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DE/RECONSTRUCTION PROJECT : Special Collections & Archives

sheets of photocopied pamphlets and ephemera laid out on the table

DE/RECONSTRUCTION PROJECT : Goldsmiths Special Collections & Archives, Adya Jalan, 2021

“Decolonizing is deeper than just being represented. When projects and institutions proclaim a commitment to diversity, inclusion or decoloniality we need to attend these claims with a critical eye. Decoloniality is a complex set of ideas – it requires complex process, space, money, and time, otherwise it runs the risk of becoming another buzzword, like ‘diversity’”[1] Sumaya Kassim, 2017

The De/Reconstruction Project was started in 2021 as a part of Decolonizing Projects at the Special Collections and Archives. The term ‘Decolonizing’ is often used as a buzzword, but authors like Walter Mignolo, Catherine Walsh and Ariella Azoulay provide a very comprehensive understanding of the process of decolonizing. The theories put forward by them resonate with the workings of the project. Decoloniality, a series edited by Mignolo and Walsh, consolidates a diverse range of perspectives of coloniality and decolonial thought in various histories from across the world.[2] Walsh’s understanding of decoloniality focuses on the learning and unlearning of repression, resistance, and struggle in colonial history. By discussing settler colonization in the Americas, Walsh draws attention to the local movements, struggles, resistance, and the refusal that came with it. So, primarily, decoloniality emerges as a form of struggle for survival, an epistemic response and practice by the colonized and racialized subjects, against all dimensions of colonial power.[3]On the other hand, in the book, Potential History, Ariella Azoulay offers methods and lessons to unlearn imperialism. She revaluates the history of photographs, archives, and museums by proposing that the camera’s “shutter” equates to imperialism as a whole. Plunder and systemic violence are forming the features of archives and museums, and the study of history itself – all of which serve as imperial technologies of control, conquest, and dehumanization.[4]Azoulay’s methods and reasons for unlearning imperialism explain why a pedagogical approach to decolonization is required. She writes “unlearning imperialism aims at unlearning its origins, found in the repetitive moments of the operation of imperial shutters. Unlearning imperialism refuses the stories the shutter tells.”[5]

The De/Reconstruction Project is a continuously evolving community-based archive project. It is a safe space for uncomfortable conversations, stories of struggles and marginalized histories, overlooked figures and identities. It is also a learning resource made by individual contributors on themes that resonate with them. Thus, reflecting on the above authors’ understanding, the project focusses on looking at stories of struggle and resistance, unlearning the origins of imperialism and recognizes decolonization as an ongoing struggle. How can we use archives and community-based collecting practices to unlearn imperialism and maintain an ongoing form of resistance and liberation? These are some questions this archive project aims to answer.

It is open to anyone who would like to contribute and build the collection. Contributions can involve discussions on personal stories, histories, identities etc. The collection is open to use for anyone, students, researchers, and community members alike. The possibilities to the additions in this archive are endless. Any topic, relevant to the idea of decolonization, which deserves more representation or that needs to be shared or discussed with others has a place in the De/Reconstruction Project. Another purpose of this project is to challenge the conventional way of collecting archives and transferring the power of the curator to the community, creating an opportunity for communities to speak for themselves.

The collection started as a response to Race Today (a monthly journal at the epicenter for racial justice in Britain in the 1970s) and has been built on to become a compilation of publications, zines, artist outputs, posters, and ephemera on social, political and identity related issues. Initial themes or folders include topics like radical anti-racist publications, south-Asian artists and black artists whose shows focused on racial justice, migration, and identity. Through methods like printing and creating facsimiles, material was collected from around the Special Collections and Archives from collections like the Vic Siedler Papers and Women’s Art Library, online articles, zine and webpages.

The collection method of this project is based on a community-based art project/exhibition which was organized in London around the 1980s. An arts collective based in Kings Cross, Community CopyArt, organized a photocopy-based exhibition on the theme of Black Women’s experiences of living in Britain. A range of workshops were organized with Rita Keegan and Marlene Smith to demonstrate the photocopying techniques and the possibilities of creating images through this medium. Gaining inspiration from this project, photocopying became an important medium in collecting snippets of publications, posters, pamphlets etc. Photocopying and printing can allow contributors to deconstruct collections from the archive and reconstruct them with new perspectives. This resonates with the project title but also symbolizes the deconstruction of preconceived notions about issues and communities that are reinterpreted and reconstructed by contributors. Making new and true representations is an important aspect of this project; these allow the community to emphasize their own voices. Thus, CopyArt inspired a method of De/Reconstruction of the archive to reflect a decolonizing process based on accountability and learning as identified by authors like Walsh and Azoulay.

