to the past in most art forms. This is the outcome not only of the reduction of overt sex discrimination but also of considerable struggle on the part of feminist activists. Women did not just slide into the art world because long-standing prejudice waned; they battled their way in. The great demand for change initiated by feminist art in the 1970s was not only a precursor to an art in which LGBTs, non-­ European geographies, and black or ethnic minorities expressed themselves freely; feminist art has become an activist movement manoeuvring room for the expression of the epistemically oppressed. Society has come a long way thanks to feminism; now, women are stronger, and men are questioning themselves. The fact that young generation artists, men, and women, can say “I am a feminist” much more easily than ever before or work as they wish in a free creative field that cannot be interfered with from the outside changed art to evolve into a more avantgarde form. Feminist art has already indicated that the future will be more plural and multi-cultural for the last thirty years. One of the most critical questions that the feminist theory had to answer was: How do we explain that women are the largest oppressed group while at the same time explaining that women are not just oppressed in history but are subjects with an active agency? As can be observed in the discourses of “women are oppressed” and “women are, in fact, very powerful”, how do we save a narrative that is divided into passive and active by preserving the ground of struggle and legitimacy from this simple duality? (Kafadar, 2020: 779). The feminist art over the last three decades aimed to illustrate that women are an oppressed segment in art positioned to be passive onlookers and to expose the oppressive structures manipulated by male hegemony. What this book shows is that feminist art can displace the male-dominated tools in the art system, break the


E. Dastarlı and F. M. Cin

seemingly indestructible trivets of the system, and redefine mainstream art. This is the most important achievement of feminist art, especially in Turkey. So, what will feminist art do next? For example, will it engage more closely with feminist activism? Will it become more political? Will the artists’ sense of responsibility and political consciousness continue to shape their productions? These are the questions we aim to explore through living with artivism. Undoubtedly, women in Turkey have more stories to tell, and we wrote this book partly to narrate feminist art stories of a different geography, a geography that bridges so many diverse ideologies and epistemological and ontological positions and is home to vibrant and contested artistic discussions. In the past, we used to dream of social equality, where we wouldn’t need to say “women” when talking about “women artists.” Now, we imagine a world where we no longer have to say “feminist” when talking about feminist artists…

Note 1. See the following link for artworks to protest withdrawal from İstanbul Convention: http://www.sanatatak.com/view/kultur-­sanat-­dunyasinin-­ istanbul-­sozlesmesi-­tepkileri.


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A, B, C, D Exhibitions, 40 Abdülhamid II (sultan), 25 Abdülmecid, Prince, 25, 26, 32 Abramović, Marina, 77 Açıkkol, Özge, 122 Activism, 3, 11, 12, 39, 68, 101, 105, 113, 122, 123, 127, 129, 131, 139–141, 145, 154, 157, 159 Acuff, Joni B., 157 Adam, 125, 135, 136 Adorno, Theodor, 14 Aesthetic, 4, 7, 12–15, 20, 21, 28, 35, 43–59, 61–101, 108, 113, 131, 136–138, 153, 155, 159 Akdik, Şeref, 32

Akıncı, Naile, 34 Aksel, Erdağ, 87 Aksoy, Gülçin, 91, 92, 138 Aladağ, Nevin, 83, 84 Alternative public, 1, 2, 18, 106, 140 Alternative space, 114, 119, 139 American culture, 66 Anatolia, 75, 76, 84 Anti-aesthetic, 56 Antin, Eleanor, 64 Apartment Project, 121 Arca Batıbeki, Kezban, 76 Arel, Maide, 34 Arendt, Hannah, 14 Armenians, 83 Arpillera, 70 Art academy, 5, 36, 50, 137–138

 Note: Page numbers followed by ‘n’ refer to notes.


© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 E. Dastarlı, F. M. Cin, Feminist Art in Resistance, Sociology of the Arts, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-17638-8


174 Index

Art and craft, 29, 55 Art audience, 72, 151, 158 Art cannon, 12 Art collective, 8, 113, 114, 119 Art education, 5, 6, 30, 35, 36, 45, 157 Art environment, 27–30, 35, 37, 40, 47 Art gallery, 65, 112, 134, 136 Art herstory, 16, 30 Art history, 3, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 16, 27–31, 33, 34, 45, 46, 48, 50, 57–59, 62–64, 71, 73, 76, 84, 139, 154, 156, 159 Art institution, 8, 44, 48, 71, 131, 136, 138, 156 Artivism, 106, 123–129, 162 Art market, 40, 44, 53, 58, 67, 114, 136, 137 Art Night London, 127 Art scene, 35, 40 Asaf, Hale, 36 Asal, Selda, 121 Atagök, Tomur, 65 Atallah, 9 Atatürk, Mustafa Kemal, 35 Australia, 155 Avantgarde, 21, 53–59, 67, 68, 71, 156 Avantgardism, 57 Azeri, Nazan, 87 B

Bacca, Pippa, 160 Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski de Rola), 10 Barbie dolls, 96, 150 Barr, Alfred H., 28

Barry, Judith, 66, 99, 100 BAS, 122 Battersby, Christine, 14, 44, 45, 49, 52 Bauhaus, 83 Baumgarten, Alexander Gottlieb, 44 Belin, Valérie, 64 Bell, Clive, 13 Benhabib, Seyla, 4, 17, 19, 20 Ben-Tor, Tamy, 64 Berger, Aliye, 34, 35 Berger, John, 7, 33, 34 Berk, Nurullah, 28 Berksoy, Semiha, 34 Berlin, 120 Bernstein, Judith, 74 Beuys, Joseph, 77 Beykal, Canan, 65 Beyoğlu, 119–121 Biological gender, 64 Body art, 68, 72, 75, 76 Bonheur, Rosa, 6 Börüteçene, Handan, 65 Bovenschen, Silvia, 46, 50, 55, 62 Boynudelik, Beyza, 114, 117 Brand, Peg, 13, 15, 137 Britain, 5, 10 Brooklyn Museum, 8 Burger, Peter, 21, 54–57 C

Çallı, İbrahim, 32 Canada, 8 Canan, 14, 65, 85, 96–98, 123, 144, 150, 151 Canonical art, 13, 27–30, 41 Capitalist market, 110 Careworks, 117 Cassatt, Mary, 6


Cassils, 64 Çatalhöyük, 78 Caws, Mary Ann, 10 Çekil, Eda, 89–91 Censorship, 86, 97, 126, 127, 143, 144, 147, 150, 159 Ceylan, Ayça, 78 Ceylan, Taner, 11 Chicago, Judy, 8, 51, 63, 72, 86 China, 120 Civil society, 3, 110 Cixous, Hélène, 10 Clayton, Ellen, 6 Çoker, Adnan, 28 Collective production, 39, 52, 66, 113, 114, 118, 119, 127, 129, 145 Collective space, 106 Committee of Union and Progress, 25 Constantinople, 23 Constructivism, 53 Contemporary art, 3, 4, 7, 22, 35, 40, 43–59, 65, 66, 69, 79, 85, 121, 122, 125, 127, 131, 134, 135, 137, 138, 153–156 Contemporary Artist (exhibition), 40 Corinne, Tee, 64 Corporation of London Architect’s Department, 127 Counterpublic, 18–20 Coup d’etat (on 12 September 1980), 38, 39, 65 Critical consciousness, 107, 108, 159 Critical publicity, 68, 106–113, 123, 126, 136, 143, 144 Criticism, 9, 10, 13, 44, 46, 50, 52, 54, 55, 57, 58, 62, 67, 69, 71, 99, 100, 136


Cross Section of Avantgarde Turkish Art, 40 Cultural spaces, 13, 17, 43, 108, 131, 139 Current art, 58 Cybele, 76 D

