Autobiographical Fantasy and the Feminist Archive

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In the mid-1970s, a number of artists in Southern California made works that merged self-portraiture, material documents, life narrative, and fiction. The 1976 exhibition Autobiographical Fantasies, Lowell Darling’s This Is Your Life (1973–76), and Eleanor Antin’s The Angel of Mercy (1977) related to feminist consciousness-raising strategies and to the presentation of identity as contingent and unstable. In emphasizing the materials of personal life narrative, they also raised questions about the critical potential of archival practices in art and art history, troubling ideas of authenticity, documentation, and the archive’s ability to construct a coherent subject. Such ontological and methodological challenges situate the archive as performative rather than constative, with critical feminist implications. In the form of deliberately unreliable archives, artists such as Antin, Darling, Ilene Segalove, and Alexis Smith proposed the archive as a space of fantasy that demands performative engagement and retains its feminist potential.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-61
JournalArchives of American Art Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


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