Adya Jalan, Decolonising Projects 2021

 

[1] Sumaya Kassim, “The Museum Will Not Be Decolonised,” Media Diversified, 2017, https://mediadiversified.org/2017/11/15/the-museum-will-not-be-decolonised/.

[2] Walter D Mignolo and Catherine E. Walsh, On Decoloniality: Concepts, Analytics, Praxis (Duke University Press, 2018).

[3] Mignolo and Walsh, On Decoloniality: Concepts, Analytics, Praxis, 17.

[4] Stephen Sheehi, “Can We Unlearn Imperialism? Ariella Azoulay Offers Methods and Lessons,” Hyperallergic, accessed May 11, 2021, https://hyperallergic.com/583885/potential-history-review-ariella-azoulay/.

[5] Ariella Aisha Azoulay, Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism, (London: Verso, 2019), 20.

Not just a Photocopier: Exploring CopyArt through Rita Keegan’s practice

Visit Photocopying Yourself into History, an exhibition which gives insight into the organisation, Community CopyArt, and Rita Keegan’s practice. You’ll find the exhibition in Buchi Emecheta Space at Goldsmiths Library Second Floor, 20th July – 8th October 2021.

While exploring the Women’s Art Library, particularly the Women of Colour Index Group Art Shows, I came across a folder on “Community CopyArt.” Looking through the pamphlets and posters, I learnt that Community CopyArt was founded in 1983 with a grant from the Greater London Council (GLC), as an arts collective located in Kings Cross. The organisation used photocopying or “CopyArt” as a new medium of communication which combined elements of photography, collage and graphic arts with the technology of photocopiers. This is exactly what I had been embodying in the decolonising project that I undertook at Special Collections and Archives – photocopying material from: books, zines, archives within the existing collections or from outside, which is brought together in new folders by themes. This method of duplicating, deconstructing and reconstructing through photocopying, allowed me to bring together a community-based archive by arranging material thematically which challenges the conventional way of organising and collecting.

Community Copy Art Poster, Women’s Art Library, Women of Colour Index, Group Shows, ‘Through Our Black Eyes’, 1988

Here’s why CopyArt has caught my deep interest – it’s the versatility of and scope of using the photocopier as a tool for anything ranging from: publications, posters, art to liberation movements. Turns out, Rita Keegan, founder of the Women of Colour Index at the Women’s Artist Slide Library (later the Women’s Art Library) was an important part of Community CopyArt. According to her, the organisation had two main aspects. One was to work with community organisations in creating their own publicity, making an affordable resource center. The other, was helping artists use the photocopier as a printmaking medium. What is more astounding is her art practice which features experimentation with lens-based media, using the photocopier and computer in both 2D and installation work. Naomi Pierce explains how Rita utilised the photocopier as an affordable and transportable tool, one that would enable her to pursue her art practice without a studio or a permanent apartment. Furthermore, her initiatives bifurcated into understanding the challenges affiliated to Black Women’s art practice and the importance of enabling visibility. In the 1985 Black Visual Arts conference she says “Black women have always been active in the arts. It’s just we have never been recorded.” So, Rita’s involvement in records and her passion for recording comes alive in her use of the photocopier, connecting these concerns to her work within organisations such as Community CopyArt. Naomi Pierce appropriately articulates Rita’s use of the machine as using a time travelling device. Through cutting, applying heat and light, she inserts herself into the past, putting an old photo with a new one, making composite connections, giving a new life to the images to make them your own, and in Rita’s words, “photocopying yourself into history.” Through our Black Eyes was a photocopy exhibition organised in 1988, which explored the theme of Black Women’s experiences of living in Britain. Exhibition workshops were held by Rita Keegan and Marlene Smith for the community.

Through Our Black Eyes, Women’s Art Library, Women of Colour Index, Group Shows, ‘Through Our Black Eyes’, 1988

Thus, long before computer programmes and design apps made digital design and manipulation a common occurrence, the photocopy machine offered varied ways to transform images. Artists started making use of innovative techniques in a genre which became known as photocopy art or Xerox art. Experimenting with montage, distortion and transformation became an attraction for many artists. This resulted in engaging visual results. Similar to the Community CopyArt workshops, artists used techniques of reducing or enlarging images, making changes to the hue and tone of the original colour and moving the original to achieve variations in visual imagery. In 1981, American artist, Louise Neaderland founded a non-profit group called the International Society of Copier Artists, intended to promote the work of Xerox artists who used the above methods to make art using photocopy. Most importantly, the ISCA advocated for the recognition of copier art as a legitimate art form. Below is an image of a Photocopy Art zine made by ‘The Rapid Publisher’ accessed from Sherwood Forest Zine Library.

