non wrote as the introduction to the brochure.
He wrote "The Dinner Party is a grand and noble showing forth of contributions of women
from our collective mythical past to the present
day. The work carries us forward towards the
time when Eden is again, when the divided
merge and become whole. Born in the past, it
urges us toward the future of human reconciliation through an apocalyptic vision of a world
healed, perfected, and made one again." Now
that's a man who's claiming information and
the images in The Dinner Party as part of our
human, collective wealth. That's what I want
men to take away.
NLF:That women's experience is not only an
appropriate basis for art, but it is something
that men should be interested in?
J.C.: The degree to which a man cannot accept
The Dinner Party as part of our human heritage
is the degree to which that man is still involved
in thinking that his experience is more important than women's, that his experience is concurrent with the human experience and that
somehow women's experience is less than that.
But our experience illuminates something of
the universal experience, is half of it, is part of
it. Until we have integrated both men's and
women's experience into a whole picture we are
only seeing half of reality. I'd like a moratorium on men's culture for about a hundred years
until they catch up-then we might be even
with them, knowing as much about us as we
know about them. Then we can start over
DB: I wanted to ask you about your vision for
the next 100 years because Nancy and I were
debating this before the show. I had a strong
feeling in reading The Dinner Party book that
your vision is very much feminine and maybe I
missed it, because what you are saying here is
that we have been so unbalanced that we need
to tip the scales back the other way. Is that
more of what you're saying, more than moving
toward feminine dominated or matriarchal?
JC:Oh, I am not interested in anyone dominating anybody on any level. I don't even like human beings dominating dolphins. I find that incredibly horrendous. I can't stand watching one
of those giant drills dominating and plunging
into the earth. I just find the whole structure of
domination on the planet abhorrent, impossible,
horrible on any level. I don't want to be dominant over anybody. In the first place I think it's
an incredibly corrosive experience to one's own
NLF: But the impression I have is that you were
definitely the leader in The Dinner Party project, in this large collective of people who were
working in this cooperative effort. You had
esthetic control and it was your vision. What is
the difference between leadership and dominance?
JC: I think it is an interesting issue. That is
one of the things I try to deal with not only in
The Dinner Party but in teaching generally. All
of the feminist programs through the last decade were how to be, by example, a different
kind of leader, a non-dominant, a non-authoritarian leader, how to re-define leadership so
that it does not imply power over anybody but
rather implies the sharing of my vision, the
sharing of my space, the sharing of my concerns
and the invitation to other people to participate,
in the hopes that they will freely choose to do
so, but without any coercion and without even
the rewards that exist in the mainstream culture,
that coerce people into participating in things
that they may not even believe in because they
get rewarded for it by money or status. There
was not even that kind of coercion. So that is
what's so funny about all the accusations about
my being authoritarian, because the whole
structure that I built has been built on trying to
provide space for myself and other people.
DB: And yet you say in one part of The Dinner
Party book that as one person grows, he or she
begins to take up more space and that by its
very definition is revolutionary in that sometimes they begin to occupy the space occupied
heretofore by somebody else.
JC: No, no, no. See, that implies that there is
only so much space.
DB: Space isn't finite?
JC: Conflict takes place in growth so you see
it is not smooth but I don't see space as finite.
I see that the space that I and the people who
work with me, particularly my colleagues, occupy is the space where we are concentrating
on trying to change certain things in the world,
to transform the world. There is a lot of space
and there is a lot of people, so there is hardly
any competition with these millions of people
running down the street wanting to change the
NLF: What about the work situation? Do you
think this kind of community situation that
you had is the best for a woman artist? You've
talked and written so much about what it is like
to be isolated in a male-dominated art world.
Something is going to go wrong. I feel very
strongly about that which doesn't mean that if
a woman feels she has to go through that and
find out for herself, I wouldn't support her in
it. I would support her.
NLF: You're talking about the external obstacles that women find related to creativity. What
about the internal obstacles? Could you share
some of your observations?
JC: If you look at history and if you study the
lives of people who have made substantial
change these are people who really understood
the political, economic, and social structure of
ate, by teaching. We need leaders to help
us change. Because there's a whole period when
we work together collectively. That's a real important stage which is going beyond where
you're at and for that you have to have somebody who is beyond. And what we've done to
our women who are beyond is we have hurt
them and punished them, as opposed to turning
to them and honoring them. As my colleague
and former student, Faith Wiley said: We have
not come up with our own reward system. We
have to come up with a reward system that can
substitute a way to honor our women who have
China painting the names on the Heritage Floor.
