Women Beyond Borders is about dialogue. It is a gathering together of women so they can identify themselves, which is – speak for themselves. The importance of this action in a global society cannot be underestimated. – Suvan Geer, Artist/Writer Los Angeles Times, Art Week
WBB has been a catalyst for creativity and collaboration in many areas and has been interpreted by a variety of adjunct projects. Presented here are a few examples of how WBB has crossed over to academic disciplines such as psychology, anthropology, sociology, women’s studies, art education, art history, and public practice. Over the years, WBB has been acknowledged by anthropologists, theorists, art historians, curators, artists, and poets.
WBB inspires a variety of pertinent aspects:
• Creative expression
• Multi-Cultural awareness
• Creative thinking
• Dialogue and collaboration
• Engages community
• Perspectives on women worldwide
• Paradigm Shifts
• Challenging assumptions
Women Beyond Borders has not only had an impact on women, but increasingly with men. WBB is more than “women’s issues” and as the project traveled the world it has affected and informed men and boys. Comments made by different men after viewing the exhibition have ranged from, “I have five sisters and only now am I beginning to understand them” to, “I want to apologize to all women for what men have done to them.”
Examples in Relation to Academia
For many participants, Women Beyond Borders has been a catalyst to express themselves deeply and truthfully The intimacy of the box providing a place of self-exploration and awareness. Adjunct WBB projects, which focused on healing, included varied participants: troubled teens, Girls Inc., several thousand children with disabilities around the world via VSArts DC, women from the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Singapore, homeless women in Seattle, chattel in Kenya, aboriginal women in Australia, recovering drug and alcohol addicts in Nashville, survivors of human trafficking in South Vietnam and survivors of the genocide in Rwanda.
SURVIVORS OF THE GENOCIDE IN RWANDA 2006
This group of boxes is part of 55 boxes that were taken to Kigali, Rwanda by Betsy Kain in collaboration with Solace Ministries in 2006. They were given to widows of the genocide in an effort to help them work through their losses and grief. The transformed boxes and statements reflect the atrocities and immense personal hardship Tutsi women went through, and their attempt to cope with memories of their loved ones being killed in front of their eyes.
Before 1994, our country was good. After April ’94, blood was shed. Many people died and the majority of genocide survivors are struggling for life. So, the telephone you see is calling for help. Inside the box, there is my heart. I will never forget my relatives, my friends, children’s blood… The blue color means that I hope to live happily… – Collette Mukandoli
BUILDING BLOCKS IN VIETNAM 2012
Building Blocks: Life Skills, Art, and Healing was a project spearheaded by Pacific Links Foundation and funded in part by the Consular Club of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to support the reintegration process of survivors of human trafficking. The three-day intensive project was held in Mui Ne, a local beach town that allowed the young women from PALS’ Southern shelter to distance themselves from their current environment and gain perspective and reflect.
The Northern shelter residents also participated in a separate session with similar goals. With the goals of self-development, reflection, healing and reintegration, the project focused on helping trafficked returnees rebuild their lives through art. Through creative arts workshops, as well as individual and small group sessions, the project focused on building healthy self-esteem and healthy relationships.
The young girls started off with wooden boards and nails. They worked together to build boxes, paint them, and assemble them into a collaborative mosaic, symbolizing the individuality of each woman and the interconnectedness of their journeys together, to rebuild a new life.
TEEN PROJECT IN LOS ANGELES 2002
This homecoming retrospective explored the global impact of WBB. A selection of boxes from extensive adjunct projects, including the Los Angeles School district and Girls Inc. were represented along with several hundred Women Beyond Borders boxes. Numerous inclusions such as these have also taken place at other exhibitions and presentations around the world. Museums and entire school districts as well as community organizations have participated. Many students used the project as a vessel to express themselves and their own internal struggles through the medium of the boxes.
Women Beyond Borders is an initiative of planetary dimensions involving varied cultures. Give a little box to an artist in order to free her fantasy and creativity, sparking the desire to meet and dialogue. The vessel is transformed with images, desires, expectations, dreams, and illusions, which represent the spectrum of human experience, love, birth, relationship, courage, violence, power, and death. – Dr. Cecilia Gatto Trocchi, Anthropologist
Everywhere you go in Africa a woman is always present. Through my presentation, I portray three major roles that make African women so precious in our society. A woman does not only bear a child in her arms, wood on her head, or a clay pot in her hands, she bears the daily burden of African experiences. She is the strength of Africa and I hope that we can learn to appreciate what a woman does and the one who created her. – Hannah Hasiciimbwe
Presentations by Anthropologists:
ITALY: Women Beyond Borders, Presentation by Dr. Cecilia Gatto Trocchi, cultural anthropologist, Gallery Extra Moenia-Art Moderna, Todi (May 1997).
