2009 : 2008 : 2007 : 2006 : 2005 : 2004 : 2003 : 2002 : 2001 : 2000 : 1999 : 1998 : 1997 : 1996 : 1995 : 1994

concept : film : skype meetings : radio lora : magazines : open desktop : archives : symposium

Image Politics – Notes on the History of the Feminist Movement

Behind the idea to quote from the history of feminist struggles in note form is an interest in the feminist movement as a largely self-organised emancipation movement. The documentary level, gathered through the reviewing and researching spaces afforded by “Skype Meetings”, makes no claim of (scholarly) completeness, but seeks rather to frame the actuality of “Skype Meetings” historically. The aim is to illuminate, like casting a spotlight, a long tradition which in the context of contemporary emancipation movements is no longer being adequately reflected on. The feminist movement shows in exemplary fashion that self-organisation is anything other than a post-modern invention. In order to create publics, women had to inevitably call on and use self-organisable media throughout history.

Tracing the trail of feminist image politics entailed, in a first step, exploring selected archives: the Archiv zur Geschichte der schweizerischen Frauenbewegung (Gosteli-Stiftung) in Worblaufen/Berne, the Espace Femmes International (efi) and the Archives MLF (Mouvement de Libération des Femmes), currently being set up, in Geneva, the Centre International de Recherches sur l'Anarchisme (CIRA) in Lausanne and the Schweizerisches Sozialarchiv in Zurich. The archive selection means a focusing on the Swiss context, while the exhibition as a whole seeks to primarily address transnational relationships.

The “Notes on the History of the Feminist Movement” provide insights into archives either exclusively devoted to the movement or whose holdings contain specialist sections. In addition, the selected archival materials presented are copied and largely downscaled versions of the “originals”. The materials make it apparent that visual languages, symbols, graphics and slogans have recurred in variations – shaped by their respective point in historical time – throughout the history of the feminist movement. But divergences and contradictions are also noticeable, for instance when the SAFFA (Swiss exhibition for women’s work) features a very different image of the role of women in the working world than radical feminists. Connections and differences within the varied image production of the feminist movement in the 20th century emerge. Moreover, looking back historically generates references to the different exhibition modules concerned with the current (working) situation. In this way, the historical itself becomes working material that opens up an associative field and raises questions: to what extent has the media (and thus its use) changed? Have new media forms been added and older ones disappeared – or have they perhaps remained surprisingly similar? The media presented in the “Skype Meetings” – from the magazine to film, from radio to open desktop and conversations via Skype – enable such comparisons. To name two examples: when the title page of a magazine is located in the historical archives which is in turn represented in the up-to-date magazine archive: the Frauenzeitung FRAZ back then and today; or when a Skype dialogue focuses on labour struggles which also come up in the documents of the past. Questions also emerge, however, because the historical evidence is taken out of its respective context: from which historical period could this poster or that statistic originate? Perhaps we are surprised just how modern the demands expressed by women at the beginning of the 20th century sound, or how remote the aesthetics of the 1990s already seems.

While the other modules of “Skype Meetings” are spatially separated from one another, the “small gifts from the archives” run like a thread through the exhibition. They are ideas jotted down in note form, footnotes, which can be read both backwards and forwards. They evoke side glances, divert from the monitor, the magazine and the radio sounds, and enable a different inlet to the exhibition – a going from space to space without berthing in a specific harbour.

Ultimately, the concern is not only to keep an eye on the history of the feminist movement within contemporary debates. The aim is to also reflect on and became aware of the important function played by the medium of the archive. Precisely independent, emancipative movements based extensively on informal networks and communication forms are threatened by a grave danger: that their documents and various media are lost – that flyers, literally, fly away, untraceable. And this raises a further question: who then actually collects the media of the currently active social movements?

Through the friendly permission to copy documents, the respective archives have contributed decisively to “Notes on the History of the Feminist Movement” being shown in the Shedhalle. Sincere thanks are thus extended to the Archiv zur Geschichte der schweizerischen Frauenbewegung (Gosteli-Stiftung) in Worblaufen/Berne, the Espace Femmes International (efi) and Archives MLF (Mouvement de Libération des Femmes) in Geneva, the Centre International de Recherches sur l'Anarchisme (CIRA) in Lausanne, and the Schweizerisches Sozialarchiv in Zurich.