JC: I don't think there is any one way for anything. I don't think there is any right way.
Structures need to evolve from people and people's needs. Now we are confronting a series of
structures and institutions that have nothing to
do with people's needs and are totally unresponsive to them, as exemplified by museums refusing to show The Dinner Party even though
there is a huge audience. They don't give a shit
and they don't have to-they don't have to be
responsible to people's needs. The oil companies get to do anything they want. They don't
have to be responsible to how many people are
being exploited by what they do or how the air
is getting polluted.
So I don't think that everybody should do
anything. I think people need space to be able
to find out, discover, what they need and then
build what will give them what they need. I
think that the cooperative way that we worked
with leadership is one mode of working, of
operating. Collectives are another mode.
Sometimes people need to be alone and isolated
and work alone. However, I certainly feel for
myself that I do not want to go back and will
not probably go back to working in an isolated
situation-not just because it is not good for
women, I don't think it is good for artists.
That's a post-industrial revolution development.
It never happened before. I mean artisans
worked in convents and monasteries together.
Artists worked in ateliers together.
That's a whole post-industrial revolution
phenomenon and it has been very, very destructive to women, because when a male artist
works in his studio alone he works against the
background of a support system. When a female
artist works in her studio altyie, she's really
alone. There is no support system to take her
work into the world. So I think it is very
self-defeating for a woman artist to use the
male model, it just isn't going to work for her.
the society and how to address it, how to deal
with it. These are people that have spent their
lives preparing themselves to be able not only
to function in the world, but to be able to conceive of alternatives and figure out how to
make that happen.
It's like the women in the library, sitting
there reading books about men and not thinking about it. I'll go on the campus and I'll see
women wearing slit skirts and high heels and I
just go berserk. I think to myself, at what point
do we have to say we have some responsibility
in our own oppression. At what point do we
have to say: is this slit skirt going to make me
be taken seriously or is it going to say to
somebody: you really don't have to worry
about me after all because I'm really not so
serious. And these high heels-you can't run if
something happens to you. At what point are
we going to say, I don't want to read about
men anymore. I want to read about women and
if they're not there I'm going to find the books.
These are the ways in which we are ourselves
accomplices in our own oppression. That's the
degree to which they have not confronted themselves or they have not said: I insist upon being
taken seriously, I insist on thinking. It's not just
men; it's our own desire not to take responsibility for ourselves.
NLF: But Judy, isn't it hard when the rewards
are there for doing those things?
JC: Yes, it's hard; yes, it's hard! Life is hard!
and what we're prepared for by the way we're
brought up is that life should be soft and easy
and life is not easy, it's not easy for anyone.
NLF: So, what do we need to do in order to
learn to work, in order to not turn away from
our own abilities?
JC: That's one of the reasons we need leadership. We need women who are models, who
know how to work, either by example, which is
the best way I operate, or as other women oper-
given to us, and our leaders who can help us.
We have to find ways to reward them so that it
will not be tempting to be rewarded in the old
NLF: Is this bringing us back to The Dinner
Party? I mean, this is one way of rewarding:
some of the women honored at the dinner party are still living. Most of them are not but do
you think through just the process of honoring
these women, and realizing that there are
women to be honored, that we may gain something?
JC: Since the beginning, there are so many
women in our own communities to honor. The
women who have fought in the colleges for
women's studies, the women who have fought
in professions to open them up, the women
who we can claim as role models. But it's not
something we've done yet. The women professors on campus-l know a lot of them who still
get trashed by their female students.
NLF: But isn't there some validity in the notion that there's so few crumbs to go around
that keep women fighting against one another.
That there's so few rewards. That there's so few
top jobs or so few top honors.
JC: Hell yeah. That's what I meant. That's exactly why we have to come up with a new reward system. Whether it's every week, finding
an older woman in our own community and
taking her out to dinner, a woman who's
worked alone and been isolated, telling her that
she meant something to us. I mean we have to
invent a new reward system because we can't
give, like Faith said to me, we can't give you
the money and the honor. We can't get you
into the Museum of Modern Art. We can't do
those things that are the traditional things that
you would expect if you were a man. We can't
do that for you-we gotta come up with other
ways to give to you.
NLF: You're talking about replacing some-