Awareness, Denunciation and Pedagogy
: The Rhizomatic Effects of Mexican Feminist Artivism Against Gender Violence. A Qualitative Approach

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Feminist artistic practice in Mexico began in the 1980s. From the start, feminist artists showed greater interest in social interventions than in meeting aesthetic standards. This thesis analyses artwork produced by three generations of Mexican feminist artists through the distinctive works of Mónica Mayer (1954), Lorena Wolffer (1971) and Cerrucha (1984). I argue that their practice falls within artivism, or cultural projects of social intervention, instead of art, and examine and discuss their strategies to confront gender violence in Mexico. My research identifies, describes and explains the rhizomatic effects Mexican feminist artivism produces on the fight against gender-based violence.

I defined the neologism of feminist artivism as a liminal artistic practice that is deeply committed to its audiences, with a clear social objective and a form of political art. Since artivism promotes heterogeneous, multiple reactions that release the flow of desire (which is consistent with the idea of gender as performativity), its effects are better explained as rhizomatic. A chronological analysis of Mexican feminist art allowed me to identify that, in most feminist artivistic projects against gender-based violence, the artists promoted awareness and denunciation with therapeutic or pedagogical intentions. Furthermore, my analysis led me to identify ways in which the artists modified their art to invite their audiences to participate actively and take part in the academic discussion about gender-based violence and be involved in political movements to oppose it. I argue that Mexican feminist artists tend to prioritise their sociological aims above their compliance with the artistic canon. Seeking to use the results of this research in addressing the crime of feminicide in Mexico in a future discussion involving academics, activists and lawyers, my thesis has taken into consideration the legal framework available in Mexico in the field of gender-based violence.

My research has another angle to either challenge or provides additional evidence to my conclusion. I organised two focus groups, one in the city of Querétaro and the other in México City, and held with them due to the COVID-19 pandemic, online discussion sessions. The most relevant results of my research were, on the one hand, that regarding Mexico’s feminist artistic work as artivism or cultural projects of social intervention allows a better understanding of the artists’ aims and their practices. On the other hand, I discovered three main rhizomatic effects of artivistic artworks: raising awareness of and denouncing gender violence with political, therapeutic and pedagogic outcomes. The artworks selected and discussed during the research and discussions are effective in spreading gender concepts, making visible and creating awareness about issues of violence against women, validating the feminist protest, promoting empathy to and between victims and relatives of victims of gender violence, and allowing them, to a certain extent, to achieve a certain degree of psychological healing.

Keywords: Mexican feminist artivism, violence against women, rhizomatic effect, gender violence.
Date of Award1 Oct 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorLuis Rebaza-Soraluz (Supervisor) & Elisa Sampson Vera Tudela (Supervisor)

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