IHA seed-project: Lisbon her-stories
Full title: Lisbon her-stories: counter-monuments for women’s visibility
Start date: 01/01/2023
End date: 30/06/2023
The representation of histories and systems of beliefs, or, as argued by Stuart Hall (1997) ‘regimes of truth’, affects ways of seeing and being seen. Leslie Kern in Feminist City (2020) argues that gender shapes how we move through urban spaces and that women’s bodies in those spaces are subjected to social control. Darke (in Ibid: 41) suggests that, ‘Our cities are patriarchy written in stone, brick, glass and concrete.’ It is time to reclaim, according to Kern (Ibid: 32) the ‘personal, lived experiences, gut knowledges, and hard-earned truths.’
Patriarchal strategies of control also concern representations of women in the public sphere. The majority of public statues in urban spaces memorise a specific hypermasculine version of history and the contributions of men to political, economic and cultural life of a given country, region or city. Often, the carved in stone male bodies are affiliated with violence and domination, colonisation of other bodies, histories and spaces. At the same time, there is a noteworthy lack of representation of women who actually existed. However, one can encounter sculptures of muses or goddesses, naked and half-naked mythological female bodies, nameless and often symbolic ‘female figures’.
For the past few years there has been a growing resistance to public representations that exclude and often erase bodies other than white male. This has been articulated via versatile and multiple attempts to decolonise, which are framed transnationally and intersectionally. Calls for the toppling of monuments in the American South, Australia, South Africa or the United Kingdom have resulted in a number of interventions, such as #RhodesMustFall, that have left some of the pedestals empty and opened up spaces for stories other than his-story. Other intimate, ephemeral and sometimes performative interventions include actions such as the coverings which appeared in March 2022 on the benches along Avenida da Liberdade in Lisbon. They included photographs of remarkable women in global history and short texts explaining their contributions to society.
This exploratory project contributes to the increasingly urgent debates that focus on women’s visibility in cultural memory, history and space(s). It investigates the urban space of Lisbon to bring attention to questions concerned with the governance and marginalisation of women, and their representations. It interrogates what a feminist monument could look like and how it could memorise, commemorate and visibilise bodies that have been invisibilised in Portuguese history, or rather, his-story. Its intention is to create a visual map of Lisbon acknowledging her-stories.
Hall , S. 1997. Representation. Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. Milton Keynes: Sage Publications and Open University
Kern, L. 2020. Feminist City. A Field Guide. London: Verso
Lefebvre, H. 1991. The Production of Space. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing
The project specifically aims to:
Interrogate the form and function of a contemporary feminist monument in the context of Portuguese urban spaces, in particular Lisbon;
Establish a list of existing public statues in Lisbon that commemorate historical women;
Establish a list of performative and ephemeral interventions such as living embodiments or living sculptures that open up discursive spaces for her-stories to become visible.
A visual map of Lisbon;
Two co-authored journal articles;
Main scientific areas: Art History and Theory
Keywords: Feminist City, Lisbon — Public Art / Public Space, Her-stories, Monument / Feminist Monument, Performative and Ephemeral Art Interventions
Financiamento: 5 585,88€
This IHA seed-project is funded by national funds through FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, I.P., under the project UIDB/00417/2020.
Research units / institutions:
IHA – Instituto de História da Arte (NOVA FCSH)