Photocopy Art zine made by ‘The Rapid Publisher’ accessed from Sherwood Forest Zine Library.

The photocopier also had a high democratic potential. Changing the political landscape, the machine provided minority groups and smaller political parties a chance to be heard by the mass public. Important messages were able to be copied in thousands and distributed across regions. Community CopyArt initially provided access to four photocopying machines, an image library as well as equipment such as typewriter and badge maker. It ran workshops for activist and community groups which produced photocopied materials for events such as the 1986 Anti-Apartheid Demonstration. The organisation was committed to political and social issues while reiterating that the machines were open access, to be used as a resource and not simply a cheap alternative to a high street print shop.

As I learn more about Rita’s photocopy art practice and Community CopyArt, while embodying this method in my own archive project, I am beginning to realise the resourcefulness of the photocopier. I have been able to achieve the power of creating new archives by pulling aspects from existing collections through photocopying and create learning resources by bringing together ephemera in a theme-wise collection. This method has become a way to reinterpret and revise histories; change narratives in a certain way which favours the communities.

Adya Jalan, Decolonising Projects 2021

 

Bibliography  

Women’s Art Library, WOCI, group shows.                                               

Pierce, Naomi. “Remember me?” In Mirror Reflecting Darkly: The Rita Keegan Archive. London: Goldsmiths Press, 2021. https://www.gold.ac.uk/goldsmiths-press/publications/-mirror-reflecting-darkly-the-rita-keegan-archive/   

https://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/rita-keegan-digital-diversity-and-colour-computers 

https://asl-group.co.uk/how-photocopiers-changed-the-way-we-work/ 

Creative Conversations: Black Women Artists Making & Doing Symposium

Creative Conversations: Black Women Artists Making & Doing Symposium, was held at the University of Central Lancashire, 16-17 January 2020. The Symposium was organised in celebration of the many achievements of Prof. Lubaina Himid, CBE, RA.

In January, a lifetime ago it seems, I visited the University of Central Lancashire to attend a symposium dedicated to Black women’s creativity organized by the university’s Institute of Black Atlantic Research. Titled Creative Conversations: Black women artists making doing, the event was inspired by Professor Lubaina Himid, not only as an acclaimed academic, but as an internationally recognized artist, mentor and activist archivist. The conference began with Professor Himid taking her place at the lectern with a stack of well-read books, and from there initiating a rich and varied conversation on creativity, influences, phases of activity, reflection and resistance. For me she launched the conference in a way that made the rest of the event feel like a once-in-lifetime conversation. The photographer Ingrid Pollard, instead of visual work, recreated her creative world through a playlist of spoken word and music, ranging from Kathryn Tickell’s Northumberland Voices to Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Gertrude Stein, Shakespeare, Ust Folk music and Nona Hendryx. Contributors to the first day’s proceedings were an intergenerational pantheon of black cultural practitioners and academics working in the UK including Marlene Smith, Christine Eyene, Jade Montserrat and Evan Ifekoya ending with an evening event featuring a conversation between Lubaina Himid and Jackie Kay, led by Zoe Whitley.

The second day featured presentations by academics and researchers including Zoe Whitley, Ella S. Mills, Anna Arabindan-Kesson, Alan Rice, Griselda Pollock, Catherine Grant and to end the day with an extraordinarily moving presentation that summed up the event’s resonance with the audience, Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski.

Before returning to London, we managed a quick visit to the Making Histories Visible archive based on a collection project instigated by Lubaina Himid who gave a tour. I was thrilled to see original artwork by Maud Sulter in the study space.

What is additionally inspiring is how the archive is linked to the printmaking workshop as part of the Centre for Contemporary Art at UCLAN providing the means to support practice inspired by the archive.

https://makinghistoriesvisible.com/

New books brought back for the Women’s Art Library (WAL) in Special Collections include three publications on the work of Lubaina Himid including the newly launched Inside the Invisible, an anthology Memorialising Slavery and Freedom in the Life and Works of Lubaina Himid. Also featured in this photo is the excellent zine ROOT-ed produced by Liverpool-based Amber Akaunu and Fauziya Johnson. I was fortunate to also pick up a copy of work by Jade Montserrat commissioned for Art on the Underground. As part of her practice of taking provocative intimate messages into public spaces, Montserrat explained that the leaflet contained an appeal related to her search for her father. The leaflets distributed throughout the London Underground. https://www.thefourdrinier.com/art-on-the-underground

Video recordings of presentations are now accessible online if you visit the Institute for Black Atlantic Research (IBAR) website at https://ibaruclan.com/ using Internet Explorer or Google Chrome.

