’77

2014
acrylic on panel
Overall dimensions vary with installation
Two panels: 74 x 48 inches each
Eight panels: 74 x 36 inches each

’77 takes the National Women’s Conference, Houston, TX, 1977, as a point of departure. The National Women’s Conference was organized and authorized by an executive order from then-President Jimmy Carter in response to a 1975 UN resolution adopting what was called the “World Plan of Action for the Implementation of the Objectives of the International Women’s Year.” These objectives, detailed and far-reaching, included a generalized recommendation for each member state to assess the status of women in their country and to ameliorate all barriers to full equality between men and women. The Conference, chaired by Congressperson Bella Abzug and funded by the US government, was the one and only such national political forum for avowedly feminist policy.

On the level of public policy the conference was a total failure. The 26 planks of the adopted Plan of Action, all largely progressive affirmations or recommendations for progressive action vis a vis a number of social, economic and political conditions facing women in the US at the time, were submitted to President Carter and to Congress in March 1978 and with the exception of a three-year extension of deadline for full ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, neither the administration nor congress ever acted upon the proposals of the conference. In 1982, the ERA failed full ratification having hit the new deadline without winning a single state-wide ratification.

The conference is intriguing to me as a failure or impossible forum–a limit to the enfranchisement of a feminist political agenda. The proposals of the conference, like many other unfulfilled political promises, productively haunt public and political imagination. ’77 reconstructs the banner that hung over the conference stage. The panels, depending on their installation, can either spell or not spell the word WOMAN. The possibility of installing the panels either intelligibly or unintelligibly is, for me, critical as I am interested in the “trouble” of the linguistic construct “WOMAN”.