The Absent Referent Exhibition

The Absent Referent exhibition took place at TAG Gallery, 5458 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036 from Oct. 26 though Dec. 17, 2022. The exhibition featured 10 international ecofeminist artists whose work echoes the books “The Sexual Politics of Meat” and “The Pornography of Meat” by American author and activist Carol J. Adams. The focus of this exhibition is the idea of the “absent referent” which was politicized in Carol Adam’s book “The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory” in 1990. In her book she writes, “The function of the absent referent is to keep our ‘meat’ separated from any idea that she or he was once an animal, to keep something from being seen as having been someone. Once we recognize how the absent referent functions, we can immediately see two things — women are made absent referents in our culture, too. And, our culture links oppressions and intensifies them.” This concept of the “absent referent” can be applied not only to animals, but to women, racialized minorities, the LGBTQ community, the elderly and the differently abled. All of these communities have been compared to “animals”, not only metaphorically but literally. The absent referent is the “reality of oppression that disappears when someone’s life becomes someone else’s pleasure or convenience.” Adams’ book is an ecofeminist analysis of the interconnected oppressions of misogyny, white supremacy, and speciesism. Some examples of these shared oppressions are environmental racism, global capitalism, militarism, and the dehumanizing treatment of refugees and immigrant children. The ecofeminist artists in this exhibition reflect these complex conceptualizations through their art and practice. This exhibition honors and celebrates not only these artists but all of the ecofeminists out there, fighting every day. I hope these artworks and these artists inspire people of all genders, ages, abilities and backgrounds to think differently about our relationship with and obligation to the rights of all animals. The Absent Referent exhibition included art in all mediums from interdisciplinary international artists including Karen Fiorito, Michelle Waters, Jane Lewis, Jane O’Hara, Helen Barker, Patricia Denys, Melanie Oliva, Kathryn Eddy, L.A. Watson and Chantal Poulin Durocher.