Women in the Arts: Andrianna Campbell

‘The difficulties are those which remain invisible’: for a new series, writer and curator Andrianna Campbell speaks about her experience in the arts

We at frieze have watched as questions surrounding the role and experiences of women in the workplace, the arts and beyond have evolved quickly. Alongside our ongoing sensitivity to representation within our regular editorial coverage, our new online series, ‘Women in the Arts’, highlights the crucial roles that women have played in shaping the artistic fields as we know them today.

As you were starting out in the arts, what were the possibilities for mentorship, collaboration and cross-generational engagement among women?

Reading a recent New Yorker, there was a story about a men’s group formed in opposition to toxic masculinity. It struck me that they asked themselves, ‘Who among us?’ Who among them were guilty of the kind of behaviour that puts women often on the defence for their peace of mind, over their bodies, and for their livelihoods? I like the question: Who among us? Often it is not the men asking themselves these questions, who present us with the problem. It is the men who harass women, assault women and those whose refusal of empathy creates a permissive environment for these crimes. To be fair, aren’t we also sometimes made aware of women perpetuating, aiding and abetting aggressive behaviour? That this conduct persists shows how interwoven it is into our societal fabric. It is patriarchy as a mother’s milk; it is what we’ve been weaned on. Our discomfort discussing this so often lies in these grey areas. We all need to ask the question ‘Who among us?’ When frieze asks me about female mentorship in the arts, of course women were instrumental in my development, but this is a separate issue from a culture that allows sexual violence to perpetuate primarily against women.

Women were a key part of my arts education, from Alice DeLana at Miss Porter’s School to my college professors – in particular, Mary Bergstein – at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Bergstein was the Chair of the Art History Department, and she encouraged me to do graduate work every time we had lunch. Her position was an important one, given how few women were and are in arts leadership positions despite representing an overwhelming majority in the field. But I also had many male mentors, from my advisor David Joselit at the CUNY Graduate Center to Alexander Nemerov at Stanford, among others. With regard to specific women’s issues, I’ve admired and discussed with Laurie Simmons her work with Time’s Up. Marilyn Minter and I have fundraised for Planned Parenthood and the ACLU through our co-curated project, Anger Management, at the Brooklyn Museum. Now we’ve moved some of the merchandise to Downtown for Democracy to raise money for women’s causes through collaborations with artists. Of course, my cohort in the #NotSurprised group are very impressive. Ultimately, I have found Simone Leigh and the collective she founded, Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter, to be heartening in their dedication to ending ‘inhumane institutionalized violence against black lives.’ Attending a performance of theirs at the Brooklyn Museum’s ‘We Wanted a Revolution’ exhibition, I stood awestruck by their contralto repetition of those words: ‘We Wanted a Revolution’.  

Manifesto for Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter

Manifesto for Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter

Manifesto for Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter

What, if any, were the difficulties of embarking on a career in the arts as a woman?

The difficulties are those which remain invisible. These statistics came out of a workshop at the New Museum:
– 75% of workplace sexual harassment victims experienced retaliation when they spoke up
– 57% of HR professionals believe that unreported sexual harassment occurs in their organization
– 1 in 3 women between 18 and 34 have been sexually harassed at work
– 75% of victims do not talk about their sexual harassment experience
– The most common type of harassment allegation (87%) is verbal harassment
– In 2015, 83% of the sexual harassment allegations filed with the EEOC were made by women
– In 2016, the EEOC investigated 26,934 cases of sexual harassment allegations across the USA
– In 2016, 60% of women in the tech industry were sexually harassed

What specific experiences have you had that shaped your understanding of gender in the workplace, the media and the arts?

I’ve been pretty lucky avoiding sexual harassment in my day-to-day experiences. Because I work from the library or home, I’ve avoided this kind of contact in the workplace in the last decade. I’m a freelancer, so when I have encountered unsavoury people, I may choose to not work with them. However, all of us are privy to examples in our interactions with others in their workplaces. As an undergraduate and graduate student, I have experienced harassment or been aware of other students’s problems. I can’t speak about most of these experiences because many are confidential.  

What has changed today?