Written by Althea Greenan, The Women’s Art Library, Curator

Celebrating Buchi Emecheta

On October 23, the Library celebrated the opening of the Buchi Emecheta Space, a dedicated exhibition area on the second floor. An evening reception featured short talks by the Warden, Professor Frances Corner and Head of Library Services, Leo Appleton. They welcomed the eminent editor, writer and broadcaster Margaret Busby, OBE who shared her experience of being the first to publish Buchi Emecheta’s work in Britain, holding up her copy of the first edition of The Slave Girl, featuring the photographic portrait of the author by Val Wilmer. Angelique Golding concluded the presentations with a beautiful reading from Emecheta’s Joys of Motherhood that brought the power of her writing and her voice into the room.

 

   

Margaret Busby – Co-Founder, Allison & Busby, Professor Frances Corner – Warden, Goldsmiths, University of London, Leo Appleton – Director of Library Services, Goldsmiths, University of London, Jessa Mockridge – Artist & Writer, Angelique Golding – Department Business Manager, Goldsmiths University of London & student of Black British Writing.

Florence Onyebuchi “Buchi” Emecheta OBE (21 July 1944–25 January 2017) was a powerful and defiant Nigerian British writer, teacher, mother, librarian and ‘African feminist’. She wrote prolifically authoring over 20 books, including: Second Class Citizen (1974), The Bride Price (1976), The Slave Girl (1977) and The Joys of Motherhood (1979). Emecheta’s writing defies easy categorization and is relevant to many communities: Womanists read her fierce motherhood and solidarity; Feminists, her bold independence. Queer readers pick up on her community building. Anti-racist activists celebrate her great pride in her culture and blackness. She is held up as a writer of both Nigerian and Black British identity and continues to inspire contemporary postcolonial writers. Bravery, outspokenness and determination shoot through her novels, plays, autobiography, children’s literature and critical writing.

The Buchi Emecheta Space sees the under-used lobby on the Library’s 2nd floor  re-fitted to provide an additional display area in Rutherford Building to show projects developed from engagement with materials held in the Library, including Special Collections and Archives. The inaugural exhibition organized by the curatorial group Present Futures (a collaboration between curators Teal Baskerville, Kathy Cho and Loren Elhili) originated as a project drawing on the Women of Colour Index in the Women’s Art Library collection held in Special Collections. The show, titled ‘Becoming an archive’ is part of an ongoing project presenting the archive as a space of becoming for women and non-binary people of colour and features a wide range of practices, represented by documents, artist multiples, publications and videos. The exhibition also features a powerful new commission from Rebecca Bellantoni who held a flagmaking workshop during Black History Month.

 

 

A plaque commemorating Buchi Emecheta is installed in the space alongside a dedication from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – ‘Buchi Emecheta. We are able to speak because you first spoke. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for your art. Nodu na ndokwa.’ Jessa Mockridge initiated the project to honor Emecheta with an exhibition she co-organized with Halima Haruna, titled “comeback mother : Buchi Emecheta” (April 2018, Kingsway Corridor, Richard Hoggart Building). This exhibition was an installation inspired by visiting Buchi Emecheta’s archive, preserved by her son, Sylvester Onwordi in London. Jessa worked directly with Sylvester and coordinated colleagues Laura Elliot, Althea Greenan and Nadine Plummer (Black British Writing MA) to visit the archives of manuscripts and ephemera, borrowing a selection for study back in Goldsmiths Special Collections. The exhibition included texts selected by Anqelique and Nadine. Jessa and Halima designed the publication “comeback mother” with reproduced handwritten and type writer notes lifted directly from Buchi Emecheta’s archive. Copies were distributed at the Buchi Emecheta Space opening event and spare copies are available from Special Collections and Archives, should you like one.

The evening featured a display of Emecheta’s books that are held in the Library and a soundtrack of Nigerian popular music. The evening brought together past and current students from the MA Black British Writing course to commemorate one of the most important black women writers published in the UK alongside one of the most important black women publishers, Margaret Busby, on Elizabeth William’s invitation.

The journalist Olatoun Gabi-Williams attended and has since written an excellent article for the Borders Literature web site which was also recently published in the Guardian Nigeria.

http://bordersliteratureonline.net/womendetails/Buchi_Emecheta

https://guardian.ng/art/when-goldsmiths-college-honoured-buchi-emecheta/

The Buchi Emecheta Space is open to students and staff wishing to work with materials from the Library or Special Collections, especially critical projects that broaden the curriculum and maintain the spirit of Emecheta’s appeal to many communities. Email Andrew Gray, Academic Services Librarian a.gray@gold.ac.uk for an exhibition proposal form.

