Sarah Callesen is one of the artists who contributed a poster to Present Tense : Wāhine Toi Aotearoa, the series of works by women artists changing weekly on the construction hoardings outside The Hotel Britomart site on Customs Street East and Gore Street.
Here, she talks to Jeremy Hansen about her work and why she joined the project.
Jeremy: You’ve created a text-based work called Craters of Venus with names and distances in kilometres on it for your poster. Can you tell me about what it represents?
Sarah: I came across this fact during recent fine arts study where I’ve been researching female pioneers in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics). Since 1991, the governing union naming planetary bodies and features began assigning only women’s names to craters on Venus. Those over 20kms in diameter are named after "deceased women who have made outstanding or fundamental contributions to their field", and those 20km diameter or less are attributed female first names.
Consequently, with the names of famous women confined to Venus there are few on other celestial bodies. Mercury’s craters are named after deceased famous artists, musicians, dancers, poets and authors – predominantly male. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) responsible for planetary nomenclature is made up of 83% male members and 17% female members. This whole situation is an example of absurdity caused by systemic patriarchal power.
What made you want to get involved in this project?
Catherine Griffith’s ‘40:3’ poster brought to light the gender imbalance in New Zealand’s design awards. Why isn’t there gender and cultural equity on the DINZ board and judging panels, and more broadly, what needs to change to get more women in management positions in design, including changes to traditional workplace practises that works better for caregivers. The poster project is a platform I can add my voice to.
This is such a wonderful project, and I marvelled at all the work that had gone into it, but it also made me wonder about the frustration that must come with all of you collectively having to draw attention to this issue. Women designers are the ones that are disadvantaged, yet you’re having to put in the effort to point out this inequality. Do you know what I mean?
Feminism is in its Fourth Wave. That’s exactly the question – why do we still have to protest against this stuff?! Archaic patriarchal structures are still in place, inequality is still prevalent. As problematic as social media is, it’s a public platform for marginalised voices, so here we go again.
How does it feel to see the collective output of so many talented women in one space – on the street and online?
Great. What is really interesting is the diversity of voices. Everyone has their own experience and narrative to tell, and for me it’s been a valuable listen. Also of mention in the drive for parity is the work by Design Assembly, writers such as Lana Lopesi, those educating future NZ designers, and of course Phantom Billstickers and Britomart for getting the posters on the street!