What It Feels Like for a Girl (2004)

what it feels like for a girl / Sinbad in the Rented World, Toronto: Art Gallery of York University, 2005

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Design: Lisa Kiss Design

Design: Lisa Kiss Design

what it feels like for a girl and Sinbad in the Rented World were published as one volume since I originally conceived them as one exhibition at the Power Plant. When the then director wasn't interested in this exhibition of Toronto feminist and queer artists, I walked, and put them on as the first two exhibitions as Director of the Art Gallery of York University, What It Feels Like in late 2003.

On the One Hand: What It Feels Like for a Girl

Being based on the name of a Madonna song, the title to this exhibition is a ready-made. The title should, thus, be seen with quotation marks around it that set it off, almost as if at an ironic distance. It certainly isn’t a declarative statement that the exhibition then goes on to demonstrate: this is what it feels like for a girl. So don’t ask me, as the curator, what it feels like for a girl. I don’t claim to know. I do know, in spite of claims to the contrary or the optimism of the third wave of feminism, that power might be temporarily disturbed but not ultimately disrupted. Plus ça change; in other words, business as usual. Witness the debacle around Madonna’s video of the same name that was hypocritically banned from MTV and Much Music for its so-called violence against men. As if! . . . but why go on, the contradictions are too apparent, the movie and television counter examples too blatant to think that this censorship is other than what it is.

The exhibition is no attempt to revive gender wars, although isn’t it strange that it has to justify itself, as regressively essentialist or positively thematic, for having five women artists in it, when a group outing by men only would not draw the same complaints. Is it the title alone? Admittedly, I wanted the controversy around Madonna’s banned video to frame expectations of the exhibition but then not necessarily be met by the diverse work in it. Perhaps this is unfair to the respect I owe these artists, which is the reason that they were chosen, but isn’t it exactly for not meeting expectations, however positively or prejudicially we might define this, that they have been selected to provide one view of Toronto art at this moment?