I went to a Salon Lecture at the BFI the other night in the Reuben Library hosted by Club des Femme. Their manifesto below:
“We are a queer feminist collective. We curate film screenings and events. Our mission is to offer a freed up space for the re-examination of ideas through art.
In the age of the sound-bite, Club des Femmes is a much-needed open platform for more radical contextualisation and forward-looking future vision: a chance to look beyond the mainstream!”
I had never heard of Club des Femme (website above if you are interested) and one of the things I like in my life is to discover and learn, constantly! I especially love being inspired by creative women who care about women and art. This all made me think about inspiring women and of how we will be celebrating International Women’s Day on Wednesday. I thought I would do a run down of my most inspiring women and of how they have influenced me.
Obviously I have to mention my Mum – she is everything. She has overcome so much and been so strong, at times it astounds me. Her passion for life and her spirit of adventure has influenced me massively. I remember as a child she always told me “if you get knocked down, get straight back up again” and pretty much that’s a core value I have held dearly. She is my best friend and I love her more than words can say.
My other personal influences have to be the female lecturers who inspired and enthralled me at University – Dr Kelly Boyd and Professor Lesley Stevenson who saw I had passion for history and art and helped me to get my head around it all. I remember always coming out of the lectures feeling excited about learning and about how education was changing me into a better person. Education saved me.
In my younger years I seriously looked up to Ffyona Campbell and Ellen Macarthur – both incredible women who challenged themselves, breaking world records into the bargain. I often find this funny that as a young lass I was influenced by these women for their physical feats because I was very much a non-physical person (lazy!). I think their mental strength and the way they overcame fear and dangerous situations was something I wished at the time I had. Courage. I especially like Ffyona’s story as she was extremely vulnerable at times and her life has had real lows but she always fought back. I felt like I was with her every step she took when I was reading her book “The Whole Story: A Walk Around the World” and I always wished I could maybe one day walk part of the world -although it is never too late!
When I watched the documentary of Ellen sailing solo around the world I felt such immense pride for her and complete awe that when she crossed the finish line I was crying, jumping up and down screaming! Honestly – amazing women!
This then leads me onto the literary women I am in awe of. I loved Zadie Smith’s novel “White Teeth”; reading each line so slowly so that I could lap up her delicious words. Her writing is complex and beautiful and I instantly fell in love. Her portrait of multi-cultural London, and later on with “NW” just takes me back to a time when I had first moved to London and I was so excited and everything was new to me. I read “NW” a few months after my Dad died and it was like a special treat for me to be lost in her words. Smith has been named one of the most influential people in British culture and rightly so. Here I also want to mention Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who wrote “Half of a Yellow Sun” and “Americanah” – these are the only books I have read so far but they are both utterly stunning. The way Adichie writes also makes me want to savour each word, they make it so easy to create the images in your head without overloading in detail. I loved “Americanah” and would often find myself wryly laughing at the protagonists observations feeling like I was really in her head.
One of my other female influences in academia has to be Professor Sherry Turkle (MIT) who has written huge content on the psychology of the digital age. Her book “Alone Together” was a bible for me during some PhD research I was conducting on how we connect with images, identity, and with each other in the digital age. Her earlier book “Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet” is fascinating. She is a leading voice in the area of technology and society. Below I have linked a TED Talk she gave on the subject of how we are so connected but yet so alone.
Now I have to mention my art influences and as part of some research I was conducting in 2012 I wanted to look at women who actively subverted the normative codes of beauty and gender. My research took me to Claude Cahun (Lucy Schwob) a 19th Century photographer who had lived under Nazi occupation in Jersey. Cahun had risked her life to question matters such as female sexuality, the possibility of a third gender, and had made political statements though her surrealist imagery. Cahun challenged the gaze and mimicked the fascist rhetoric of the time, using her body, turning the camera onto herself. She influenced a generation of women photographers to challenge the norm and to deconstruct beauty (especially self portraiture) in order to take away its power. Below are some of her images – utterly fascinating!
I also have to nod then to my favourite photographer, Jo Spence
The first time I saw a Jo Spence image I felt very strange. It was of a fat middle aged naked woman (her) and I didn’t quite know why I felt strange looking at it. I loved the image but felt like I almost wasn’t allowed to because it wasn’t traditionally “beautiful”; but she looked so free and I felt almost jealous that she could feel that. She looked powerful and strong in her skin. At that time I was struggling with my own body image; it was like she gave me a new way of thinking about my body. Spence was a feminist and socialist and used photography to comment on issues such as gender and the body. Later on in her career she documented her battle with breast cancer, she died in 1992 from Leukaemia. The images of her scarred breasts and of procedures confront a truth about the body and illness and considers how the female body is owned. I love her unashamed, “fuck you” to the world and I intend to be just as strong as her in my life time.
So that is my round up of amazing women. Thank you to all the women out there who strive to push the boundaries. Love to all.
#art #women #photography #health #sober #internationalwomensday