Photographs of Eigg: MEM Donaldson and Violet Banks, November 2016

Thanks to a weeklong residency at Sweeney’s Bothy, I was able to visit the Isle of Eigg for the first time. My main aim was to seek out the places that MEM Donaldson photographed on her visits to Eigg, between 1918-1936. Her photographs illustrated her travel guide ‘Wanderings in the Western Highlands and Islands‘ (1921). The week also became a time to look at a second Scottish photographer, Violet Banks [1] and her photographs of Eigg from her tour of the Western Hebrides c. 1920s & 30s’.

Map of Eigg, green arrows denote sited Donaldson photographed Photo: Jenny Brownrigg (2016)

Map of Eigg, green arrows denote sites Donaldson photographed Photo: Jenny Brownrigg (2016)

Intriguingly, Donaldson and Banks’ paths may have crossed at Donaldson’s distinctive home in Arnamurchan.  In a set of black photograph albums held at Royal Commission of Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Banks dedicates one section to Ardnamurchan, with a page of four photographs captioned ‘Views of Ardnamurchan, House at Sanna built by M.E.M. Donaldson‘. Banks frames the low buildings of MEM Donaldson’s home in the middle distance, nestled with a small hill behind and close to the edge of a low dune. The photograph with caption provides the first physical evidence that one photographer is aware of another, amongst the women who I have been researching that documented Scottish Highlands & Islands life in the inter-war years.

Detail from Violet Banks' photograph album, Royal Commission of Ancient & Historic Monuments Scotland Ref: PA244

Detail from Violet Banks’ photograph album, Royal Commission of Ancient & Historic Monuments Scotland Ref: PA244

Banks also visited and photographed a number of locations that Margaret Fay Shaw captured too, including the Telegraph office at Eriskay, and also a Highland Games featuring Compton Mackenzie in a line of judges at Northbay, Isle of Barra. The photographs have a similar framing, yet the seating arrangement and Mackenzie’s flamboyant dress as a chieftain is different in each photograph, so may not be taken at the same Games.

On the Saturday ferry over from Mallaig to Eigg, I showed digital images of MEM Donaldson’s series on the island to Lucy Conway (the host of Sweeney’s Bothy with her husband Eddie Scott) and another islander, Eric Weldon.  They immediately helped identify locations. A further resource has been the impressive, ten years in the writing, ‘Eigg: The Story of an Island‘, [2] by local resident Camille Dressler. This book is part of an excellent compact collection called the ‘Walking Library’ [3] at Sweeney’s Bothy. Dressler recounts that Donaldson stayed at Laig Farm, on her visits to Eigg, which in that period as well as a working farm was a Temperance Hotel. [4] Two of Donaldson’s photographs show the farm. The first shows the start of the path down to the farm, with the gateway at the side of a cliff-face. The second denotes Laig Farm’s grouping of low buildings, in a small valley with a sandstone headland rising behind [5]. Laig beach, close to the farm, is the site of third photograph, which shows a woman, likely Donaldson’s companion, the illustrator Isobel Bonus, walking along the gray sands. The distinctive silhouette of the island of Rum lies on the near horizon. Donaldson takes another photograph at this location; a detail of the strange fossilised stones found at the south end of Laig beach.

(l) Detail of 'Coast of Eigg, Sgurr in background', MEM Donaldson, Ref: 958.20.505, Inverness Museum & Art Gallery. (r) Photo: Jenny Brownrigg (2016)

(l) Detail of ‘Coast of Eigg, Sgurr in background’, MEM Donaldson, Ref: 958.20.505, Inverness Museum & Art Gallery. (r) Photo: Jenny Brownrigg (2016)

Like Laig Farm, a good number of the photographs are dotted around Cleadale itself, where Sweeney’s Bothy is located. Donaldson was drawn to ‘sites with historical associations’ [6]. She photographed two local children, Joanne MacLellan and Katie-Ann MacKay fetching water from St Columba’s Well [7] at Cleadale, where one can still take a drink of its cool, clear water, credited with healing powers, from a generously provided mug. (Lucy tells me later that this is the water for both drinking and showering with at Sweeney’s Bothy!) The well was said to be blessed by Colm Cille and believed to prophesize the fate of those children baptised in it, from the ‘number of rivulets running down’ [8].  Perhaps this story prompted Donaldson to photograph the two girls at the well. Further around the coast, in another photograph, a white bearded islander, Lachlan MacAskill points with his stick to St Donnan’s ‘pillow’ stone, lying in front of the ruins at Kildonan Church.

Framed MEM Donaldson photograph of children at St Columba's Well, Eigg, exhibited at Pier Café, Galmisdale, Eigg

Framed MEM Donaldson photograph of children at St Columba’s Well, Eigg, exhibited at Galmisdale Bay Café and Bar, Eigg

It is important to note that we read these images differently, according to our own experience. I am a similar audience, thanks to where I live, as Donaldson’s main readership was. Hugh Cheape asserts that as her photographs were to illustrate literary work, the perceived audience would have been those who were ‘probably town-based’. [9] Before my visit to Eigg, this series of photographs had their only identifiers of location as the general catalogue credits from Inverness Museum & Art Gallery Archive, which was enough to bring me to Eigg. Local knowledge shared during this residency, has brought the photographs into a new focus. The image of a woman, possibly Isabel Bonus, with knapsack on her back, walking along a track was identified as being at Cleadale, ‘round the corner by the quarry‘. A traditional cottage and byre are identified as ‘Mairi’s house and shed‘.  Dressler when looking at the same photograph pointed at the stone in the foreground and recounted that a previous owner, an old man, ‘always used to always sit on the rock’. For the island resident, the photographs are coded in a different way, moving naturally to the detail such as who currently owns the croft pictured. Sometimes the information that stands out in a local reading is an anomaly in the landscape. For example, it was remarked that it was ‘unusual to have a boat there’, in another photograph.

(t) Detail, 'figure, Miss D probably, on road in Eigg' Ref: 95820.182.185, Inverness Museum & Art Gallery (b) Photo: Jenny Brownrigg (2016)

(t) Detail, ‘figure, Miss D probably, on road in Eigg’ Ref: 958.20.185, Inverness Museum & Art Gallery (b) Photo: Jenny Brownrigg (2016)

Both Donaldson and Banks photograph key landmarks on Eigg, in particular An Sgurr, the distinctive pitchstone outcrop, which the highest point of the island; also both photograph other ‘tourist sites’ at the Massacre and Cathedral Caves. Donaldson’s photographs of An Sgurr place it within the context of one of her walks, showing the approach to it from a route than can be traversed across a plateau. Banks chooses to show An Sgurr by placing a woman in scale with ‘the Nose’. Both Donaldson and Banks also separately photograph the loch to be found en route to the Sgurr, known as Loch nam Ban Mora – ‘Loch of the Big Women‘ – where the submerged causeway to the crannog in the middle could only be forged by a race of women of ‘supernatural proportions’. [10] The name refers to the Queen of Moidart’s warrior women, sent to murder St Donnan and his monks on Eigg. Lights from the dead bodies of the monks bewitched the women, leading them up to Loch nam Ban Mora, and luring the women one by one into the water, with all drowning.  Both Donaldson and Banks also photograph the Sheela-na-gig, at Kildonnan Church. Sheela-na-gigs ‘are carvings, often found in churches, which consist of a female displaying, or drawing attention to, her genitals‘. [11] Alasdair Alpin MacGregor also photographed the Sheela-na-gig  on his visit to Eigg.

