This essay interrogates the forms of feminist political desire and subject formation being reproduced under the heading of contemporary feminist art. The author considers two recent exhibitions, similarly organized around the theme of intersectionality, that took place over two consecutive summers in New York City: Simone Leigh’s The Waiting Room at the New Museum (2016), and the group exhibit We Wanted a Revolution at the Brooklyn Museum (2017). While both exhibitions promote the work of black women artists at the center of their institutional program-building initiatives, each exhibition forwards a notably distinct version of what counts as “revolutionary” feminist politics. Hayes argues ultimately for an interpretation of Leigh’s work as a prefigurative, utopian feminism that demands more—for example, than mere inclusion—from progressive institutions and feminist art.
shannan l. hayes holds a PhD from the Program in Literature and a certificate in Feminist Studies from Duke University. In 2019–20, she was a predoctoral fellow and visiting lecturer in visual studies at Haverford College. Publications include “Counterpublic and Counterprivate: Zoe Leonard, David Wojnarowicz, and the Political Aesthetics of Intimacy,” in Women and Performance, coauthored with Max Symuleski, and “Justice Regained: The Objects and Lessons of Object Lessons” in Feminist Formations. She defended her dissertation, titled “An Aesthetic Disposition: Art, Social Reproduction, and Feminist Critique,” in Spring 2020.
Shannan L. Hayes; Wanting More. differences 1 May 2020; 31 (1): 64–97. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-8218774
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