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Archive for June, 2006

Sorry, this entry is only available in Swedish.


Below you can read the script for the introductory speech that YES! Association / Föreningen JA! gave in conjunction to They call us art feminists – a panel discussion about gender equality within the field of contemporary art at StockholmsTerassen, Kulturhuset, 17th of June 2006.

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My name is Line S Karlström, I am an artist and part of YES! Association / Föreningen JA!, who has arranged the panel debate. I am here today together with my colleagues and board members of YES! Association / Föreningen JA!, Malin Arnell – artist, Fia-Stina Sandlund – artist, Anna Linder – film maker and producer and Johanna Gustavsson – artist. Johanna Gustavsson will also represent the association in the panel.

Before we start, we would like to present the background to this arrangement: we will concisely tell you about the history and objectives of YES! Association / Föreningen JA!, and conclude with some further information about the panel debate, the actual reason to why we are here today.

Before we begin, let us just point out that we will take the liberty to, among other things, quote telephone conversations and emails in this introduction. We want to use and refer to these sources as we believe that important things are said and dealt with here. Thus we chose to shed light on a variety of things even though it might lead to us stepping on somebody’s toes.

YES! Association / Föreningen JA! was founded as an official association during the autumn of 2005, in connection with the opening of the exhibition Art Feminism – strategies and effects in Sweden from the 1970’s until today at Dunkers Kulturhus in Helsingborg. The exhibition is a collaboration between Dunkers Kulturhus, Liljevalchs Konsthall, Riksutställningar and the art historian Barbro Werkmäster. Its focus is, as the title suggests, feminist art or art that has been influenced by, or had “effect” on, the feministic debate from the 1970’s until today. It is a travelling exhibition and it opened for the second time yesterday at Liljevalchs Konsthall here in Stockholm.

We were brought together for a conversation which were to be, and has been, published in the catalogue that accompanies the exhibition, and it was after that meeting that we continued to discus what the exhibition represents. We discovered that we all looked forward to the exhibition, with both pleasure and hesitation.

Initially we were worried about a hidden agenda – that Liljevalchs Konsthall and Dunkers Kulturhus needed to improve their bad reputation in regards to gender representation in their exhibition programs and acquisitions, as they are among the worst institutions in Sweden when it comes to equal opportunities in their program. Had they now found the ultimate way to make this right, in a simple and smooth way? They would, in the years 2005-2007, not only be credited for arranging an exhibition with a feministic theme, but would also – most importantly – increase the statistics for gender representation with a few hundred percent.

We viewed the plan to squeeze together about 120 of Sweden’s most trendsetting artists, and categorising their work in different themes, as belittling. Works with a political force risked becoming annexed brands. The participating artists would receive hardly any pay, which was not a good sign either. With only one exception, contemporary artists, many of whom work with process in focus and performative, are shown in the exhibition only through documentation – thus there is no budget for a contemporary feministic artistic practice.

We thought that Art Feminism tended to be an anthropological exhibition that would depoliticise the subject rather than anything else. An exhibition that points backwards.

We standing up here shared a wish to be among the ones pointing forward, and we wanted to include the contemporary feministic discussion in the exhibition. In the light of our brave, strong and fantastic predecessors and with the support of all brilliant feministic actors within the contemporary art scene, several of whom are participating in the exhibition, we decided that time was ripe. We believed that it was time for Sweden’s public art institutions to finally sort out a program of true equal opportunity and equality. Were the institutions behind the exhibition Art Feminism, and other art institutions that in theory claim to be interested in feminism and equality, ready to practice what they preach? Were they ready for a legal agreement?

At the opening at Dunkers Kulturhus YES! Association / Föreningen JA! made its first public appearance through a Press Conference/Performance. We had found statistics for the participating institutions, talked to the Cultural Committee about equal opportunity and plans for multitude, and had also been in touch with the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman. During a review of the document that directs equality within these institutions we quickly understood why there is not a lot happening on the equality front. All equal opportunity and multitude plans really works as recommendations, and thus has no real importance and therefore no actual function. For that reason we put together a legally binding contract together with a legal researcher, that meant a promise of equality through allocation of quotas within the institutions; YES! – EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES AGREEMENT.