Special Collections: Fascism in London, Soviet Cinema and Russian Avant-Garde Artists

Nazhrat Iqbal was a Special Collections & Archives Intern over the summer, part of the Interns on Campus initiative.

The Special Collections and Archives has a wide selection of resources, covering many different subjects that is open to all students, no matter what your degree or studies may be.

There were many topics I enjoyed exploring while working in the archives but as a student of sociology, I was naturally curious about the papers on Fascism by Victor Seidler, who also discussed sexuality, anarchism, the political climate of Chile in 1973, etc. These papers highlighted Fascism in London; I find this particularly interesting as while studying this topic in sociology, fascism is always tied to countries like Russia, Nazi Germany or Mussolini’s Italy that are all historic for its totalitarianism but hasn’t been explored in smaller and less obvious communities like London.

Siedler had collected a number of Race Today Magazines which offered different experiences of People of Colour, telling stories of the racism they suffered. I was very curious about how Fascism impacted the South-Asian communities, a community I grew up in and am a member of. It’s not often that archives would have any history or material referencing this race group and I was eager to see how the community has changed and by what influences. The magazines informed the discriminations South-Asian people experienced at work, being restricted to cheap labour and excluded from better skilled and higher paying work, which was unsurprising given the works of fascism. The magazines also noted Race Relations Act was not developed to prohibit racial discrimination, however it was passed when Black members of the US community reacted with violence to their own abuse and demanded change be made to their treatment. The government only acted on change when they were concerned about their reaction of POC, not to prevent further discrimination.

It’s not to say that it isn’t interesting to focus on the common and large scale examples of Fascism. There was on particular book called the Soviet Cinema which was tailored to inform readers outside the USSR how superior Russia was. It was one of the most amusing things I’ve read as their intentions to promote the greatness is so apparent; according to the book, Russian news-reel presented ‘a country which creates new material and human values.’ It also claims Soviet Cinema is able to capture the ideals of the Lenin and Stalin party and was devoted to art rather than commercialism of the Western Cinema. In Russia, film represented the national economy and was a means of reinforcing socialisation. It wasn’t before reading this book that I realised how monitored cinema was in Russia as the text claims a large part of employees in this industry received council from Stalin. This reminded me of a documentary I watched called Icarus, which stated that Putin developed an illegal doping programme for athletes because each time Russia would achieve a medal in the Olympics, his popularity would increase; perhaps the achievement of cinema had the same effect on Stalin’s popularity.

Exploring the archives, I was able to learn quite a bit on Russian Avant-Garde. My first day at Special Collections, I was given MAKE Magazines where I become increasing interested in an artist called Marevna and her unconventional use of cubism. I have no prior art background but that did not restrict me from learning about other RAG artists, such as Natalya Goncharova. From the books in the archive, I learnt that Goncharova held the belief that ‘painting could do everything sculpture could not’ and had a significant role in developing the group ‘Knave of Diamonds’. The group was said to be inspired by the early work on Picasso and curiously, I checked the archives to compare Picasso’s work and what techniques they may have taken from him. It was also enjoyable when I had the opportunity to visit the Natalya Goncharova exhibit at Tate Modern as I had the luxury to see all her art work in real life, as I was used to only seeing it in books. Avant-Garde and art is a new subject for me and it was great to be introduced to in through SCA. There were other forms of AG which caught my interest; suggest as Japanese AG and the way art was influenced by Post-Hiroshima.

-Nazhrat Iqbal

 

Spotlight on the Women’s Art Library

Spotlight on the Women’s Art Library

The Women’s Art Library collection was established in the 1970s to enhance public knowledge of the practice, impact and achievement of women artists. Gifted to Goldsmiths in 2003, it has become the principal collection relating to visual arts in Special Collections.

Dr Althea Greenan, Special Collections & Archives Curator, tells us more about the collection and her work here.

What is the history of the Women’s Art Library (WAL)?

“It was set up by a collective of women artists as the Women Artists’ Slide Library to raise the visibility of women’s art practice. Self-identified artists sent in their slides while artists and scholars documented exhibitions and the presence of women artists in historical collections such as the Imperial War Museum.

“The organization became an educational charity in 1983 and received arts funding over the next 18 years, developing the slide library into a research collection and publishing a newsletter that evolved into the internationally distributed Make, the magazine of women’s art.”

What’s in the collection?

“In addition to the 35mm slides, there are photographs, posters, videotapes, audiotapes, press cuttings, periodicals, ephemera and books and catalogues which you can find in the Library catalogue.

