Following on from their 2012 exhibition Crying Out Loud, Ladies' Room is the second in a series of collaborative exhibitions by artists Julie Hill and Catherine Anyango. Together their complementary works in materials such as ceramics, cosmetics and mirrors use the context of the Edwardian Cloakroom as a mise-en-scene setting, drawing attention to feminine experience as independent, both spatially and intellectually, from the Gents. The exhibition will be accompanied by a linked performance, film screening and talk.
Julie Hill will create a series of linked works using cosmetics, smoke and mirrors to imagine a feminine language formed from collected messages written by women in horror. For example, in Polanski’s Repulsion in scenes of descending madness, Carol is seen scrawling an imaginary script onto glass panels. Or, in Argento’s Deep Red a victim attempts to write a dying message in the condensation from billowing steam. The work continues ongoing research into feminine tropes in horror films and how female protagonists are often the first to perceive a latent threat or horror. This ties into generally held notions that women (along with the young and the insane) are more in touch with their psyches and able to access supernatural knowledge or realms. The work also references the French feminist idea of ‘écriture féminine’ or ‘women’s writing’ (as originated by Cixous, Irigaray and Kristeva in the 1970s). The narrative will emerge from smoke and travel across objects, performance and interventions in the gallery and beyond. There will be a screening of one of the films on which the work is based.
Catherine Anyango’s work is a reaction to research into abortion and theEdwardian working class women. A woman had few rights and her identity under the 1834 Poor Law was bound up tightly with that of her family: ‘with regard to the treatment of women ... in this Report, the single independent woman is nowhere mentioned. The wife is throughout treated exactly as is the child, it is assumed that she follows her husband...’* Abortion, though illegal, was widespread, and a way in which women exercised control. Being illegal, however, it was often performed manually by other women with crochet hooks or knitting needles or with the use of abortifacient herbs. Catherine’s installation Silent Companion uses a dummy board (a historic household decoration, popular from the 17–19th Century, of a painted cut out wooden figure), to reflect on the widespread practice of Edwardian abortion in a gentle and contemplative way. The dummy board will represent a woman knitting in the cloakroom amongst tiles hand painted with abortifacient herbs. Knitting is both a feminine act and references the use of needles in the procedures.
Supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.