(t) detail from Violet Banks' photograph album, Royal Commission of Ancient & Historic Monuments Scotland Ref: PA244 (b) Photo: Jenny Brownrigg (2016)

(t) Detail from Violet Banks’ photograph album, Royal Commission of Ancient & Historic Monuments Scotland Ref: PA244 (b) Photo: Jenny Brownrigg (2016)

Donaldson’s work in particular has very much been given its place in Eigg, represented in (photo)copies of her work held in the photographic collection at Eigg History Society Archive and in Dressler’s writing on Eigg. Donaldson’s photographs can be found framed in the Galmisdale Café and Bar. This archive gives the unique opportunity to view Donaldson’s work alongside other vernacular historic photography collections, amassed from photographs by islanders, held over generations, in an ‘Awards for All’ project led by Eigg History Society (Comunn Eachdraidh Eige)  for the Eigg Trust, started in 1997. Taking an example, one of Donaldson’s photographs is captioned by John Telfer Dunbar in ‘Herself‘, a biography, as ‘taking the peats home’ where ‘the woman with a white kerchief tied round her head is described as ‘the embodiment of good nature, health and contentment’. This woman is named in a photocopy of this photograph held in Eigg History Society Archive as Ishbel MacQuarrie [12]. Donaldson photographs MacQuarrie at work, but also her home, which may for Donaldson signify the changing traditional architectural vernacular of the Highlands and Islands. The caption for this photograph in the archive relates to the disappearing history that the architecture represents and an anomaly which may interest the urban readership- ‘Lossit and last black house on island with hipped roof covered in thatch. Note roof of byre next door is upturned boat’. This croft house also features in the islanders’ own photographic collections, in particular the Katie Maclean Collection, with family connections to the MacQuarries, which denotes ‘Donald MacQuarrie, wife Mary, children and Ishbel MacQuarrie lived here’. Ishbel MacQuarrie is photographed here as she is a relative who is part of a family. Therefore, the photograph was taken with different reasons- to record the actual person and her significance to the related photographer. The Eigg History Society photographic archive provides a significant collection for study of local history and how islanders documented themselves and their surroundings.

MEM Donaldson's photograph of Ishbel MacQuarrie features on the cover of Camille Dressler's book 'Eigg, The Story of an Island'

MEM Donaldson’s photograph of Ishbel MacQuarrie features on the cover of Camille Dressler’s book ‘Eigg, The Story of an Island’

In 1935, Violet Banks established her own commercial photography studio in Edinburgh. Lucy Conway organized for me to speak about Donaldson and Banks with the Eigg History Society. At the event Camille Dressler identified that three of Banks’ photographs of Eigg, that appear in her photograph albums held by RCAHMS, are also held as facsimiles of postcards in the archive. The copies show images of Laig Bay, the Sgurr and a view of Eigg from the Isle of Muck, all bearing the credit ‘Photo: Violet Banks‘. This provides another use of Banks’ images, for commercial purposes, and another line of enquiry to follow up, in looking for the original postcards.

'View of Eigg from Muck, Photo: Violet Banks', photocopy of postcard, Eigg History Society

‘View of Eigg from Muck, Photo: Violet Banks’, photocopy of postcard, Eigg History Society

Footnotes

[1] Veronica Fraser, an archivist at Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland writes about Banks’ life in ‘Vernacular Buildings‘:

Violet Banks (1986-1985) was born near Kinghorn, Fife and educated at Craigmont, Edinburgh, and at ECA (Edinburgh College of Art). In 1927 she was senior arts mistress at St. Oran’s, a private school at Drummond Place, Edinburgh‘.Banks’ photographs of the Hebrides, Fraser recounts, were discovered by John Dixon of Georgian Antiques, in a drawer in a sideboard that had been part of a furniture purchase and then gifted to RCAHMS to become The Violet Banks Collection. P67-78, ‘Vernacular Building 32′, Scottish Vernacular Buildings Working Group 2008-2009) ISSN:0267-3088.

[2] ‘Eigg The Story of an Island‘, Camille Dressler (Birlinn Ltd 2007, 3rd edition)

[3] ‘The Walking Library’ for Bothan Shuibhne, Isle of Eigg, is a project by Dee Heddon and Misha Myers, with this particular iteration in 2013. The ‘Walking Library’s‘ aim is to bring together books on walking and its contemplation, and is a collective gathering of book recommendations from those that accompany Heddon and Myers on a walk, in this instance from Carbeth Community Huts to the Walled Garden, with Sweeney’s Bothy in mind.

[4] P.104, ‘Eigg, The Story of an Island’, Dressler, C.

[5]’The Geology of Eigg‘, John D Hudson, Angus D Miller and Ann Allwright, Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, (2014, Second Edition) is part of the ‘Waking Library’ at Sweeney’s Bothy and accounts for the rock formations of Eigg.

[6] P.45, ‘Herself and Green Maria: the photography of M.E.M. Donaldson’, Cheape, H, ‘Studies in Photography’ (2006)

[7] P.50, ‘Eigg, The Story of an Island‘, Dressler, C, (2007, Birlinn Ltd, 3rd Edition)

[8] P.7, ‘Eigg, The Story of an Island’, Dressler, C, (2007, Birlinn Ltd, 3rd Edition)

[9] P.45, ‘Herself and Green Maria: the photography of M.E.M. Donaldson’, Cheape, H, ‘Studies in Photography’ (2006)

[10] P.4, ‘Eigg, The Story of an Island’, Dressler, C, (2007, Birlinn Ltd, 3rd Edition)

[11] P.98, ‘The Small Isles, Canna, Rum, Eigg & Muck’, Rixson, D, (2011, Birlinn Ltd, 2nd edition). Copy in Sweeney’s Bothy’s Walking Library.

[12] Donaldson’s photograph of Ishbel MacQuarrie ‘gathering the peats’ is also the cover image of Dressler’s ‘Eigg, The Story of an Island’.

With thanks to: The Bothy Project, Lucy Conway & Eddie Scott, Eigg Historic Society, Camille Dressler.

Sweeney's Bothy, Isle of Eigg, The Bothy Project Photo: Jenny Brownrigg (2016)

Sweeney’s Bothy, Isle of Eigg, The Bothy Project Photo: Jenny Brownrigg (2016)

Short story for Alan Grieve’s new publication

‘The way to Inchfuckery’ is a short story I have written to accompany Alan Grieve’s new publication, of the same title, which  introduces the island of Inchfuckery.

This is no island of romance or escape but one richly steeped in the landmarks of our modern time, with the hills of Lauren and Jonah, complete with lethal drizzle and the Shiski Disco. Inchfuckery is peopled by characters like Fat Curt and there is no shortage of Jägerbombs.  On this island, the bards cottages are aflame, the waterfalls sound like Stone Roses lyrics and those in yoga poses are stalked by hungry bears.

Alan gets up every morning before his family awakes, to pick up felt tip pen and draw more of the island. Crafted in the small hours, gives Alan’s mind and hand the freedom to create fresh associations and mash-ups between contemporary language, fashion, spirituality, history, myth, and nature. Here on Inchfuckery, the geology is ‘as old as fuck’.

About Alan Grieve:

Alan Grieve graduated with an MFA degree from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, Dundee, Scotland, in 2009. In 2011, he set up Workspace in a small shop unit in his home town of Dunfermline. He was originally trained as a hairdresser before attending art school, and Workspace operates as both a hair salon and a gallery/event space. Drawing and social engagement are the cornerstones of his practice and recent commissions vary from small-scale intimate illustrations for individuals to ambitious theatre projects with organisations such as the National Theatre of Scotland.

