TRCH Bodyguard

Art Review: Still I Rise - Feminisms, Gender, Resistance at Nottingham Contemporary

17 December 18 words: Harriet Moore

Brexit debates rage on. America divides under Trump’s presidency. And as we celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the women’s vote, the Nottingham Contemporary’s Still I Rise - Feminisms, Gender, Resistance could not be better-timed.

I was lucky enough to snatch a few minutes of Cédric Fauq’s precious time to hear his thoughts the exhibition; as one third of the trio of curators, he had plenty to talk about. “It was an open process,” he says of the approach to the show, which is clearly reflected through the collaboration of the three curators, as well as the wide variety of works, and mediums presented. “We wanted to not provide a unilateral view, to not create an all-feminist artist show… to provoke, disturb the very idea of feminism itself.”

The design of the exhibition coupled with the contrast between each gallery reflects this disturbance; the show itself works as a resistance. Still I Rise rallies against a linear narrative, opting to divide the works thematically between galleries. Cédric elaborates on this in our conversation, “the telling of history in a linear fashion is very much a patriarchal concept” he explains, going on to talk about the idea of genealogy and the connections between different moments, and works. “That’s why we wanted to emphasize Feminisms in the title: plural. It’s about feminism in multiplicity.”

Gallery 1 hosts A Rumour, which presents itself as resistance personified through collective action in the rallying banners of Mary Lowndes, through to the Red Women’s Workshop posters, and the graphic images Ramaya Tegegne has taken from the feminist work Women and their Bodies. Of note is the zine library, which grows with the exhibition, enhancing the experience of Still I Rise and enabling it to become an act of resistance within itself.

Gallery 2 is darker and more mystical, playing with the idea of ritual as a form of resistance. Set against the dark blue hue of the space, Jesse Jones’ Oracle Stones give the room an ethereal feel with their emissions of smoke, music and light. Xenobia Bailey’s womb-like Mothership 1: Sistah Paradise’s Great Walls of Fire Revival Tent is an intriguing choice of centerpiece. Albeit bright and eye-catching, it represents somewhere to hide. It stands proudly as a structure of resistance; strong, yet nurturing and safe. Osías Yanov’s “queer talisman” sculpture AOOT is another nod to motherhood, specifically the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, whose children “disappeared” under military dictatorship in Argentina.

In contrast to these more maternal, inward-facing pieces, Gallery 3 represents the taking over of public space by women and considers how artists and activists deal with space. Judy Chicago’s colourful Smoking Bodies series acts as a protest against the male domination of land art, while other works, such as Blondell Cummings’ Chicken Soup consider the woman’s role within the domestic sphere.

Of all the rooms, it is the last one – the aptly titled A Call – which shouts the loudest, leaving a lasting impression. From Eduardo Gil’s assertive photographs of the niños desaparecidos marches – which hold strong connections to earlier allusions of disappearing children in AOOT – to the drag presidential candidacy of Joan Jett Blakk, the work within Gallery 4 showcases the efforts of a multitude of communities to stand up against oppression and challenge the idea of normalcy.

Fauq’s words ring true; the exhibition truly presents a collaborative view of Feminisms. From the female to the male, the cis-gendered, queer and trans, Still I Rise is a triumphant celebration of feminist resistance and it’s victories against the patriarchy.

Still I Rise runs at Nottingham Contemporary until Sunday 27 January 2019. Free entry.

Nottingham Contemporary website

You might like this too...

Nottingham BID - Vote Now

You may also be interested in