Tag Archives: London

Women of the World Festival- March 2014 by Olivia Atkins

Women Of the World (WOW) Festival took place over the International Women’s Day weekend (5-9th March).

It was a hub of creativity and inspiration, as everybody in attendance was committed and excited to celebrate the incredible achievements of women and girls around the world.

The weekend covered a vast range of topics and hosted an array of amazing guest speakers, with international voices travelling specially to participate.

Currently in their fourth year, WOW has increased in size and impact since every year that it has run. 

This year, key speakers included designer Vivienne Westwood, Australian feminist Anne Summers and influential young campaigner Malala Yousafzai.

Tickets to guest speakers sold out prior to the event, so it was worth booking in advance to guarantee a seat at these inspiring talks.

However, all was not lost for those who did not get tickets, the Marketplace was home to various stalls that raised awareness of other important gender issues and showcased new female talent.

Stall holders ranged in content from feminist magazines, female plumbing and various artworks. There were also political stallholders, with some campaigning for change, such as the Stop The Traffik campaign, and others that hoped to raise awareness and create a sense of community through promotion such as the One Billion Rising campaign.

Furthermore, the Marketplace was home to roamers – people were encouraged to interact with one another through various activities. There were stalls to make badges with inspirational messages on them (mine said ‘LOVE YOURSELF’); get your nails painted with iconic feminist prints; have your hair tied into an African wrap and many more.

Other events included various showings of gender-related films, such as Miss Representation, and my favourite was a Beyoncé Dance Class to empower women and encourage them to enjoy the act of dancing for themselves – with the class appropriately inspired by her new song ‘Run The World (Girls)’.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBmMU_iwe6U

The event offered a great source of inspiration to many and acted as a common ground for many to communicate about the issues that they were impassioned by and share their ideas.

2013 saw many changes for women around the world, however, the festival was a reminder that there is still a long way to go to obtain complete gender equality.

The important thing is that people are gathering in a designated space and talking about change for women, and so long as this happens, there will always be an alternative to the gender stereotype that is frequently seen in mainstream media.   

For more info, visit: http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/women-of-the-world

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Review of Hannah Höch at the Whitechapel Gallery By Lily Magenis

 

Hannah Höch was the only female member of the Berlin Dada movement, and a pioneer in photomontage, a medium and method she used to satirize Weimar politics and subversively comment on society, gender, and race. Her first major exhibition in the UK is currently on display at the Whitechapel Gallery from January 15 – March 23, 2014.

The Hannah Höch exhibition brings together a collection over 120 pieces of work, and spans the length of her career, from the 1910s -1970s. Höch’s varying series of photomontage are presented in a chronological time line, beginning with her early work, which was heavily influenced by her career in fashion magazines. Höch critiques the way in which women are represented in the media, by ripping their images out and pulling them away from the objectified environment of a magazine page. She re-applies an image of the ‘new woman’ into a formation and structure that addresses how we perceive beauty.

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Höch’s Ethnographic Museum series questions the construction of gender and the notion of beauty, for she pairs Ethnographic masks with images of the female body. Höch’s collage “Aus der Sammlung: Aus einem ethnographischen Museum (From the Collection: from an Ethnographic Museum)” (1929), combines the body of a baby with a traditional mask and gives the figure an eye of a modern woman. Höch wants us to relate to the body in a different way, as this figure does not adhere to the idealized vision of beauty, but questions different standards of beauty. The new woman she creates here does not correlate to that of the typical woman of ‘typical’ beauty, she is a woman with a modern eye.

Höch’s art is personal, and we are greeted with a playful exploration of re-imaging. She cuts and pastes, taking familiar images and reconstructing them. Women in Höch’s collages are beautiful, feminine, and playful, but not as sexualized objects. Instead, women are depicted in a way that challenge preconceived notions of femininity. This is the new woman.

The upstairs gallery showcases a collection of Höch’s scrapbooks while the rest of the exhibition is dedicated to her experiments in abstraction and ‘Fantastic Art’ where we see her transition into color and an adjustment to her portrayal of the new woman.

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Given the extent to which the female body is included in her work, it is evident that Höch is conscious of sex and her bisexuality. However, sexuality is a factor that presents itself in her work scarcely. I was struck by the collage of a peachy pink bottom resting on a beach in “Der Schöne Po (The Beautiful Bottom)” (1959). For this was the only overtly sexual image in the exhibition. It’s bright turquoise hues and sparkling semblance stand out in comparison to her earlier collages – it has an exaggerated, girly character which I regard as a shift in the image of the new woman.