 

Report on Marseille contemporary art scene, for Scottish Contemporary Art Network

The Marseille  Printemps de l’Art Contemporain, British Council Scotland and Scottish Contemporary Art Network, May 2016

Marseille Saint-Charles Train Station. Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Arrival at Marseille Saint-Charles Train Station. Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

In the exhibition Cartology of the Algerian Map, at MuCEM, Marseilles, one map was entitled Travels or observations relating to several parts of Barbary and the Levant (Thomas Shaw, 1738). Let this report be called Travels or observations relating to several parts of Marseille and the contemporary art scene.

Page from my notebook Photo: jenny Brownrigg

Page from my notebook Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Our delegation of thirteen [1], had been invited by the organising committee of Marseille Expo to attend Printemps de l’Art Contemporain (PAC) and meet a network of arts organisations who are members of Marseille Expo.  In its eighth edition, PAC is a May festival which brings together a wide range of galleries, museums, production facilities and studios. This visit for the Scottish delegation has been a scoping one, providing the opportunity to meet with galleries, artists and arts organisations with the view to developing ideas for future projects, exchanges, exhibitions or residencies with Marseille. Future links or opportunities are by no means limited to the group on this curatorial trip. This link between Scotland and Marseille builds on established links such as the Triangle France exchange, which has been running since 2012 between Glasgow Sculpture Studios and Triangle France with previous Marseille and Glasgow-based artists including, from Marseille – Amandine Guruceaga who we met at Tank Art Space a gallery space which is part of her home, and Thomas Teurlai, whose installation Bullroarer we saw at Musée Catini through Les Ateliers d’Artistes de la Ville de Marseille programme. Marseille’s Sextant Et Plus is another organisation, ( Director Veronique Collard-Bovy), which has strong links with Scotland and in particular Glasgow, most recently in 2014 working with Graham Fagen and Graham Eatough on their project ‘In Camera‘. Wasps’ project The Poundshop, selling the work of Scottish-based and Marseille-based designers, ran at Southblock, Glasgow, during Merchant City Festival 2016.

Inside Tank Art Space, Marseille Photo: Tank Art Space

Inside Tank, Marseille Photo: Tank Art Space

Exterior, Tank Art Space, Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Exterior, Tank Art Space, Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

In May it was timely to visit Marseille, as announcements were just coming through that France’s second largest city will host Manifesta in 2020. For further reading, Caroline Hancock, an independent curator living in Paris, and past curator of PAC (and a key person our group met on the trip), has written the excellent piece Why Manifesta makes sense in Marseille (5.6.16, Apollo Magazine). Marseille was European City of Culture in 2013. Overlooked by the Church of the Bonne Mere, this city is surrounded by mountains and is also on the Mediterranean coast, with an ancient port and beach. The island fortress in the bay inspired Alexandre Dumas’ Man in the Iron Mask Le Corbusier’s Cite Radieuse, which in July 2016 has itself been declared a UN Heritage site, is also in Marseille. PAC, as with any good festival, allowed for the exploration of diverse parts of the city, due to the location of the galleries and museums taking part.

Le Corbusier's 'Cite Radieuse', Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Le Corbusier’s ‘Cite Radieuse’, Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

PAC 2016 has no over-arching theme this year. However, one strand was an emphasis on cultural exchange, this year with South Korean artists. Exhibitions included The thing that you know, I do not want to know with Rohwajeong and Jihye Park, curated by Paul-Emmanuel Odin at La Compagnie,  a beautiful large gallery with massive timber beams; Cody Choi at Musee d’Art Contemporain; Jin Angdoo & Mathieu Julien with Amateurs at Straat Galerie; and  Sam (meaning three in Korean) with artists Myung-Ok Han, Oan Kim and Peter Kim at art-cade, a gallery renovated from a former Turkish bath. Art-cade is architecturally formed in a triangular layout, with a glass corridor which surrounds a garden at its heart. A staircase in the garden leads to a roof top area. Works are exhibited in the corridor and several small rooms leading from it.

Straat Galerie

Straat Galerie, Marseille Photo Jenny Brownrigg

Straat Galerie, Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Jin Angdoo & Mathieu Julien, Straat Galerie, Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Seulgi Lee playfully created the ongoing action of Soupe at Galerie Ho, offering visitors a choice of two coloured soups, cooking in the gallery, that were the exact colours she had painted the gallery walls. Galerie Ho is open to exhibition proposals from artists, and is an unique gallery that is entered through a bookshop, with a cafe area and artist residency space in the garden.

Seulgi Lee, Galerie Ho, Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Seulgi Lee, Galerie Ho, Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Galerie Ho, bookshop, Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Galerie Ho, bookshop, Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

One of the stand out exhibitions of PAC in terms of ambition was by South Korean Marseille-based artist Ahram Lee, with her exhibition D’incolores idees vertes dormant furieusement at Vidéochroniques. This gallery is a former cigarette factory and tobacco warehouse. Lee brought strange measures and rules to the space with her careful assemblages built from piles of contemporary products, including IKEA boxes, bottle tops and hundreds of matchboxes, forming strange, perfectionist structures in the gallery space.  Next year, following on from South Korea, PAC will make links with Colombia.

On the arrival night we visited the preview of Ink at Studio Fotokino, an independent gallery dedicated to artists books, independent publications, print, design, photography and illustration. Ink was a concise and elegant gathering of international alternative and independent artist book and magazine editions, including Automatic Books (Italy), Corners (Seoul), FP & CF (France) and Hato Press (UK).

Childrens' corner, Studio Fotokino, Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Childrens’ corner, Studio Fotokino, Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

'Ink' Installation, Studio Fotokino, Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

‘Ink’ Installation, Studio Fotokino, Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

The next day, following an impromptu drive-by of Cite Radieuse, our first visit was to the art school, L’Ecole Supérieure d’Art et de Design Marseille-Méditerranée which is located in a spectacular setting in the hills behind Marseille. The art school has approximately 400 students, with an impressive ratio of one tutor to ten students. The architecture is intriguing, with studio units and facilities built in a stepped formation up the hill. There were very good facilities, in particular for printmaking, and a new film studio called Le Plateau recently opened, with state of the art equipment for filming and sound. The art school was, through their research wing, in the process of setting up a programme of residencies for national artists to work with research staff and students.

Rntrance, L'Ecole Supérieure d'Art et de Design Marseille-Méditerranée Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Entrance, L’Ecole Supérieure d’Art et de Design Marseille-Méditerranée Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Le Plateau, L'Ecole Supérieure d'Art et de Design Marseille-Méditerranée Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Le Plateau, L’Ecole Supérieure d’Art et de Design Marseille-Méditerranée Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

The art school does not have any gallery provision on site, preferring to work in partnership with organisations in the city. This included a printmaking workshop and exhibition Bois Graves XXL at La Friche Belle de Mai, where outsize prints using a steamroller were being made from large-scale woodcuts. Another of their linked projects was Biennale de Marseille Longchamp No1, curated by tutor Arnaud Deschin which, complete with map, was a tour from his live/work gallery space La GAD Marseille through different shops where students had made installations in the surrounding area. A frankly at all times confusing and often highly enjoyable tour, due to the persona of the tour leader and the fact that the art was often difficult to distinguish from its surroundings, began at La GAD with the curator wearing sunglasses at all times, keeping our group outside a closed door whilst he waited interminably for his security guards to turn up to the gallery. There was plenty of time to examine the front window, which had on it an advert for a travel agency rendering the galley frontage more like that of a quasi tanning shop. The tour took us to fridges in the local grocers, to an off-licence, Italian pasta shop and hairdressers where everyone was handed a small unique leaflet edition Aujourd’hui on va parler de ma vulve. The experience was finely balanced on the cusp of a highly ironic piss-take or is this for real, ensuring all tour participants remained polite and engaged, even when being pressed and orchestrated by Deschin at the conclusion for a group photograph amongst one of the penultimate works.

