Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

4 - Femininity as Contemporaneity: Womanifesto and the Connective Potentials of Gender

Friday, July 6
10:20 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Rudraksha, Lower Ground Floor

In Southeast Asian Studies, the apparent equality between the sexes within ‘indigenous’ social systems has often been used to cohere a region characterized by religious, cultural and ethnic diversity (Reid, 2000). This focus on the region’s ‘uniqueness’ also converges with descriptions of Southeast Asian contemporary art, which often reinforce its particularity to establish its value within art historical discourses. At the same time, scholars have problematized both of these proposals by drawing attention to the phallocentrism of Southeast Asian societies on the one hand, and the integration of Southeast Asian art within internationalized networks of contemporary art, on the other.


This paper examines these contradictions between the universal and particular through the case study of Womanifesto, an international art exchange focused on women artists. Established in 1997 by six Thai women artists, Womanifesto has included participants from 13 countries spanning Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas. In creating networks of friendship and exchange, the organizers have consistently emphasized the shared condition of women artists as “vulnerable individual[s]” and “unifying force[s]” (Rodboon, 1997). Yet, rather than addressing these commonalities, since 2001 participating artists have been asked to deal with the singularities of the program’s “unique” location in Northern Thailand. What can new geographies of artistic production realize within and beyond ‘Southeast Asia’ as an analytical framework?  And what does this case study tell us about the potentials and limitations of women’s experience as a way of fulfilling the desire for contemporaneity as a proximity with the difference? 

Clare Veal

LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore

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