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By pulling apart and reshaping figures, most commonly female, Höch seems to be challenging the treatment of gender in 20th Century Germany. Traditionally the female figure in the artistic canon exemplifies an object of beauty. Höch contests this notion with, “Um einen roten Mund (Around a Red Mouth)” (1967). Here, a set of red lips rest on a mountain of pink petticoats. The inclusion of petticoats, which were worn by women for centuries, draws reference to a traditional and often required uniform for women. However, Höch tears at the petticoats and layers the pink horizontal frays one on top of the other, creating an abstract image of a vagina. The violence implicit in the medium Höch used here literally reshapes an image of the very core of a woman’s femininity.

Höch’s work is ambiguous, but this allows for a sort of fluid and ‘fantastic’ reading. The medium she uses is surrealistic – the multifaceted layers of cut and pasted images relax the boundaries of interpretation, and therefore we can read them in myriad ways. Her work is both political and poetic. The way she chops and splices images is political, and often comments on gender, but the finished product is beautiful and dream like.

My first impression was that Höch’s work is confused, that she struggled between different images of the new woman, as she too identified with struggles alike, (e.g. confusion with her bisexuality and being the only woman in Dada) “Two Faced” (1928), illustrates such confusion; a collage of a woman with two faces, drawn in different directions. However, this exhibition takes us on a journey of the new woman from the stiff magazine women in pearls to the effervescent pert behind. And this is exactly the point. Höch works with the notion of the fragmented self. The new woman is duplicitous and you can read her in multiple ways. Höch wants us to have our own personal and objective understanding of the ‘new woman’, as there isn’t one way to perceive her.

Höch’s exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery is a humorous critique of gender and beauty. Her work is crude, but not offensive. It is light hearted, but makes a point. It’s sexual but not sexualized. Hannah Höch cuts the perfect balance and creates a new image of the new woman.

 

 

Hannah Höch is on view through March 23, 2014.

For more information visit Whitechapel Gallery, London.

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WOW – Women of the World festival 2014

Women of the World festival is back in March at the Southbank Centre.

Talks, debates, performance and activism celebrating women and girls.

They contacted Behind the Curtain to ask to share their upcoming events. If you are living in London, or can get there easily then we would highly recommend making a special effort to go along! 

Wed 5 – Sun 9 March
Join us for the fourth annual WOW – Women of the World festival and celebrate the formidable strength and inventiveness of women. Our three-day programme of events includes theatre, music and comedy as well as lively talks and debates; there’s also the chance to take part in mentoring, workshops and hear from celebrities, politicians, artists and activists speak on the topics that matter to women and girls worldwide.

Nirbhaya
Wed 5 – Wed 12 March 2014
Sat 8 January Matinee, 2pm

On the night of December 16 2012 a young woman and her male friend boarded a bus in urban New Delhi. What followed changed theirs and countless lives forever. Internationally acclaimed playwright and director Yael Farber (Miss Julie, Riverside Studios) brings to the stage a searing new performance that cracks open the silence around women whose lives have been shattered by gender-based violence.
Tickets: £22.50

Vincent Dance Theatre
Motherland
Thurs 6 March, 7.30pm

Uncompromising yet utterly accessible, Motherland has a broad appeal for both sexes through its potent blend of theatre, live music and dance.
Tickets: £16, £10

Malala Yousafzai
Sat 8 March, 10am
We’re excited to announce a special appearance by the young activist at WOW. Malala Yousafzai is a young woman campaigning for education rights for all, who was shot in 2012 for her activist work.
Tickets: £20, £15, £10

Mirth Control
Saturday 8 March, 7.30pm

Mirth Control is an electrifying night of comedy and music inspired by great women hosted by Sandi Toksvig. Join us for an evening of fun for all men and women. Full line-up yet to be announced.
Tickets: £15, £20, £30, £40

WOW FESTIVAL WEEKEND
Fri 7 – Sun 9 March

Our panellists at the Festival Weekend will cover topics including (but not limited to!) women and power, fat activismfashionpoliticsneuroscience and women in the military.  The full programme will shortly be announced; see it online at wow.southbankcentre.co.uk.
Day pass £12
Three-day pass £30

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Judy Chicago, Tracy Emin, Helen Chadwick and Louise Bourgeois at Ben Uri Gallery by Ruth-Eloise Lewis

Judy Chicago is one of my favourite artists. I discovered her in my second year of university through a module by Griselda Pollock. In fact, I have even written a little bit about her before on this very blog. So, when I heard she was exhibiting in London for the first time since the 80s, well, I was rather excited. The Ben Uri Gallery in London seemed like the perfect place for her return to the country, having 1300 works in their permanent collection by women artists. Many of these works are currently focusing on themes such as autobiography, erotica, feminism, the nude and issues of masculine power.

