Sharon Hayes In the Near Future 002

Sharon Hayes, In the Near Future, performance series, 2005-2008.

Catherine Grant, A Time of One's Own: Histories of Feminism in Contemporary Art (Duke University Press, 2022)

Julia Alting

29 aug. 2023 • 2 min

When Roe v. Wade was overturned in the United States in 2021, abolishing the constitutional right to abortion that had been in place for decades, I became obsessed with a meme that read

Time zones are crazyyy
In Australia its 9 am
In Rome it’s 1 am
And in America it’s 1942 where minorities and women are still controlled by old white men

I think we would misunderstand this meme if we only take it as an indictment of ‘backward’ policies in the US: I believe it also shows us the faults of a common conception of history. Although we may desire it to be, the feminist movement unfortunately does not represent a linear line of progress. The right to abortion, an issue associated with the 1970s second wave, is just as much the focus of political struggle for feminists today.

Contemporary art scholar Catherine Grant’s A Time of One’s Own – its title a reference to Virginia Woolf’s classic – traces reimaginations of the 1970s feminist moment. The book challenges the view of history as progressive waves, and explains contemporary artistic experiments (including Grant’s own scholarship) through the figure of the passionate ‘fan’ of feminism – a more inclusive character than the usual mother-daughter metaphors. Instead of a detached, rational engagement with history, fans desire and appropriate previous feminist moments. The artists Grant discusses, among them the likes of Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz, Lubaina Himid and Mary Kelly, rework the past in a way that feels especially urgent today. Grant’s writing opens avenues for imagining possible feminist pasts, presents, and futures.

Note to the reader. This article is part of Trigger’s 2023 ‘Summer Read’ series. We invited writers, researchers, photographers and curators to share what is currently occupying their mind through one publication they have been (re)reading during summer. What matters to them is now being recast as a challenge for today. Highly personal entries to a diversity of publications (photobooks, studies, monography, essay, historical research) lead us – readers of these readers – to reorient our gaze on (the history of) images and photography.

Julia Alting is a PhD candidate at the Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG). Her research assesses nonlinear approaches to art historical time.

  • Summer Read '23