Tuesday 22 October 2013

Look at Me! Pretty Ugly by Louise Orwin at Camden Arts Centre

image source: Louise Orwin official website-  www.louiseorwin.com

On BBC radio 4 Woman's Hour this morning, performance artist  and researcher Louise Orwin talked about her latest project Pretty Ugly as part of The Feminist Festival taking place at Camdem's People Theatre in London until the 5th of November 2013.

In Pretty Ugly, Louise Orwin acted as an undercover investigator, infiltrating the surreal and virtual world of internet, bullying and avatars. In this parallel universe, girls are willingly exposing themselves via different guises and consequently subjecting themselves as targets for bullies and voyeurs running the risk of debilitating their self esteem and sense of individuality and purpose.

Why do girls need that kind of attention and validation to the point that they will dress themselves up or down, exposing a facade of girlishness and eventually being deeply wounded by strangers who do not really know nor care for them?

This is might be now a question of our times but the issue itself has not arisen in recent times. This thorn on women's trajectory has been long stimulated and exploited by arguably placing womanhood as a topic to be incessantly scrutinized much like women themselves.

By giving strangers the power to inadvertently affect us with their judgement we are no longer free, we cease to exist as individuals and there won't be much left for us to thrive on and grow from. What girls need to realize is that their assets are priceless, never for sale and for their own use and exploration.

Surrounding your self with positive friends, relatives, attitudes, comments and a network of support is a life long challenge. There will be negative individuals who will try and break a girl or anyone that is seen as a human variant of the male species. When a girl willingly surrenders to this cyber roman arena crowded with lascivious intent, she should at least be aware that any hope of flattery is not only preposterous but it might come at a very high price indeed

Monday 21 October 2013

Home Truths: Against the Idealization of Motherhood

Image by Elinor Carucci, Feeding Emanuella with a Bottle After I Stopped Breast-Feeding

Home Truths: Photography, Motherhood and Identity is one the current exhibitions at The Photographers' Gallery in London

For centuries the imagery created and propagated to illustrate the myths surrounding motherhood has painted a picture of mothers as the serene, selfless nurturers; semi-divine beings; capable of ever giving love and support. The mother came to be a social and cultural archetype veiling the real woman underneath.

In Home Truths, eight photographers (including a father documenting his wife and child) expose the physical changes, scars and struggles of motherhood, all to great effect and insight. This exhibition does not aim at painting a dark picture of such myth but rather it wishes to expose the reality of motherhood and of how women truly experience it.

The exhibition helps us to realise that motherhood does not have to be ideal nor idealized. However that does not take the both the profundity and the ennui found in this experience; the images enhance the power through all the emotions lived, experienced and expressed.

Hanna Putz, Untitled (2012)

In this powerful setting of a mother and child relationship we have two people bonded by survival. There is also the major changes to a woman experience of herself, of her own body and this new being brought into the world coming to terms with its own existence and all the new experiences it entails; the realization of his or her own wishes and dependency, the need for assertion and vulnerability.

Strength and vulnerability are, in fact, the two words that could better described motherhood. And both words can be used to describe the experiences lived by both mother and child, in equal measure.

Home Truths: Photography, Motherhood and Identity runs from the 11 of October 2013 until the 5th of June 2014 at The Photographers' Gallery in London,

Monday 7 October 2013

Just a Girl: Malala Youzafzai (b. 1997) - Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize

Malala Youzafsai, 16 years old, shot in the head and neck by Taliban gunmen in 2011 for demanding the right for girls in Pakistan to go to school, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Image Source: The Guardian

Malala had this to say in a interview broadcast today on BBC1 News: "I was afraid of my future (without education). I don't want to see any girl to be ignorant. I don't' want to see any girl to be illiterate in future. And I don't want my future to be just sitting in a room, to be imprisoned in four walls, just cooking and giving birth to children. I didn't want to see my life in that way."

You can read more on Malala Youzafsai's blog here.

For the BBC1 Interview, you can click here.

Talking of Witches...

Text and Image Source: Visit Lancashire website.

A poem by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy has been carved into the landscape of a new 51-mile walk created to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Lancashire Witches. 
The 10 tercets will appear on cast iron mileposts installed along the Lancashire Witches Walk which follows the route taken by the ten women and men who were executed as witches in August 1612.
The poem, The Lancashire Witches, begins:

One voice for ten dragged this way once
by superstition, ignorance.
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

Witch: female, cunning, manless, old,
daughter of such, of evil faith;
in the murk of Pendle Hill, a crone.

