When feminist performance art burst onto the L.A. Scene in 1970, a community of women artists changed their lives and the very role of art. ACTING LIKE WOMEN is a personal and collective journey into gender, art, and activism – intimately told by those who lived it.
Mission StatementHow does a feminist art movement of the past inform artists and activists today? This is the central question of ACTING LIKE WOMEN as it delves into a hidden herstory of feminist performance art in 1970s-80s Los Angeles. Help us place this important body of work into the art historical canon!
About The Project
A journey into the radical history of feminist art and activism told by those who lived it. Performance artist Cheri Gaulke serves as guide, shepherding voices from 1970s-80s Los Angeles who are still working today, as well as emerging artists who are deeply affected by this history.
ACTING LIKE WOMEN tells the story of a movement – California feminist performance art. At the film’s center is the Woman’s Building in Los Angeles (founded in 1973) – an incubator for some of the most innovative, fearless and still-relevant work in the history of performance art. It was a birthplace for radical new ideas that made the art world take notice and laid the groundwork for future art and social justice movements.
Feminist performance art brought women’s private experience into the public consciousness illuminating issues like sexual identity, equal pay, and violence against women. Feminist artists were passionate about social justice and caring for the earth, creating some of the first eco-feminist artworks. They exposed lesbian content, and claimed their bodies as sacred.
In the 1970s and 80s, museums and galleries excluded women and artists of color. These women knew they were navigating blatant white male and East Coast bias. Los Angeles was at the epicenter of change. With performance art, they brought art out of the elite gallery system, into the streets and directly into people's lives.
The stories of West Coast performance have not been told. We need to capture this history now, before those who made it are not able to share it and we lose access to their archives.
Feminist performance art in 1970s-80s Los Angeles is not a tangent about artists on the fringes, but an essential and highly influential period at the core of the genre’s development. Its rightful place is central to performance art history canon, not marginalized.
RIGHT NOW women’s rights are under attack, domestic violence is on the rise, an environmental crisis is upon us, and we are facing a potential nuclear threat from warring countries. ACTING LIKE WOMEN looks at these same topics that feminist performance artists addressed in 1970s-80s Los Angeles. In a time of great social upheaval, women artists brought taboo subjects out of the bedroom and innovated a new kind of art that fomented social change throughout the world.
These artists may be 60-90 years of age but they are not your stereotypical rocking-chair-grandmas. They are working, kick-ass activist-artists and mentors to a younger generation who are tackling these same issues with vigor and verve to make the world a better place for everyone. Yet many young artist-activists do not know these women’s wild herstories which have been under-valued and made invisible by a still male-dominated culture of art institutions, market, and media. Our film makes connections between the struggles and strategies of the past to the same issues being grappled with today.
- Received enthusiastic response from 50 artists who have opened their archives to us
- Filmed dozens of interviews with a top-notch crew and high production values
- Started to craft a sample segment with our editors and animators for grant applications and underwriting needs
ACT II - raise $30,000+++ (of a total goal of $350,000) with this Seed&Spark campaign by December 31, 2022 to fund:
- EDITING – edit two 8-10 minute segments of the film. (Editing a feature takes 6-9 months and we will need to raise a total of $100,000 to cover editing costs to get the film to screen).
- ANIMATION – transform invaluable archival photographs into lively animations for two 8-10 minute segments of the film.
- FILMING – finish filming the 4 remaining interviews and 5 re-enactments needed to tell this story.
- MUSIC – we have one of the top documentary composers in the business, award-winning Miriam Cutler, who also has a personal relationship to this story.
BIG PICTURE: This crowdfunding campaign is only one part of our fundraising plan which includes grant writing, industry pitches, and securing donations from passionate individuals who want to be part of getting this herstory to screens in theaters, museums, and classrooms aound the world. We need to raise a total of $350,000 to finish this film and we need you to help us make the magic happen!
GIVE! GIVE! GIVE! no gift is too large or too small. We stretch every dollar to its maximum and we have to raise 80% of our Seed&Spark goal to keep the funds. Our fiscal sponsor Women Make Movies will give you a tax receipt for any gift over $250.
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Help filmmaker @cherigaulke tell the story of feminist performance art in 1970s-80s Los Angeles with her film @actinglikewomen. Learn more and contribute at https://bit.ly/3AkKGpN. Thank you!
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What is the Woman’s Building?
Founded in 1973 by Judy Chicago, Sheila Levrant de Bretteville and Arlene Raven, the Woman’s Building was the only public center for women’s culture in the world. When it closed in 1991, the Los Angeles Times called it a "feminist mecca." The Los Angeles Conservancy deemed it an “historic LGBTQ+ place in L.A.” and in 2018 the 1727 N. Spring Street location was declared a Historic-Cultural Monument.
The Elusive Nature of Performance Art
In the 1970s & 1980s, performance art was immediate and temporary. It was about the lived experience and documentation was limited by access to equipment or not considered. This is partly why women, artists of color, and queer artists making work in this era were marginalized and excluded from the historical canon of performance art. This film reclaims the history of a genre, conjuring the spirit of ephemeral work. We are mining over 50 archives to find the images and tell the stories.
As time has passed, a handful of key voices have disappeared and archival materials are deteriorating or disappearing. It is imperative we tell this story now, before we lose any more herstories and access. NOW IS THE TIME!
Cheri Gaulke, writer-director-producer, and Anne Gauldin, co-writer-producer, joined the Feminist Studio Workshop at the Woman's Building in 1975 to become the artists they are today. Rejecting the stereotype of the lone male artist, they immediately embraced the collaborative nature of performance art and founded Feminist Art Workers, The Waitresses and Sisters Of Survival. They also co-wrote the award-winning film Gloria's Call (2018) recently shown at the 2022 Venice Biennale.
