PEER FORUM is a peer-mentoring group funded by Artquest and hosted by Camden Arts Centre, taking place over the course of a year. This year’s peer-mentoring group, established by Alicia Tsigarides, brings together a group of artists to examine the representation of femininity.
We invited Holly Graham (Head of Artist Development at Turf projects) to run a workshop on the subject of the feminine grotesque. Everyone brought in a range of printed material resulting in a scrapbook of poems, images and texts that explore our relationship to this term. Holly writes about the day:
PEER Forum is making a publication to chart the conversations they have had over the past year of meetings, crits and workshops. This publication will be available at their event Terror Has No Shape, Wednesday 17 October at Camden Arts Centre.
When looking at our images we asked:
Who is it for?
Who does it cater to?
Who is the author?
What does it say?
Sheets of A4 lie on the floor in dishevelled constellations. Images and blocks of text cluster together to prod and grapple at the layered skins of the feminine grotesque, to find definition between its folds. It breathes and it engulfs — venture too close and get sucked in.
Why are we talking about it?
Is ‘grotesque’ the right term to locate diverse practices within?
What are the positives and negatives — how is it problematic?
We considered constructing a linear map of connections that might, in turn, enable a transition of stodgy mass into elegant piping, squeeze-squirted through narrow confines of sequential booky pages. It’s impossible. The mind-map matter spreads out organically, unruly and uncontainable. It sprawls across the floor of the artist’s studio, overlapping, duplicating, intersecting, and splitting off in multiple directions. We leave it to its own devices.
Hot room. Team effort. Job done.
A non-linear linear list:
The problem of boundaried bodies
The Abject — Julia Kristeva
Rational contained body
Automatons and dolls
Jim Henson’s Medusa
A self within the self
No sense of ‘I’
External definitions of bodies
Ins and outs
Becoming part of something
Lack of boundaries
Desire between organic and inorganic — Walter Benjamin
Growth of mould on textile
Signs of life on inert matter
Being Humus — Donna Haraway
The dead matter
The dead woman
Fashion and death
Return to mud
Mrs Miller’s mat — Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Monstrosity — Chris Krauss, I Love Dick
Forces of will
Violation of boundaries
Housewifery — Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique
Inhaling — Leonora Carrington, Down Below
Handbags and pockets
Hands and touching
Sheela na gig, goddess of the grotesque
Holding open vulva
Exposing self to sun
To ward off evil spirits
Raising of the skirt
On the battle field
Power to stop storms
Openings and holes
Caravaggio’s doubting Thomas
Confirmation of reality
Finger preserved by church in Rome
Mouth to anus as outside
Speculation of the flesh — Angela Carter
Flesh of the moon
Oh Tomato Puree — Claire Louise Bennett
Something coming out of you
Sublime dissension: A working-class Anti-Pygmalion aesthetics of the female grotesque — Frances Hatherley
Woman ripeness fruit
Hands and handling
Idle hands are the devils playground
The devil makes work for idle hands
Touch and taste
1800s — early 1900s pornographic photos
Consumption of images
Surface Tensions — politics of borders
Skin Bags — Olivia Laing
Religion and immaculate conception
Familiarity and recognition
Homer Simpson’s detached hand — Mark Lecky
Politics of who
An almost varnishy dipped black
Apparitions of St Teresa
Writing from religious ecstatic experiences
Landscapes and form merge
Cosmic and universal
Rivers and biological processes
Against Nature — Joris-Karl Huysmans
Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors
Nature and woman
Sexuality, serpent, female
Power dynamics sexuality
Interpretation of war goddess
Characterisation of lustful hag
Warning against lust
Warding off evil
Herefordshire, Ireland, cornices around buildings
The body as a leaky vessel
Synthetic vs. natural
What thresholds we have
Forms having folds
Terror Has No Shape, Wednesday 17 October, 6.30 — 8.30 pm.
Join the 2017/18 PEER FORUM artists and invited guests for an evening of discussion, performance and readings in response to the feminine grotesque. The event will be accompanied by the launch of a DIY publication.
Turf Projects was founded in 2013 by Croydon locals and is the first entirely artist-run contemporary art space in Croydon, South London.