Security guards at La GAD Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Security guards at La GAD Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Marseille’s public institutions include MuCEM, FRAC and Musee d’art Contemporain de Marseille [MAC]. MAC was hosting two exhibitions, one by South Korean artist Cody Choi called Culture Cuts, and the second, an impressive selection from their collection, including works by Dennis Oppenheim, Denis Brun, Niki de Saint Phalle, Gordon Matta Clark, Annette Messager, Dieter Roth, Bruce Nauman and Vito Acconci. The gallery space itself is rather wonderful with vaulted ceilings. Nearby, installed long before David Shrigley’s Fourth Plinth, is the artist Cesar’s big bronze thumb, in the centre of a roundabout. FRAC Provence-Alpes Côte d’Azur held two exhibitions of London-based Koo Jeong-A and Brussels-based artist Livien De Boeck’s work. MuCEM is an impressive network of refurbished old historical garrison buildings perched on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean and is completed with signature contemporary architecture by Rudy Ricciotti, which houses their Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisation section. Exhibitions on Jean Genet L’Echappée Belle, and on the folk influences on Picasso’s work were at MuCEM.

MuCEM Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

MuCEM Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Another part of the complex of buildings, MuCEM Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Another part of the complex of buildings, MuCEM Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

The visit contrasted an incredibly diverse range of museums, galleries and artist-run projects bringing together an intensity of scale ranging from the enormous La Friche Belle de Mai which one of its directors referred to as a flat Le Corbusier with its living spaces, play areas and galleries, to the tiny not-for-profit spaces of Galerie Territoires Partagés or OÙ Paradis. La Friche Belle de Mai has an interesting programming structure, alternating its gallery spaces between the organisations that are based there. Sextant Et Plus at the time of PAC had curated the epic Les Possédés, over two floors, with significant works borrowed from private art collections from south of France including pieces by Jimmie Durham, Saâdane Afif, Neïl Beloufa, Roman Ondák and Anri Sala.

Roof, La Friche Bel de Mai Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Roof, La Friche Belle de Mai, Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

The city of Marseille owns La Friche Belle de Mai, with a co-operative company of organisations having it as a long term loan of 45 years. In contrast, the compact Galerie Territoires Partagés disperses its programme and ethos, focused in particular on political and social issues, through a small van that its director drives through the region, to deliver a socially engaged education programme. OÙ Paradis hosting Daphné Le Sergent’s installation Overflow in a domestic space on the top floor of flats, which the Marseille-born artist Richard Baquié (1952-1996) used as his studio.  Overflow referenced Richard Baquie’s common objects series – Baquié drew a cup of coffee repeatedly throughout his life. In the same domestic apartment building, there was also access to Baquié’s apartment on a lower floor, where his partner had continued to live after his death. The apartment formed a kind of living monument to him, communicating clearly his implicit belief in the permeability of the boundaries between life and work – his sculptural work was often made out of recycled objects.

Ou, Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Ou, Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Ou, Marseille, looking through to artist residence Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Ou, Marseille, looking through to artist residence Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

is an intriguing format as it comprises three separate spaces, including the domestic spaces mentioned and the final space of a contemporary gallery, with changing programme and connected artist residency, which was hosting a two person show of Paris-based Dae Jin Choi with Daphné Le Sergent. Another exhibition forming a retrospective was of Charles Dreyfus, an artist and historian of Fluxus, at Galerie Meyer. Galerie Porte Avion‘s show of Alain Andrade’s and Pedro Lino’s work included an exhaustive list of all the walls built to enforce borders and control movement in the world now.

Commercial galleries make up a smaller part of the art scene in Marseille. Commercial galleries we visited during PAC included Béa-ba which is co-run by Beatrice Le Tirilly and Barbara Sartre and which staged a solo exhibition by Bernard Pages, En Regard, of drawings and sculptures from 1969-2015. Galerie Polysémie had an interesting take on the type of artist on the roster, with the director François Vertadier only selecting ‘outsider’ artists. The current exhibition was by art teacher Georges Bru, of dreamlike figurative work on paper. A number of the galleries were run by businesses which were different takes on the gallery model. TOGU was an architectural practice with a gallery, which had a roster of artists to propose to their architectural clients. Mécènes du Sud was working with Hotel Deux Pierres Deux Corps, hosting the last intake of a group of five young artists, through a residency in their hotel for a programme called Vacances Blues. The exhibition at the gallery included the work of Clémence Marin, with her videowork of a worker attempting the thankless task of sweeping a dance floor full of balloons to the side.

Elvia Teotski, Chateau de Servieres, Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Elvia Teotski, Chateau de Servieres, Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Marseille has a strong studio ethos, often linked with residency programmes, through Marseille City Studios, which is supported by the city. This initiative has been running for 20 years with a network of studios for French and visiting artists at Château de Servières, Astérides and Triangle France (director Céline Kopp),  Astérides and Triangle France are both based at La Friche Belle de Mai. Château de Servières has had an exchange programme with other European cities including Dublin, Turin and Milan. Here we met artists in residence including Elvia Teotski who had been working on the studio floor of Château de Servières in an archaeological manner to show the traces of previous artists; Charlotte Benedittini and Robin Touchard who had been working on an installation with Tony Ceppi. All artists were being supported by the city with a one year residency. Astérides were staging an exhibition at La Friche Belle de Mai of four artist-in-residence productions by Victoire Barbot, Pierre Boggio, Julie Michel and Luca Resta.

Other studio visits our group went on included to artist Rémi Bragard, who was looking to build a planetarium projector, and took us through all his prototypes and ephemera of brochures compiled by DIY planetarium builders from all over the world, including Kovac Planetarium in the north woods of North Wisconsin. Bragard had been visiting each maker or museum, and is working on producing a book of his photographs. A second artist we met was Nicolas Pincemin, where we were introduced to his paintings on hidden and collapsing architecture including abandoned military bunkers. A key resource and website flagged up during the trip to use to research French artists is the French Network of Documents d’Artistes website.

Julien Fargotten, 'real street food', Belgian waffle maker Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Julien Fargetton, ‘real street food’, Belgian waffle maker Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Detail of waffles made, Julien Fargotten Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Detail of waffles made, Julien Fargetton Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Marseille has a number of production facilities, including one for glass, which  were presenting exhibitions or projects as part of PAC. One building housed Atelier Ni, a sculpture workshop on the ground floor, and Tchikebe, a printmaking facility on the second floor. Atelier Ni hosted Selma Lepart, winner of their open call and Julien Fargetton. Atelier Ni was set up in 2010 by two artists, Arnold Degiovanni and Maxile Gianni, and is seen as a technical resource to assist artists and designers in the technical design and production of their projects. One of Lepart’s sculptures was technically highly ambitious – a breathing asteroid, where the small metal plates of its surface appeared to inhale and exhale. Atelier Ni had worked with Fargetton to help him in the construction of a Belgian waffle maker, fully operational and made from two Belgian manhole covers – real street food as the artist himself coined it.  Upstairs from Atelier Ni, was Atelier Tchikebe, an exciting printmaking studio with gallery. Tchikebe had been producing a series of new screenprints onto different surfaces including aluminium, mirror and acrylic glass, with Tania Mouraud, a multi-disciplinary artist working across performance, video and public art work. Often working in text, Mouraud declared on our visit that.. ‘one sentence will be in 7 cities’, on simultaneous billboards across Europe.