“There are different forms of artists’ archives – from the artistic work journals of Helen Ganly to the performance scripts of Clare Gasson’s ‘The River’. Nina Hoechtl’s artistic research is represented by a gold lamé costume, while the box marked ‘Food Art’ includes Paula Roush’s SOS biscuit, still uneaten, made with former employees at Bermondsey’s Peek Freen biscuit factory in 2004.

“One of the most critically important sections of the collection is the Women of Colour Index, built up by the artist, activist archivist Rita Keegan from the mid-1980s. It captures the emergence of UK black women artists at the time as curators and artists. The Women’s International Art Club archive is the oldest sub-collection and dates from 1900-1974. There is much more.”

Can it be viewed online?

“The WAL is catalogued like an archive in the Library’s Archive and Textiles Catalogue, and some collections, like the Mail Art box, have been photographed and can be viewed online, item by item. But there is no digitized version of the WAL that I consider a surrogate for the real thing.

“However, there is a gem of a pilot digital project that introduces seven artists represented in the WAL called the WAL App, downloadable from the Apple store. It was developed by alumna Dr Ana-Maria Herman as a platform for women artists to become more visible to each other and make the WAL archive travel. Ana is working on taking this project further to combine technology with advocacy for parity for women artists.”

What does your work involve?

“Facilitating researchers’ interaction with the materials includes teaching and listening, and a constant exploration of the WAL collection.

“I develop the collection by working with artists creating new work and oversee low budget publications like postcards and posters that will give a project an afterlife that becomes part of the WAL story.

“I oversee an exhibition programme that has connected the Kingsway Corridor space with Special Collections. It’s seen wonderful exhibitions by women artists in photography, print, installation and film as individuals or in small collectives.

“I work to make the WAL and Special Collections available to local art collectives needing support, and recently facilitated a podcasting day for the group Desperate Artwives.

“Items from the WAL are often out on loan as critical exhibitions looking at feminist art histories flourish around the country and there are items from the WAL’s Fanny Adams collection currently on show at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill.

“The WAL contributed to the excellent Alexis Hunter show here at Goldsmiths CCA. I was delighted to contribute to the show’s catalogue, adding to other articles and chapters that I have written that introduce the WAL collection to scholarly discourse.

“I’m also asked to talk in many different settings, from self-storage units to Somerset House, and see this as an important aspect of my work of advocating for the WAL and Special Collections. I’ll be speaking on feminist archives and how cultural institutions represent women’s art practice at the Royal Academy next.”

What upcoming exhibitions will the WAL be hosting?

Narratives of Protest will be in Special Collections during the month of March, featuring textile work by Connie Flynn commemorating the Suffragettes, a slide show of the activist Thalia Campbell’s protest banners, and selections from the Goldsmiths Textile Collection that include Catherine Walton’s triptych, ‘The Demo’.

“The exhibition will be an interesting backdrop to the screening on March 15 that is part of Advancing Women Artists around the Globe.

“The WAL is also featuring in an exhibition ‘Dark Energy: Feminist Organizing, Working Collectively’ at the Fine Art Academy in Vienna (29 Mar – 25 May) at the invitation of Dr Nina Hoechtl, a Goldsmiths alumna.

“There will be two installations: one featuring the project Empowered Printwork by the collaborative Sisters in Print (Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski and Aida Wilde) who worked with the WAL poster collection as part of the Goldsmiths project Radical New Cross.

“The second installation will feature a collection of films, screen-recording, art writing and prints titled Slidewalking into the Disoeuvre, which is a long-term collaborative project between myself and the artist-educator Dr Felicity Allen. The installation looks at how the WAL epitomises the idea of the archive as a dark energy that questions whose ‘knowledge can be practiced, produced, and disseminated when, where, and how?’”

How can staff keep up-to-date with what’s happening at the WAL?

“We put all our college exhibitions and events on the Goldsmiths calendar. I also have an email list to update on the wider range of activities. Just email me at a.greenan@gold.ac.uk or people can sign up to a Special Collections mailing list. Scroll down to the bottom of the page of https://www.gold.ac.uk/library/special-collections/

Special Collections is open Monday – Friday, 10am-6pm.”

Up close and personal with an exhibition:

As a history student, I have always been fascinated by exhibitions. Learning about the topic of the exhibition is quite remarkable. When I was asked to help with one at my placement, I jumped at the chance.

