A performance inspired by Carolee Schneemann's Interior Scroll
I presented a performance titled Roll Call on the opening night of the Pretty Vacant exhibition. Inspired by Carolee Schneemann’s historic feminist performance, Interior Scroll, I performed atop the wooden bar, and pulled a long scroll of paper from my vagina. I read aloud the text that was printed on the paper, which included a list of gender statistics – the ratio of male and female artists represented – at each of 88 Los Angeles galleries. Counting over 2000 artists in these galleries in 2013, 70% of them were male.
Schneemann performed Interior Scroll in 1973. The text on the scroll was instructively cautionary, advising women on what kind of treatment and attitudes to expect from a patriarchal world. She spoke about the space of the vagina as one of “interior knowledge”. This resonated with me, as a female artist who constantly experiences, through body and mind, myriad inequities in the systems of the art world. Schneemann says, “"I thought of the vagina in many ways - physically, conceptually: as a sculptural form, an architectural referent, the source of sacred knowledge, ecstasy, birth passage, transformation. I saw the vagina as a translucent chamber of which the serpent was an outward model.” It seemed logical to me that for Roll Call I used the very space that makes me biologically feminine, as the place from which I pulled the scroll of data regarding gender bias.
I worked with over 100 artists to collect and visualize the gender statistics of the Los Angeles galleries. Until we began to publicize these numbers, there was no concrete, factual information about the persisting gender bias in the contemporary art world. It was shocking to learn just how little things had actually changed, with regard to opportunity for women artists in the 21st century. To pull this information from my vagina was meant to symbolize a feminist perspective, the act of birthing new information and new realities, and the idea that this information once hidden is now in out in the open and no longer ‘private’. As with many of my performances, I used my body as a conduit for information.