NEPAL: Women Beyond Borders, Teen Dewal Mandir Temple, Presentation/Coordinator, Dr. Michéle Andina, nurse, anthropologist. Pachali, Kathmandu. (March 2 – 20, 1998).
MONTANA: Cross-Cultural Reflections on Art and Healing, Presentation by Kimber Haddix McKay, Professor of Anthropology, University of Montana, Artini: Connections (April 19, 2007).
UTAH: Women Beyond Borders: Multi-Cultural Aspects and History, Presentation and Gallery Walk, Art Access Gallery/VSA Arts Utah, Salt Lake City (Jan. 19, 2002). In conjunction with Women Beyond Borders exhibition at the Cultural Olympiad. (2002).
Projects such as WBB cannot solve all social ills, however they can address a few: the satisfaction of self expression, the loneliness of spirit, the despair of exclusion, the universal awareness of our desire for healing, justice, liberation and connection to one another. WBB is a human interaction attempting to move beyond imposed boundaries and to create dialogue and inspire further understandings and collaboration.
Each work is an individual expression, but these works also express what it is to be a woman among women; an Israeli among Israelis; an Argentinean among South Americans. The project is more than a set of isolated works of art: it is about human relations. – Lynn Scarlet, Deputy Secretary US Department of the Interior, Washington DC (2005-2009)
BOXES ON THE TRAIN AUSTRIA TO RUSSIA 1996
An unprecedented exhibition installed in a Russian sleeper car made its way from Austria to Russia with many obstacles along the route. Coordinators installed the boxes in a rented train car, creating a moveable sculpture in a newly defined open space moving from Graz, to St. Petersburg. In the course of the journey, eight borders were crossed.
For more information on the Russia to Austria Exhibition, see our page HERE.
BOYS AND GIRLS STUDY WOMEN’S ISSUES MONTANA 2007
Over 1,200 fifth graders from Missoula County came to the museum every school day for three months throughout the exhibition to view the boxes and to discuss women’s issues. As each child entered the museum, both boys and girls were given cards with a specific issue relating to women. As they viewed the works, they collected information in reference to their card. Earnest discussions followed giving the students new insights into women. Next, the group viewed the WBB World Tour Journey video and then created their own boxes.
ART EXPRESSING LIFE SEATTLE AND PALO ALTO 2006
Women Beyond Borders, with support from Tajima Creative, presented dynamic exhibitions, highlighting the personal stories of prominent national and regional women in Seattle and Palo Alto. To express these stories in art, the project paired women like California Senator Barbara Boxer, restaurateur and author Alice Waters, Barclays CEO (and former Washington Mutual President) Deanna Oppenheimer and others with established artists working in a range of media. The resulting pieces are both intensely personal and richly intriguing.
One of the criteria for selecting the women participating in the exhibition was that their personal stories be inspiring to young girls. In Seattle, adjunct workshops were conducted for GirlsFirst, a leadership program for high school girls of color facing social and economic barriers, and Angeline’s center for homeless women.
DIALOGUE BETWEEN SELF AND COMMUNITY SINGAPORE 2001
The women participants in Singapore created boxes in relation to a community, i.e. a collaboration with family, friends, a group of people, etc. The objective was to discover who women are and what women want in our particular society and context. Women first examined their personal identity and space, and second, related to their experience with the community, be it male or female. The community was engaged in the art-making process, thus extending the collaborative nature of WBB. This process gave rise to a more comprehensive reflection of societal values, needs, wants, and identity as a whole.
WOMEN BEYOND BORDERS: WHAT’S A BOX GOT TO DO WITH IT? REFLECTIONS ON THE BODY 2011
This WBB exhibition, addressing women and their bodies, was in conjunction with a symposium and weeklong program entitled Facing Our Bodies which took place during National Eating Disorder Awareness Week Jan. 31 – March 24, 2011. Organizers were Dennis Downey, Professor of Sociology and Irina Costache, Professor of Art History. As the boxes were opened at the exhibition, pertinent discussions were inspired on this often silent and widespread epidemic. The group of boxes on display focused on issues of the body and female subjectivity from a variety of perspectives. The box, providing an inner space as well as an interface, becomes a metaphor for the body itself in its myriad expressions, and a vehicle for introspection and dialogue
Ironically, rather than dealing with ‘the individual’, Western society tends to place us in particular categories (little boxes) and more specifically opposing polarities in order to deal with us more easily, more quickly, less personally. This easy stereotyping is even more prevalent in regard to the position of women: Madonna/Whore, Mother/Worker, Young/Old, Beautiful/Ugly, Nature/Culture.