I was recently speaking with an older friend, and she was quite clear that the level of transparency now is admirable. However, she stressed that we have to understand how the culture has changed. When she was younger, ‘Desirable men, wealthy and famous, were expected to flirt with women and women were supposed to be flattered. If they were not, they had to hide their disdain.’ And while speaking with the artist Sara Greenberger Rafferty, she noted that, in the 30 years between my friend’s experience and our own adolescence at RISD not much changed. We were told to carry condoms in case we were raped so we didn’t contract AIDS. That was the extent of the sensitivity to rape culture and sexual harassment in the late 1990s. Today there is so much more discussion and training for professors, students and for arts professionals. When I was growing up, I hung around with  large groups of adolescent boys, then in primarily homosocial communities of women, and then with young men. At my most relaxed, I have the mouth of a sailor. It took me a long time to realize that some people are uncomfortable hearing every dirty pun that meanders through my thoughts. So much of what we are discussing comes back to understanding how power works and to consent. Then again I would never have dreamed about asking my students about their sex life as some of my professors did then. 

What are your thoughts about #MeToo and other initiatives to call attention to sexual harassment?

If, with the #MeToo movement, we could enact the kind of monumental societal shifts we saw during the civil rights movement, in the LGBTQ social movements, if we could continue the nascent fourth-wave feminist movement, then we could oppose the apathy that allows for a patriarchal attitude in both men and women. Maybe in 20 years this won’t need to be a point on the agenda.

Main image: Andrianna Campbell. Photograph: Matthew Placek

Andrianna Campbell is a doctoral candidate in Art History at the CUNY Graduate Center, New York, USA.

Most Read

With the 12th edition of the itinerant European biennial opening in Palermo, what do local artists, curators and...
In the age of Brexit, why Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to return the ‘stolen’ Parthenon marbles has never been...
The museum director, who resigned last year, acted with ‘integrity’, an independent report finds
In further news: study finds US film critics overwhelmingly white and male; woman sues father over Basquiat
With the government’s push for the controversial English baccalaureate, why the arts should be an integral part of the...
From Bruce Nauman at the Schaulager to the story of a 1970s artist community in Carona at Weiss Falk, all the shows to...
Sotheby’s and Christie’s say they are dropping the practice of using female-only staff to pose for promotional...
For the annual city-wide art weekender ahead of Basel, the best shows and events to attend around town
For our second report from BB10, ahead of its public opening tomorrow, a focus on KW Institute for Contemporary Art
The curators seem set to ask, ‘how civilized is the world’s current state of affairs?’
In further news: declining UK museum visitors sees country fall in world rankings; first winner of Turner Prize,...
The Icelandic-Danish artist’s creation in Vejle, Denmark, responds to the tides and surface of the water: both artwork...
In further news: Emperor Constantine’s missing finger discovered in the Louvre; and are Van Gogh’s Sunflowers turning...
The opening of a major new exhibition by Lee Bul was delayed after one of the South Korean artist’s works caught fire
The LA-based painter’s exquisite skewing of Renaissance and biblical scenes at Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London
Lee Bul, Abortion, 1989, performance documentation. Courtesy: the artist and PKM Gallery, Seoul
In a climate of perma-outrage has live art self-censored to live entertainment?

A tribute to the iconic New York journal: a platform through which founder Andy Warhol operated as artist, hustler and...
A distinctively American artist who, along with four neighbourhood contemporaries, changed the course of US painting...
From Assemble’s marbled floor tiles to Peter Zumthor's mixed-media miniatures, Emily King reports from the main...
From Ian White's posthumous retrospective to Lloyd Corporation's film about a cryptocurrency pyramid scheme, what to...
Kimberly Bradley speaks to ‘the German’ curator on the reasons for his early exit from the Austrian institution
In further news: #MeToo flashmob at Venice Architecture Biennale; BBC historian advocates for return of British...
German museums are being pushed to diversify their canons and respond to a globalized world – but is ‘cleaning up’ the...
Sophie Fiennes’s new film Bloodlight and Bami reveals a personal side of the singer as yet unseen 
‘At last there is a communal mechanism for women to call a halt to the demeaning conventions of machismo’
The German artist has put up 18 works for sale to raise money to buy 100 homes
The novelist explored Jewish identity in the US through a lens of frustrated heterosexuality
Artist Jesse Jones, who represented Ireland at last year’s Venice Biennale, on what is at stake in Friday’s Irish...
‘I spend more time being seduced by the void … as a way of energizing my language’: poet Wayne Koestenbaum speaks about...
To experience the music of the composer, who passed away last week at the age of 69, was to hear something tense,...
In a year charged with politicized tensions, mastery of craft trumps truth-to-power commentary
In further news: women wearing rainbow badges beaten in Beijing’s 798; gallerists Georg Kargl and Richard Gray have...
‘Coping as a woman in France is a daily battle: the aggression can be subtle, and you always have to push harder to...
Toyin Ojih Odutola’s portraits of a fictional aristocratic Nigerian family push toward an expanded definition...

On View

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018

frieze magazine

June - August 2018