Footnotes on Equality is an exhibition by the fifteen researchers of GRACE – Gender and Cultures of Equality in Europe, in collaboration with designer Anja Groten and web-designer Joana Chicau. The exhibition centers around a multi-year project to build an eclectic collection of art and everyday objects that serve as indexes for various contentious points around the cultural production of (in)equality, as well as props to tell stories about contemporary fights against injustices. The exhibition also includes Filming GRACE, a collection of short videos – audiovisual translations of different issues related to social (in)equalities made with the guidance of scholar, writer and filmmaker Frances Negrón-Muntaner.
** The GRACE project
GRACE – Gender and Cultures of Equality in Europe is an ‘Innovative Training Network’ within the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions programme. The GRACE project inquires into the ways cultures of equality are made and remade within and at the borders of Europe. In the largest cross-European collaboration of its kind, involving fifteen early stage researchers and a wider group of a hundred scholars based in over ten countries, GRACE has for three years systematically investigated what ‘equality’ means in the European context today. These studies range from the examination of documentary cinema, theatre, poetry slams and science fiction, to disability politics and trans visual poetics, the experiences of women in boxing, and the analysis of the role of social media and reproductive health apps in social change. Together, these studies provide a unique lens through which we can think about the processes and practices, as well as the challenges and dilemmas, that create, enable and contest cultures of in/equality.
GRACE partners include the European Commission ATRIA Institute of Gender Equality and Women’s History and Hull City Council, and the consortium of Associazione Orlando, Central European University, University of Bologna, University of Granada, University of Hull, University of Łódz, University of Oviedo, and Utrecht University.
More about GRACE here.
*** Footnotes on Equality
In their work across various locations in Europe, the GRACE researchers have been conducting their respective field work and encountering instances where the notion of equality is an ongoing struggle sustained by social movements and in dialogue with efforts in governmental policy and legislation. They have collected objects out of these situations as cultural props to tell stories around instances when (in)equality is experienced, but also around moments of resistance to a discourse on equality that has come to reinforce European geopolitical boundaries, creating spaces of ‘achieved equality’ and global horizons of the ‘not there yet.’
The collection includes an array of material including fieldwork notes, audio and visual recordings, transcriptions, artworks, and readymade objects. The researchers share their investigations on broad themes within their work where the concept of individual and structural equality is challenged: in gender inclusivity in sports; in feminism across religion and secularism; in anniversary celebrations for LGTBQ rights and their material traces; in migrant, feminist and anti-racist solidarity networks; in menstrual and big data flows; in the war and memory of the Syrian uprising; in sexual violence and domestic abuse; in feminist countervisualities that move from reflections of the same to diffractions that attends to patterns of difference; and in the politics of visibility for transgender and disability embodiment. As a result, the exhibition offers an artifactual analysis as a way to both engage and disseminate, as well as produce “new” sites and events of and about cultures of equality.
“Embodied discomfort” was used as a methodology in constructing the collection so that the researchers could explore the body’s role in the making and unmaking of the world through encounters with art works, found objects, conversations, or activist practices. Discomfort informs the curatorial approach of the exhibition as well, presented through the design as a central drive for investigation and a force for transformation that invites the visitor to understand better, but also to witness present glimpses of equality’s potentiality. The exhibition presents the collected objects as occupying the “uncomfortable” role of footnotes, connoting explanatory material that is simultaneously necessary for making sense of a body of the text and does not fit into the flow of the text. Anja Groten and Joana Chicau’s design visualizes these footnotes as forms of displacement, moving from the margin to the center of attention.
The exhibition title ‘Footnotes on Equality’ highlights the desire to question current mainstream notions of equality in Europe and to show that struggles are ongoing and incomplete. It also emphasizes the object collection as evidence, additional support, critique, alternative perspectives, diverse insights and anecdotes that supplement the academic paper creating an ethnographic “scenography” to construct, analyze, read through and critique the concept of “equality.”
**** Filming GRACE
How to use video production as a mode of inquiry to explore a wide range of questions, including those related to social difference and in/equalities? With the guidance of scholar, writer and filmmaker Frances Negrón-Muntaner, the fifteen GRACE researchers engaged with the audiovisual medium as a way of producing knowledge in itself, not just as an instrument to convey information. With the production of short videos, they illuminate and expand on issues that emerged through their research processes. The possibilities explored in these short films range from affective interviews with female boxers and anti-racist playwrights, to experimental juxtapositions of sounds and images that reveal contradictions, patterns of continuities and/or differences that matter.
***** Who we are
The collection of objects and films presented here is the result of the work of the the GRACE researchers in collaboration with artists, activists and other stakeholders.
These researchers are:
Zuzanna Szutenberg University of Łódz
Tommaso Trillò University of Łódz
Barbara Grabher University of Hull
Paola Prieto Lopez University of Oviedo
Raluca Pinzari University of Oviedo
Alejandra Benítez Silva University of Hull
Sara Verderi Utrecht University
Tegiye Birey Central European University
Zerrin Cengiz Utrecht University
Lieke Hettinga Central European University
Wilmarie R. Pérez University of Bologna
Eleanor Drage University of Bologna
Orianna Calderón University of Granada
Johanna Levy University of Granada
Athena M. Enderstein Associazione Orlando
Footnotes on Equality
Curatorial team: Alejandra Benítez Silva, Tegiye Birey, Zerrin Cengiz, Barbara Grabher, Lieke Hettinga, Wilmarie R. Pérez, Raluca Pinzari, Sara Verderi
Designer: Anja Groten
Designer and programmer: Joana Chicau
Coordinator: Vasiliki (Vasso) Belia (Utrecht University)
Board: Rosemarie Buikema (Professor of Art, Culture & Diversity, Utrecht University), Suzanne Clisby (Senior Research Fellow, Director of GRACE, University of Hull)
Footnotes on Equality has also been presented at Casco Art Institute: Working for the Commons, in collaboration with the platform and catalyzer for art and architecture Cookies.
Coordinators: Frances Negrón-Muntaner (Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University) and Orianna Calderón
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie-Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 675378