This box contains references to the stereotyping that we as women experience and the title, We are This and That and Everything in Between, refers to the true individual nature of the female sex.
It’s utterly prosaic, this box until it falls into the hands of the artists….at which point the box is transformed, exploded, expanded, shattered, sculpted, pasted, painted, and reborn into an expression of a woman’s identity. – Shanti Menon, East Magazine, Singapore
For a long time, the apple has been a metaphor of the female’s voice, of Eve’s voice, the voice that carried Adam to the supposed sin and expulsion from paradise. Woman has endured this sinful story for centuries. The same tale is connected to the traditional story of Pandora’s Box. Pandora’s curiosity leads her to open a box that the gods have forbidden. Her sentence is to find within all the evils of the world. However, in this apple I present a new voice, one of many women who fight for their dignity. It is placed upon a stand and framed as an homage to the women who in the Orient, Africa, Europe, etc. struggle against practices that have put them in positions that are submissive, second class, and at times inhumane. This new apple is a new manifesto, that of the creative woman who has had to fight for her space and had to change old meanings. – Magda Eunice Sánchez
Presentations in Relation to Women’s Studies:
AUSTRIA: Women Beyond Borders, Presentation, Styrian Autumn Festival, Gender & Politics, Forum Stadt Park, Graz (Oct. 2, 1997).
CALIFORNIA: Beyond the Backlash: Feminism for the 1990’s, Panel moderated by Betty Ann Brown, including Dean Dresser, Cheryl Dullabaun, Cheri Gaulke, Sondra Hale, Rosalli Ortega, Sandra Rowe, and Lorraine Serena, UCLA Armand Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (June 8, 1996).
CALIFORNIA: Igniting the Edge: Women Beyond Borders, Panel Presentation including Lorraine Serena and WBB artists, National Women’s Caucus for Art and Southern California Women’s Caucus for Art (SCWCA), Los Angeles (Feb. 10, 1999).
AMSTERDAM: Traveling Heritages – New Perspectives on Collecting, Preserving and Sharing Women’s History, Saskia E. Wieringa (ED.), Aksant Academic Publishers, Amsterdam, Women Beyond Borders, pp. 79-82. Essay by Biljana Kasic, 2008
In light of our increasingly multicultural societies and the expanding “digital divide,” we need more inclusive approaches to the collection of cultural heritage. Critical reflection on the contents of collections and methods of acquisition is crucial. The International Information Center and Archives for the Women’s Movement (IIAV) in Amsterdam provides a case study in how to approach these issues. It considered how to make optimal use of new media, and whose histories should be represented in its archives. In Traveling Heritages, international and national heritage experts from academic, libraries, and archival professions reflect upon these concerns offering new perspectives on documenting women’s histories.
For more information about our art education curriculum, see our page HERE.
A selection of student projects from around the world:
UTAH: Children Beyond Borders, Adjunct Exhibition, Art Access Gallery/VSA Arts Utah. Inspired by the success of Women Beyond Borders, VSA Arts invited 4,500 children with disabilities from more than 50 countries to transform cardboard boxes. The resulting Children Beyond Borders, a collection of original artwork expressing children’s ideas, dreams and visions, was first exhibited in Salt Lake City (Jan. 18 – March 17, 2002).
AUSTRALIA: Grrrls Beyond Borders, Satellite Exhibition of boxes by 300 female high school students held simultaneously with WBB exhibition at Tin Sheds Gallery. Organized by Michaela James. The Faculty of Architecture, The University of Sydney (Aug. 28 – Sept. 18, 1999).
SWITZERLAND: Pandora’s Box, Workshops for children in conjunction with Pandora – Women in Classical Greece. Organized by Anne Cathy Wildberger, Curator of Education, Antikenmuseum und Sammlung Ludwig, Basel (May – June, 1996).
Women Beyond Borders contains extensive information, including a video archive of 80 DVDs of footage from the world tour. Included are documentation of exhibitions, workshops, presentations, and interviews with curators, artists, and viewers. Archives also include photos, press, ephemera and artist information (resumes, catalogs, images). These videos can be found HERE.