Which is precisely what Chicago is most well known for. During the 1970s, she founded the first feminist art program in America, aiming to incorporate these themes into the realm of art. This was a time when the personal was truly political and Chicago encouraged and inspired her students to create feminist artworks that validated women’s experience.

On entering the gallery, I was instantly hit by Chicago’s famous works. On the left wall, recent dynamic lithographs such as Into the Darkness (2008) and Signing the Dinner Party (2009) stood opposite her pioneering feminist works, such as Red Flag (1971) and Menstruation Bathroom (1972).  This was a nice touch. For example,  the iconic image Peeling Back (1974)  on the right echoed  the Return of the Butterfly (2009) on the left, mirroring the core values of the initial work. This sense of dialogue seemed tangible, connoting the idea that these conversations are still vital. The writing underneath Peeling Back reads, “In this transitional image, I “peeled back” the structure to reveal the formerly hidden form. What a refuge to finally say: ‘Here I am, a woman, with a woman’s body and a woman’s point of view.'” After thirty or so years, it appears there is still many more peeling back to do and many more layers to explore.

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Judy Chicago, Peeling Back, 1974
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Judy Chicago, Return of the Butterfly, 2009

Also in this room were the ethereal smoky goddesses from the series Women and Smoke which drew on the “eternal power” of womankind. Helen Chadwick’s In the Kitchen (1977) dealt with issues of domesticity and confinement, reputing the idea that women should be confined within the home. Next to Chicago’s  expressive and free nude figures dancing in the mountains, it seemed impossible to disagree.

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Immolation IV from the Women and Smoke Series, 1972

As I walked down the steps to the lower floor, it felt like moving into a more private, personal space. At the top of the staircase, a photograph of a pouting Emin wearing a ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ T-shirt stood alongside Chicago’s piece What is Feminist Art? “Weren’t art and life separated?” the text read, “Like men and women, good and evil, body and mind.” 

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I kept this question in mind in the first downstairs room. The space was smaller, more intimate and slightly cramped. Four walls were covered with A4 autobiographical drawings, expressing the moods and emotions of Chicago during a year of her life. A lot of these diary-type accounts seemed negative and  hyper-judgmental; dark holes, wounded trees and swathes of despair in black, blue and ruby red watercolours. It was a sharp contrast to the bold graphic prints on the first floor but it was interesting to see a different side to Chicago. Much of her popular work is so strikingly strong, this softer and more personal side was somewhat easier to interact with, to relate with despite its extremity. Sometimes, the pressure of fighting for what you believe in is draining. I felt that the pictures seemed cathartic, a release of daily pressures and tension. I am  no artist myself, but it appeared like a healthy means of expression that I could consider trying out in my  own life.  A way of clearing a sometimes muddled head.

 

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The final room included work by Emin and Bourgeois and it seemed to bring all the main themes of the exhibition together.  Chicago’s sensual and erotic side was depicted brilliantly and beautifully through her intricate work Nine Fragments from Delta of Venus (2004) and the “Cat-erotica” pieces were playful  and funny, a trait not often associated with feminism. On the last wall hung two nude portraits, one of Emin called Love is What You Want (2011) showing her running away from the viewer in a moment of vibrant spontaneity alongside a portrait of Chicago taken for her 70th birthday, as  a triumphant Eve  holding up her apple and laughing in a contemporary Garden of Eden.  Again, it felt like the two portraits were in dialogue with each other, two confident and creative women exposing their own skin. It seemed like Chicago was handing her feminist mantle down to Emin in a proud and confident manner.  A celebratory and positive ending.

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Tracy Emin Love is what you want, 2011
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It was so refreshing to go to an art exhibition as a young woman and a feminist and be instantly included;  in a space where women’s experience is expressed and celebrated, where their bodies  and sexuality are explored honestly and openly.  Often with art, I can appreciate it, I can  understand it, I can read and research and learn about the Old Masters or the marvels of the Renaissance  but I never really truly felt a part of it.  My friend had never heard of Judy Chicago before yet we both left feeling like we knew her. And learnt a little bit about ourselves along the way.

Judy Chicago and Louise Bourgeois,Helen Chadwick, Tracey Emin: A Transatlantic dialogue is at the Ben Uri Gallery until the 10th of  March 2013. For more information see:  http://benuri.org.uk/public/?event-details

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