A Feminist Tea Party
A Feminist Tea Party is a collaborative project with Suzanne Stroebe. It is a continuing series, provoked by the Tea Party protests and inspired by the feminist consciousness-raising groups of the 1970s. We recast the “tea party” as a playful, progressive, inquisitive, and inclusive space.
A Feminist Tea Party lies somewhere between a performance, an installation, and a participatory event. The project weds two conceptions of a tea party: (1) the tea party as historical referent and site of political debate (think: the Boston Tea Party or the Beck/Palin ‘Tea Party’) with (2) the tea party as a gendered and highly-stylized ritual (think: 4 o’clock tea). We revisit the consciousness-raising groups of the 1970s in the context of a mid-century tea party. But, rather than recreating the exclusive environment of the historical consciousness-raising group, or the homogeneous scenario of the domestic tea parlor, A Feminist Tea Party includes a wider cast of discussants, conflating the past and present to create an environment where essential and discomfiting issues can be discussed freely and with a sense of humor.
With changing audiences, political climates and locations the project is constantly evolving. The act of installation is a prologue to a series of main events. We arrive in costume, with parlor furniture, false walls, flowers in vases, framed paintings, table linens, and porcelain tea service. Tea and sweets are presented according to historical etiquette guidelines. The fast and choreographed “building” of the set results in a space that could be comforting or stifling. Once in place, this set is displayed as a sculptural installation, evidence of the ongoing project for the duration of the exhibition at each site. Throughout the exhibition guests are invited to join us on our set for tea and conversation. At venues when the project extends over several days we invite co-hosts to lead discussions on various topics related to feminism.
A Feminist Tea Party began as part of #class at Winkleman Gallery in March 2010. Its second exhibition took place over the month of September 2010 at 4Heads Governors Island Art Fair. In December 2010 we took a spin-off of the project, Is the Art Fair a Carnival or County Fair?, to SEVEN, Miami with #rank and Winkleman Gallery. At the 2011 College Art Association Conference we hosted a panel discussing political art collectives called Ask Me, I will Tell. In April, our first solo exhibition/residency took place at the New York Foundation for the Arts. Photographs documenting our project were exhibited at the LGBT Community Center in Chelsea in the spring of 2011. In October 2011 we collaborated with Jennifer Dalton and Mikki Halpin in the spin-off event Lady Parlour Games in conjunction with Dalton’s exhibition Cool Guys Like You at Winkleman Gallery. Later in the fall of 2011 we took A Feminist Tea Party to California, visiting Pomona College Museum of Art, Scripps College and CSUN West Gallery at California State University, Northridge, in Los Angeles and also the Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz. We exhibited in Illegitimate and Herstorical, at AIR Gallery in January, took the project to Alfred University in April and are looking forward to taking an spin-off of the project, called Girl Show, to Baltimore in July.
Please visit our blog for event schedules, commentary on previous events, and more photos: A Feminist Tea Party