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Melanie Manos Wins Knight Foundation Funding for Visualizing Women's Work

In the background: a statue of a man on horseback. In the foreground, two hands hold and swipe on a mobile phone screen showing an African-American woman.

Melanie Manos, Janie Paul Collegiate Lecturer at the Stamps School of Art & Design, is the recipient of tech-specific funding from Knight Arts Challenge Detroit for her multimedia project Visualizing Women’s Work (VWW).

The new funding provides the opportunity to present the perspective of women’s experience and work throughout history. Manos will develop, design, and build an augmented reality infrastructure for mapping and making visible women’s historical labor in Detroit. This grant makes it possible for VWW to counter the intersectional historical erasure of women’s contributions to society across the United States, including compensated and uncompensated work. VWW focuses on rethinking the form of patriarchal, hierarchical historical monuments through performative events, AR, and data visualization such as the work that Manos will create. 

Women’s contributions to society are often left out of history books, documentaries, and statuary, except for an occasional individual. Their work, efforts, and sacrifices are ignored or eclipsed by male counterparts — including support system roles which are vital but underrecognized,” said Manos. This lack of recognition perpetuates, in my opinion, second-class citizenship for women, the gender wage gap, continued devaluation of domestic-based work such as child-rearing and caregiving, and workplaces stuck in a post-WWII patriarchal structure.”

VWW — Detroit creates an opportunity for Detroiters to share women’s histories through audio recording and AR visuals publicly shared via QR codes populating the city and preserved in a digital archive. The QR codes bridge site to story/​image and are accessible via smartphones now held by an ever-growing percentage of the population. This is the time for an intersectional feminism/​womanist project that uses visuals to counter historical erasure and refuses patriarchal and hierarchical public expressions of history such as single-figure (+ horse) monuments; further, VWW creates a visual public landscape that supports inclusivity and historical authenticity. The project is looking to match the Knight grant funding in order to expand the scope of work. 

VWW is a research and community-centered project examining gender bias in public historical visual culture to elevate the status of women-identified persons across cultures and socio-economic strata. VWW seeks to: raise awareness of the lack of representation of women in public visual culture; make evident the support systems that allowed select individuals (mainly white male) to rise in status and statuary; question the prevailing style and form of commemorative monuments; and create a platform for crowd-sourced activism and historical research.