Photography by Lola Rossi, Styling by Maïna Bouland
Blood dripping down a thigh, a girl submerged in a bathtub full of Barbies, rolls of body fat, queer poetry, painted toenails and hairy legs. The Curated by GIRLS platform is bursting with images of woman*hood in exponential expressions. With a swipe of your finger, you can tap into a beautiful tangle of subversive, tender, powerful, satirical, emotional and engaging art and artists – all while still in your pyjamas.
Curated by GIRLS is an online platform dedicated to sharing the art of emerging female-identifying artists. With 58,2000 followers and growing, the platform’s Instagram account alone is a force to be reckoned with. Founder Laetitia Duveau is an artist herself, and under the moniker of Little Voice she is half of the electro-pop duo Free Free Dom Dom and rocks a personal Instagram following of 32,200.
Laetitia is a flash of colour in a dark city of black-on-black woollen layers. She stands apart in bold patterns and bright, one-of-a-kind clothes that match her quirky personality. In a sense, she is wearing her love of art on her sleeve. She laughs as we tour her apartment in the midst of moving, lamenting that we couldn’t see it in its full glory. However, her passion for artistry and a sense of self-expression are still visible, from the rows of funky sunglasses laid out neatly next to a neon pink flamingo and the glittery boob head she made at artist Annique Delphine’s workshop, proudly displayed in the living room. We curl up on her oversized couch to discuss the founding of Curated by GIRLS and her mission to create a platform and community for emerging artists.
Moving to Berlin – I think it kind of changed my life.
Laetitia moved from Paris to Berlin three years ago, in an effort to get out of a creative slump. On a trip to Berlin to play a gig as Free Free Dom Dom with her partner Philippe Duval, she felt inspired, fell in love with the city and decided to stay. “Moving to Berlin – I think it kind of changed my life,” she reflects. “I think everybody should come to Berlin once in their life.” The perfect storm of interesting people, flourishing art scene and laid-back lifestyles had Laetitia hooked – and it was a catalyst, setting things in motion for a new chapter in her life.
Curated by GIRLS was an accident, according to Laetitia. “I didn’t plan it,” she says. “I didn’t even know what curating was really about!” And yet it was a natural direction for Letitia to take. With a passion for art and love of challenges, she threw caution to the wind and found herself doing it anyway, bolstered by the easygoing, DIY attitudes in Berlin. “And here I could do it, because you can do anything in Berlin,” Laetitia explains. “You can explore, you can have time, and I found myself starting the project with my best friend Ophelie Rondeau. She wasn’t able to pursue it with me but I kept going.”
As an artist herself, Laetitia found it important to “give a voice to other talents emerging that had a message, and especially women and underrepresented identities.” And so, she started an account on Instagram, created a website, and voilà! Curated by GIRLS was born.
Laetitia is adamant that “it doesn’t matter if you’re famous or not famous, whatever. I just want to highlight artists that have a powerful message, meaningful, and especially women – because we need to hear their experience and message in order to be in a more balanced world where every vision exists.” A scroll through the Curated by GIRLS Instagram feed reveals that this is exactly what Laetitia is putting into practice. Photographs of gloriously fleshy bodies, blood-stained underwear, unshaven legs and wispy body hair are sprinkled among clever illustrations, sculptures, drawings, paintings and videos that are held together by a common thread: exploring what it means to be a woman*.
An intersectional feminist approach is especially important to Laetitia, and she works hard to feature what she describes as a “diverse palette of artists” to “highlight visual artists and women – female-identifying artists first, [as well as] queer artists.” She argues that art is the best way to communicate and engage with feminism. “Yeah, I mean it’s to deliver important messages to an audience and I think it’s a great way to educate,” she says, after a pause to consider our question. “Art is a good way to learn and understand about the world and the fights. I think art is the best way to communicate it.”
On Curated by GIRLS, Laetitia is building a digital gallery of art that proves her point. “I think most of the art … that I’m sharing has a very interesting message,” she says of her curatorial choices. “I have some artists that are, like, super young and yet they are really giving a lot of their personal experiences and it’s really touching.” Through their art, all of us who scroll down to find that image in our feed can connect with and learn about these individuals and their unique experiences.
And this is why Laetitia made the cognizant decision to build the platform online. It was about ensuring accessibility, inviting the general public into the world of feminist art and artists, represented by a diverse array of artistic voices. “Being online was very, very important,” Laetitia explains, “because anyone in the world could have access to a gallery, to this gallery’s art, to hear the story and experience[s] of other women through art.” Whether you live in Berlin, or halfway across the globe, you can engage with the Curated by GIRLS platform, connect with the artists and share in their experiences. “So even, like, for queer people it’s very important,” Laetitia adds, “they can connect and feel like a community.”