The function of the agreement is to ensure equality when it comes to acquisitions, exhibitions and recruitment. At possible deviations from the 50/50 status in regards to gender representation a fee will be paid to YES! Association / Föreningen JA!, for use in programming. Funds that YES! Association / Föreningen JA!will hand out in extension, to artists who in some way have been discriminated because of their sex, ethnicity, class or sexual orientation.

At Press Conference / Performance the institutions were invited to join the agreement but – they all declined. They did, however, promise to contact YES! Association / Föreningen JA!within the next few days for a discussion. Unfortunately this did not happen until YES! Association / Föreningen JA! had publicised the silence on their website. Then there was a response from the institutions.

Riksutställningar was the first to respond and Director Ann Follin announced, via email, that they did not intend to sign the agreement. The reason being that they already believed they worked actively for equality, and shared the same vision as YES! Association / Föreningen JA!, but that they had they own method of reaching the goals. And it turns out that Riksutställningar is the institution that performs best in this area. Credit due to them for this, but the question remains, when will the demands for equality in public institutions become binding and not, as now, advisory? Why not take this opportunity and sign an agreement, if the content of the agreement equals to what everyone strive for?

YES! Association / Föreningen JA! was criticised by the institutions for not giving them enough space during our performance/press conference (we only allowed them to ask Yes or No questions during the last five minutes of the performance) and that we made the institutions look ridiculous. Therefore a more objective dialogue with YES! Association / Föreningen JA! was requested.

Dunkers Kulturhus did not dare to email YES! Association / Föreningen JA! in case the material would be published. Head Curator Magnus Jensner announced, over the phone, that they believed that everything they put in writing would be used against them, but that they nevertheless considered signing the agreement – a decision was promised within a week. This promise was broken and instead YES! Association / Föreningen JA! found out through a radio show that Dunkers Kulturhus would not sign the agreement. Some time after the radio show a letter arrived signed by the same Magnus Jensner and Nils Righolt, Director of Dunkers Kulturhus, in which they accuse YES! Association / Föreningen JA! for using “patriarchal techniques of direction”.

In their letter they explain that they do not wish to sign the agreement as, quote, “both questions are included in the Council’s equal opportunities policy. Dunkers Kulturhus follows these guidelines and strive for improvements within the areas where they are not followed. The Culture Centre’s collected program of activities is controlled in agreement with the Council’s Culture committee. We can not enter into agreements with individual organisations, in this case also impaired by possible sanctions in the shape of fees.“

These constantly repeated wording becomes very interesting following Lars Nittve’s “confession” in Dagens Nyheter on 18th April. Here he confesses that he has said these words year after year, without ever meaning it. Now he wants 50m SEK from the state to adjust/reward his behaviour. A soon to be accepted tactic among Swedish art institutions?

The last one to get in touch was Liljevalchs Konsthall. Finally a letter arrived signed by Director Bo Nilsson and Senior Curator Niclas Östlind. They announced that they will not sign the agreement, since they are a municipal institution working according to the Culture Committee’s guidelines. Niclas Östlind and Bo Nilsson are critical towards YES! Association / Föreningen JA!. They have experienced that YES! Association / Föreningen JA! has not been open to dialogue. They believe that we consciously has chosen a structure for our criticism that made it impossible for them to defend themselves.

YES! Association / Föreningen JA! made repeated attempts of contact.
YES! Association / Föreningen JA! has a public blog on the internet where anyone can enter and comment and discuss.
YES! Association / Föreningen JA! has presented criticism and statistics on the background of the conditions that has been given to us by the institutions themselves.
YES! Association / Föreningen JA! has contributed with a completely new, topical feministic work to the exhibition Art Feminism – an exhibition with a theme that in itself includes critique. Obviously this critique is expected to be conducted within borders controlled by the institutions.

In preparation for the second opening of the exhibition, which took place yesterday at Liljevalchs Konsthall, YES! Association / Föreningen JA! wanted to be accommodating and show that we had listened to the critique from the group of curators, regarding their experience of YES! Association / Föreningen JA! not allowing the curators/institutions to speak during the press conference/performance. We therefore offered the curators at each institution to participate in a panel debate/performance where they would have the opportunity to describe their relationship to the concept feminism, talk about their respective intentions with the exhibition and the chance to straighten out a few things in regards to the actions of YES! Association / Föreningen JA!. The institutions declined, first with the objection that there was no budget for such an event (YES! Association / Föreningen JA! had enclosed a budget that covered travelling costs for the participants, i.e. the group of curators). When YES! Association / Föreningen JA! offered to carry out the debate – for free, the response was still a collective No! with the explanation that the curators did not wish to speak individually, and referred to that the strength of the exhibition was that it had been planned and executed by a collective. They also announced that they were planning to arrange a talk of their own, in Gothenburg at the end of the exhibition in 2007, and they would prefer to talk then.