Artist's residence, The American Gallery, Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Artist’s residence, The American Gallery, Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

To conclude this observation of the contemporary art scene in Marseille, one of the most significant factors assimilated on this curatorial trip was the emphasis each type of organisation at any size had placed on the artist residency, in particular as a means to support the production of work for exhibition. Many included as part of their architectural framework a place for an artist to live and work. This included most picturesquely, the privately owned The American Gallery, which comprises of a gallery with artist residency at the bottom of the garden of Marseille resident, psychoanalyst and gallery owner Pamela King. The American Gallery was hosting the Home Guard Manual of Camouflage by Cari Gonzalez-Casanova on the history of camouflage. Another example was Voyons Voir: art contemporain & territoire located in Aix-en-Provence.

'Paradise / A Space for Screen Addiction', located at auction house in Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

‘Paradise / A Space for Screen Addiction’, located at auction house in Marseille Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Also, the resourcefulness of artists and curators was apparent, in their ability to make projects within unusual site specific contexts, such as Paradise/A space for screen addiction which was a mirrored cube and cinema space installed within a working auction house Leclere Maisonnette de Ventres, curated by Charlotte Cosson & Emmanuelle Luciani. The film programme included films by Ilja Karilampi, GCC, Akina Cox and General Idea.  This project was linked to CODE South Way, a publication edited by Cosson & Luciani.

'Code' publication Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

‘Code’ publication Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

The dedication of those who worked with artists within Marseille’s contemporary art framework was also clear, in particular Rond-Point Projects with Director Camille Videcoq, who works on singular year-long residencies, for in depth dialogue and support with those she works with. Videcoq referred to the gallery as a tool for the residency, which again places the significance of the residency in the Marseille contemporary art scene.

With thanks to the trip organisers, to all our hosts and to Marseille Expo team. Jenny Brownrigg (2016) This article can also be accessed on Scottish Contemporary Art Network’s website.

Footnotes

[1] The group were Cheryl Connell (Stills, Edinburgh); Judith Liddle (Edinburgh Printmakers); Max Slaven (David Dale Gallery, Glasgow); Audrey Carling & Michelle Emery-Barker (WASPS); Sorcha Carey (Edinburgh Art Festival); Juliet Dean (British Council Scotland); Seonaid Daly (SCAN); Julie-Ann Delaney (National Galleries Scotland); Kirsteen Macdonald (GSA); Jenny Brownrigg (GSA); Dan Brown (Edinburgh Sculpture Studios); Kate Gray (Collective, Edinburgh).

The visiting group from Scotland to Marseille

The visiting group from Scotland to Marseille

The trip was supported by British Council Scotland and Marseille Expo.

About Marseille Expo/ Printemps de l’Art Contemporain: Founded in 2007, the Marseille expos network was created to promote contemporary art in Marseille. Today it unites 36 visual art organisations, ranging from large institutions, to private galleries and numerous non-profit organisations. Since 1999, the network has organised the Printemps de l’Art Contemporain, among other activities. Each year in May, PAC presents a wide range of exhibitions (about 50) and events in the city of Marseille, mixing French and international venues, benefiting from the great diversity of spaces and curatorial practices of its members.

The network also supports the international development of its members (for example the partnership with the Ministry of Foreign aAfairs for 9 exhibitions in the context of the Year of France-Korea in 2016). In this dynamic, the network has developed some links with the Scottish visual art scene (with the help of the British Council), hoping that several collaborations will emerge between its members and art centers and artists from Scotland, in term of co-production or exchange of artists, curator and exhibitions. The expo team are keen to explore the possibilities for collaboration with Scottish counterparts for Printemps de l’Art Contemporain 2018.

Please feel free to contact Olivier Le Falher for any further information.

Email: olivier.lefalher@marseilleexpos.com

Lecture: ‘In or Out? How Britain Decided’, Professor John Curtice, The Stevenson Lectures in Citizenship, University of Glasgow 28.6.16

Via, Veritas, Vita’, University of Glasgow’s Latin motto translates as ‘the Way, the Truth, the Life’. It was a fitting crest in the lecture theatre, above the head of Prof John Curtice, political analyst and Polls pundit for BBC, as he gave this lecture five days after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. The polls act as an indicator of the way people vote. Curtice’s analysis of their findings aim to give an understanding or truth on key beliefs that made people vote and, as such, captured the divisions of contemporary life in the UK. For further information Curtice’s blog can be found at here. This post represents my lecture notes of the statistics and Curtice’s interpretation.

Houses of Parliament, London, 27.6.16 Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Houses of Parliament, London, 27.6.16 Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

The Partisan Fallout’, % who voted Leave: UKIP: 96%; Conservative: 58%; Labour: 37%; SNP: 36%; Lib: 30%

Curtice stated that from looking at the percentage of Partisan Fallout it was not Jeremy Corbyn who lost the EU Referendum but David Cameron, by failing to take his party with him. Curtice placed  this loss firmly at 19 Feb 2016, when Cameron came back from renegotiation with EU. Given the figure therefore of Corbyn taking 63% with the Labour Party line, Curtice assessed that the EU Referendum was a pretext for Labour to attempt to get rid of their leader. Curtice said from the above figures that UKIP was only party to take the majority of their members with them. Intriguingly SNP did not carry all their party members with them. Curtice stated that when future politics students review the first twenty years of this century, they will see that Nigel Farage was a key player, on the terms that he was the only politician to achieve the aims of his party’s manifesto.

In the polls regarding Credibility of Main Argument’, only 17% thought it a true statement with ‘Remain‘ strapline that we would each be £4300 worse off. 70% believed it false. 47% felt it a true statement that ‘Leave‘ made that we send £350 million to EU, 39% false.

The Role of English Identity’:

This poll question on identity asked how voters – did they identify fully with an English identity or did they define themselves primarily as British? 79% strongly identified as English; 66% agreed with the statement that they were equally English and British; and 40% identified primarily as British. Curtice mentioned that Britishness has been sold as a multicultural identity, eg British Muslim, where as Englishness is a nationalist identifier. He pointed out that English and Scottish nationalists voted differently in the Referendum; with the former voting for ‘Leave‘ and the latter for ‘Remain‘.

Curtice went on to say that 53% White voted to ‘Leave‘  in comparison to 32% BAME.

Interior, Houses of Parliament 27.6.16 Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Interior, Houses of Parliament 27.6.16 Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

He stated that Education was a key factor in vote, with 70% studying to GSCE level only, voting to ‘Leave‘ whilst 32% studying to Degree level voted ‘Leave‘. Looking at other education categories the % vote to ‘Leave’ was: 50% A Level; 52% other Higher. There was a difference in perception of The Economic Consequences of Brexit: 14% of Degree educated thought the economic situation would be better if UK left EU, whilst 54% of Degree educated through it would be worse. 30% of those educated to GSCE or less thought the economic situation would be better following Brexit; whilst 24% of GSCE level or less thought the economic situation would be worse.