Dada, 53, 56–59 Danto, Arthur, 56 De Amicis, Edmondo, 23 Deconstructivist approach, 64 Deepwell, Katy, 10 Delacroix, Eugène, 32 Derrida, Jacques, 10 De Stijl, 83 Deveraux, Mary, 13, 14 Dikmen, Şükriye, 34 Dikmen, Tiraje, 34 Dink, Hrant, 83 Dissent, 1–3, 13, 35, 106, 107, 111, 122–129, 131, 136, 146, 153, 154 Diyarbakır, 84 Domestic, 8, 35, 38, 69, 80, 86–97, 103n29, 128 Domesticity, 51, 115 Duben, İpek, 39, 65, 75, 95, 96 Duchamp, Marcel, 64, 85 Duran, Feyhaman, 29 Duran, Güzin, 29 E

École des Beaux-Arts, 5 Edelson, Mary Beth, 77 Edict of Gülhane (Tanzimat), 24 Eğrikavuk, Işıl, 124–126, 148–151

176 Index

Ekici, Nezaket, 73, 74 Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, 8 Ellet, E.F., 6 Emadi, Leyla, 94 Emin, Tracey, 69, 85 Enlightenment, 35, 36 Epistemic activism, 140, 148 Epistemic injustice, 4, 16, 22, 69, 131–151 Epistemic resistance, 16, 86, 132, 139–142, 145, 146, 148, 150 Epistemic responsibility, 1 Epistemological, 16, 124, 133, 137, 148–151, 162 Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) Coalition, 105 Erdok, Neşe, 36 Erkmen, Ayşe, 65 Ethnic identity, 64, 79 Eurocentric art, 53 Europe, 1, 2, 7, 24, 26, 30, 33, 39, 50, 54, 63, 73, 89, 105, 131, 134, 141, 144, 147, 150 Eve, 13, 32, 53, 125, 126 Eviner, İnci, 14, 36, 38, 65, 88, 89 Export, Valie, 72, 77 Expression theory, 61 Eyüboglu, Eren, 34 F

Falvédők, 70 Family, 5, 26, 27, 36, 67, 70, 75, 81, 86–95, 138, 150 Felski, Rita, 4, 13, 20, 21, 49, 51, 54, 56, 57, 108 Female figure, 31–33, 46, 50

Female nature, 15 Femininity, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 15, 17, 22, 26, 32, 50, 51, 63, 71, 72, 74, 94, 99, 111, 145, 157 Feminist activism, 11, 65, 95, 142, 154, 159, 162 Feminist aesthetic, 4, 12–15, 20–22, 41, 43–59, 61–63, 68, 71, 98, 99, 153 Feminist Anti-War Resistance, 105 Feminist art epistemology, 9, 15–16 Feminist art history, 2, 8–10, 15, 155 Feminist art philosophy, 63 Feminist critique, 4, 19, 106, 107 Feminist epistemology, 16 Feminist Future: Theory and Practice in the Visual Arts, 8 Feminist movements, 1, 3, 6, 39, 50, 101, 106, 156, 159 Feminist philosophy, 3, 153 Feminist protest art, 125, 126 Feminist resistance, 27, 80, 105–130 Feminist waves, 64 Femmage, 69 Fine arts, 28, 31, 35, 40, 44, 45, 52, 157 First World War, 25, 32 Flitterman-Lewis, Sandy, 66, 99, 100 Formalism, 53, 61, 63, 98 Foucault, Michel, 10 France, 2, 5, 6 Fraser, Nancy, 4, 17–19, 129 French, Marilyn, 44–46 Fricker, Miranda, 4, 15, 132, 133 Furni, İnci, 123–124 Furtun, Candeğer, 75

