Footnotes on Equality

Footnotes on Equality, the GRACE exhibition, builds on an eclectic collection of art and everyday objects that serve as indexes for various contentious points around the cultural production of (in)equality, as well as props to tell stories about contemporary fights against injustices. The exhibition plays out at both online and offline space. The online exhibition can be seen here.

Photographer: Martha Kamminga

The offline Footnotes on Equality has been hosted at Casco Art Institute: Working for the Commons in Utrecht, between 8th March and 12th May 2019. It will travel to the locations of other GRACE partners across Europe, starting with Artlink, Hull in September-October 2019.

In their work across various locations in Europe, the GRACE researchers have encountered instances where the notion of equality is an ongoing struggle sustained by social movements and in dialogue with efforts in governmental policy and legislation. They have collected objects out of these situations as cultural props to tell stories around instances when (in)equality is experienced, but also around moments of resistance to a discourse on equality that has come to reinforce European geopolitical boundaries, creating spaces of ‘achieved equality’ and global horizons of the ‘not there yet.’ The collection includes an array of material including fieldwork notes, audio and visual recordings, transcriptions, artworks, and readymade objects, offering an artifactual analysis as a way to both engage and disseminate, as well as produce “new” sites and events of and about cultures of equality.

“Embodied discomfort” was used as a methodology in constructing the collection so that the researchers could explore the body’s role in the making and unmaking of the world through encounters with art works, found objects, conversations, or activist practices. Discomfort informs the curatorial approach of the exhibition as well, presented through the design as a central drive for investigation and a force for transformation that invites the visitor to understand better, but also to witness present glimpses of equality’s potentiality. The exhibition presents the collected objects as occupying the “uncomfortable” role of footnotes, connoting explanatory material that is simultaneously necessary for making sense of a body of the text and does not fit into the flow of the text. Thus, the title ‘Footnotes on Equality’ highlights the desire to question current mainstream notions of equality in Europe and to show that struggles are ongoing and incomplete. It also emphasizes the object collection as evidence, additional support, critique, alternative perspectives, diverse insights and anecdotes that supplement the academic paper creating an ethnographic “scenography” to construct, analyze, read through and critique the concept of “equality.”

Footnotes on Equality draws from an object collection that all fifteen GRACE researchers have contributed to. It was curated by the GRACE exhibition team: Alejandra, Barbara, Lieke, Raluca, Sara, Tegiye, Wilmarie and Zerrin, with the support of Staci Bu Shea, curator at Casco Art Institute: Working for the commons, under the coordination of Vasiliki Belia and the supervision of GRACE PI Dr Suzanne Clisby and CI Professor Rosemarie Buikema. The exhibition at Casco Art Institute: Working for the Commons was designed in collaboration with Rotterdam-based architecture and design collective Cookies and co-produced with Casco Art Institute. For this exhibition, Cookies has developed a system of hanging textile elements – articulating the space into opaque and semi-transparent layers, corridors, and cul-de-sacs. The online exhibition was designed in collaboration with designer Anja Groten and designer/programmer Joana Chicau, whose work visualizes footnotes as forms of displacement, moving from the margin to the center of attention.

The Museum of Equality and Difference

The GRACE Project is also linked to The Museum of Equality and Difference (MOED), which has been developed in partnership with GRACE CI Rosemarie Buikema and shares with The GRACE Project similar aims, ethos and a creative vision of equalities. MOED is an online museum and research project based in the Netherlands which gives a platform to artists, cultural institutions, and feminist, anti-racist and posthuman activist organisations and scholars who create imaginaries of a different – and more equal – future. MOED shared the opening of its exhibition What is Left Unseen with the GRACE final conference in Utrecht in March 2019, giving the opportunity for conference delegates to explore both exhibitions and make connections between the themes they saw there, and the themes emerging from the GRACE final conference events.