ArtsFems, the UAL feminist society is one of the most active and accomplished societies. On 17th February I attended the opening of New Women’s Art History, ArtsFems second exhibition, held at I’klectik art lab in Waterloo. Curated by society members from CSM, the exhibition sought to promote women’s work, regardless of whether it was explicitly feminist or not.
“When women’s art is discussed within terms of art history, it is often labelled as feminist. We believe that this default labelling is restrictive to the understanding of women’s art, and to the future of women’s art history and belies the complexity and diversity of art created by women.” – from the exhibition text.
I think this was a good idea and helped to give a platform to female artists whose work may be overlooked or disregarded because of feminist connotations and presumptions about who the work is for. Art is an important and effective tool in feminism, but I think work that has a kind of ‘feminist aesthetic’, whilst being valuable, can risk being pushed aside by viewers, or preaching to the converted. I enjoyed the exhibition and the work was interesting, however I think there could have been more diversity in the artists that were selected.
CORIE DENBY MCGOWAN
I think Corie’s film was the most successful piece and acted as a focal point for the exhibition, partly because of it’s size and position next to the sofas. McGowan fuses sumptuous, psychedelic imagery with found sound bites from popular culture and advertising, in a hypnotic orgy of food, sensuality and consumption. “The burgers are bigger at Burger King” booms out over swirling imagery of flowers, fizzing bath bombs and raw eggs, in a fantastical parody of a consumer culture whose arsenal employs aggressive advertising and sexual objectification.
The piece that resonated with me most was Sanaa Hamid’s Ethnographic Selfies (2015?) GIF series. Made in response to the archive at the Royal Engineers Museum, Hamid uses self-portraiture as a method of reclaiming identity and agency. Hamid poses in front of a background of animated archive photographs showing colonial military personnel, taken from her short animated piece Colonialism Sucks.
The use of ‘selfies’, whilst often perceived as narcissistic, allows Hamid to portray herself on her own terms, negating the racist, misogynist and patronising colonial gaze. Hamid’s stylised poses give the piece a certain playfulness and tongue-in-cheek attitude that allow accessibility when contemplating sensitive issues.
Overall the exhibition was good. I liked the multidisciplinary nature of I’klecktik, particularly their use of green space. It is a haven nestled in amongst waterloo’s railway arches and industrial detritus.