 Index  G

Galata District, 122 Galatasaray Square, 119 Gallery system, 40, 137 Gambet’s Gallery, 6 Gamsız, Leyla, 34 Gauguin, Paul, 29 Gender discrimination, 128 Gender inequality, 10, 20, 36, 54, 108, 139, 143, 148 Gender role stereotypes, 51, 62 Generation 14, 32 Germany, 83, 97, 148, 150 Gérôme, Jean-Léon, 14 Gezi Park Protests, 159 Goddess, 31, 76, 77, 99 Göktan, Zeren, 95 Goldin, Nan, 64 Gørrill, Helen, 46, 48, 49 Greatness, 7, 9, 45, 118, 137 Greeks, 83 Greenberg, Clement, 13–14 Guerrilla Girls, 8, 133, 134 Güleryüz, Bediha, 34 Gürbüz, Selma, 76 Gürel, Nur, 114–116 Güreş, Nilbar, 81 Gürlek, Nazlı, 78 H

Habermas, Jürgen, 17, 18, 20, 106, 107 Hafriyat, 124 Halil Pasha, 32 Hammond, Harmony, 69 Handcraft materials, 70 Harem, 14, 23, 24, 110


Harrison, Margaret, 8 Hegemonic masculinity, 1, 19, 29, 75, 108, 110, 137 Hein, Hilde, 13, 50 Henry Sass School of Art, 6 Herford, Laura, 5 Hermeneutical injustice, 15, 16, 132, 133 Hero-Artists, 29 High art, 11, 14, 29, 53, 55, 69, 70, 137 Höch, Hannah, 58, 59 House, 39, 51, 70, 86–88, 94, 111, 112, 115–118, 122 Hungary, 70, 147 Hunt, Kay, 8 I

Ilgaz, Gül, 94 İlkin, Gözde, 70, 81, 82, 92, 93 Ingres, Jean-Auguste-­ Dominique, 133 Installation, 8, 11, 73–75, 79, 83, 87, 88, 90, 91, 94, 96, 111, 114, 115, 117, 118, 124–126, 146 International Association of Art Critics (AICA), 34 International Women’s Day, 121, 125 Irigaray, Luce, 10, 77 İrwen, Fatoş, 84 İsmail, Namık, 32 Istanbul, 23, 24, 32, 79, 83, 85, 96, 108, 111, 114, 121, 124, 134, 145, 147, 158 Istanbul Art Festival, 40

178 Index

Istanbul Biennial, 40, 79, 134 Istanbul Convention, 95 Istanbul Feminist Collective, 105, 159 Istanbul Modern Museum, 135 Istanbul Museum of Painting and Sculpture (IRHM), 134 I-You-They: A century of Artist Women, 138 İzer, Zeki Faik, 32 J

Johnson, Clare, 10, 12 Jonas, Joan, 67 Jones, Amelia, 11, 76, 77 Jujin, 73 K

K2, 122 Kadri, Müfide, 33 Kant, Immanuel, 44 Karaköy, 124 Karamustafa, Gülsün, 14, 39, 65, 75 Kaufmann, Angelica, 5 Kelly, Mary, 7, 8, 10 Kemalism, 32 Kırmızı Kart, 119, 120 Kitchen, 59, 87, 115 Koçak, Nur, 39 Köker, Azade, 75 Kollwitz, Käthe, 62 Koral, Füreya, 34 Korsmeyer, Carolyn, 13–15, 46, 54, 61 Kraehe, Amelia, 157 KRE Collective, 87

Kristeva, Julia, 10, 14, 20, 84, 85 Kruger, Barbara, 64 Kubota, Shigeko, 72 Kurds, 83 Kurtay, Ayşecan, 114 L

Laderman Ukeles, Mierle, 86 Lastesis, 105 Le Guin, Ursula K., 29, 38, 75 Levine, Sherrie, 64 LGBTI+, 66 Lifij, Avni, 29 Lifij, Harika, 29 Lippard, Lucy, 57, 67, 72, 119 Literature, 9, 13, 21, 22, 44, 45, 49–51, 56, 58, 101, 108 London, 8, 48, 127, 129 London Royal Academy of Arts, 5 Los Angeles, 8 Low art, 44 M

