Representations of specific concerns of the women's liberation movement in British feminist art 1970-1978
Taking the Women's Weekend Conference held at Ruskin College, Oxford as my starting point, this thesis identifies and critically investigates the representation of specific concerns of the Women's Liberation Movement in British feminist artistic practice between 1970 and 1978. These concerns relate in particular to the personal experience of childraising and domesticity, namely, loss of identity and issues surrounding marriage, domestic labour, childcare, motherhood and female isolation. Approached as a reclamation project based upon the examination of feminist publications, feminist archives, the papers of the Women's Liberation Movement, and oral histories, this thesis establishes the importance of personal issues that were central to the politics of experience adopted by the Women's Liberation Movement. Through a study of the work of feminist artists aligned to the Women's Liberation Movement, this thesis explores their engagement with these issues and the differing ways in which they sought to represent and express them through their work. This thesis argues that their work was - and remains largely unacknowledged - for its representation of liberation politics and its role in raising consciousness of female oppression. However, the more recent publication of feminist and feminist art critiques have provided important insights with which to revisit and re-assess the work. Locating the work within a micro-history of socialist feminism, the research focuses on the work of Feministo, in particular its three founding members, Su , Richardson, Monica Ross and Kate Walker and participants Tricia Davies and Cathy Nicholson. It also examines the work of Alexis Hunter, Pen Dalton, Mair Davies, Margaret Harrison, Elona Bennett and the Hackney Flashers, with particular reference to Michael Ann Mullen. The films of Sue Crockford, the Camden Film Collective, Wages for Housework Campaign and The London Women's Film Group as well as the Berwick Street Collective are also discussed. All of these artists and groups were affiliated to the Women's Liberation Movement and fought oppression by raising awareness of domestic issues through their work. The influence of American feminist art, avant-garde film and socially aware conceptual art is assessed as well as the impetus of collective action alongside the adoption of craft methods in challenging modernist art practice and contributing to an emerging post-modem era. Acknowledging a recent interest in domestic issues, in craft, and the importance of collective artistic strategies associated in the 1990s in Britain with the phenomenon of the 'YBA's (Young British Artists), this thesis proposes a reclamation and re-assessment of the role and work of the artists associated with the Women's Liberation Movement in Britain.