Age also was a key factor, with 27% of 18-24 voting ‘Leave‘ and 60% 65+ voting ‘Leave‘. This was one of the biggest social divisions.

There were also, linked to age and education, different views on EU migration. People were asked if the % of EU migration was currently too high. 46% of 18-24 vs 84% 65+ agreed with the statement; whilst 54% educated to Degree level vs 81% to GSCE level or less agreed with the statement. Curtice described this finding as clearly illustrating for the majority of 65+ or the majority of those educated to GSCE level only, that ‘this globalised world is not one where the riches are falling on them’. Curtice showed statistics of ‘The Graduate Distribution’, showing the volume of graduates geographically in UK,  with included in the range, the highest of 39% in London, 25% in Scotland down to 22% in North East.

Interior, Houses of Parliament 27.6.16 Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Interior, Houses of Parliament 27.6.16 Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Next was Perceived Consequences’, and the % that thought if they voted Leave that each factor would be better:

Control Laws: 78% thought leaving EU it would be better, hence the success of the ‘Leave‘ Campaign’s key message ‘Take Back Control‘. Immigration:70%; Fair Welfare: 57%; Terrorism:50%; Jobs:49%; Economy:47%; Influence:46%; International Investment:40%

Curtice said therefore that the  ‘Remain‘ campaign’s key message of ‘Economy‘, with only 47% was therefore not as effective as the principal card of the ‘Leave‘ campaign on ‘Immigration’ at 70%.

‘Why Leave?’: 49% Sovereignty; 33% Immigration; 13% Integration; 6% Economy.

Problems and Solutions’:

Economy ‘Remain‘: 19% believed the statement that the economy would be better to ‘Remain‘ whilst 24% thought it would get worse. Economy ‘Leave‘: 22% thought it would be better for economy if UK left, whilst 45% thought it worse. Immigration ‘Remain‘: 5% believed immigration would be better if UK voted ‘Remain‘, whilst 52% believed it would be worse.  Immigration ‘Leave‘: 49% felt immigration would be better if UK voted ‘Leave‘, whilst 8% believed immigration would be worse.

Curtice commented that the new dividing lines from this EU Referendum could be stated as ‘Social Liberals and ‘Social Conservatives, rather than previous markers of ‘Left‘ and ‘Right’. The younger voter for example, was mostly educated to higher level and was of the opinion that, on immigration “We all rub along together”.  The older voter was of the opinion that, “…this was not the country we were born into”. He also described the difference between those who had taken advantage of globalisation and those who were deeply socially uncomfortable with globalisation. There was economic division with who could take advantage of social mobility. A further division was those who enjoyed sharing diverse languages and cultures and were able to experience ‘a common culture together’; and those who experienced a diversity of “language as isolating and cultural change as a challenge”.

Interior, House of Lords, 27.6.16 Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Interior, House of Lords, 27.6.16 Photo: Jenny Brownrigg

Curtice’s conclusions were:

  • Social division indicated winners and losers of globalisation
  • Social Liberalism versus Social Conservatism cut across most party support
  • David Cameron did not return with enough from Feb 2016 EU Summit and his re-negotiation of terms, so failed to take 58% of his party with him
  • Remain‘ had little more to offer than a message about ‘Economics‘ being worse off. This message, to avoid economic perils, was a message not believed by voters.
  • Leave‘ offered a more believed solution with clearer strapline on taking control of laws.
  • Role of ‘English Identity’ also a big factor.

In analysing the Polls, Curtice thought Labour has to find a different message from trying to convince members that they can still ride the benefits of Capitalism to re-distribute to all or those worse off- many Labour members felt left behind. Also conversely with international capitalism, where jobs are created people would follow, which is demonstrated by free movement, which again was proving problematic.

In Scotland, polls asked the hypothetical question How would you vote now?‘ Following the EU Referendum. In the Independence Referendum the result was 47% YES- 53% NO. In this new poll 52% YES – 48% NO. There was a modest increase in support for Scottish Independence of 4-5% increase in favour. Curtice felt that this percentage was not high enough for SNP to go quickly for IndyRef2, as whilst there had been a swing following EU vote, it was no way near the 60% SNP are looking for in favour of ‘Yes‘ to Independence.

‘Women in Art’, “Conversation Piece”, British Art Studies

“Conversation Piece” is a British Art Studies series that draws together a group of contributors to respond in 500 words to an idea, provocation or question. ‘Still Invisible?’ is a “Conversation Piece” coordinated by Patricia de Montfort (University of Glasgow) and Robyne Erica Calvert (The Glasgow School of Art) in Issue 2. It asks the question ‘Is the work of women artists on display in museums and galleries?’ The conversation in its entirety can be found here. British Art Studies is an online journal, created by Paul Mellon Centre and the Yale Center for British Art. Here is my contribution:

Guerrilla Girls, anniversary recount sticker showing numbers from 1985 and 2015

Guerrilla Girls, anniversary recount sticker showing numbers from 1985 and 2015

Women in Art

Tate Modern has announced two new Artist Rooms by Phyllida Barlow and Louise Bourgeois “in a bid to inspire girls”; Saatchi Galleries has its first “all women” show, Champagne Life, to celebrate the gallery’s 30th anniversary; Pussy Riot announced plans to open a women-only museum in Montenegro, the “New Balkan Women’s Museum . . . in an effort to address long-spanning issues with gender equality in the art world, in a space referred to as, ‘for women, by women, about women’”. Karen Archey writes in a January 2016 e-flux conversation, “Are all-female exhibitions problematic?” Is there something in the water? Are there too many women artists visible in contemporary art, or is this part of a reaction to there being too few?

Guerrilla Girls formed in New York in 1985 to fight the inherent gender and racial inequality in the fine arts, by producing posters, billboards, and actions containing key messages and statistics about institutions and their track records on showing female artists. Taking a straw poll, here are the statistics for men and women artists represented by a sample of UK commercial contemporary galleries (as listed in January 2016 on their websites). In Scotland, Edinburgh’s Ingleby Gallery is 15% women artists (4 out of 26 artists on roster). This figure increases if “project artists” are included, to 22%. In Glasgow, the Modern Institute has 33% women (13 out of 43), whilst smaller commercial gallery Mary Mary has the highest number at 43% (6 out of 14). Whilst more in number, this is still under half. Workplace Gallery, Gateshead, is 38% (8 out of 21 artists); in London, Hollybush Gardens was an exception with 62% of their total being women (8 out of 13); whilst White Cube (London, Hong Kong, São Paulo, Miami) was 28% (17 out of 60) and Hauser & Wirth, with galleries in London, New York, and Somerset, at 31% (20 out of 64). Why are the numbers of women represented by commercial galleries consistently much lower than the number of male artists? Is this because fewer women study fine art so there are fewer female artists? The statistics of female graduates from the Glasgow School of Art would contradict this. In the academic year 2014/15, 75 female to 33 male students graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art with Honours, making the ratio 69% female graduates. In 2013/14, 63 women students versus 39 male students graduated from the same course. Each year back to 2010/11 the gender split is the same, with female students always the higher number of graduates from the undergraduate Fine Art course.

Sarah McCrory, Director of Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art since 2013, and previously curator of Frieze Projects, makes the point that to alter these statistics, change can only occur through gallery programmers and, in terms of commercial galleries, the buyers, who ultimately are the market. In 2010 McCrory worked with Annika Ström for Frieze Projects. The artist’s piece saw a group of “Ten Embarrassed Men” (2010) roam the tent, ashamed by the low number of women represented at the art fair. McCrory believes that rather than explicitly brand an exhibition as “all women”, these types of curatorial decision should be implicit in programming.