The exhibition I helped for was on the Balkans. Preparation for it took up two of my daysexhibition_1.png at the placement. Firstly, I had to do a bit of research on the Balkans. If I did not know anything about the Balkans, how was I supposed to find sources for the exhibition? Once that was all sorted out, I looked through the special collections and library catalogues to find sources. In order to keep track of the sources I found, I made a table. These tasks marked my first day working on the exhibition. The next day was a lot more varied. I was moving around, which was a nice change from having my fingers glued to the keyboard. I had to physically collect the sources; most of which were luckily in Special collections. The exception were 2 vinyls from the vinyl collection in the library. I spent about an hour trying to find the vinyl collection, only to find one was not available. I actually checked their availability on the catalogue before I went, just in case anyone was wondering. This part was right up my street: I had to analyse the sources to see if they were suitable. I kept most of the sources, apart from a few books and letters. The letters were very difficult to decipher — rich coming from me with my handwriting. When I eventually did decipher them, I found them to be irrelevant. Was it a waste of time deciphering them in the first place? Maybe, but if the source turned out to be detrimental to the exhibition, I would have slated myself for being so lazy.

exhibition_2Setting up the exhibition was the highlight of my day. It was a lot harder than I first anticipated. Getting the books to stay on the pages I wanted them to required a lot of DIY on my behalf. I eventually figured out the solution: making a stand out of foam blocks, binding together the blocks and book and then taping them together. I was pretty impressed with my efforts. They were not on the same level as many other exhibitions I have been to, but ju st being able to help with an exhibition was so enjoyable. I tried my best to present the items in an organised and creative way. The images of Balkans dancers were my favourite source. The women resembled dolls and I could hear the instruments, probably because I listened to Balkans music the day before. The other sources used were books on Balkans textiles, a CD and the vinyls mentioned earlier.

If asked to help at an exhibition again, I definitely would. It teaches you a lot about how to be selective and creative. When you see the joy the exhibition brings to people, it makes all of the work that goes into it 100% worth it.

 

This blog was written by Danielle, a history at work student, who completed her placement at Goldsmiths Special Collections.

 

Passion for fashion?

Clothing. What comes to mind when you hear that word? Basic necessity? Maybe my livelihood? Everyone has their own view on the matter. The one thing that is certain about clothing is that it is a hot topic. Visiting the textiles collection at Goldsmiths made this more apparent.

The Textiles collection is housed in Deptford Town Hall, which I think is a pretty good match. Nothing but beauty surrounded me upon entering the collection. Fabrics, fashiontop guides and clothing filled the archives. I was blown away by the phenomenal attention to detail that went into the clothing available. The stitching was great, and the prints were stunning. I am particularly in love with embroidered garments, and there were so many. There was one outfit; it looked almost tribal in design. It was beautiful. The embroidery was so elaborate. I wonder if anyone else wanted to wear the outfit — I certainly did. The price of similar clothing in shops can have a maximum price range of well into the thousands. Why should self-expression come with such a high cost? It is because the 21st century likes to associate itself with being very fashion forward.

laceA lot of the prints in the collection are making a resurgence into fashion today. Some never even left — plaid and lace for example. Elegance is the word I would use to link together all of the old fabrics. Would I use that word today? Maybe not as much. I commend people who take risks, but some risks are just too much. I am a firm advocate of body confidence, but what is up with those see-through jeans? You might as well wear only your underwear, especially since they are not cheap. If your see-through jeans are your favourite clothing item, then good on you. Each to their own.

The one downside of the clothing in the collection was the limited options available for skirtwomen in England, predominantly in the 19th century. They all dressed in similar coloured and styled clothes: suede skirt suits with crisp white shirts. There was no real sense of individuality — more a sense of professionalism. That is the biggest change from the 19th century to now. Clothes are more powerful as instruments of our identity. They reflect what we stand for. I wish there was a compromise between the two generations: individuality, decent prices and informed fashion choices.

The Textiles collection taught me a lot about the importance of clothing, and moreover, the shift in the use of clothing from the 19th century to now.

 

This blog was written by Danielle, a history at work student, who completed her placement at Goldsmiths Special Collections.

 

So you want to be a cataloguer?

When I think of cataloguing, the first thing that springs to mind is Argos. I used to go there so many times as a toddler, watching my dad navigate through the pages quickly to buy me masses of toys. Toys I got bored of playing with after a day. I never thought about how catalogues were created at that time; neither did my dad. To be fair, I was 6 and my dad was in a rush.

Getting to help catalogue the Women’s Revolutions per minute collection has provided me with a crash course in cataloguing. The Women’s Revolutions per minute collection is essentially a collection of music composed, produced and performed by women. If you have time, you should definitely visit Goldsmiths Special Collections to check it out.

