“Contested Spaces” presented at Expanding the Canon: Curatorial and Art Historical Activism, CAA 2020

The Feminist Art and Architecture Collaborative will be presenting “Contested Spaces” at the panel Expanding the Canon: Curatorial and Art Historical Activism, convened by Julie R Widholm, DePaul Art Museum and Mia Lopez, DePaul Art Museum.


Can a radical rethinking of the canon–in the galleries and the classroom–call into question not only content but pedagogical methodology? FAAC (Feminist Art and Architecture Collaborative) formed to challenge the frameworks that shape the survey course and elide the logic of the canon, with its stable roster of names and greatest hits. We proposed not to simply adding women and minorities to already saturated content, but to rethink categories and relationships, and replaced iconic works with “space,” clearing room, as it were, for different narratives. Working in academia, we created a course titled “Contested Spaces: Art, Architecture, and Politics,” which traces the construction of modernity around key spaces, objects, and sites of struggle: the plantation, the museum, the school, the prison, and the kitchen. The lectures eschew the paradigm that students should master the canonical narratives in introductory coursework before learning revisionist histories. Instead, from the outset, we posit space as a category produced by struggles over power and difference. At CAA, we propose to present our methods for creating and implementing “Contested Spaces” in the classroom, and our plans to expand the syllabus to include a student-led curatorial component. The implications of these teaching approaches, we argue, go beyond the classroom and call for new models of scholarship and exhibition-making. 




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