Male gaze, 3, 7, 12–14, 31, 91, 110, 141 Malestream canon, 139, 156 Male violence, 95–97, 111, 120, 160 Manet, Édouard, 34 Marginalisation, 59, 132 Marmara Pera Hotel, 124 Marriage, 75, 92, 110, 115, 118, 121 Marxism, 37 Marxist aesthetic, 44 Marxist feminism, 54 Marxist theory, 54


Masculinity, 1, 19, 29, 93, 113, 145, 157, 159 Matthew Leigh's General Practical School of Art, 6 Media, 11, 21, 87, 91, 107, 108, 112, 113, 119, 125, 126, 150, 153 Medina, José, 4, 15, 132, 133, 135, 139, 140, 143, 147, 148 Melling, Antoine Ignace, 14 Mendieta, Ana, 78 Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, 77 Meta-exchange value of art, 44 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 10 Mevlan, Ulviye, 25 Middle East, 10, 160 Middlesex Estate, 127, 128 Mihri (Müşfik) Hanim, 30 Milan, 160 Millner, Jacqueline, 11, 12, 129 Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, 138 Mimesis, 61 Misrecognition, 132–139, 150 Modern art, 21, 28, 29, 33, 37, 50, 53, 55, 57, 62, 65, 71, 76, 134 Modernisation, 2, 3, 24–27, 30–33, 35, 65, 81, 154 Modernist aesthetic, 28, 35, 53, 57 Modernity, 2, 29, 30, 33, 34, 155 MoMA, New York, 28 Moore, Catriona, 12, 129 Mooser, Mary, 5 Moral, Şükran, 73, 74, 85, 86, 108–110, 113, 142 Morisot, Berthe, 6 Moro, Sylvia, 160


Mouffe, Chantel, 17, 18, 106, 107, 111, 129, 130 Mürtezaoğlu, Aydan, 93 Musée du Louvre, 133 Museum, 8, 10, 17, 48, 57, 68, 105, 131, 134–136, 156, 159 Muslims, 34, 81, 83, 141, 148, 150, 151 N

Natalia LL, 67 Nauman, Bruce, 85 Nelli, René, 40 Nettles, Bea, 67 New Trends in Art, 40 New York, 8, 10, 28 Nochlin, Linda, 6–9, 13, 30, 44, 45, 47, 48, 63 Non-profit, 118 Non-Western, 2, 9, 10, 20, 141 Normative aesthetic, 53, 54, 70, 71 O

O’Keeffe, Georgia, 14, 62 Ono, Yoko, 77 Ontological, 40, 53, 141, 162 Onur, Füsun, 39, 65 Orgel, Sandra, 86 Orientalist art movement, 141 Osman Hamdi, 31, 33 Ostojić, Tanja, 64 Ottoman Empire, 2, 23, 24, 27, 31, 32 Özcan Kaya, Yasemin, 83 Özgür, Ferhat, 81

180 Index P


Pamuk, Orhan, 83 Pane, Gina, 77 Parker, Rozsika, 9, 12, 47, 51, 57 Partington, Angela, 62, 99 Pateman, Carole, 110 Patriarchal hegemony, 106 Pattern and Decorative Artists, 69 Pekünlü, Zeyno, 96 Performance art, 14, 67–69, 72–74, 76–78, 110, 160 Piper, Adrian, 79 Pist, 122 Plath, Sylvia, 115 Plato, 44 Polat, Neriman, 79–81, 102n14, 111–113, 123, 145, 146 Political dissent, 35, 106 Political sphere, 1, 106, 107 Pollock, Griselda, 4, 7–9, 12, 28, 30, 32–34, 46–49, 51, 57, 71, 147, 156 Pop Art, 87 Postcolonialist theories, 64 Post-structuralism, 20 Public space, 1, 10, 11, 17, 20–22, 40, 105–107, 109–111, 113, 114, 119, 122, 123, 126, 129, 130, 140, 147, 158–160 Public sphere, 1, 4, 16–22, 27, 33, 52, 81, 105–130, 140, 147, 156, 157, 159 Puwar, Nirmal, 122

