The focus of Feminism and Museums emerged when, in 2016, feminist art-activists The Guerrilla Girls staged their latest exhibition (and first in the UK) at the Whitechapel Gallery, showcasing a survey of 400 European galleries and revealing that museums still fail to reflect the full diversity of art activity and art history. The anonymous art collective’s methods of disruption range from site-specific protests and performances to research, publications, posters and billboards. All the while remaining anonymous in their gorilla masks.
This condensed, reader edition is published during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. International research is underway to track and measure the impact of the virus on inequalities, and to better understand who is most at risk from such a pandemic. We already know that a dramatic increase has been recorded in cases of violence against women and domestic violence, both worldwide and in Council of Europe member states. Individuals and communities living in poverty, in overcrowded living conditions, or experiencing day-to-day underresourcing of services and care cannot effectively protect themselves from the virus. Many of us have signed the manifesto, led by the Feminist Alliance for Rights, to demand that States adopt a feminist policy to address the extraordinary challenges posed by COVID-19 in a manner that is consistent with human rights standards and principles.
In the museum context, the pandemic has forced organisations to close their doors to visitors and turn to digital alternatives very quickly. In this rush to create and push out virtual content, issues of inclusion, diversity and equality in representation and participation need addressing. A feminist approach to technology and digital spaces once again comes to the fore (as if it ever went away). The FemTechNet Manifesto articulates well my position on this, and I have been arguing for a feminist digital heritage practice for some time.
Questions are now circulating around what kind of society we want to be, or we will become, in a post-COVID context. We remember Arundhati Roy’s beautiful reading of her essay ”The Pandemic is a Portal”, calling us to be ready to fight for a new world. For my part, I am interested in how intimacy in our current confinement is shaping our ways of looking and taking notice of the material-human-natural cultures around us, and the potential for this experience to fuel a feminist ecological imagination for devising feminist futures. Our upcoming context does not eliminate the possibility of pandemics, but it highlights