By Aurélia Majean and Lucy Owen Jones
As part of an exhibition commissioned by the French Institute in Köln, we worked on the topic of feminism presenting a reflection on what or which visions of power women have in 2020. The subject matter is for us a primordial and important combat in our everyday life. We do believe the future should be built on a collective vision that brings in more complexity, more variety and definitely, more women.
The speech is formulated by 10 women (all living in Berlin) about their vision of power, and their opinion on what the world will look like in 2050. The interviews are either in German, in French or in English (with English subtitles for those in German or French). Each interview has been filmed resulting in a six to seven minute video summary of their visions. All the women interviewed have a different background and the content of each videos is therefore very different, covering subjects from the lack of media representation for minorities to the importance of working in collectives and groups.
WHAT ARE THE INTERVIEWS ABOUT ?
The whole project started when we got commissioned to do an exhibition at the French Institute in Cologne (Germany). We received only one guideline for this years art festival of the “Nuit des Idées 2020” : the only theme was “to be alive”.
We were asked what does it mean to be alive, and why might our definition be so different as compared to one from someone living in a relatively similar context?
In 2020, living in a society where the stakes seem increasingly heavy (climate change, political crisis, personal success… and currently Covid-19 crisis) it would be possible to lead a passive and peaceful existence, entirely impermeable to these stakes, struggles and debates of society. However, this possibility seems to us to be compromised as soon as one is born a woman. In today’s society, we have immediate and easy access to the insight of inspiring women around the world thanks to social medias, internet, and the overall online exchange of ideas. After studying an extensive list of feminist references, after reading numerous feminist essays from Virginie Despentes to Gisèle Halimi, and after exploring podcasts and films directed by women, we tried to understand what has been done before us and what has been said. From there, we decided to give it a try, ourselves. Why not us? Why wouldn’t we be the ones who talk about the issues we face as a woman? It is long known that women are missing opportunities to be in important positions of power within society and its hierarchy, and this notion of power became the main bias in the project. In 2018, women only held 27 per cent of managerial positions worldwide (Statistics from the UN). We knew that being alive, as a woman, meant something different.
We therefore decided to focus on what we wanted to defend, to fight for, to debate, and to express within this new decade. We approach this as 2 women who are interested in other women’s experiences, by using our voice, and our creativity. We engaged in conversations with 10 inspiring women living in Berlin, either as nationals or expatriates, who are above all trying to make tomorrow a better world. A better world in their eyes, a world with more values, where passion and desire transcend gloom and anxiety. We wanted to give them a voice in order to help expose which tools are missing for them to achieve their goals, and thus detect what can be done better. Each interview has been filmed and results in a 6-7min long video, accompanied by a photographed portrait. All the women interviewed have a different social and professional background and the content of each video is therefore very different, covering subjects from the lack of media representation for minorities to the importance of being self-sufficient and independent.
Examples of questions asked:
What is your personal definition of power? If I would say you’re a powerful woman, what would you say to me? Why would you agree? Why wouldn’t you agree?
Do you feel like you have the necessary tools for your personal development/happiness? What would 2050 look like to you? Do you feel anxious/nervous about it, or do you feel confident?
We would also love to continue with a series of interviews of women around different major artistic worlwide capitals: Berlin to start with, as we live here. We would ideally pursue in Paris, Rotterdam, Warsaw, Copenhagen, Oslo, London, Athens… And ideally, we would like to gather the perspective and speech from women from a broader range of age. This project still needs funding and sponsoring, which we are happily open to.
WHAT IS THE GOAL? WHAT ARE THE PRINCIPLES BEHIND IT?
Our main goal was to carry women’s experience as an empowering content.
It was important for us to create a space made for women and by women, where we can share with one another as it has always been throughout history, creating our own stories and myths. There always was a common knowledge carried from one mother to her daughter, the daughter to the sister and so on… Women’s existence was for a long time limited to certain spaces (mainly the family home), and therefore this created a “safe-space” for women to develop their knowledge and make it navigate through members of the same gender. Our project was intend to reproduce these spaces where the discourse is not filtered by any male gaze or societal norms.
