"She became my teacher and mentor": Uncovering the legacy of women video pioneers in Art Schools and Academies in Europe

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In the 1970s when the portable video recorder was relatively new, several women artists experimented with a medium that was easier to operate than film and free from the heavy male-dominated imprint of traditional artist practices. In several countries, the UK among them, many women video pioneers were in Fine Art and Sculpture Departments marked by a strong male culture and where most of the teachers were still men. At the time, feminist collectives were key to providing training and facilities for women artists. A few years later, women video pioneers would become teachers in the Art Schools and Universities in Europe, inspiring a new generation of artists – and, more importantly, women artists - to explore video and media art. Their relevance and influence as educators have, however, not been acknowledged in the histories of the medium and are still to be properly investigated. An interesting and yet marginalised case is for example that of the British artist Elsa Stansfield – who, as part of the duo Hoooykaas/Stansfield, is considered to be one of the most significant pioneers of video art in Europe. In 1980 Stansfield was invited to establish a Time Based Media Department at the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht, a postgraduate institute, where she organised symposiums and exhibitions and invited some of the most important video artists of the time, including Bill Viola, Joan Jonas, Marina Abramović, Al Robins, and Toni Oursler. Stansfield’s work as an educator and mentor influenced several artists who were students at the time at the Jan van Eyck Academy. For example, Swedish video and media artist Antonie Frank Grahamsdaughter declared: “For me Elsa Stansfield was a great inspiration as a teacher. It was very important to meet female artists such as Joan Jonas and Marina Abramović, along with others who were invited to talk about their work at the Jan Van Eyck. It was also significant that they were female artists as we female students could identify with these female video artists in a film world dominated by men, which is still the case even today.” This paper aims to uncover, discuss, and reassess the importance and legacy of the first generation of women video pioneers – including Stansfield, Tamara Krikorian, Maria Vedder, Ulrike Rosenbach and Federica Marangoni - who became teachers and mentors in Art Schools and Academies in Europe and influenced deeply succeeding generations of media artists.


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