Curated by GIRLS’ digital community is accessible primarily via Instagram. Of course the platform is present on other social media platforms and the Curated by GIRLS website, but Laetitia describes Instagram as “indispensable” and “a precious tool”. She puts it bluntly: “If I didn’t have Instagram, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing.” With Instagram, the platform can reach into the far corners of the world, building a like-minded digital community of artists and art lovers. “I love the fact that anyone can be at home in their pyjamas and scroll my feed and discover artists,” Laetitia chuckles.
I love the fact that anyone can be at home in their pyjamas and scroll my feed and discover artists.
Although Instagram’s broad reach provides an immediately accessible platform for Curated by GIRLS, it comes at a price: censorship. “I’m so pissed,” she says with exasperation. Both Facebook and Instagram have deleted the platform’s posts and blocked it numerous times for posting images with nipples, sometimes even inadvertently! “It’s so hypocritical in a way that we are not allowed to post whatever we want when there is so much violence online…. Even teenage girls in, like, super sexual poses is fine, but just a little bit of nudity is a problem … so that’s frustrating.”
Because of Instagram’s constant censorship, Laetitia has an intense fear of having her entire account deleted – a familiar struggle for many artists who work with the human body. Consequently, Laetitia is very careful about what she posts, admitting to practising censorship herself when making curatorial decisions on her feed. “Yeah, I censor and I try to pick the pictures that are less shocking or less nude,” she explains. “It’s too bad, because some of the pictures I have could be more interesting, but I decide to just go for something more soft.”
While Curated by GIRLS is a predominantly online community, there are many advantages to curating exhibitions in the physical realm. In addition to the online platform, Laetitia has also curated a handful of exhibitions in galleries and project spaces in Berlin and across Europe. Each one is a joyous gathering of uncensored art, welcoming community and celebration. “[Curating exhibitions] in real life is a very important part because it’s a way to connect for real,” she explains. “Like, being behind the computer all the time is not real – I think it’s not enough – and with the events I could kind of build a community with people where they would have a safe space to get together, discover art.”
One of the most recent exhibitions was Curated by Girls: New Femininity #3 at the Melkweg Expo in Amsterdam. This large multimedia show featured 38 international artists working with and destabilizing concepts of contemporary femininity. The exhibition ran for longer than a month and was a major success for Laetitia.
Curated by Girls: New Femininity #3 at the Melkweg Expo in Amsterdam
While Laetitia now has a number of successful exhibitions under her belt, it wasn’t an easy start. “My first IRL exhibition was memorable,” she tells us. “It was panic on board from the beginning but ended up being an incredible moment.” With no experience hanging artwork and a flake on a promise for help from the studio space owner, Laetitia had to figure out everything for herself. “OMG! I had 50 artworks to hang in one day! I was devastated.” With a few tears and some help from friends, she made it happen. An estimated 1,500 people came to the opening, making it a triumphant and proud moment for Laetitia. “From that experience I learned one major thing: you must rely on yourself for the work you have to do.”
And she does. Laetitia works endlessly on Curated by GIRLS, in addition to her personal projects, posting every single day on Instagram. After three years of hard work, Laetitia is finally starting to make a living from Curated by GIRLS. “Initially, the aim of the project was never about money,” she tells us, “it was important for me to build a platform to help underrepresented artists, women, and in a way to find myself. I was at a point of my life where I was tired of pressure of trying to be successful as an artist … and I needed to focus on other artists and regain inspiration.” So, Laetitia dived into the project and committed to proving to herself that she could make it work. “I dedicated a lot of time on it, I don’t think there’s been a day since it started that I didn’t work on it. And today I’m confident about my work and what I’ve achieved.”
I hate these websites asking artists to pay for promotion. Makes me wanna throw up.
No matter how much success Curated by GIRLS and Laetitia experience, she is clear about one thing: “CBG, the online platform, is free for artists, and will stay this way.” With characteristic humour, Laetitia throws some shade at other platforms that charge artists for sharing their work, saying, “Being an artist myself, I hate these websites asking artists to pay for promotion. Makes me wanna throw up.”
Laetitia is often asked about her success and how she’s managed to cultivate such a profound digital community. Her advice? “I mean I didn’t plan anything, you know? So I think my advice is that you should really believe in what you do and what you want, that anything is possible,” she reflects. “I didn’t study anything but I wanted to create something and I did!” Stop making excuses as to why something won’t work, because ultimately the outcome is out of your control. “Dedicate yourself to what you do, because it’s a lot of work of course, and it’s daily work, step by step, you have to be patient and do your thing. Just, if you want to do something, you have to do it.”
If you don’t already, follow @curatedbygirls on Instagram and Facebook to be a part of the platform’s community and stay up to date on upcoming events. Upcoming exhibitions are planned for the next Pornceptual party and WHOLE Festival this summer. Check out the Curated by GIRLS website for more information on the platform and the artists.
* This feature was sub-edited by Linda Toocaram.