Feminist Avant–Garde of the 1970s


Those of you who follow me on Instagram will know that I went to a talk by some of the artists on show in Feminist Avant-garde of the 1970s at The Photographers’ Gallery a few weeks ago. I took another trip to the exhibition this week now that I have had the chance for the talk to sink in.

Walking round the exhibition a second time did give me a new perspective on what was on display. The first time round I was pretty confused about what the artists were trying to say with their work.

I’m not going to pretend that this time round I was any the wiser with some of the pieces. But that is part of the challenge. If you put the effort to try to work out what is being said, you do get the reward when you finally get it.

Feminism is a complex subject. So it should come as no surprise that the works are also complex too.

It would be arrogant to say that after reading a few books on the subject and doing some research that I know what it was like to be a woman in the 20th Century. I can only speak from the perspective I hold and this exhibition did question my “male gaze” on what was on show. It wasn’t comfortable but then maybe it wasn’t supposed to be.

A question that I raised in my head after the talk was why The Photographers’ Gallery weren’t showing more recent work created by the artists who gave the talk a few weeks back.

What was even more surprising was to be confronted by the large fashion images of beauty pageant winner Joanne Salley on the floor above in the exhibit Simon Fujiwara: Joanne.

My initial reaction was – What. The. Hell. You have an exhibition about feminism on the floors below and then the curators decide to have a “fashion model” on show.

How wrong I was. The film is a personal story of a very modern woman. It is a very clever juxtaposition that shows the issues a woman in the 21st Century now faces.

On my way home I was questioning how much has changed for women since the 1970s and really how much there is still to be done.