Introduction: looking on, bouncing back.
Kokoli, Alexandra M.
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Feminism Reframed: Reflections on Art and Difference addresses the ongoing dialogue between feminism, art history and visual culture from contemporary scholarly perspectives. Over the past thirty years, the critical interventions of feminist art historians in the academy, the press and the art world have not only politicised and transformed the themes, methods and conceptual tools of art history, but have also contributed to the emergence of new interdisciplinary areas of investigation, including notably that of visual culture. Although the impact of such fruitful transformations is indisputable, their exact contribution to contemporary scholarship and their changing function within the academy remains a matter for debate, not least because feminism itself has changed significantly since the Women’s Liberation Movement. Side-stepping facile, vague and/or ideologically suspect formulations like “postfeminism”, this collection targets the relationships between past and present as well as among different strands of thought; it aims to offer a complex re-evaluation of different strands in feminist thought and practice around art and visual culture since the 1970s, highlighting continuities as well as points of disjunction. The essays in this volume, all previously unpublished, engage with the interpretative and conceptual models fashioned by feminist art history and visual cultural criticism from both historical and theoretical perspectives. The authors, most of whom are early career academics and emergent practising artists, explore the gaps and omissions of established methodologies and prevalent art historical narratives, while also recovering valuable tools and insights that may be redeployed in contemporary contexts and put to new uses. Inspired by the one-day conference Difference Reframed: Reflections on the Legacies of Feminist Art History and Visual Culture (16 September 2006, University of Sussex),1 this is a purposeful selection of considered responses to what the authors view as timely and pressing questions, including: What is the relevance of feminist art history to contemporary scholarship, curating, and art practice? If feminism itself works through/as revision, should second-wave strategies and concerns be further (or newly) revised? What has been the influence of feminist theory—and practice—on key notions like spectatorship, subjectivity, and performativity? Does theory have a history (and vice versa)? What forms do/can feminist politics and practice take?