By contacting them, we hoped to make these amazing women feel empowered. By asking them to answer with their own opinions, we hoped to make them engaged and reflect on what their way of life shows of their power. By taking a bit of their free time to do these interviews, we were very thankful and so was the goal of the project; a two-way rewarding experience between women. Each and every one of them gifted us with a very personal and authentic experience that pushed us to reflect even more on the subject and on our own opinions.
HOW WAS IT FOR US TO WORK ON THIS FEMINIST EXHIBITION? Anecdotes included.
The project’s essence was emphasized by the diversity of all the opinions and answers we received of the same asked questions. It’s a call for more complexity. We were happily surprised by the different points of view and positions we received, which we didn’t expect to come up. It also gave us more courage to fully accept our commitment for the cause, and made us want to work even more on the subject.
It is very engaging to see people respond to your attempt to create a debate.
On the other hand, going through the interviews and having to cut some of their responses in order to shorten the videos was by no means easy. We felt like we were asserting decision upon what they might have chosen to keep or let go of and it did feel like a form of power. As a remedy we would like to broadcast the entire scripts of each interview. Because using every single word that was spoken out matters and is more than relevant for the cause.
A common issue that came up several times was that our society remains very binary and normative on such topics as gender, sexuality, and body type. It is the media’s responsibility to be more inclusive and show more of the existing diaspora of human beings. Medias are responsible for broadcasting and making visible the “invisible”, such as minorities. This would allow everyone to know they exist, are seen, and are capable of being anything. This way, the harmful clichés that create very little models for the diversity out there in the world will be lowered and diminished.
Through the interviews, it was really revealing that every answer given could be translated into a solution and therefore have a future impact. The one thing we learned from all of them is the importance of education above all. Without education, there will be no change on these burning issues (gender rights, equality…) which require an open-mind and acceptance. As socialized and civilized human beings, we need education to be pushed forward for our common future. There won’t be any improvement without committed information on these subjects.
The need for more collective work has been expressed a lot, too. How to organize a collective structure that is fair, equal and sustainable. Our long established capitalistic system within Europe and the global north took a big hit with Corona, and even if these interviews were conducted before Corona, the subject was already of strong purpose. Some women talked about the power of collective action, away from institutional power, the local and small actions that have an impact within our environment. An unavoidable question in relation to power was money. Even if one can feel powerful within its practice, its surroundings, its group of friends and family, on a local scale or broader scale, the power in our society is directly connected with wealth. Our interviewees questioned the distribution of it on so many levels.
Working together on this project was again another reminder that our condition as women shaped a certain relationship to power. Any individual identifying as a woman is subject to this questioning. That might not be the case when identifying with another gender. Being alive is therefore a permanent reminder of your condition and where you belong, which comes with a strong awareness of what power is.
Our warmest thanks to the the woman who participated in this project: Kaja Busch, Cléa Dieudonné, Maëlle Chauffour, Arletis Garcia, Maïssa Lihedheb, Rocio Cuchillo Rodriguez, Andrea Sánchez Licer, Athénaïs Risch, Sarah Funk and Manon Bernard. We also thank Alexandra Le Noel and Johanna Seebrandt from the French Institute, without whom this exhibition would not have been possible.
AURÉLIA MAJEAN. Born in 1996, in the midst of the years when pop culture exploded, Aurélia Majean has had a passionate relationship with the visual arts since childhood. She decides to follow an artistic training in Paris which will end with a Bachelor in Graphic design. Since now 3 years, Aurélia has opened her own design and art direction studio in Berlin, under the name “Sadikoua”. With a strong visual identity, obsessed with the impact of colours, Aurélia mixes her love for multi-disciplinarity with societal causes such as feminism as part of a more social design approach. You can follow her on Instagram.
LUCY OWEN JONES. Born in 1993, Lucy has shown a strong interest in Art and Design since her childhood. In her teenage years, she became familiar with the world of photography and video. Her love for the image is then encouraged and closely followed by her art teacher and will lead her to study fashion design in Marseille. Now studying Fashion design at the Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin she still experiments around the video and photography medium in her practice. You can follow her on Instagram.