Heavy storm-clouds here, ill-will brewed,
over fields, fells, farms, blighted woods.
On the wind’s breath, curse of crow and rook.

‘I was struck by the echoes of under-privilege and hostility to the poor, the outsider, the desperate, which are audible still,’ said Ms Duffy. Manchester-based textural artist Stephen Raw is creating the ten mileposts; each will feature the full poem, the name of one of the ‘witches’ and a verse in specially designed letters so a rubbing can be taken.
The poem was commissioned by North Lancashire-based arts organisation Green Close as part of their programme of artistic events to mark the witches’ anniversary this summer. The poem mileposts, 30 carved brick waymarkers, signposts and a booklet about the footpath will be ready in the autumn when there are  guided walks planned.

Read more here.

The Mistress Bookshelf: The Book of Courtesans by Susan Griffin

Words are powerful. Look at the word 'Mistress'. What do you think of when you hear it or read it?

That is why is important to investigate the meaning of words and they context and how they are and were used through different stages of history.

Courtesans, who were they? Were they prostitutes? Were they kept women? Are we still supposed to feel slightly uncomfortable with such terminology? Were they independent or  were they a mere adornment for a upper class man in a society indulging its citizens in debauchery and pleasure?

Susan Griffin explores the fascinating topic of the courtesan in Europe, from Italy's Renaissance to the France's Belle Epoque.

It is important to understand not only the roles women played to achieve notoriety, independence and to participate in society, but also the context in which they were allowed to proactively exercise influence as such.

The raw base for all questions regarding the role of women in any society and at any time could be thus: Is it a passive role? Is it empowered? Is it determined by the religious patriarchy? Is it instinctive, natural, coerced or already conquered?

The Book of Courtesans (2003) will definitely shine a light (and not a red glowing lamp kind of light) on society and its foundations as well as its underpinnings - as hidden and still tightly felt as the underpinnings of a lady's corset, and as such as eagerly to be removed.

And please support Independent Bookstores when buying your books!

Sandra Blow at London's King's Place Gallery

An exhibition showcasing some of the extraordinary abstract works by British painter Sandra Blow (1925 - 2006) is currently on at King's Place Gallery in London.

The exhibition, concisely titled "Painting and Prints", showcases the prolifically commanding work of the pioneer artist with works spanning her 60 years-plus career.

In her work, Sandra Blow does not seem to be intimidated neither confined by the canvas. Hers is a work which seem to have been extracted from a greater picture; an offering from a visionary and inspired painter who, in her time, has kept the flame of the medium alive, thus hopefully through this exhibition, passing this metaphorical torch along to a new generation.

Sandra Blow incorporated colour, added collages and carved space into her work. It is important to note the silent relevance of painting as a medium today. In this day and age, it seems easier and quicker to communicate via photographs or brusquely written texts. Only what is 'shared' via a computer or electronic device seems to be validated as 'modern'.

Sandra Blow in her St Yves' studio in 2002. Photo by Antonio Olmos.

Thus painting might seemingly appear to be at a historical disadvantage. My humble opinion is that the opposite is true. Painting, when finally released by the Impressionist from the figurative realm, was faced with a existential crisis with the advent of photography and, subsequently, the moving image. But I believe that painting, instead of being overshadowed by technology, has been able to liberate itself yet again from a whole different notion of evolution and progress via constant technological advances, finally being able to follow its own path as a medium that is unique in its expression and finalization.

The point in appreciating painting is that it can't be immediately shared and ultimately viewed by millions of people at once. Everything that is not the actual painting is in fact a reproduction of it. Painting demands a moment, a stillness from the observer, a moment to contemplate the result of all that has gone before, solely between the canvas and the painter him/herself.

In the last two hundred years or so, the seeds of Empire and Colonialism, recently culminating in the Free Trade, has brought to us the fruits (literally and metaphorically speaking) of the whole world to our tables - making every plant, spice, creature or resource available wherever and whoever we are. Still, somethings have to be experienced in their own terms. We humans cannot order every single experience in life from a online shop. And that's why painting has a special part to play in contemporary culture.

A photograph of a painting on a website is what it is, a photograph of a painting. I am sorry to say this, but if you'd like to experience painting you will have to go and see it. It awaits you. In this case at King's Place Gallery from the 4th of October until the 9th of November 2013.

For more information on Sandra Blow's work and her estate, please click here.


In this blog I intend to do some historical justice to the many, many women who have contributed with their genius, creativity, adventurous spirit, nurturing - amongst other qualities - to the apparent linear and male dominated prescribed notion of History. This is just the beggining.