The exhibition raises questions regarding what it means to be a WO/man in the modern era, through the perspective of female-identifying artists and their work.
‘WO/’, the open-ended fluidity of womanhood; the disparate experiences of each female-identifying artist featured in this exhibition. ‘WO/’ artworks will explore areas of feminine identity: how do past expectations and influences affect women today? Which parts of feminine heritage do we bring forward, and which now feel outdated? How do these themes relate to society’s ever-changing gender constructions?
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is Press for Progress, which focuses on gender parity and acknowledges movements working towards global gender equality. ‘WO/’ aims to allow feminine-identifying artists to have a platform to share their stories of societal and gender expectations, sexual and gender identity, heritage, reclaiming the feminine voice, and economic inequality, with a diverse mix of UK-based and international artists, including Clémence BTD Barret (Tangier), Liz Blum (Massachusetts), Emma Fleming (Newcastle upon Tyne), Bex Massey (London), and Tracy Satchwill (Norwich).
Clémence BTD Barret’s video, borderline.china, tells a story of a dilemma: images of a Chinese woman’s face stare out at the viewer, while a voice-over whispers a monologue in Mandarin of her desires and struggle to be accepted as an independent, strong woman within a male dominated society. Liz Blum’s Break Barriers is one of a series of prints illustrating pay inequality, the struggle with patriarchy and ‘mansplaining’ – a portmanteau term for a man explaining something, typically to a woman, in a condescending, patronising manner – echoing government public announcements and protest posters. Emma Fleming’s photographs are part of a series entitled I’ve been dreaming about girls, which examine the female experience through a queer gaze. Bex Massey’s The Swing, based on the 18th century French artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s painting of the same name, uses allegory and the throw away nature of British popular culture to question the way women are depicted in art history. Tracy Satchwill’s animation, Hysterical Females, marks the 100th anniversary of the Representation of People Act 1918, which allowed (some) women over the age of thirty to vote in the UK for the first time. Satchwill’s female protagonist faces discrimination at every turn in a surreal, patriarchal Edwardian world.