Moving swiftly on, the system I use to catalogue with is called CALM. I find that pretty ironic as using it makes you anything but calm. As many people who have catalogued before know, it is not the most stimulating job. It is pretty straightforward — especially since I have catalogued for the majority of my time at my placement. One of the biggest positives of cataloguing lies within its simplicity. After a long day of extensive researching and writing, it is a nice break. I have learnt that if you want to be a successful cataloguer, you have to follow three steps. Number one: get into a steady rhythm. Once you get the hang of cataloguing, you should be able to catalogue fairly quickly. Having a steady pace will also help to build up momentum, meaning you can catalogue more entries. Number two is make sure you fill out fields accurately. When you are in a rush to catalogue as fast as you can, it is easy to make errors. I know that feeling all too well. My cataloguing task at the placement revolves around me changing the field artist to creator, and choosing the option item from a drop down list. After I while, I would get complacent and accidentally add the wrong field or delete a field. The panic added a new lease of life to me, and I managed to correct my errors. So, lesson of the day is do not think you are too good for any task. Even if a task is easy, it does not mean you get to be complacent. The final step is take breaks after a prolonged period of cataloguing. Yes, take breaks. It is often so easy to get lost in the process that you forget to stop for air. As everyone already knows, staring at screens all day is not a good idea. A break away from a task is never a bad thing — it means you will be more alert after your breaks, rather than having to be peeled off of a table from exhaustion.

I have a great appreciation for cataloguers: cataloguing is time- consuming. So whenever you are looking through a catalogue and moan because you cannot find an item, think about how a cataloguer would feel when making that catalogue.

 

This blog was written by Danielle, a history at work student, who completed her placement at Goldsmiths Special Collections.

Witness the wonders of the Women’s Art Library:

The Women’s Art Library at Goldsmiths is brimming with amazing material. I have been fortunate enough to browse through the archive material on several occasions. Moreover, the library has been involved with a host of prestigious events. Take for instance the PILLOWTALK exhibition at Tate Modern. The exhibition focused around pillows, engraved with images that reflected the experiences and histories of women in South London. The main aim of the exhibition was to celebrate the historic milestone of women (only those over 30 and who met a property qualification) getting the vote in February 1918, as well as the achievements of women artists. To be able to host an exhibit at Tate Modern to me spells success. I felt a part of the exhibit, even if I did just shoddily place labels on some books used in the event.

The Women’s Art Library is a place where you can get lost for hours in the pages of magazines and artists’ slides. I am particularly enamoured by magazines from the company Spare Rib. Why is it called that you ask? Don’t worry, you were not the only one to think that. At first, I thought why would a women’s magazine company name themselves after a Chinese dish? After a bit of digging, I realised the title is fitting for the magazine after all. It was originally used as a joke, referring to the Bible. Eve was formed from the rib of Adam, and so it would be assumed that women were inferior to men. The title stuck as it perfectly reflected what the magazine company was all about:Susie reversing this stereotype. You really have to read some of the magazines- they are beyond empowering. For more information about Spare Rib, please click on the link attached: https://www.bl.uk/spare-rib. Many of the topics broached are so relevant to today. One interview that really drew me in was called: Fat is a feminist issue by Susie Orbach. Susie, co-founder of the Women’s Therapy Centre in London, was a compulsive eater. She describes the unfair reality of being fat; being ordered to lose weight by going on every diet under the sun. She also links fat to power. I never would have thought that fat could represent strength, assertion and health until I read her interview. She also stated that you had to look beyond a person’s weight to uncover who they truly are. She argues that fat is commonly used by women as a means of bringing their intelligence to the forefront, instead of their beauty. Many people who lose weight said they felt like a doll, constantly drooled over by herds of men. Why must women try to hide away their physical attractiveness to be taken seriously in the work place? One has to wonder, can’t being self-indulgent be a way of showing you love your body? Restricting yourself to certain foods is just for an artificially constructed image.

SkinnyFeminism is about far more than just physical appearance. It is not as simple to define as many would like to believe. Does feminism mean equality between the sexes, or superiority of women over men? There are internal debates on every topic under the umbrella of feminism. What must a women do to be a feminist? Some would argue that having a family equals a bad feminist. They are letting their family take precedence over their career and life goals. What about if a women’s life goal is to have a family, and since when did having a family mean you were giving up your career? womanThe other side of the argument links infertility to being flawed as a woman. We need to see women as more than just mothers and objects, or feminism really is not for all women after all. The thought-provoking moments that I get every time I visit the Women’s Art Library are insane. It is true that we never really stop to think about topics unless we are exposed to them frequently.

Please visit the Women’s Art Library. Bury your head in the wealth of journals, smell the glorious aroma of history and make it a visit YOU won’t forget.

 

The blog above is written by Danielle, a history at work student, who completed a placement with Goldsmiths Special Collections.