Feminist Library on tour – art show in Berlin!
At the beginning of March, as London was covered in layers of snow, members of the Feminist Library set off for sunnier (but colder!) climes, for an artistic adventure in Berlin. A female artists’ collective, Wild Angelicas, invited our resident artist Minna Haukka to curate a show of our archive material and artists’ work, alongside their own exhibition.
The Helsinki-Berlin based Wild Angelicas – named after a common and robust plant of damp meadows, ditches and wet woodlands – consists of Maria Duncker, Anne Hiekkaranta, Mimosa Pale, & Niina Lehtonen Braun. The two-room HilbertRaum project space in Neukölln enabled us to stage a collaborative exhibition of experimental artworks and performance.
Minna installed a ‘campsite’ in the gallery, complete with tarpaulin, sleeping bags, and rubber boots, referencing spaces of feminist activism past and present; a haven in which to reflect on the lineage of women’s action while participating in making, reading and sharing experience.
Astra Blaug (1927-2015), an artist whose work was donated to the Library, photographed daily life in Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp. Life-size reproductions of some of her images surrounded our ‘campsite’. Emma Thatcher’s video projection ‘Things which are Natural’, enhanced the wild nature of the space, showing an animated tree, overlaid with mingled shouts and birdsong. Eva Megias brought her chessboard and encouraged visitors to join in games and conversation, emphasising the importance for women of continuing to play during adult life.
Other artworks linked to the theme of women in the environment, Katarzyna Perlak’s video work ‘Self Portrait with Strawberries’ showed the artist gazing directly at the viewer, her seated body looped in movement, imposed on a background of crashing waves. Sina Sujatha Schwache’s two pieces of moving poetry, from her debut collection ‘On the Shore’, explored issues of identity, place, race and representation.
Rachael House contributed several confrontational and playful pieces, using craft techniques to impart powerful feminist statements, particularly impactful was a handmade campfire blanket, sewn with patches stating ‘Rage’ and ‘Sister’, and a knuckleduster, complete with a women’s symbol.
Rosalie Schweiker’s fun contribution invited participation from the viewer – asking people to swap jobs with her, while her handmade badge campaigned for ‘Free Political Literacy Classes’. Lisa Carletta’s dramatic work was a life-size scan of a women’s body, this skin like piece hung lifeless from a bar in the gallery, her work exploring both the physical and digital bodies that we inhabit and the representation of the female form.
Maria de Paula-Vazquez’s photographs showed snapshots of London’s landscape, graffiti, manikins, found
objects and statements mixed with scenes of feminist events and performance.
Heidi Kilpeläinen’s ‘Implicated’ video piece commented on the social ills and inequality of our time, showing her grimacing face in a performance of frustration.
Minna Haukka’s own contribution was a curving form made up of multiple pieces of bra underwire laid out against black cloth. Referencing Venus of Willendorf, this artwork changed throughout the exhibition as visitors played with its form to create new shapes.
The artworks were combined with pieces from our archive, including a display of periodicals including the ‘Black Feminist Newsletter’ and ‘London Feminist Newsletter’ and our zines from recent Feminist Graphic Arts events. Also displayed on the wall were some fascinating labels from the Women’s Health Collection, cataloguing medical issues that affect women.
In the other room The Wild Angelicas created a sparkling fountain installed within an imaginary landscape
that created a stage space. During the very busy private view guests moved from one room to another, enjoying performances and music, asking questions about the Library and discussing the artworks. This fun and inspiring event was an amazing opportunity to reflect and build on the artistic legacies held within the Library and make connections with contemporary artists and the wider public.