Renaissance, 33, 44 Resistance fabrics, 70 Ritual, 67, 77, 78, 115, 117, 119 Romanticism, 44, 50, 53 Rose Sélavy, 64 Rosler, Martha, 67, 86, 144 Russian avantgarde, 56 Rüzgar, Necla, 75


Queer, 9, 11, 66


Sağbaş, Ayşegül, 114 Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi, 31 Savaş, Güneş, 122 Schapiro, Miriam, 8, 51, 69, 86 Schneemann, Carolee, 72 Schopenhauer, Arthur, 44 Second Constitutional Revolution (period, era), 25 Semmel, Joan, 94 Sex, 50, 75, 82, 110, 143, 147, 161 Sexuality, 10, 12, 34, 35, 63, 74, 77, 84–86, 97, 110, 143, 149 Sherman, Cindy, 64 Şimşek, Füruzan, 114 Şimşek, Özlem, 76 Site-specific, 108 Skiles, Jacqueline, 101 Slade School of Art, 6 Social equality, 3, 19, 27, 37, 55, 58, 67, 162 Social justice, 122 Socialist struggle, 38 Society of Female Artists, 6 Sofu, Melek Celal, 32 Solidarity Campaign Against Beating, 38


Space of femininity, 32 Spain, 70 Spero, Nancy, 160 State Academy of Fine Arts (Turkey), 37 State feminism, 37 Surrealism, 56 Sutherland Harris, Ann, 8


US/USA, 8, 30, 53, 63, 79, 101, 105, 134, 151, 155 V

Video art, 67 Video installation, 124–126 Vienna exhibition (1918), 26 von Goethe, Johann Wolfgang, 26 Von Trier, Lars, 114, 115


Tahiti, 29 Taksim, 126 Tansuğ, Sezer, 28 Tanzimat (Edict of Gülhane), 24, 25 Tekeli, Şirin, 37 Tel Aviv, 160 Tenger, Hale, 74 Terkol, Güneş, 119–121, 127–129 Testimonial injustice, 15, 132, 133 Tophane, 111 Traditional aesthetics, 14, 44–46, 55, 56, 59, 68, 71, 156 Turkey, 1–5, 11, 16, 17, 22, 25–40, 43, 52, 62, 65, 67, 70, 71, 73–85, 88, 89, 91, 93, 95, 96, 106–108, 110, 113, 118–121, 124–126, 130, 131, 133–136, 141, 143–145, 147, 153, 155, 156, 158–160, 162 Turkish art, 2, 23–41, 76 Turkish-Islamic synthesis, 35 Turkish painting, 31, 33, 34, 76 U

Unjust Provocation, 124, 144 Ünlü, Didem, 114


WACK! (Art and the Feminist Revolution), 8, 9 War of Independence, 25 Wa Thiongo, Ngũgı ̃, 143 Western art, 9, 31 Western culture, 52 Westernisation, 2, 24–28, 31, 40 Western society, 64, 84 We Will Stop Femicide Platform, 95 White cube, 112, 114, 118, 122 Wilding, Faith, 69, 86 Wilke, Hannah, 72 Woman Artist Fund, 135 Womanhouse, 8, 51, 86 The Womanhouse Collective, 8 Woman’s body, 45, 68, 72, 73, 75, 76, 99, 110 Women and Work: A Document on the Division of Labour in Industry 1973–1975, 8 Women Artists at the Millennium, 8 Women artists: 1550–1950, 8 Women’s Art History Collective, 8 Women’s Free School of Art and Design, 5

182 Index

Work and Production, 34 World War I, 25, 32 Writing Feminist Art Histories project, 9

Yersel, Seçil, 122 Yıldırım, Nevin, 119 Young, Iris Marion, 4, 17–19, 77, 87, 88 Youth Event, 73


Yalter, Nil, 40, 65, 67, 77, 78 YAMA, 125 Yapı Kredi Bank, 34 Yayıntaş, Arzu, 111–113, 145, 146


Zakanitch, Robert, 69 Zeid, Fahrelnissa, 34 Ziarek, Ewa, Plonowska, 14