Of Other Spaces: Where Does Gesture Become Event?
The first of two exhibitions on feminist thought at Dundee's Cooper Gallery
The unisex toilet door tucked away in the corner of the entrance to Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design may not be part of the first Chapter of the Cooper Gallery's sprawling two-part voyage through feminist art since the 1970s. It nevertheless illustrates a progression of sorts in gender identity which many of the artists on show here have paved the way for.
With a title taken from Hannah Arendt, the show brings together work and archival material from nineteen artists that spans generations in a way that makes explicit the umbilical link between art and activism across the years. On the stairs, the seminal film of post-punk artist Linder's meat-dress and dildo-sporting 1984 performance at the Hacienda with her band Ludus is beamed onto the wall. Upstairs, work by other key figures including Annabel Nicolson, Georgina Starr and Su Richardson respectively involve a performance with a sewing machine, crocheting woolly nude outfits and ventriloquism.
Among the plethora of essential viewing on show is material drawn from a 1984 conference on feminist art at the Third Eye Centre in Glasgow. There are posters too for a women only edition of Lucy McKenzie's Flourish Nights events that took place in the same city two decades later. Three new works by Anne Bean, meanwhile, explore her relationships with five of her contemporaries who have passed away. What emerges most from all this is the sense of a collaborative nature which highlights the power of collective action in a way that goes beyond macho individualism.
Similarly, the presentation of work in constructions made of building site style scaffolding designed by duo Cullinan Richards and laid out like market stalls de-machoifies a set of tools more normally associated with hard-hatted wolf-whistling workies. Chapter Two follows in January 2017. A woman's work, it seems, is still never done.
Cooper Gallery, Dundee, until Fri 16 Dec