YES! Association / Föreningen JA! is what is called an intervention in art terms. This intervention started with Art Feminism. We really wanted to emphasize that no criticism is aimed at any individual participating artists, and that we mainly has used the exhibition as a symbol of a larger structure. When our suggestion of a panel was rejected by the curators, we decided to move the intervention out of the exhibition instead, to Kulturhuset, who were interested, in order to continue the discussion of the subject which is the core of our work. And it is that conversation that we will soon acquaint ourselves with.

We have mainly invited people who, in one way or another, have come up with ideas for changes within equality, like for example Lars Nittve who was mentioned earlier. We have also invited politicians since they are the ones who in the end take decisions about how to spend the culture budgets, therefore Leif Pagrotsky, Minister of Culture, and Gudrun Schyman, one of the spokesmen for Feministiskt Initiativ. Unfortunately Leif could not make it, even though he has had six weeks to plan for the debate. His secretary Gunnel Gennebeck explained to Fia-Stina Sandlund of the association that “this is how life is”. Those who managed to hack into the Governments’s website could instead read that Leif opens exhibitions sponsored by Absolut Vodka and meets Jamie Oliver, the Naked Chef.

We also wanted a younger generation represented with a voice about what happens within education, Paula Urbano. We also wanted a person who could represent a adjacent subject, stage art, where a lot has happened lately, and to which we will return later. We therefore invited Vanja Hermele who has written an essay about the concept of quality as an obstruction for equal opportunities within the theatre. We also decided to invite a director of an art institution focused on international exchanges and studio scholarships, Maria Lind from IASPIS.

The group of curators of Art Feminism had already declined our earlier request, but we nevertheless invited them to participate in this panel. For a long time it looked like there would be no one representing Art Feminism here today. But suddenly, about two weeks ago, both Magnus Jensner from Dunkers Kulturhus and Anna Livion from Riksutställningar called and wanted to send their – bosses. Now they wanted two seats in the panel so there was nearly a fight. Today we have the Director of Riksutställningar, Ann Follin, here to represent the exhibition Art Feminism.

So here we are, ready for the panel debate “They call us Art Feminists”! The aim is to together word some concrete measures which will create an equal contemporary art scene. The focus is thus on the future! The panel will discus for about an hour, and then we will open for questions for about 30 minutes. And since we also want you in the audience to get the opportunity to express yourselves all questions have to be answered with yes or no. A warm welcome everybody! We will now hand over to the panel and today’s moderator – Tiina Rosenberg! Johanna Gustavsson will represent YES! Association / Föreningen JA! in the panel and all the members of the Board will be available here afterwards for those who would like to ask questions, discuss or become co-artists. Enjoy!

Hereby we hand over the stage and the word to Tiina Rosenberg and the panel!

End speech:
First of all YES! Association / Föreningen JA! would like to thank the engaged audience – thank you!
We also want to thank all the participants in the panel for their great contributions: Gudrun, Vanja, Lars, Maria, Paula, Ann and moderator Tiina Rosenberg. And in this heat we thought it suitable to thank the panel with the first ingredients for a gentrified fruit salad. (YES! Association / Föreningen JA! here hands out a banana and a melon to each member of the panel, Tiina receives two melons. Jubilations.)

Many thanks to our fifth board member – Anna Linder, for all your work and for playing such lovely music for us today. We also want to take this opportunity to thank Lisa Nyberg who has documented the day and thanks for making such a elegant poster for us!

Finally a huge thank you to all you feminists who supports and ARE YES! Association / Föreningen JA!


  • YES! Association / Föreningen JA! was an art collective, an artwork, an association, an art worker, an institution, a group of people working to overthrow the ruling system of heteronormative, patriarchal, racist, and capitalist power structures by putting into practice a structural redistribution of access to financial resources, space and time within the (art) field.
    YES! Association / Föreningen JA!, All that you touch You Change. All that you Change Changes you #2 (2017)
    A New Spelling of a Street – A tribute to Audre Lorde (2017)

    YES! Association / Föreningen JA!

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