Learning from Ad Minoliti’s Experimental Feminist Heterotopic Fantasy

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Learning from Ad Minoliti’s Experimental Feminist Heterotopic Fantasy

By Connie Zheng October 30, 2018

In-depth, critical perspectives exploring art and visual culture on the West Coast.


The Feminist School of Painting currently on display at KADIST is, on one hand, a solo exhibition by the Argentinian artist Ad Minoliti, who trained as a painter. On the other hand, it is also an experiment based on the pedagogical principles of the artist and educator Diana Aisenberg and a “performance that begins with open questions: What would happen if…?1 The titular School is rooted in a series of seven free workshops held at KADIST, in San Francisco, every Saturday from October 6 to November 17, 2018. Each workshop is conceived in collaboration with an interdisciplinary group of Bay Area–based artists, scholars, educators, and writers, and each takes different canonical genres of painting—for example, portraiture and landscape—as points of departure for subversive re-imaginings of a visual language that continues to be weighted by patriarchal formalism and restrictive binaries.

In this school, the Modernist white cube is treated as a character to be decolonized. Minoliti presents it as subject to mutation and takes it on a journey through feminist queer theory and collaborative world-building, in the vein of thinkers such as Donna Haraway, Alison Kafer, Judith Butler, and bell hooks, as Minoliti has noted in her writings.2 The Bay Area, with its rich and not-untroubled history of techno-utopian visions, gender nonconformism, queer culture, and counterhegemonic artistic practices, seems particularly ripe for this kind of epistemological blending. The following conversation hints at the beginning of a kind of reorientation. 

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Ad Minoliti. The Feminist School of Painting, 2018; installation view, The Feminist School of Painting, 2018. Courtesy of KADIST. Photo: Connie Zheng.

Connie Zheng: This floor reminds me of the kind you would find in a kindergarten—you know, those foam tiles.

Ad Minoliti: [laughs] Yes! I’m interested in working with the kindergarten spirit as a counterpart to the seriousness of the School. The collaborators provide this, with their points of view. 

CZ: How did you find your collaborators?

AM: I visited San Francisco in March to find collaborators. The curators [Amanda Nudelman and Devon Bella] and I connected with Kim Anno, Jacqueline Francis, Indira Allegra, and many more, and then asked others for references. I knew I was going to use the genres of painting as a starting point for the sessions. The school has to be interdisciplinary; I want the participants to immerse themselves in different fields.

Many of the guest lecturers refer to science as well as to speculation, sci-fi, and fantasy in order to rethink how the masters and museums of painting create the naturalization and universalization of their representations in order to make some bodies more valuable than others. Our little experiments make micro-political statements, creating stories or telling what is not in the mainstream, like whether or not Medusa’s pubic hair is also made of snakes.

Ad Minoliti. The Feminist School of Painting, 2018; installation view, The Feminist School of Painting, 2018. Courtesy of KADIST. Photo: Connie Zheng.

CZ: What does feminism mean to you, especially in the context of a school? How do you see this project functioning as an experiment to extend the meaning of feminism through the frames of pedagogy and queerness?

AM: Feminism for me is queer, intersectional, and animal; it is a box of tools to rethink any matter of society, culture, and the way we perceive the world. There are many ideas or types of feminism that contradict themselves. For example, some people are trans exclusionary—the TERFs3—and they are not welcome at the school.  

In the context of a school, feminism is a way to use theory, personal experience, and one’s emotions to deconstruct the way we think about painting and art history. A feminist view, for example, tries to break with ideas of evolution, timelines, talent, greatness, the academy, ableism, misogyny, whiteness, the male gaze, and anthropocentrism, among other cultural contracts that made the cut to produce the patriarchal art history we have had.

Ad Minoliti. The Feminist School of Painting, 2018; installation view, The Feminist School of Painting, 2018. Courtesy of KADIST. Photo: Connie Zheng.

CZ: I'd like to talk about the role of geometry within the context of politically oriented artwork, especially as a counterpart to Mexican muralism, which has a strong history here, in the Bay Area. Can you talk more about your decision to call the works on the walls murals rather than paintings? I am also interested in your use of slick, semi-anthropomorphic geometric forms within the frame of the mural, which has a certain pictorial history, as you have noted in earlier conversations. 

AM: I call them murals because they are paintings on a wall and not on a canvas, and they are ephemeral. My murals refer to childhood aesthetics, too: the opposite of epic leftist propaganda. I like Mexican muralism, and I understand the tradition, but I think it is important to be plural and recognize all the people who are left out from the mainstream product of Modernism, which extends from architecture to the arts and includes all the disciplines that center white European men as the representation of a norm or ideal. It makes invisible and eliminates all the bodies that are not this ideal: children, Black people, women, people of color, trans people, queer people. 

And if you go beyond Mexico [and Mexican muralism], Latin America is really big, but many contemporary artists still think that abstraction or painting is art for the bourgeoisie. I see my references as Latin concrete art, like Grupo Madí and Asociación Arte Concreto-Invención, that linked geometry with revolutionary political ideas in art, performance, design, and poetry.

Ad Minoliti. Amigxs, 2018; digital postcard. Courtesy of the Artist.

CZ: There are some geometric cats prominently featured in the murals in this space. How do you see this visual reiteration of the “pussy” working in relation to your ideas about the relationship between geometry and sex or about nonbinary representations of sex and gender?

AM: I like to rethink the nonhuman beings, such as animals and fantasy characters like monsters or hybrids. The cat represents an animal dimension but also is linked to feminism through its connection to witch hunts. Otherness is represented, for me, in these animalistic, hybrid geometries in a non-scary way. We can link misogyny and imperialism to the ways that the predominantly male sci-fi genre represents monsters and aliens and uses fear as a fetish. I like to think of monstrosity with tenderness and humor.

Ad Minoliti. Geo Sci Fi, 2016; ink and colored pencil on paper; 12 x 9 in. Courtesy of the Artist.
CZ: I’m curious if how any fantasy can be free of prejudice, given that utopias are created by people, who bring their unique sets of histories, contexts, and blind spots to the construction of a fantasy. Can you speak more to this? 

AM: Nothing is free or pure. That is a good thing in the arts; it’s what keeps us thinking. Utopia doesn’t exist, but ideas of utopias do and are subjective. The act of creating shared utopias is based in a process of continuing to see our prejudices and blind spots in ourselves. In order to do this, we need to listen to others and have empathy.

Ad Minoliti. The Feminist School of Painting, 2018; installation view, The Feminist School of Painting, 2018. Courtesy of KADIST. Photo: Jeff Warrin.

CZ: I'd love to hear your thoughts on your direct experience of the San Francisco techno-utopia, which you and many others have referred to as a dystopia. Where does the idea of a utopia fail?

AM: Technology is part of the transformation of South America into a number of neo-dictatorships. Technology is not the answer, by itself; it never was. It’s a medium. The problem is the white cis male human behind technology.

Ad Minoliti: The Feminist School of Painting is on view at KADIST in San Francisco through December 15, 2018.

Notes

  1. Ad Minoliti, exhibition statement, KADIST, https://kadist.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/FSCHOOL_final.pdf.
  2. Minoliti.
  3. For more information, see: Cristan Williams, “You Might Be a TERF If …” The Trans Advocate, September 24, 2013, https://www.transadvocate.com/you-might-be-a-terf-if_n_10226.htm.

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