Guerrilla Girls aim to stop their activism when the situation of visibility of women in contemporary art is balanced. They continue, with their show at Walker Arts Center running throughout 2016. The artist Amy Bessone wrote recently: “I’ve noticed galleries whose roster may consist of 20–30% female artists, bring a 90–100% male line-up to art fairs.”[1] Clearly, we need to do more work.

Published April 2016

Footnote

  1. Amy Bessone, “Post Woman”, Kaleidoscope 23 (Winter 2015), 82.

‘Doing Women’s Film and Television Histories III: Structures of Feeling’ Conference

Doing Women’s Film and Television Histories III: Structures of Feeling

The Third International Conference of the Women’s Film and Television History Network: UK/Ireland, 18-20 May 2016, Leicester, UK

Conference Organisers: Vicky Ball (Senior Lecturer in Cinema and Television Histories, De Montfort University), Melanie Bell (Associate Professor in Film and Media, University of Leeds), Laraine Porter (Senior Lecturer, Film Studies, De Montfort University)

image1invite

This conference was organised by the Women’s Film and Television Network (UK and Ireland) [1]. The aims of the network are to research and disseminate women’s ‘participation in screen media’ and explore the roles of women in the industry, ensure ‘that women’s work is recognised in the writing of screen histories’, to ‘encourage new approaches to film and television that are sensitive to gender, class and race’ and to have ‘an impact on the teaching of screen media in schools and colleges.’ [2]

‘Structures of Feeling’, the tagline of the conference title, refers to Raymond Williams’ work [3] around the suppressed narrative; the real, lived experience which is part of culture but not recognised in the mediated history and hegemony of that culture. With presentations referring to key statistical analysis from primary research of the AHRC-funded project, ‘Calling the Shots’  [4], including the findings that ‘in 2015, women constituted just 20% of all directors, writers, producers, exec-producers, cinematographers and editors on 203 UK films in production during 2015’ ,  [5] the conference’s exploration and assessment of diverse narratives, histories and contributions by women in a male dominated industry was both timely and necessary.  Further analysis from ‘Calling the Shots’ details that ‘74% of films with a woman director also had a woman producer’, [6] highlighting that if a woman is employed in a main role, she is likely to recruit more women to other key roles in the crew. Of those women employed in key roles,  in terms of numbers of BAME women in 2015, the report found that only ‘7% of women were of Black, Asian, or Ethnic Minority identity, making BAME women less that 1.5% of all personnel’.

callingshots

If one statistical pillar of the conference was the initial findings of ‘Calling the Shots’, the other was ‘Patterns of Discrimination Against Women in the Film and Television Industries’ (1975), a report commissioned by the Association of Cinematograph, Television and Allied Technicians (ACTT) Union’s Committee of Equality. The conference chose to commemorate its 40th anniversary of publication, with presentations by Frances Galt (De Montfort University, Leicester) who gave an excellent historical context to the report and Barbara Evans (York University, Toronto), an original member from the London Women’s Film Group who was key in getting ACTT to agree to the role of a paid woman researcher to conduct the research and write the report. A screening at the conference of the film, ‘The Right Place: Women in West London Film Laboratories, 1960-2000’ (Dawson, A & Holmes, SP, 2016), intriguingly uses film footage of the researcher, Sarah Benton, in a meeting with male and female workers,  the union and shop stewards, discussing the place of a crèche in the workplace to allow women to continue to work, after having families. Benton meets with resistance to the idea, both from male and female workers that are present, who believe that the ills of society are down to mothers at work and therefore away from the home, who are not having an influence on their children growing up.

'Open Door' excerpt, Barbara Evans' presentation: ‘Breaking the Pattern, The Struggle for Equality in the Film and Television Industry’

‘Open Door’ (1965) excerpt, Barbara Evans’ presentation: ‘Breaking the Pattern, The Struggle for Equality in the Film and Television Industry’

'Open Door' (1965) excerpt, (Barbara Evans Pictured, both in film clip and in person), ‘Breaking the Pattern, The Struggle for Equality in the Film and Television Industry’

‘Open Door’ (1965) excerpt, (Barbara Evans pictured, both in film clip and in person), Barbara Evans’ presentation: ‘Breaking the Pattern, The Struggle for Equality in the Film and Television Industry’

Evans in her presentation ‘Breaking the Pattern, The Struggle for Equality in the Film and Television Industry’  outlined the situation in the workplace where women were confined to the lesser skilled roles, often secretarial, lower paid jobs, which Evans described as creating ‘sexual ghettoes’. Reasons given for women not being able to enter predominantly male domains including camera or sound work, included that the equipment was too heavy for women to carry. Evans illustrated her presentation with clips from a discussion of ACTT women activists, for BBC’s ‘Open Door’ programme in 1965, including Evans herself, to tell this story: ‘Many women were doing housework on the job… often a substitute wife or mother’ for the male bosses. The action of getting a paid female researcher was key, as many women felt intimidated to speak at union meetings or assemblies without fear of heckling. One of the ‘Open Door’ excerpts was intriguingly a satirical re-enactment of the battle between women and men around equal pay in the workplace, with women playing both gender roles. This creative approach to engaging with issues of inequality was also highlighted in Rachel Fabian’s (California) paper ‘What are We Left With?: The London Women’s Film Group and the Legacies of 1970s’ Collective Media Production’, where Fabian referred to London Women’s Film Group’s ‘The Amazing Equal Pay Show’, (1974), which was a film looking at the place of working class women in a capitalist society and worked with the Women’s Street Theatre Group,  to lampoon issues of inequality through using the language of carnival, street theatre and pantomime.

Slide from Rachel Fabian's presentation: 'What Are We Left With? The London Women's Film Group and Legacies of the 1970s Collective Media Production', featuring 'The amazing Equal Pay Show' (YEAR), London Women's Film Group

Slide from Rachel Fabian’s presentation: ‘What Are We Left With? The London Women’s Film Group and Legacies of the 1970s Collective Media Production‘, featuring ‘The Amazing Equal Pay Show’ (1974), London Women’s Film Group

This is only one route through the conference, given its session structure of running up to four strands of panels to choose from. My own attendance had been thanks to association with Shona Main’s ‘Real Illuminators’ film programme, along with Dr Sarah Neely (University of Stirling), which presented eight short films [7] by early women film-makers in Scotland, predominantly in the field of documentary. Particularly resonant for this programme and area of research, was our meeting Barbara Evans, one of the first to research and write about Shetland filmmaker Jenny Gilbertson, in the Women Film Pioneers Project. Also of key interest, was the presentation by Sarah Hill (University of East Anglia), on the Women Amateur Filmmakers in Britain archive collection, digitised by East Anglian Film Archive, part of the University of East Anglia. Hill showed a selection of films from 1920s’-80s’ including animations by Sheila Graber and Joanna Fryer.

