(Dis)agreements? – the utility, effectiveness, and problematics of categories

Performance; a video with audio 6:00 min, an agreement, a teach-in 45:00 min, a letter

YES! Association/Föreningen JA! in collaboration with Hong-An Truong, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum, 2010

YES! Association/Föreningen JA! participated in making ourselves visible: a day-long project in feminist space-making initiated by Jen Kennedy and Liz Linden at the Sackler Center, Brooklyn Museum with a teach-in/performance. We started the teach-in by announcing that the Brooklyn Museum, after a long process of negotiations, recently signed the so called Equality Diversity Agreement. Afterwards, we screened a short video showing the actual signing of the agreement followed by short interviews with museum staff, artists and visitors on the implications and effects of this. Then the Equality Diversity Agreement was handed out to the participants in the workshop and the rest of the time was spent discussing different paragraphs in the agreement.

After about a week we sent an email to the participants explaining that the video and the claim that the Brooklyn Museum had signed the agreement was only fiction.

Excerpts from the letter we emailed the participants after the teach-in:

Åsa Elzén






below: video stills from the video screened at the performance

We are writing this letter to announce that the Equality Diversity Agreement we shared with you and discussed during the teach-in was real, its politics were real, the time and effort, patience and passion put into writing the agreement was real. The moment (euphoric for some and dysphoric for others) of “is-this-really-happening-in-my-lifetime?!” feeling was real. The claim that the Brooklyn Museum has signed the Equality Diversity Agreement, however, was not real. And the video was fiction.

When we were invited to give the teach-in about half a year ago our first intention was to start negotiating and collectively formulate an agreement together with the staff at the Sackler Center and discuss this process with you at the teach-in. Due to time restraints and miscommunication we were unable to do this, but decided to proceed with the project anyway if not in reality, then in the realm of fiction. To this end, we staged the teach-in as a rehearsal for the future. We wanted to give us all a chance to discuss the agreement, feminist politics and art institutions, how we can make institutions accountable, the utility, effectiveness, and problematics of categories from a positive, contingent starting point beyond the familiar “this-will-never-happen-anyway” position. We took this opportunity, as artists and dedicated hard working feminists to start from the other end so to speak. Discouraged by constant NO!s we wanted the discussion to begin with a big collective YES! to see were that would take us.

By making real what we wanted to be real, we had hoped that the situation would produce real-time effects. What actualized during the workshop was a productive and intense conversation that might not have happened if the situation wasn’t assumed to be real. It evoked reactions and emotions that are the crux of both the problematics and potentialities of such an agreement.

read more, watch the video and read the Equality Diversity Agreement