Exactly three decades after the inaugural issue of Texte zur Kunst came out in November 1990, we return to the question of where the hard-won and still embattled rights of women* – or, more accurately, of all individuals who identify as women  – stand. After a number of issues dedicated to feminisms and sexisms,  this anniversary edition, titled “The Feminist,” once again turns the spotlight on the forms of discrimination that women* face, while also celebrating 30 years of controversial debates around contemporary art and culture. In light of the rising tide of violence against women* all over the world and a reactionary political environment compounded of sexism, neoliberal austerity, and racism, we believe that practicing forms of community grounded in solidarity is needed more urgently than ever.
Over the same three decades, however, “feminism” has also come to function as a buzzword in an art field in which growing political awareness has gone hand in hand with the marketization of subjectivity. This suggests that we need to situate the concept, which has remained contested even as its fortunes have waxed and waned, in its historical context. Discrimination against women* in art, for instance, may begin with something as basic as a general expectation that, as women*, they will have a take on sexism and misogyny – in other words, delegating to women* what should, by rights, be a concern for all of society. On the other hand, if we cling to a negative fixation on patriarchal hegemony, we are unlikely to change the labor-exploiting, racist, and ageist divisions that make feminism necessary in the first place. As recent skirmishes over transphobia have illustrated, the very question of who counts as a woman is contentious, though it is worth remembering that, as Judith Butler has noted, most feminists advocate for the rights of trans women and condemn all forms of transphobia.
Keeping such things in mind, this issue of Texte zur Kunst proposes that when practices of constructing and negotiating identity make the notion of a self-identical subject known as “woman” appear increasingly questionable, closer attention needs to be devoted to processes of subjectivation. If, for example, we wish to sharpen the contours of feminism as a demand for equality by taking concrete existing inequities into account, we must grapple with the hierarchical dualism of a gender-specific division of labor that continues to glorify the societal function of the nuclear family, privilege heterosexual relationships, and ignore the particulars of the exploitation of women*. Formulating a critique of the inevitably class-based and racialized discrimination of women* thus requires examination of the gender binary bound up with a structurally racist and patriarchal capitalism. Moreover, given the plurality of ideas within feminism that Texte zur Kunst has reflected and championed since its first issue, we are convinced of the need to further pursue a critique of capitalist relations of reproduction and their imbrication with sexisms and racisms while also fostering a debate within feminism over whether it is time to let go of the idea of a coherent gender identity, or of any self-consistent existence, for that matter. On the occasion of our 30th anniversary, we want to give a platform to this intra-feminist debate by inviting 30 artists, critics, curators, and theorists of art and culture to discuss a cultural object they believe is currently of particular interest from a feminist perspective – be it a book, a film, a series, a painting, or another artifact. In highlighting feminist discourses that are especially relevant to the present moment, this format should also illustrate the diversity of the thinkers who contribute to the feminist project today.
In mid-November, we started publishing their contributions, in the form of visual and audio statements, through a variety of communication channels, including Instagram, Facebook, and Vimeo, releasing a new one every day. The unabridged texts and visual creations are reprinted in these pages. Some hew to the format of a slide lecture or traditional academic exposition; others also express their feminist engagement on an aesthetic level. In that respect, this issue is already a historic document: it presents contemporary feminisms that capture both the object and the current state of an ongoing discussion of possible forms of critical intervention as art and with art. All contributions struck an unmistakably emphatic note, but all were also staged with evident relish or aesthetic sensibility, speaking to the blend of critical scrutiny and enthusiasm with which the authors relate to the objects they have chosen. Thus, this 120th issue of Texte zur Kunst is dedicated to intersectional feminism: a gesture to the unity and the alliances that critique grounded in solidarity can build. And so, without further ado: Cheers to you, femmes!
Translation: Gerrit Jackson