We have assembled a professional crew and editorial team and have a distinguished group of academic and industry advisors providing advice and guidance at every stage of the production.
- Meg Linton (lead producer) curated the exhibition Doin' It in Public: Feminism and Art at the Woman's Building, at Ben Maltz Gallery, part of the Getty-sponsored Pacific Standard Time, 2011-2012.
- Cheryl Bookout (producer) co-founder and director of The Chimaera Project which champions female and non-binary filmmakers, co-director and producer with Cheri of Inside the Beauty Bubble award-winning short doc
- Kristy Tully (director of photography) works for film and TV, filmed the feature doc Feminists: What Were They Thinking?
- Susan Metzger (story editor) edits feature and short docs including Artist and Mother, one of the most popular episodes on KCET's Artbound
- Heather Seybolt (editor) has created music videos for Janet Jackson, Melissa Etheridge and others
- C. Lily Ericsson and Stephanie Delazeri (animators) alums of CalArts' Experimental Animation program and animators on previous films Gloria's Call and Inside the Beauty Bubble
- Miriam Cutler (composer) one of the top documentary composers working today (RBG, Dark Money, Love Gilda)
- Isabella D'Agnenica (archival researcher)
Writer-director Cheri Gaulke began writing about women and performance art as early as 1980.
Thank you for becoming an advocate for this project and part of our support team. It means the world to us!
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About This Team
Director, Writer, Producer: Cheri Gaulke is a pioneer in the feminist art movement in Los Angeles and an award-winning filmmaker whose films have screened in national and international film festivals. Gaulke’s work has been presented at the Museum of Modern Art (NY), the Museum of Contemporary Art (LA), in a Smithsonian-touring exhibition, and in settings all over the world including buses, churches, and prehistoric temples. Known for her solo performance art, she also co-founded the collaborative performance groups Feminist Art Workers and Sisters Of Survival which were featured in a Getty-sponsored exhibition. Gaulke has received artist fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, California Arts Council, City of Los Angeles, and California Community Foundation. Recent films: Gloria's Call about women and surrealism traveled to over 40 film festivals, won Best Documentary at Ann Arbor Film Festival and recently screened at the Venice Biennale; Miss Alma Thomas: A Life in Color is traveling with a museum retrospective about this under-recognized African-American artist; and Inside the Beauty Bubble is winning numerous awards including the Audience Award at San Luis Obispo Film Festival and Dances with Films. Gaulke is also an award-winning educator who has nurtured hundreds of artists and filmmakers.
Co-Writer, Producer: Anne Gauldin is a feminist artist, graphic designer, and business entrepreneur. She received her M.A. through the Feminist Studio Workshop at the Los Angeles Woman’s Building, exploring prehistoric archaeological sites in Western Europe and contemporary feminist art and education. Gauldin served as the Slide Librarian at the Woman’s Building overseeing the archives and the Center for Feminist Art Historical Studies collection created by Arlene Raven and Ruth Iskin. Gauldin was a founding member of The Waitresses and Sisters Of Survival performance art collectives, worked as a typographer in the Women’s Graphic Center and ran her own successful graphic design company for many years. She collaborated with Cheri Gaulke as a producer and writer of the 2018 award-winning documentary film Gloria’s Call. Gauldin’s work has been exhibited and performed both nationally and internationally.
Lead Producer: Meg Linton is an independent curator, writer, and producer with 22+ years-experience running non-profit and academic contemporary art spaces in Southern California and has dedicated her career to helping artists produce their best work. Linton was the co-curator and lead organizer of Doin' It in Public: Feminism and Art at the Woman's Building that was part of the The Getty's initiative Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA 1945-1980 in 2011. She has conceived and organized hundreds of exhibitions, publications, events, and videos in her various roles as: Director of Galleries and Exhibitions at the Ben Maltz Gallery, Otis College of Art and Design (2003-2014); Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum (1999-2003); Curator of Exhibitions at the University Art Museum at California State University, Long Beach (1997-1999).
Producer: Cheryl Bookout is the co-founder of The Chimaera Project, a nonprofit organization championing women and non-binary filmmakers. Bookout has worked over 20 years in the art nonprofit sector and has been a guest on numerous panel discussions on the role of nonprofit organizations in society, art, and filmmaking. From 1999 - 2010 she curated approximately 170 art exhibitions in galleries, academic and alternative art spaces. She initiated and coordinated a community-based collaborative art project in Los Angeles County (1999-2002) with renowned artist Judy Chicago and internationally recognized photographer Donald Woodman. At the time, it was Chicago's largest project and included approximately 80 artists from 47 counties throughout California. As a creative, Cheryl is a studio artist and filmmaker, her work has been widely exhibited and collected. She directed the documentary film Inside The Beauty Bubble (2021) and produced the award-winning documentary film Gloria’s Call (2019); the sci-fi film PURE (2019); and currently producing the feature-length documentary Acting Like Women. Her short narrative film Just A Friend is in pre-production and her sci-fi episodic project, Women Of Steel is winning screenplay competitions.
Fiscal Sponsor: For more than 45 years, Women Make Movies, a non-profit organization, has transformed the filmmaking landscape for diverse women directors and producers, helping to bring issues facing women around the world to light. Our Production Assistance Program assists women directors with their productions from concept through completion with fiscal sponsorship, consultations, workshops and webinars, and other technical assistance. Films and filmmakers we have supported have been nominated for or won Academy Awards in the last 15 years. As the world’s leading distributor ofindependent films by and about women, we amplify the voice of people historically ignored by the mainstream media. Our acclaimed collection, which features Academy, Emmy, Peabody, and Sundance nominees and award winners, is used by thousands of cultural, educational, and community organizations across North America.