Slide from Sarah Hill's presentation: '(In)visible Women? Researching Amateur Women Filmmakers', image of 'Make-Up' (1978), Joanne Fryer

Slide from Sarah Hill’s presentation: ‘(In)visible Women? Researching Amateur Women Filmmakers’, image of ‘Make-Up’ (1978), Joanna Fryer

Slide from Sarah Hill's presentation: '(In)visible Women? Researching Amateur Women Filmmakers', image of 'Make-Up' (1978), Joanne Fryer

Slide from Sarah Hill’s presentation: ‘(In)visible Women? Researching Amateur Women Filmmakers’, image of ‘Make-Up’ (1978), Joanna Fryer

Dr Kate Dossett’s (University of Leeds) keynote, on the AHRC funded Feminist Archives, Feminist Futures’, chronicled the role of the women’s library or archive from the Fawcett Library, set up by the London Society for Women’s Service in 1926, to current day archives and libraries, including reference to Glasgow Women’s Library, and a focus on Feminist Archive North, with materials on Vera Media and Leeds Animation Workshop. June Givanni also presented on her Pan African Cinema Archive collected over her 30 years working as a curator gathering film work by women directors from Africa and the diaspora. She is currently focusing on what type of an archival space architecturally can be created for this independent archive.

Slide from Dr Kate Dossett's presentation, image 'Vera Media'

Slide from Dr Kate Dossett’s presentation, image ‘Vera Media’

Doing Women’s Film and Television Histories III: Structures of Feeling’ conference was  inspirational in its content and approach, tackling key themes from a variety of different perspectives, roles, geographies and histories. For example, the first Plenary, ‘Costume, Women, Work and History’ had a costume designer and supervisor (Lezli Everitt, Costume and Training Skills, BECTU Learning Organiser), academic (Tamar Jeffers McDonald, University of Kent) and curator (Keith Lodwick, V&A Museum) contributing, allowing the spectrum of discussion to range from the actualities of the workplace, to academic framing and then questions of exhibition. As the conference was looking at aspects of power and power holders, predominantly being ascribed in examples in favour of the male domain, a key presentation by Gina Marchetti ‘The Feminine Touch: Chinese Soft Power Politics and Hong Kong Women Filmmakers’, provided an interesting case study in the navigation of soft power by women filmmakers including Ann Hui, in securing financial backing and box office success.

The delegates and contributors were from diverse ages, points in their career and experiences which allowed for all contributions to be recognised and acknowledged as significant to the continuation of the field. And again in the sense of the ‘continuity bible’, referred to in several presentations including Lezli Everitt’s, as a trade device to track change and make note of what has occurred, the conference ephemera, notes, discussions, further reading, conversations with other delegates and presentations on key projects, will continue to have an impact on evolving lines of research investigation. It was announced that the next conference will take place at University of Southampton in 2018.

Jenny Brownrigg (May 2016)

Footnotes

[1] WFTHN is one of the results from the AHRC funded project ‘A History of Women and Work in the British Film and Television Industries 1933-1989’

[2] From delegates’ pack materials.

[3] ‘The Long Revolution’, Williams, R (1961)

[4] ‘Calling the Shots’ is led by Dr Shelley Cobb & Prof Linda Ruth Williams, University of Southamption, with partners including BFI, BECTU and Women in Film and Television UK. The project supports a Research Fellow (Dr Natalie Wreyford) with two PhD students.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] ‘Real Illuminators’ film programme, curated by Shona Main, is as follows: ‘Peat From Hillside to Home’ (1932) Jenny Gilbertson; ‘Flowers and Coffee Party at Umanak’ (1935) Isobel Wylie Hutchison; ‘Beside the Seaside’ (1935) Marion Grierson; ‘Challenge to Fascism / May Day 1938’  Helen Biggar; ‘Ceylon Calling’ (1939) Nettie McGavin; ‘They Also Serve’ (1940) Ruby Grierson; ‘A Portrait of Ga’ (1952) Margaret Tait; ‘The Aardvark or Ant Bear’ (1961) Elizabeth Balneaves.

'Real Illuminators' logo, designer Bryn Houghton, at 'Doing Women's Film and Television Histories III: Structures of Feeling' conference, Leicester, 2016

‘Real Illuminators’ logo, designer Bryn Houghton, at ‘Doing Women’s Film and Television Histories III: Structures of Feeling’ conference, Leicester, 2016

Further notes of reference from conference:

Films:

Nightcleaners, Part 1’, Berwick Street Film Collective (1975)

‘Prairie Women’, Barbara Evans (1987)

‘Women Amateur Filmmakers Trailer’, EAFA Amateur Film, www.vimeo.com/162349610

‘Daughters of the Dust’, Julie Dash (1991) (reference from June Givanni presentation)

‘A Dry White Season’, Euzhan Palcy (1989) (reference from June Givanni presentation)

Websites:

Women Film Pioneers Project http://wfpp.cdrs.columbia.edu (reference from Barbara Evans)

British Silent Cinema and the Transition to Sound 1927-1933 www.silenttosound.org.uk (reference from Sarah Neely)

The Boudica Film Fund www.boudicafilms.co.uk

Women On Boards 40:40:20 campaign www.womenonboards.net

Women 50:50 www.women5050.org campaign for at least 50% representation of women in parliament, councils and public boards

Books:

‘Gender meets genre in postwar cinemas’, Christine Gledhill, (2012)

‘Doing Women’s Film History: Reframing Cinemas Past and Future’, edited by Christine Glehill & Julia Knight (2015), University of Illinois Press.

‘Notes on Women’s Cinema’, edited by Claire Johnston (1973)

[Article], ‘The Amazing Equal Pay Show’, London Women’s Film Group 1974 / Publishers Spare Rib, Aug 1975.

‘Aftershocks of the New: Feminism and Film History’, Patrice Petro (2002), Rutgers University Press.

Publishers:

University of Illinois Press (reference from Professor Emiritus Michelle Hilmes), interested in women’s histories, in particular submission on women’s involvement in sound period.

Trade Union:

BECTU www.bectu.org.uk

Archives:

Film Archives UK

Institute of Amateur Cinematographers library, at East Anglian Film Archive, University of East Anglia

Other:

Beatriz Azurduy Palacios (1952-2003), Bolivian motion picture director (Isabel Segui, University of St Andrews presentation)

Elizabeth Haffenden (1906-1976), costume designer (reference from Tamar Jeffers McDonald presentation)

Beatrice ‘Bumble’ Dawson (1908-1976), costume designer (reference from Tamar Jeffers McDonald presentation)

Dr Heather Norris Nicholson, University of Huddersfield, archive film and changing amateur visual practice. (reference from Sarah Hill’s presentation)

‘Women and Film’ event, Edinburgh Festival, 1972

Third Eye Film Festival’ 1983 (Reference June Givanni presentation)

 

 

 

 

 

Two recent articles: Helen Biggar (with Shona Main) and Michael Barr (at RSA New Contemporaries)

‘Challenge to Fascism: Glasgow’s May Day’ (1938), Helen Biggar, by Main, S. & Brownrigg, J, 1.5.16 Map Magazine online.

Film still, Challenge to Fascism/ Glasgow's May Day (1938) by Helen Biggar. Willy Gallacher, CPGB, MP for West Fife,speaking at Glasgow Green. Photo courtesy of Billie Love Historical Collection.

Film still, Challenge to Fascism/ Glasgow’s May Day (1938) by Helen Biggar. Willy Gallacher, CPGB, MP for West Fife,speaking at Glasgow Green. Photo courtesy of Billie Love Historical Collection.

FREE CULTURE! Review of Michael Barr’s work inspired by book on Cuban culture policy, Jenny Brownrigg, April 2016, Cuba50, online

'FREE CULTURE!', Michael Barr (2016) Photo courtesy of artist

‘FREE CULTURE!’, Michael Barr (2016) Photo courtesy of artist